What does social or historical engagement imply for a work of art? And how might artistic approaches lead academics to formulate new questions and cultivate new, engaged modes of research? The debate whether art should be created for its own sake, or whether it should have a socially or politically relevant role, is salient and will always remain; in the present-day turmoil of shifting global powers, identity politics, emancipation, climate change, and a raging pandemic, this question seems more acute than ever. On the other hand, the importance of creativity and empathy in the social sciences and humanities is academically acknowledged, but also constrained by a commitment to empirical research, legitimation and referencing. Why do we do what we do? When and why do we stand our ground? When and why do we break with convention?
Atelier KITLV is inspired by a longer standing interest in exploring colonial structures of knowledge – in which the institute was founded – and in seeking for ways and forms of decolonizing knowledge. At the same time, it is motivated by a need for an atelier in its own right, a place defined by experimentation among artistic and academic professionals in search of new methods, perspectives, and approaches. Concerned also by the funding crisis in the creative arts caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, we moreover hope to open up a conversation and exploration towards new engaged, mobile and creative forms of knowledge to understand and visualize societal and historical problems. Thereby it hopes as much to contribute to as to learn from artists, curators, writers, journalists, and activists engaging locally and transnationally with urgent matters of past and present, including racism, violence, differentiated citizenship, environmental degradation, and climate justice.
Atelier KITLV encourages and enables scholars working in the area specialisations of KITLV, i.e. Southeast Asia and the Caribbean world, as well as colonial and postcolonial history, and professionals working in the artistic and journalistic field, to collaborate and to learn from each other. It urges exploratory interventions into pressing societal debates and interrogations of dominant political or epistemic authority. It stimulates open, experimental approaches toward questions about human behaviour, meaning, data, and interpretation, creating opportunities to explore, and cross, the boundaries between different, socially, culturally or professionally determined ways of knowing.
To this end KITLV will establish an annual residency for one or more fellows, working, in close collaboration with KITLV researchers, on the intersections of arts, social sciences and the humanities. Because of current covid restrictions we will start by a series of intimate conversations between the creative and academic disciplines, exploring questions regarding (unfinished) difficult pasts and pressing socio-political matters today; on how and why we have been approaching them the way we do, and on how, whether and why we can and would like to make a difference.