"In this text I will examine the artistic practice and working model of Rib, a project space for art, and how the practice proposed by Rib can be understood as a critique of existing institutional forms. Rib is a small, independent platform based in Rotterdam that organizes, produces and presents art. Rib enacts a different mode of artistic production that counters these forms. At Rib making, reflecting and presenting are organized more integrally than other institutional forms through which, as I will argue in this text, a critical institutional response against the division of labour is formulated. This division of labour under the current mode of production is, as I will lay out, characterized precisely by the problematic institutional separation of positions and functions: artist, curator and reflection. This text, like the other chapters of the thesis, will take as its point of departure the idea of the assembled author (artist-curator and reflective mediation) in artistic production, within the context and characteristics of contemporary capitalism in both its neoliberal and cognitive iterations. It takes the notion of the scene and of the relation between art and aesthetics as formulated by Rancière1 as the basic formula for considering forms of labour in the arts as a fundamentally interdisciplinary interplay between all positions involved in production.
To situate Rib’s way of working I will juxtapose Rib to one of Rotterdam’s most prominent art institutions, Witte de With, Centre for Contemporary Art (hereafter WdW).2I take WdW as representative for institutional art presentation spaces. The choice of WdW must be understood in a twofold way. Firstly, WdW is in a general sense an institution that represents a division based on scale and size in the artistic field. As an example of one of the larger institutionalized forms of art production – WdW is one of the six institutes awarded a place in the state-supported infrastructure of art presentation spaces – it embodies many of the general traits that characterize contemporary art production. One of these traits, that of professionalization, will be looked at in detail in this text. This offers the possibility of a comparison with Rib’s smaller operation, which allows me to analyse how scale plays into the structuring and composition of art institutions. Secondly, I will focus on traits specific to WdW’s mode of production in the period 2008-2017 which were related to the increasing introduction of knowledge production as a theme/focus within the institutional organization. It roughly concerns the period of the directorships of Nicolaus Schafhausen (2006-2012) and Defne Ayas (2012-2017). It is this combination of scale and of the introduction of a mode of work that follows the general development of contemporary capitalism – the iteration of capitalism marked by the synthesis of creativity and cognitive labour in work – that offers the basis of the critical analysis concerning art production set out in this text. My claim is that Rib critically addresses, via the means of its own artistic practice, the manner in which artistic practices currently function under the hegemony of capitalism. Rib proposes, through how it operates and notably in how it organizes working and articulates artistic labour, a way to resist this hegemonic condition. This text reconstructs a certain historic constellation within the institutional composition of the field of art, focusing on the first years of Rib – 2016 to 2018 – which I read as a reaction by Rib to how the field of art functions. Since then Rib has developed and motivated its way of working and its mode of operation more independently. Equally there are developments in the field of bigger art institutions, concerning the mobilisation and understanding of knowledge production within artistic institutional forms, outside of the time period I am considering. This text is thus temporally demarcated in a specific time."
Jack Segbars 2021
1 Jacques Rancière, Aisthesis, Scenes From the Aesthetic Regime of Art, Verso, London, 2017
2 Since January 2021 Witte de With has been renamed. This was done to to amend the colonial reference attached to the name Witte de With. It’s now called Kunstinstituut Melly. In this text the old name is maintained.
“Reading Jack Segbar’s text about the state of contemporary art and the role of Rib as space where “practice” is “performed” reminds me of returning as an adult to an amusement park one used to enjoy as a kid. This, of course, is not the rejection of his eloquent understanding of the issues at hand. However, perhaps, I will be pointing to the arguments’ impending expiry date by painting a moving picture of the radical changes in the global workforce of art production. My text might prompt us to reconsider Segbar’s points, aiming for a re-articulation of the status of contemporary art and the place of Rib in its production and circulation.
Art, either as in real art, or its sacrificial substitute, will continue to survive or even thrive in the future, but it seems that we are reaching the end of the concept of “artist.” And we have nobody to blame for artists’ downfall but themselves. This event is not some kind of human cleansing or annihilation of a breed of people by external forces. The end of artists is death by something like the opposite of suicide, a demise caused by mass replication. Artists are disappearing like how zombies eat each other in movies. Or, like how cancerous cells crowd out their healthy brothers and sisters in living tissue. It is like when a particular radio wave runs out of all available signal range to dedicate to a new station. It is when the sound of the radio stations bleed into each other, so much that it is impossible to listen to anything because all one hears is white noise.
What does this scenario mean for spaces which have been explicitly identified with the figure of the artist? I am thinking, for example, of artist-run spaces like Rib? What will happen to these spaces, which played a crucial role during the rise and dominance of contemporary art in generating new methods and languages for making art and addressing it? Responding to this question requires us to keep in mind the colonial and exploitative relationship between more extensive operations like commercial galleries and kunsthalle/museum and artist-run projects. This unequal collaboration often amounted to small artist-run spaces being instrumentalized as recruitment offices for identifying and training global art stars. How does this relationship will have to evolve to respond to the end of the concept of artists? If artists are gone, would there ever be a need for artist-run projects in the larger space galled global contemporary art? We will return to these questions after completing after diagnosing the terminal illness that will perhaps be wiping artists from the face of the world's cultural map. […]”
Read: ‘The Haunted House of Art’ by Mohammad Salemy
“An introductory note: this text continues as a kind of response on the previous text about the Rib (the place that is definitely not a gallery, and is probably best defined as “artist-run space”) written by Jack Segbars [link]. It is highly recommended for the reader to attend to the Jack’s text before reading what follows in order to get introduced with the works produced and presented by Rib this text continues the more general line of discussion and provides no such information.
As a part of different Rib’s moves to produce the own reflection or what is often mistakenly equalized with institutional critique1 and what this text would view differently as a certain “Production of Space”2 this series of texts is initiated by Maziar Afrassiabi (the founder, director, curator and first of all the artist of Rib)3. It is envisioned as a kind of a critical debate among the several commissioned critics but it is also allowed to immediately break lose and dissolve in the messy world of critical writing.4 Themes topics methods and approaches in contemplating the existence and the consequence of Rib are left entirely open and at the discretion and sovereignty of the writers (what is not to be equalized with an “open-ended” approach; the argument for this will be proposed towards the end of this text). And so is the future of this debate at the moment it is probably only Maziar who can be aware of all the possibilities this series of texts can bring to the fore and in what shape and form this correspondence will surface to the public as another “production of Rib”.
On a personal note this particular text presented me with one yet unexperienced difficulty to bring it to (any) end.5 Surely I am not alone in this and it is probably so 2018 thing to say. Let’s see if 2019 offers any endings if that is what we need for the world to be set in motion once again. […]”
Read: ‘Notes on Rib, RibRib, RibRibRib: PREDICAMENTS PREDICATES PARADIGMS PEDAGOGY’ by Vlidi Vladimir Jerić
1 This according to the formula: Institutional critique = ouside of institutions = interventionism Institutional Reflection = inside of institutions = reformism (credit: Jelena Vesić).
2 In the first part of this text Rib will be observed as a “production of a (certain) space” (any and all references to the Lefebvre’s book intended) and will offer a more direct response and dialogue with Jacks’ text. The second part will be purely speculative and hopefully also propositional. Or it will be the other way around. Let’s find out along the way.
3 This alone makes Maziar Afrassiabi a proper curator and not just an enabler a producer or manager a middleman with a vision and an entrepreneurial urge or capacity or instinct. The role of the function and of the figure of “curator” will be examined further in this text. Probably.
4 [This is how I imagine was the perspective of Maziar during the previous 18 months or so: the entire “writing project” became a kind of immediate transfusion of the particular problems and dysfunctions from one realm to another. The writers will want to answer on the questions no one actually asked in the volumes not comprehendible nor manageable by the artists or any other humans finishing their work way later than anyone expected. What was supposed to be a quick affair of instigating the chain of responses to what seemed a (relatively) straightforward question of Rib became a long and exhausting campaign to extract and make sense of any particular statement from the exhausted but also exalted pool of half-mad writers.]
5 It has been a year ago when I started filling page after page with both how I imagined what a “response” to Jack’s text should be—I have never tested this procedure formally before—and with what I thought is something I could bring to this debate. All these pages appeared eventually at odds with the ways of the world and the facts of life rapidly collapsing into a single dark spot both as a cold measurable fact and as a personal subjective affair. Nothing I wrote seemed relevant anymore. The sense of helplessness and depression can be perhaps explained but is hardly understood on the other hand the experience of 2018 is something we understand as happening but seems not easy to explain. Eventually I decided to archive my non-understandable research and response HERE in the hope it will make sense once what remains are the non-explainable parts as you are about to witness in this text.
Launched in 2018, Rib Unresolved Issues is an online publication of mostly but not only text-based reflections and conversations on Rib’s artistic and institutional trajectory. The texts are mostly part of a chain reaction of commissioned writing using Rib as a model and point of departure for thinking about the future of art production and organisation.
The first text in this chain, is by Jack Segbars. The initial draft of his text was completed before the program of 2019 took off, hence it does not include any examples from our program post 2018. The reaction to this text is by Vlidi Vladimir Jerić, followed by Mohammad Salemy and others, who will be announced later.
Mohammad Salemy is an independent Berlin-based artist, critic and curator from Canada. He holds a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MA in Critical Curatorial Studies from the University of British Columbia. He has shown his works in Ashkal Alwan’s Home Works 7 (Beirut, 2015) Witte de With (Rotterdam, 2015) and Robot Love (Eindhoven, 2018). His writings have been published in e-flux, Flash Art, Third Rail, Brooklyn Rail, Ocula, Arts of the Working Class and Spike. Salemy’s curatorial experiment For Machine Use Only was included in the 11th edition of Gwangju Biennale (2016). Together with a changing cast he forms the artist collective Alphabet Collection. Salemy is the Organizer at The New Centre for Research & Practice.
Jack Segbars is an artist and writer. He is a PhD-researcher at PhDArts (Leiden University/KABK The Hague). He is primarily engaged with the infrastructural set-up that frames art’s emergence. To this end Segbars investigates within his practice the different positions and aspects that formally shape art: autonomous art, the role of language/art discourse, the role of the curator and the heteronomy set by governance and politics. The focus especially lies on how cognitive capitalism sets the conditions of production. In 2009 he produced the publication All Around the Periphery (Onomatopee). In 2012 it was followed by Inertia (Onomatopee), a travelogue of visits to Palestine. In 2016 a research on the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art Switzerland was presented at Tale of a Tub Rotterdam. Next to his practice as visual artist, Segbars regularly writes about art and art-related subjects including for Metropolis M, Parse and Open!.
Vladimir Jerić Vlidi is a media researcher, editor and author associated with various different groups, collectives and organizations from the field of art, media, social activism and technology. He was a founder and a member of Prelom Kolektiv, TEDx Belgrade, Darkwood Dub, Druga Scena, Slobodnakultura.org, Creative Commons Serbia and other initiatives. A member of the editorial board of Red Thread Journal for social theory (Istanbul), web editor for Reconstruction Women’s Fund (Belgrade) and the author of a number of independent projects, Vlidi holds MA in Communicology from the Faculty of Media and Communication, Belgrade. The recent activities by Vlidi include the “Production of Space” introductory text and video essay for Der fahrende Raum (Munich 2018/19), the collaboration on the MixTape with Vesna Pavlović (Belgrade/Nashville 2018/19), coproducing and taking part in the symposium Art in DataSpace (Venice 2019, collaboration with Georg Schollhammer and Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein), and producing the video essay for the conference in Bucharest Upon All Us Equally (in collaboration with tranzit.org). Find more about his work at networkfailure.net.