In 2017, SPARCK was invited to take part as International Guest Curator in Witness, the first edition of the Karachi Biennale (Chief Curator: Amin Gulgee).
In this context, we presented a project titled Decolonize This! 4 Takes on Witnessing, centered on the work of five artists/collectives: Malala Andrialavidrazana, Éléonore Hellio, Kongo Astronauts, Goddy Leye and Tabita Rezaire. Each section/take was inspired by a passage in the writing of an author we have read with joy, interest and surprise:
“It is no accident that modern cartography developed in parallel with the colonial enterprise. Colonization played a critical role in the emergence of new branches of knowledge able to respond to a growing need – that of controlling ever-larger territories. If science flowered in the age of colonialism, this was due not only to the curiosity of researchers at work in Europe, but also to the fact that colonial expansion both facilitated and rendered necessary such a flowering. Thanks to its discoveries, science was now in a position to open up new territories for conquest. In this manner the disciplines of cartography, geography, botanical science, biology and anthropology were born: the control of conquered and yet to be known territories required the development of forms of knowledge allowing them to be mapped, studied, named and, thus, possessed.”
(Giovanna Zapperi, “Cartographic Narrations,” in Kantuta Quirós and Aliocha Imhoff eds., Géo-esthétique )
“First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred and moral relativism […]; and we must show that […] a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and ‘interrogated,’ all these patriots that have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been distilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery.
And then one fine day the bourgeoisie is awakened by a terrific boomerang effect: the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers standing around the racks invent, refine, discuss.
People are surprised, […] they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, […] the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimated it, because until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; […] that they have cultivated Nazism, […] they are responsible for it”.
(Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism )
“[T]he devastation that characterizes the Anthropocene is not simply the result of activities undertaken by the species Homo sapiens; instead, these effects derive from a particular nexus of epistemic, technological, social, and political economic coalescences figured in the contemporary reality of petrocapitalism. This petrocapitalism represents the heightened hierarchical relations of humans, the continued violence of white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, heterosexism, and ableism, all of which exacerbate and subtend the violence that has been inflected on the non-human world […] [This] crisis beckons art practice to imagine futures beyond the cynical recklessness of the myopic capitalist horizon.”
(Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin, “Art & Death: Lives Between the Fifth Assessment & the Sixth Extinction,” in Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin eds., Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies )
“We are never going to get anywhere as long as our economies of attraction continue to resemble, more or less, the economy of attraction of white supremacy.”
(Junot Diaz, keynote address, Facing Race conference )
Click here to read the Witness catalogue: