Gendai CO-OP co-opts existing practices of curatorial research and artist residency, as well as a co-operative model and a student co-op program.
We are reimagining curatorial practice as a form of care for our peers, our collaborators, and our communities. Developed from colonial roots, museum practices centre around the acquisition and safe-keeping of objects. These priorities persist and are often met at the cost of the wellbeing of artists, coordinators, technicians, assistants, and support staff. Physical, intellectual, and emotional labour – esp. from marginalized groups – is thereby often exploited by arts institutions. Racialized artists – their bodies and work – are instrumentalized for optics and performative allyship. If institutions are committed to decolonizing, shouldn’t we pivot from approaches that value the consumption and display of objects over the care of peoples?
Exhausted by the disconnect between public-facing gestures of solidarity and a failure to enact structural change from within, and discouraged by how many galleries and museums opt to preserve their colonial, neoliberal, and corporatized structures, Gendai now aims to reorient the long-standing art practice of institutional critique towards a divestment from institutions and the redirection of energy towards more experimental, equitable, and sustainable collectively-led ecosystems.
Our ongoing research responds to toxic labour conditions especially experienced by BIPOC arts workers at museums and art galleries. Using gossip as a methodology to trace the contours of institutional power, we build relationships with emerging and mid-career arts practitioners of colour to learn about current workplace dynamics in the sector. We have conducted dozens of interviews with arts workers, with a focus on emerging and mid-career arts practitioners of colour.
Most recently, we have been experimenting with how we can support racialized workers to invest in their non-institutional futures. Through peer mentorship and access to Gendai’s platform, resources, and network, we aim to manifest the idea of a non-institutional arts career as a realistic or sustainable option, a practice we’ve described as imagining or developing “off-ramps” from the linear expressway of traditional, capitalist, and institutional career progression.
Want to chat with us? We'd love to hear from you.
email us: gendaiclub [at] gmail [dot] [com]
This project is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.