2013 - 2014 Roaming Research Academy / To Make A Work - Motivation, Affinity, Circumstance

Tutors and Visiting Lecturers Grant Watson, Wendelien Van Oldenborgh, The Otolith Group ( Anjalika Sagar), Andrea Phillips, Rustom Barucha, Anshuman Dasgupta, Landings ( Natasha Ginwala and Vivian Ziherl) and Ricardo Basbaum. Framework by Grant Watson.

Participants: Eduard Cachucho, Kim Schonewille, Marie-Andrée Pellerin, Maria Barlasov, Abner Preis, Bryony Gillard, Charlie Dance, Michelle Browne, Eona McCallum, Bonbon Juan and Louis Liu


The aim of this course is to explore with a group of students from the Dutch Art Institute what it means to make a work of art, and by extension, to be an artist in an increasingly internationalized art world. As a group we will consider this question in relation to the following three terms – motivation, affinity and circumstance as well as the development and completion of a work by each student over one year.

The course will be led by curator Grant Watson and artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and will come substantially out of the research that they are developing as curator and artist respectively. Grant Watson is Senior Curator and Research Associate at the Institute of International Art (Iniva) whose curatorial work has been substantially engaged with questions of international practice through exhibitions and research collaborations. Wendelein van Oldenborgh is an artist who has developed a body of film and slide works that explore incomplete and unresolved histories, including the entangled lines between different geographies and temporalities.

Importantly the course will involve a series of field trips to visit places and works that help develop the question of what it means to make a work of art rom a number of perspectives, geographies and histories.The most significant of these will be a trip to India to experience key works of Indian Modernism, made in the 1930s and 40s situated on the campus of Kala Bhavan, the art college at Santiniketan, in West Bengal, India, established by Indian poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore in 1919.Visits will also involve examples of modernisms closer to home in the Netherlands, such as the Malevich exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

We will also invite a number of leading contemporary artists to contribute to the course and consider what it means to make a work from the perspective of their own practice including artists such as Alice Creischer and Andreas Seikman the Otolith Group and Ricardo Basbaum.

Most importantly these questions will be developed through a process whereby each student makes a single work over the course of the year, which will become an important vehicle for them to consider the motivations, affinities and circumstance of their own practice and share this with the group.

The Terms

The question of what it means to make a work is an impossibly broad question and one that needs to be broken down both through examples but also conceptually. In order to do this we have selected three terms as points of departure for our research. These terms are: Motivation, Affinity and Circumstance. Each will be the starting point for a seminar or series of seminars and will reappear in our discussions throughout the year.


What motivates a practice is perhaps the most difficult question as this is often not clear to the individual, or only clear in parts. On the one hand this term could point to the subjectivity of the artist and a very particular set of histories, behaviours and characteristics. But it could also go beyond this to other kinds of motivations perhaps a greater project, maybe a political one. Students will be encouraged to reflect on an awareness and consider of their own motivations including their reactions to existing forms and art histories.


With this term we would like to think about how the artist connects to others and to an elsewhere. In the context of the DAI this could be about affinities within the peer group. What are the shared interests, whether formal, intellectual, social or political, and how to go beyond the college to engage with a wider frame of reference? The DAI group is very international so it is interesting what affinities each artist will bring with them. The question of affinities in the context of international art practice can be the basis to explore cosmopolitanism; understood as a complex and shifting idea both historically and today.


Circumstance describes the territory in which the work is made. This ranges from the very practical aspect of its production, to the political and social circumstances in which it comes into being. What is the immediate context? What resources are available? Whether financial, in terms of materials; ideas; reception of the work; who is the immediate audience and how are they approached or addressed?

Requirements of the course

A consideration of terms might sound overly academic but a central aspect of the course is that each student has the opportunity to think about in depth and make a single work of art during the year. The aim is to track this process and the time it takes to make a complex and ambitious work and think about its position in the world. Over the course of a year, students, tutors and visiting guests will meet on a monthly basis for two days. One day will be for face to face meetings, the other used for students to attend a series of seminars in which the key terms will be addressed, readings will be given, individual practices addressed and historical examples considered. During these sessions visiting guests will present their practice in relation to the question of what it means to make a work.

We require students to keep a notebook in order to log the process. The notebook can take any form and the material contained in the notebook can be of any kind. The only requirement is that the notebook be exclusively for this project. As well as using the notebook to develop works, we can use them to periodically look back on sessions and at the end of the year look back on the course as a whole.

In brief, the first term will be more focused on reading, discussion, reflection and research; the second term feature the site visits and the main research trip to India, while the work is in material development; the third is focused on the completion of work and group discussions about each case. We will find appropriate ways to stage, visit or address the works being made by students, avoiding simple lap top presentations as much as possible.

Research Trips

The main research trip will be to Santinketan in West Bengal, India, established by the poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1919; the same year as the Bauhaus and influenced by Bauhaus ideas. The school and university of which it formed a part, sought to bypass British colonial education systems and become part of a process of decolonisation, and cultural revival and modernism. Kala Bhavan the art school at Santiniketan produced some of India's leading modernist artists including Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij, Behodbehari Mhukerjee, who made large-scale public works, which can still be seen still be seen on the campus. These artists tried to synthesise local conditions and questions with a larger international perspective and within a situation culturally and politically charged. This trip will provide an opportunity to think about the context in which these works were made in relation to our chosen terms - motivation, affinity, circumstance, and compare them with our situation today. We will also invite guest artists The Otolith Group who wish to make a film about Tagore to travel with us. The Otolith Group will undertake preliminary research for the film on the campus and students will have a chance to engage in this process. Before the trip to India there will be a visit to the exhibition "Kazimir Malevich and the Russian Avant-Garde" at the Stedelijk Museum looking at avant-garde movements and how they invent new forms. This will be combined with a visit to a screening of avant-garde films programmed by Jacob Korczynski.

The course is part of a much larger research project with the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva), Goldsmiths University, NGBK (Berlin) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with the possibility for students to participate in a forum on Tagore at NGBK in Berlin in April 2014.