Zeren Oruc berättar om sina upplevelser som curator

Foto: Zeren Oruc

Zeren Oruc var Curator in Residence hos Konstfrämjandet Norrbotten mellan 8 maj – 11 juni 2023. I samband med residenset har Oruc skrivit en text om sin upplevelse i Norrbotten och sina tankar kring curatorskap. Residenset var en del av projektet Curera och delprojektet Geografier.

Projektet Curera har haft som avsikt att lyfta fram ett fokus på curatorns villkor, situation och roll i Sverige – Norrbotten specifikt. Delprojektet Geografier, som Zeren Oruc varit en del i, är ett curatorsresidens på plats i Norrbotten med avsikt att på liknande sätt synnliggöra curatorn som professionell yrkesgrupp. I sin text utforskar Oruc sin praktik som curator och hur hon kan förhålla sig till omvärlden genom "slow curating". Texten kan du läsa i sin helhet på engelska nedan.

Slow curating as a practice is a dream. With anything that is slow in a postmodern world, this often means having some sort of privilege or financial backup, whether be a wealthy family or a well-paying side job. Currently, I don’t have either of these, but I was able to practice slow curating when I lived in Belgrade by changing the definition of what curating meant for me. It was easier to do this, as I worked under the radar in a place where art was not financially supported, and I didn’t have the pressures that came with it.

Unfortunately, my move to Berlin changed that drastically. Even though I’m still supporting a less production-oriented mindset and trying to surround myself with people on the same wavelength, the pressure of reestablishing myself in a new place, securing projects to extend my work visa, and the appeal of the funding weigh heavily on my mind. For the first time in years, I’m not flying under the radar, which presents pressures as well as opportunities. One of these opportunities was a curatorial residency in Norrbotten - the northernmost part of Sweden. I was selected as the guest curator of Curera Project, a non-production-oriented residency that focuses on getting to know the local artists and conducting research. In a way, this was the first time I was able to truly practice slow curating without having to produce something or even write funding applications.

The freedom that I was given here to explore and the people I have encountered gave me a chance to see the red thread in my work, as they say here. At times I felt great excitement and motivation, at other times I felt depleted and depressed. All of these feelings are still forming me and the direction that I would like to take with my work. Although I can’t pinpoint what this really means, I know by being here I’m no longer only driven by anger. Now there is anxiety too, but also empathy. An empathy that I gained by sharing locals’ concerns, telling the story of our alarming water issue in Almeria, and exchanging heartfelt hugs at the end of my meetings.

The morning I left Berlin for this residency, I didn’t realize I was on two different journeys- one to the north of Europe physically, one to the south of Europe mentally. Roughly three weeks before my train, I received bad news from my project partners in Almeria, Spain where I’m running a rural residency. After 11 months of lack of rain and an exceptionally warm April, the alarm bells were rung. The water in the reservoirs was under 50%, and the city decide to limit the water usage from urban areas to supply agricultural fields. As of that day, we were to receive running water every other three days. Partially in shock, partially trying to communicate this with artists and come up with an emergency plan, I didn’t have time to realize what this meant for me.

As I made my way up north, passing through the wetlands, extensive rivers, and lakes, I started to realize how difficult it would be for these people to understand what it means not to have water. To them, it’s unthinkable. While trying to come to terms with our devastating water issue, that this might be the last year of Montemero Art Residency, and what this would mean for my work - for my form of slow curating- I was able to see the connections with this land. Despite the situation, I’m not willing to give up on this project yet, especially now that I see the deep connections between the northernmost of Europe and the southernmost. It’s beguiling to think about how the lack of water or the abundance of it might mean the same and irritating to see how providers of essentials for Western Europe are reduced to exotic tourist attractions. All the patterns of colonialism, and now, what we have to reframe as green colonialism. I think this is where my work begins.

As these thoughts brew in my mind, I feel the pressure of going back home with an output, whether be an idea or knowledge. Since my interest in the area rose from my conversations with a curator I’m collaborating with, Camilla Therese Karlsson - a Sami curator and artist from Norway, for a project with Oyoun Kultur NeuDenken, I want to channel my findings and thoughts into our project in form of writing. I have the desire to do this slowly, and thoroughly, and wave it with the red thread reflecting on other lands, my past work, and experiences.

With all that being said, I’m realizing how laborious this is going to be for my dyslexic brain, as I’m writing this text after trying to reflect on my individual experiences with people. To me, this means long and painful drafts, a lot of self-doubt, fear, and a search for meaning. While I believe I can overcome these, just as I did for this text, can I really do this slowly given the lack of time and financial stability? All I know is that I do not want to recreate the extractivist models forced on these lands and force them on myself for the sake of contribution or pressure. Once more, I feel dampened by my thoughts and desire to do this holistically, but I’m willing to see where this will take me.

Residenset var en del av delprojektet Geografier och projektet Curera som du kan läsa mer om här. Residenset genomfördes med stöd av Resurscentrum för Konst i Norrbotten och i samverkan med SLAiR – Swedish Lapland AiR.

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