The Right to Refuse: Therme Forum at the Venice Biennale of Art 2019
In partnership with the British Council for the second consecutive year, Therme Art presented a Therme Forum at the Venice Biennale of Art 2019 discussing how refusal might be used to generate spaces in our cities, unrestricted by the mediation of commerce or technological filters.
Against the backdrop of the 58th Venice Biennale’s finissage and Cathy Wilkes’s exhibition at the British Pavilion, Therme Art presented The Right to Refuse: Resisting Predominant Narratives as a Condition of Originality. Taking place on Saturday 23 November, this edition of Therme Forum explored the social and political role of refusal, and how it might be used to ensure artists thrive outside our conventional market system.
In particular, it considered artists whose work explores beyond the current system of explaining and contextualising art––artists who refuse to be mediated or filtered, understanding their art instead as a carte blanche. Using these artists as a starting point, the panelists examined the ability of refusal to forge free spaces in our cities unrestricted by the mediation of commerce or technological filters.
“Refusal, even though we usually conceive of it as a reaction towards an external reality, in the end is something that leads us to our most interior self. It comes from the Latin word ‘to flow back’: to come back to nurture us from the inside,” said panelist Claudia Paetzold, Art Advisor and Curator of CP Art Advisory and SFER IK.
The panelists touched on how refusal in this context allows viewers to enter into dialogue with art. Springing from this is a necessity to protect free spaces in art, where culture and creativity can flourish, unmediated by the distortion of external voices and commodification.
“It is within these conceptual spaces that we can explore new ways of thinking beyond our current limitations, allowing us to imagine and generate ways of programming cities that are more creative, sustainable and free. This is very much what our talks are about, the breakdown of boundaries, boundaries that also exist in companies and in the cultural sector and boundaries that we’ve tried to break down since we founded Therme Art,” said Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Curator & CEO of Therme Art.
The panel featured Emma Dexter (Director, Visual Arts, British Council); Claudia Paetzold (Art Advisor and Curator, CP Art Advisory Ltd and SFER IK); Lucia Pietroiusti (Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine Galleries, and Curator, Lithuanian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale Arte 2019); Roya Sachs (Curator, Lever House Art Collection); Zoé Whitley (Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery); Sarah Wilson (Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Courtauld Institute); and was moderated by Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Curator & CEO of Therme Art.
British Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale Arte 2019
Zoé Whitley, Senior Curator, Hayward Gallery
Lucia Pietroiusti, Curator, General Ecology, Serpentine Galleries
Emma Dexter, Director, Visual Arts, British Council
Claudia Paetzold, Art Advisor and Curator, CP Art Advisory Ltd and SFER IK
Roya Sachs, Curator, Lever House Art Collection
Sarah Wilson, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, Courtauld Institute
Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Curator & CEO of Therme Art Program