Therme Art Program

Critical Culture – Artistic Strategies in Reshaping Reality

Amidst social and environmental crises, the fragility of our entire culture is revealed. Systemic inequalities and racial and gendered injustices permeate through our constructed realities. Rampant environmental catastrophes continue to wreak havoc around the globe. Lockdowns implemented during COVID-19 have forced the population into a state of prolonged solitude and reflection. Catalysed by this introspective period, fervent responses to the deplorable conditions faced by vulnerable communities worldwide have shed light on the cracks and faults in social infrastructure. To turn our backs on these difficult truths would mean the rejection of our evolution.


As we forge ahead into uncharted territories, shaken up by the pandemic and social paradigm shifts, how can we ensure our collective progress? Upon a closer look, architecture reminds us that all tangible things created by humans first begin in the immaterial realm of the mind. And so, before we can find ways to positively impact the world around us, which currently hosts and encourages such hardships and disconnection, we must first dive into the landscape of the psyche. Institutional Critique, a conceptual art form that came to prominence in the 1960’s, centred around the critique of museums, galleries, private collections, and other art institutions. This movement illuminated the power of reframing and using the tools of the institution against itself, in the pursuit of positive change. In the greater society, how can we locate similar tools and use them to upend oppressive systems, from the inside-out and outside-in?

The world is currently in a critical condition, and a remedy could lie in both critiquing the current culture and through embodied action. Every move made now will determine the shape of the future. As we journey through this collective intellectual and cultural shift, everyone is implicated and should ask themselves: What is my part in the evolution and liberation of all life on this planet?

Today, cultural players in particular are called upon to apply their practices of transformation, adaptation, and manifestation to social realities––to sculpt the future. Now, privileges and blind spots must be held under a microscope. Guilt must be forfeited in favour of intentional action and allyship. Within the perpetual crossings of our social matrixes, one step forward could be two steps backward from another vantage point. Here, self-criticality is pivotal in navigating spaces of future-building.

What is responsibility, and how does it change from community to community, and person to person? What is the first step in having difficult but productive conversations? How can inclusivity be a given, instead of an afterthought? Featuring a mix of artists, designers, and activists, this talk did not pretend to have all the answers to these questions. However, we hope that in asking them, we could create a space for true listening, seeing, and collaboration.

Mikolaj Sekutowicz, Julieta Aranda, Edna Bonhomme, Nicholas Grafia, Monilola Ilupeju

Key Questions

1. What is your part in the evolution and liberation of all life on this planet?
2. What is responsibility and how does it change from community to community?
3. How can manifestation and transformation in artistic contexts be transmuted to other spaces?
4. How has culture changed in the last six months? For the better or worse?
5. How do criticality, collaboration, and social progress intersect?
6. What does future-building require?


Mikolaj Sekutowicz, CEO and Curator, Therme Art (Co-moderator)
Monilola Ilupeju,
Nicholas Grafia, Artist
Moshtari Hilal, Artist
Julieta Aranda, Artist and Editor of e-flux journal
Edna Bonhomme, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Arthur Mamou-Mani (via stream), Architect
Simon de Pury (via stream),
Art Auctioneer, Advisor & Collector

In partnership with


Edna Bonhomme


Arthur Mamou-Mani


Monilola Ilupeju


Nicholas Grafia


Moshtari Hilal


Simon de Pury


Julieta Aranda, Edna Bonhomme


Photo Credits: Therme Art © Jendrick Schröder