Against the Erasure of Dissent

A Conversation between Andrea Scrima and Anike Joyce Sadiq

“Against the Erasure of Dissent,” part of the exhibition “Mit Glück hat es nichts zu tun” (It has nothing to do with luck), Anike Joyce Sadiq at the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany (2022). Photo: Andrea Scrima

The following conversation took place from November 2021 to February 2022 via e-mail in reaction to a general meeting of the Villa Romana Association that took place on October 28, 2021 in Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin. The authors participated in this meeting in their function as members, having been actively involved for two years in a group of artists that had formed in response to a new funding situation. When there was no longer any way to prevent a simultaneous changeover in directors, the group sought to at least preserve the Villa Romana as a place created by artists for artists and to ensure that the general direction of the program established under Angelika Stepken be continued.

The Villa Romana was founded in 1905 as a German art association in Florence. In addition to an exhibition program and numerous collaborations with artists as well as with art and cultural institutions both local and international, the Villa Romana Prize is awarded each year to four artists or collectives from Germany in the form of a ten-month residency and grant.

This conversation attempts, from the authors’ perspective, to reconstruct, contextualize, and archive the discussions that occurred between artist members and the board and the course these took over time. It poses questions about membership and the extent of agency it allows, and inquires into the role artists play in shaping institutional structures. Financial and political dependencies, the seeming openness of a diversity-based policy toward art and culture, and the (re)distribution of the real and symbolic capital that becomes legitimized by a non-profit status are subjects of investigation. Read more »

Between the Lines

by Andrea Scrima

Try it: try talking about the subject of reading without drifting off into how the Internet has changed the way we absorb information. I, along with the majority of people I know whose reading habits were formed long before the advent of digital magazines and newspapers, Google Books, blogs, RSS feeds, social media, and Kindle, usually feel I’m only really reading when it’s printed matter, under a reading lamp, with the screen and phone turned off. But the reality is that I do a vast amount of reading online.

Unsurprisingly, my attention span has gotten jumpy: I click from one article to another, suddenly remember a mail I need to write, consult the online dictionary on a browser that has at least thirty-five open tabs, and before I reach my destination, I see that I have several new Facebook notifications and check these first. By the time I click on the dictionary, a half hour has been lost and I can no longer remember the word I intended to look up. The result of all this is the humbling admission to a new handicap: the need for an Internet access-blocker with a Black List.

For my seventeen-year-old son and his growing brain, the potential for relentless distraction is far more pernicious. This is a kid who was read to every night of the first thirteen years of his life for at least an hour at bedtime, more often than not longer, and yet the dominance of smart-phone technology in his young life means that the greater part of his access to the world of ideas now takes place online.

I’m not going to explore the anxiety of parenthood in the digital age or argue the pros and cons of the Internet here; I myself am far too entrenched to ponder a life without it. But what strikes me is the profound change we’ve undergone in our collective ability to think critically. In an era of fake news and AI technology sophisticated enough to produce video footage that looks like the real thing, the conclusion I’ve come to is this: the ability to read is not the only thing we have to salvage for the next generation; we have to save, from oblivion, our ability to read between the lines. Read more »