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In the context of the Geographies of Freedom research project, the evening of 5 September 2019 marks the premiere of the eponymous video essay by Peres dos Santos. The film leads us through colonial narratives of Dutch petrochemical imperialism and its relation to notions of freedom. Navigating through archival footage and contemporary imagery shot in Curaçao and The Netherlands, the film proposes reflections on cultural, socio-economical and political repression.

An art installation by Jabu Arnell will define the spatial setting for the event. Het Nieuwe Instituut has invited Arnell to interpret the research by Martina and Peres dos Santos and create a space for encounter and reflection. The installation will be on show until 10 November 2019.

A welcoming space

Het Nieuwe Instituut acknowledges the emotional distress that the content of this event may cause, and does its utmost to provide a safe space for the organisers and visitors. Trusted friends and long-term collaborators will be present for informal conversation and reflection.

We also kindly refer to the Code of conduct in which Het Nieuwe Instituut outlines what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable at the institute, both online and offline. The code is a living document, we welcome feedback and suggestions to strengthen it.

Geographies of Freedom

Geographies of Freedom is a multifaceted research endeavour initiated and developed by researcher and critic Egbert Alejandro Martina and multimedia artist Miguel Peres dos Santos. As Martina explains, this collaborative effort explores the ways in which architecture, law, and geography shape our understanding and experience of ‘freedom’. The project aims to challenge conventional understandings of freedom by refocusing attention on how the dynamic between race, architecture, the law, and geography determine who is a free subject: how have architecture, the law, and geography been used to consolidate the spatiality of freedom?

By investigating the ways in which freedom has been imagined, theorised, and enshrined in the law can lead to a more critical understanding of architecture’s role in buttressing the space-making capacity of the law. Martina and Peres dos Santos argue that ‘freedom’, far from merely being a legal status or condition, is a spatial construct that is of central importance to the ordering and governing of political space. In essence, freedom is a concept that expresses spatial and power relations. We might even understand “freedom” as architecture, not as an architectural object, but as the production and reproduction of space. The architecture of laws and legislation literally constitutes social spaces in which ‘freedom’ might be experienced as spatial. Yet, spatiality is an important but often neglected dimension of law. At the same time, Martina and Peres dos Santos position freedom, to quote Nikolas Rose, as “a governmental rationality—that is to say, practices that sought to govern individuals by shaping, modulating, regulating the way in which they understood and enacted what they took to be their freedom."

The event on 5 September follows a series of research meetings held at Het Nieuwe Instituut and an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Trinta di Mei uprising. A blog by the authors serves to further elaborate on and communicate these questions.

The video essay is funded by the Mondriaan fund.

Related programmes at Het Nieuwe Instituut

In a period characterised by radical change, Het Nieuwe Instituut wants to moderate, stimulate and facilitate debate about architecture, design and digital culture. Acknowledging that the shaping of a society is an act of design, Het Nieuwe Instituut strives to make visible research and design strategies that transform the current, mostly exploitative dynamic according to a different set of ethical principles into non-racist, non-extractive forms of coexistence.

Egbert A. Martina’s previous contributions  to Het Nieuwe Instituut program, include the book published in conjunction with Work, Body, Leisure, the Dutch Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018. In the same publication his work was quoted by Amal Alhaag. Martina was also one of the guests at the first edition of the two-part Decolonising Design debate.

Het Nieuwe Instituut has actively attempted to participate in the ongoing debate on decolonisation with programs such as Decolonising Bots, which led to an essay by Florence Okoye, Archive Explorations: A Decolonial Gaze, and the Reading Rooms Notes on a Virginia State: Architecture and Race in Jefferson’s America by Mabel Wilson, and The Afterlife of Soil by Christina Sharpe.

In the context of the temporary academy Neuhaus, Tabita Rezaire’s work Premium Connect also addresses these questions. 

These projects and conversations will be followed, in September 2019, by a workshop organized by Otero and 2018 Fellow Malique Mohamud in which they “comment on identity, power and forms of representation within the space of the exhibition, the cultural institution, and beyond.”

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.