INexactly THIS
The Kunstvlaai with a twist

Issue no3
June - July 2020
Troebele waters

Tomorrow opens INexactly This - Festival of Independents. Formerly known as The Kunstvlaai. Metropolis M talks with the curators: Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van Muiswinkel.

—Domeniek RuytersKunstvlaai is changing into a Festival of Independents Art. Why? I thought Kunstvlaai was quite successful in terms of audience and participation. It had its own 'Dutch' character?

—Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van MuiswinkelThe Kunstvlaai certainly stands as a significant event in the cultural life of the Netherlands. With this edition, Kunstvlaai Foundation has decided it is time to update its ‘character’ to complement the current artistic and socio-political climate. Rather than being positioned as an alternative art fair, it will be a curated festival model which hosts inter-generational participant organizations from across the Netherlands as well as a significant amount of international participants. In order to remain relevant, the qualities of any contemporary cultural event cannot remain static. In fact, with every edition of Kunstvlaai, there was a new feature added to the overall format. And this led to a steady growth of audience [there were about 10,000 – 12,000 visitors at the Westergasterrain in recent editions]. In our turbulent times, the work of autonomous players in the cultural field has become even more urgent. Therefore, we wish to employ the model, “Festival of Independents” to foster their voices as well as activities and further, conceive this as a macro-exercise in plotting present /future organizational models in the arts.

—Domeniek RuytersWhat are Independents?

—Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van MuiswinkelGood question – this terminology does not allow for an easy answer. Yet, we find it a useful one to take note of a whole range of artist-run spaces, self-organized / nomadic cultural platforms and self-organized learning forums. To consider an initiative as an “independent” purely based on its source(s) of financial support would a limited reading. Rather than this, we consider it more a matter of attitudes, delivering a mechanism to perform as an autonomous cultural structure in contemporary society, and an investment in processes of collectivity and informality within hyper-capitalized economies. Our research on this term will manifest through the invited small-scale organizations, which come from divergent local realities and hence, be a hands-on conversation that will resonate throughout the festival.

—Domeniek RuytersIs it not strange to call yourself Independent in our completely networked society?

—Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van MuiswinkelWe believe that there is no paradox in being independent and functioning within a networked society. In fact, being an independent arts organization is all about building alliances, conversations and counter-proposals to a ‘mainstream’ institutional domain. Even within post-graduate art academies in the Netherlands there are substantial changes being advocated, with more de-centralized and collective formats of education. This is a sign of changing networks even within institutional matrices. The 2012 festival edition “INexactly THIS”, seeks to reveal such tendencies of independent thinking and internal re-configuration to larger audiences. From an international context, there are several platforms participating at this edition which operate as self-initiated networks – often sustaining as a combination of experimental publishing hub, project space, informal school, workshop-residency and idiosyncratic festival formation.

—Domeniek RuytersThe new Festival is much more international than before. Could you say something about its new profile?

—Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van MuiswinkelAs a contemporary arts festival, we find it a crucial moment to host innovative and context responsive international arts organizations in the Netherlands. With recent publications such as ‘The Circular Facts Book’ (Sternberg Press) and the New Museums’ ‘Art Spaces Directory’, there is a lot of material to research the profiles of arts platforms world-over, but these may remain superficial readings if not supplemented by a physical bringing-together. And that is our aim here. We decided not to make choices in terms of geographic or nation-specific focus. Since such a selection premise could easily fall prey to the same geopolitical deficiencies of diplomatic obligations between nation states. And further, serve to exoticize certain cultural scenes such as India, China, and Brazil based on skewed socio-economic indices. Instead, we have invited international participants based on local-impact, non-hierarchical exchange, artistic direction and sustained programming focus. Some of the invited organizations have received support from Dutch foundations, but haven’t represented themselves to a sizable audience in the Netherlands. Others are newer autonomous platforms that are experimenting with cross-disciplinary research, nomadic set-ups and process-based projects. We find this hybridity of forms crucial to portray the entirety of a cultural ecology.

—Domeniek RuytersWhat are the main changes?

—Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van MuiswinkelStarting this year, the festival will be nomadic as a response to the precarious economic and political climate, in which the notions of vacancy and gentrification have become more apparent then ever. “INexactly THIS” will take place at the Sint Nicolaas Lyceum in Amsterdam Zuid. As the school leaves to operate from a new building, the festival will ‘move in’, creating a temporary community. With over 70 initiatives, the school premises will host several exhibits, a Cinema, Bookshop, Live Arts stage, Lecture-Workshop space and Temporary Press. These areas portray the wide range of activity carried out by festival participants. The entire site will be activated as an autonomous cultural hub in Amsterdam. Also important to mention, is that this edition places an emphasis on newer approaches to learning, collective dynamics and collaborative research in arts education. Rather than presenting MFA practices in the mode of final-year presentations, we are interested to host open classes, live presentations, conversation circles and workshops led by Post-graduate Art Academies and artist-led learning platforms.

—Domeniek RuytersWhy this title: INexactly This?

—Natasha Ginwala & Fleur van MuiswinkelThe title for the 2012 edition of Kunstvlaai: Festival of Independents is “INexactly THIS.” This expression may be interpreted as an arrival at something through trial and error, speculation, the act of making estimations, and even the unexpected burst of an aha! Moment. The festival is hence, seen as a fluctuating site of commonality and active proposals composed by a multitude of contemporaneous voices. From Curatorial Statement: “We are living through an inexact time – when questions become misplaced and answers fail to emerge. While the impact of social resistances, right-wing governments and capitalist meltdown is apparent in the everyday, the long-term consequences are still to unfold. However, the immanent potential of inexactness may also be read as a functional mode rather than an anxiety-ridden blockage in the contemporary. For it is in the field of inexactness, that factors of intuition, unlearning and collectivity converge.”

INexactly THIS/Kunstvlaai 2012
Sint Nicolaas Lyceum (Prinses Irenestraat 21), Amsterdam
23 November - 2 December

This article has been published in Dutch in Metropolis M nr. 5-2012. 
Buy it here.

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 3 — 2020