Q&A ︎︎︎

Continued Conversations

Clementine Butler-Gallie
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Luamba Muinga 
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Curators Clementine Butler-Gallie and Luamba Muinga began a conversation in 2022 that they have continued in a novel way. After being paired up for a German residency programme for three months, both curators strongly felt that they still had a great deal more to discuss by the time it ended, and wanted to invite others to join in. Together they established what they call “Continued Conversations…”, a self-organised network for curators and other creatives that grows organically and is disseminated mainly via word of mouth. Butler-Gallie is based in Berlin and Muinga in Luanda, so their networks stretch across the globe, and the initiative keeps on extending. It primarily involves online conversations with thematic frameworks, and has also resulted in some interesting collaborations and a generous sharing of resources and ideas, often between virtual strangers.

INCCA: Could you start by explaining how the two of you met and what led to the establishment of Continued Conversations...?

Clementine Butler-Gallie (CBG): We first met in January 2022 when Luamba was coming to Berlin from Luanda for the ZKU residency, which was bringing curators over to do three months of research. We were connected as I was doing work in archives here in Germany and Luamba was also coming to research archives. So we were given three months to work together in some capacity; meet and exchange, and of course three months is never long enough.

We had so many conversations over [this period], about our curatorial experiences, issues that we faced as curators. We were also sharing dreams about what we wanted to do in the future. And then suddenly Luamba went back to Luanda and it felt like the conversation got cut short. We needed a lot longer and so we simply wanted to continue the conversation, and also wanted to continue it with other people.
We had so many different people that we could bring together, and one of the points that came up was to [create] a space for the exchange of resources, opportunities and conversations between different contexts rather than just what we knew within the cities and spaces that we were working in.

Luamba Muinga (LM): When I received this proposal from ZKU to work with a curator, I was on Instagram checking curators from Berlin. I saw that Clementine was working on the Distant Divides project, which at some point connects with my own research projects… We had similarities and I wanted to understand how I could do research from the perspective of someone who is not German. Clementine has this background – she is not German, doing research on connections between Germany and countries in the Global South or outside Europe. This was interesting for me to explore and to work with. So we started this conversation and after the residency we wanted to organise the topics of our conversations and expand it to other people.

We’re interested in the next steps being formed by the conversations that take place. 

INCCA: Do you want to expand Luamba on how you decided who to invite to be part of that extended conversation?

LM: Short answer: I was like “let’s go to my contact list”… but long answer: I was thinking about how I can reach different perspectives, different regions, different locations to have all these strong backgrounds of what happens in the art world. I tried to connect people from these regions – western Africa, southern Africa, a little bit of eastern Africa and then to connect to the other side of the ocean. Some of our conversation was about how we can create structure to act better, to work better. It was very interesting to me to understand how other art scenes are doing things. This is the same conversation I am having here in Luanda, that maybe you are having in Lagos or Maputo. Why not call everyone. Places like Johannesburg and Cape Town, where the art scene is so strong was very interesting for me.

Another criteria was independent curators or people with an independent project not associated with an institution.    
INCCA: How structured do you envision the project to become, and/or how open do you want it to become?

CBG: How the network forms at this stage is definitely by word of mouth… and there’s something that’s really enjoyable about watching it organically be spread around. And also growing slowly without having to be suddenly huge is important for sustainability, to keep the organic nature of the network growing. However that being said, it is open to everybody in some capacity. Like Luamba said, we’re tailoring the conversations to people working independently and more specifically curatorially. Although what’s actually then taken place is that there are those artists who are artists/curators/ – there are so many slashes in the cultural sphere. That’s maybe something we weren’t necessarily thinking of in the beginning, but there’s just been an organic way in which it has progressed. We really just have a form that people can sign up to and express their interest to join the network.   

When it comes to the future, we are thinking of different formats in which to make it easier for other people to know what we’re doing and access the conversation. But this will actually be our next topic, which is: when to and when not to archive.  

We’re interested in the next steps being formed by the conversations that take place.

If you see how people are dealing with their situation or daily activities, you’ll have a different perspective on how to act in your context.

INCCA: What has surprised you the most about the project?

CBG: From my side, the biggest surprise was the network returning. This shouldn’t really be a surprise because although sometimes when it comes to difficulties facing independent curators I think internally “it’s just me”, of course there are many curators out there experiencing the same things.

LM: From my side, having this community as strong as it is, is really amazing. It shows us the first intent we had, it’s really working. The idea of having many more people, a community to [share these conversations], it’s really working. People really need something like this.

CBG: Something else that comes to mind… I was surprised by the vulnerability expressed in the group. I think as independent curators we’re often forced to put on this face: “we’re all super successful, we’re all making this work …” And actually this is not always the case, the independent curatorial sphere is tough. In the network sessions people don’t only speak about their successes but also about their fears and questioning their next steps or projects. 

INCCA: Could you perhaps explore some examples of collaborations that have formed through Continued Conversations...?

CBG: The first opportunity [for collaboration] was through Texture Mag, which was an invitation to do a piece on solidarity and that was a zone where it felt right to send it to the group. That was a really nice experience for a working group from the larger group of Continued Conversations... – I think it was seven in total – who then wrote a text together. This was a text written basically by people who didn’t know each other, but then became co-authors.

Other examples – I had the odd email from curators in the group asking about artists in Berlin and being able to share recommendations.

LM: This is a main topic for me these days. One of the participants, Filomena Mairosse, Mozambican curator and artist, came and did the residency that I have been involved with here in Luanda, it was amazing. I was out of the country for two weeks, but we met here in Luanda at the end of her residency. It was really great to exchange. I really feel that the Portuguese-speaking countries on the continent, we are not talking. Mozambique is here and in front of us, but we don’t have many connections, so that was very interesting for me.

And then let’s see what happens, I believe that the project has a lot to do. In the last session, the project sharing idea was truly amazing, I believe this is going to create to great collaborations.  

INCCA: Could you maybe speak a bit about how the project sharing session went and what came out of it?

CBG: Project sharing was a really nice session, and again it goes back to this vulnerability. Built up from the last session there was this sense of security to share projects in progress, or just project ideas… There was the ability for the conversation to not just be on projects that are finalised or projects that you’re trying to present in their final form. It was very much a question: “what do you think I should do next?” And there was really an openness to exchange ideas and opportunities. So someone saying “oh, you should look at this grant”, or “this residency” or “this research space” or “I know an artist working in this context here”. So it was a really safe space for the sharing of resources in that session.   

INCCA: Do you see great value in the coming together of individuals from such disparate contexts? If so, how?

LM: Since the pandemic I’m always saying this phrase: I’m interested in global experience. The pandemic just put everyone in the same label of fear, collaboration, platforms of working like Zoom, where we are now, and that was really interesting. If you see how people are dealing with their situation or daily activities, you’ll have a different perspective on how to act in your context… the initiative is really global, considers everyone in every corner of the world. So that was really interesting to see, how we can collect these global experiences, from the north, from the south, from the east. And this I believe adds more to the conversation and creates continuity.

CBG: What I love about this network is that most people actually are working very locally, but we’re just sharing that within a global context.

INCCA: What is the best snippet of advice either or both of you have for independent creatives?

CBG: For me it’s quite simply, where it’s possible, to not work independently, to work collaboratively. And also, don’t wait for chance encounters, if you see someone’s work that you like – reach out, even if they’re a stranger.

LM: In contexts like Angola, I’m always thinking about how we can create community and work as a community. If that’s not possible, just to have a better understanding of the scene in terms of structure, in terms of what is available to work with. This is something I’m working on now with my collective Lab CC… to avoid the kind of frustration of seeing your neighbours have something that you don’t. It’s to understand what’s happening and understand how to create community.

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