This online publication gathers the ideas, discussions and outcomes of the project Why Is Everybody Being So Nice? (The title of the programme is inspired by Martha Rosler’s recent essay Why Are People Being So Nice?, published in e-flux journal #77 – November 2016), curated by the De Appel Curatorial Programme 2016-17.
The project comprised performances, workshops and panel discussions running from April to June 2017 at various locations in Amsterdam, and investigated the ethical and behavioral codes of conduct in the art world – where, in the words of Martha Rosler, ‘“Niceness” speaks to a demand, in neoliberal terms, for the wholesale invention, performance, and perpetual grooming of a transactional self’.
The first part of the project took place at De Appel in April, where it unfolded as a four-day-long programme of panel discussions, workshops, screenings, and performances. It ended with a collective sleepover, The Night of Exhaustion and Exuberance, which activated the practice of collective sleeping as a gesture of resistance and appropriation of space and time. Why Is Everybody Being So Nice? continued and concluded with The Power Nap, a collective snooze in the auditorium of the Stedelijk Museum in June, on the occasion of the launch of this online publication. The online publication culminates Why Is Everybody Being So Nice? with a selection of contributions by the writers, artists, curators and documentation of the programme, expanding on the topics investigated during the programme. The editorial project follows the structure of the four days of the programme, presenting four main chapters under which documentation and contributions provide an overall reflection on the programme and its outcomes.
About the programme
Why Is Everybody Being So Nice? sought to provoke reflection and a critical investigation into the grey areas between ethics and etiquette that are expected of cultural producers, or anyone working within the sector of knowledge-based, post-industrial economies. Cultural producers are often subject to a 24/7 workday – constantly shifting between underpaid professional labour and social self-promotion at V.I.P. previews, and are required to adhere to an unspoken set of moral rules and behavioural standards. Therefore, in an act of instrumentalisation of “political correctness”, the product of the cultural worker is expected to tick all the boxes that satisfy the politics of representation, comply with appropriate gender and racial quotas of an exhibition, and to readily accept an unpaid job under the premise of being exposed to new realms of opportunity in the ‘reputation economy’ of the art world.
Three case studies of recent occurrences in the contemporary art world were selected in order to provide horizons to think through and navigate the broader issues of precarious labour within the knowledge economy. These case studies drew on research trips to Athens, Bucharest, Cluj and Budapest that the De Appel Curatorial Programme embarked on at the end of 2016. These encounters revealed the tension between customary practices and anomalies of behavioural protocols imposed by biennales and recurring international exhibitions of differing kinds and scale. The immersion within these unfamiliar and stimulating conditions for a short and intense period of travel provoked inevitable self-reflection and negotiation of our own ethical positions within the politics of the contemporary art world. These shared experiences catalysed our impulse to take the opportunity of the final project as a means to extend, deepen and open up our discussions to a wider group of art professionals. Eventually, the daily programmes of Why Is Everybody Being So Nice? aimed to consider possible modes of resistance and counter strategies within the precarity of ethical and behavioural codes in the art world. What kind of personal agencies, alliances and temporary agreements could be set forth to reclaim our autonomy amongst the heavyweight powers of the art world?
The programme concluded with a collective sleepover, The Night of Exhaustion and Exuberance, which also hosted Open Avond(s): a series of events initiated by E.I.Panza. Within this collaboration, the practice of collective sleeping was investigated as a gesture of resistance and appropriation of space and time.
Why Is Everybody Being So Nice?
is curated by the participants of De Appel Curatorial Programme 2016-17:
Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti
Shona Mei Findlay
About De Appel Curatorial Programme
Since its inception in 1994 De Appel Curatorial Programme is a prime, internationally respected educational platform in Amsterdam for the advancement of the theory and practice of exhibition making, as well as its manifold ideological framings.
The ten-month long full-time Curatorial Programme (CP) is practice-based and structured along the principle of ‘learning by doing’ and ‘collective curating’. A select group of six participants, based in Amsterdam, partakes in a dense array of lectures, workshops, excursions, and practice-related assignments. In addition, the curriculum of the programme comprises numerous formal and informal encounters with art professionals from the Netherlands and abroad, meetings with artists and curators showing at and working for De Appel, studio visits and institutional visits, exchange with peers from related curatorial programmes, a reading group, personal presentations and attendance of the public programme of De Appel. An important aspect of the programme is a collective curatorial endeavor, realising an exhibition, festival, conference or book project.
For more information, please see deappel.nl
Image: Pablo Helguera, "The civil war has descended in such chaos that our only chance is to bring a curator to make a biennial about it" (2017). Commissioned by De Appel Curatorial Programme 2016-17 for Why Is Everybody Being So Nice?