AICA nominates Casco for the 2013 Award

17 June 2013 / Casco HQ

We would like to take this opportunity to express our warm thanks for being nominated by AICA (International Association of Art Critics) Netherlands. We are particularly grateful for this recognition as our work operates at the margins of any defined field of art practice and “loving the margins is risky, because you’re not only in unfamiliar territory, but often in hostile terrain as well” (Marcia Tucker). This risky or experimental approach isn’t easy at any point in time but becomes evermore challenging in the current political-cultural climate, with bank bailouts and austerity measures pressing upon cultural institutions. The nomination encourages us to critically continue – and reinvent! – our work. It is also a compliment to our many of our collaborating artists, social groups, designers, and writers. 

We have translated AICA’s article from Dutch to English so that our international friends can glean insight from its contents, and make it available here on our website. It offers a critical perspective into the current development of Dutch contemporary art scene. We hope you enjoy reading. 

The jury, consisting of Maxine Kopsa, Maria Rus Bojan and Steven ten Thije, nominated four institutions: Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, De Hallen Haarlem, If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution and Rijksakademie for the 2013 AICA Award. The AICA Award is distributed annually to an institution, exhibition or a publication going through a transition. In 2012, the AICA Award was given to the publication YVI Magazine and in 2011, to the exhibition Van Gogh’s letters: The artist speaks. AICA members will vote on the above nominees and the winner will be announced this fall.  

Why does AICA provide an awards program to institutions rather than dedicating all of its time to art criticism, and the creation of a discourse for artworks and exhibitions? This is the first question each AICA juror faces. It is obvious to us that within our society, art has the most impact when coupled with a strong platform. An institution’s role is not as a shelter for art – safe and secluded – but rather as integral nodes which bring art into the public realm. 

Compiling these nominations is something we considered to be a unique responsibility. We felt called upon to not only choose the best institutions but also create a space for the great variety of exceptional institutions found in the Netherlands. Putting together these nominations has created a best-of list and a snapshot of the diversity and overall quality of cultural infrastructure in the Netherlands. Our selection of institutions focuses on contemporary art. This is not only the result of a specific vision of the jury, it also reflects the quality and dynamic character of the Dutch contemporary art landscape. 

Compiling this list afforded us the opportunity to reflect more generally on the state of art institutions in the Netherlands. This is a conscious choice as making this selection carries a bitterness given that it took place before the cuts came into effect. On our list you will therefore find institutions such as Rijksakademie, which was substantially altered by these cuts, and If I Can’t Dance… or Casco, who are still seeking new support for their activities. We would also like to recognize excellent institutions such as De Paviljoens—recipient of the AICA Award in 2005, who, unable to withstand the considerable budget cuts, are now closing down. 

The situation with De Paviljoens made us realize that we were nominating organizations who were operating in a storm. These are institutions that have performed well in our eyes, but as a result of this storm do not have enough social support to survive. This begs the question as to whether an institution which had to close its doors can still be deemed successful. Should the longevity of an institution indicate the necessity, usefulness or success of the organization? Our response to these valid questions is no. Even excellent institutions are under attack. 

It is not that these institutions have failed, but that we as a society have failed. Within this argument we are mainly focusing on the interaction between art professionals, politicians and the public. We have not managed to bring together our various expertise and interests to arrive at a joint vision about the place that art should have in society. We are tempted to look at art from a position of flat market logic and especially to think in terms of supply and demand. But art requires a specific effort to flourish. Its strength is not an immediate punch, but rather is found through complex, dynamic experiences in which looking passes into thinking and feeling into reflection. This process consists of several stages in which the art itself, institutions and art critics mediate and jointly create an inclusive climate where still broader audiences can participate. 

We therefore hope to call attention to the artistic climate which depends not only on excellent art, but on a healthy mix of the various components that together contribute to a successful art experience. There should be a clear dialogue between art critics, the mediators working in the institutions, artists, politicians and the public—an exchange in which care is shared jointly. In addition to the current pressures on the organization of institutions, it is our belief that after the budget cuts, art criticism will suffer. Both critical reflection and good art journalism have lately been losing ground. This in turn puts the whole ecology of the arts in our country at risk. The precarious state of many art editors at local newspapers, but also of professional magazines such as Metropolis M and OPEN, are painful indicators of this decline in the support for art criticism. 

The general point we want to communicate to you is that excellent institutions are not solely responsible for the social climate. Only in an art environment in which the many different forms of expertise that are required to enable art to flourish and develop can institutions with courage and vision make unique contributions. We hope that the coming period will not be limited to purely good or bad art, or incidents within institutions, but that it will also focus on the overall picture in which production and mediation jointly contribute to a rich cultural life enabling the discussion of art in what is still a rich country. 

Casco–Office for Art, Design and Theory 

In 2010, Casco turned twenty years old, and in the period from 2010 to 2012 deployed in its own special way its Grand Domestic Revolution among other activities. Casco is not a traditional exhibition-driven institution, nor a pure research institution, but a meeting place for artists, researchers and various social actors. Connected with many (inter)national partners and leading artists and thinkers—including Zachary Formwalt, Silvia Federici, Lawrence Abu Hamdan & LOS foundation, Martha Rosler, Can Altay, Natascha Sadr Haghghian & Ashkan Sepahvand, Domestic Workers Netherlands & Matthijs de Bruijne, ASK! (Johan Hartle, Drummer magazine, Annette Krauss, Sven Lutticken et al.), Ei Arakawa, Our Autonomous Life? (Maria Pask, Nazima Kadir, et al.) and Wendelien van Oldenborgh—Casco serves as a unique bridge between theory and practice. 

At Casco, art not only provides critical reflection on social processes, but also unique resources with which to actually intervene in such processes. The way in which Casco approaches its themes, taking on big, spectacular and violent revolutions, stems from everyday life in a modern, post-industrial urban environment. The distinctive contribution Casco thus supplies to the Dutch art scene is not only a high-quality network of art professionals bound to the institution, but specifically the fresh, open and experimental modality Casco brings to art and its relationship to the surrounding social and urban fabric. The concentrated manner in which they seek contact with their surroundings and art-world discourses, translate directly into Casco’s own environment that doesn’t necessarily cater to great masses of people. Rather, Casco activates a smaller, broader and socially widespread audience who can then become involved in the institution’s important and complex discussions. Casco’s dedication to connecting with contemporary social issues and art makes it a distinctive and intimate institution that has a pioneering role in the challenging area of contemporary art. 

De Hallen Haarlem 

De Hallen Haarlem has recently presented a program in which a platform is created for the most urgent developments in international contemporary art, focusing on presentations of new work by young artists living in the Netherlands who are realizing their first solo museum exhibitions and also international artists who have remained underexposed in this country. An important aspect of their curatorial approach to programming is contextualizing the practices of a young generation of artists within a historical framework through “lateral curating”: a revealing juxtaposition of similar artistic practices throughout history. The museum, in an autonomous, non-didactic way aims to provide historical genealogies of the latest developments in art. The intent of the museum is to reduce the growing gap between the increasing tendency to target mass audiences, at major museums and presentation-focused institutions alike, and to offer a more discursive setting using a fraction of the budgets—employing an international network of institutions with whom co-productions are initiated. Most recently, internationally acclaimed exhibitions were realized by artists such Cady Noland, Nathaniel Mellors, Navid Nuur, Matt Stokes, Charles Atlas and Roger Hiorns. 

Besides exhibitions, publications and public programs, De Hallen Haarlem is the only museum in the Netherlands with a scholarship for curators. Since 2009, the young freelance curators Suzanne Wallinga, Laurie Cluitmans & Arnisa Zeqo and Juha van ‘t Zelfde received the opportunity to realize an exhibition where research from the museum’s collection and a discursive reflection on current events were central to the project. Thus the institution and its collection were questioned and activated by external insights. 

The museum is characterized in a particular way by its critical approach to recent developments in artistic projects of national and international importance, and by its creation of an inspiring context for the public to understand the essence and historical development of art. 

If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution 

If I Can’t Dance… is a flexible organization that works closely with (performance) artists for considerable periods of time in order to create new work. In addition to producing presentations, If I Can’t Dance… has a research branch through which they organize reading groups, summer schools and workshops. The program is set up thematically. Previous themes include feminism, “masquerade,” theatricality, affect and the construction of subjectivity, and the politics of identity. These various themes come together in an ongoing investigation into the broader meaning and possibilities of performance art. 

If I Can’t Dance… has (inter)national partners such as M HKA in Antwerp, Frascati Theatre in Amsterdam, the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem and Wyspa Institute of Art in Gdansk. In cooperation with these partners, If I Can’t Dance… breaks open institutional frameworks and provides carefully crafted contexts for each production. In addition, performances and workshops have been held at STUK Arts Centre in Leuven, CAC Bretigny Bretigny-sur-Orge, MoMA in New York and The Kitchen in New York. Recently, If I Can’t Dance… collaborated with Kunsthalle Dusseldorf and South London Gallery. 

If I Can’t Dance… focuses on its careful selection of artists, curators and theorists working at their institution while being invested in how dialogue is structured and developed over time. If I Can’t Dance…—renowned and visible both locally and internationally—is an experimental and challenging institution unparalleled in the Netherlands. 


Rijksakademie has existed for many years as an outstanding and forward-thinking institution that creates space for talent and artistic research. It offers 50 (inter)national artists a studio for a maximum period of 2 years for reflection and production. The artists accomplish this through dialogue with distinguished professionals and advisors—artists, theorists and curators—in one on one meetings or within the structure of a symposium during which they are given the opportunity to share their experiences and are provided with feedback. Until recently Rijksakademie also offered extensive workshop space (in wood, ceramics, audio-visual recording studios, etc.), for the artists to experiment with new techniques under professional supervision. 

In addition to these impressive facilities, Rijksakademie is a valuable meeting place for artists and other art professionals. The annual ‘Open Days’ are intensively visited by an (inter)national professional audience, as well as a growing group of art lovers. In addition, many artists continue to live in the Netherlands after their residency, contributing a dynamic and continual boost to the local art scene. In general, the excellent international reputation of Rijksakademie and its alumni have contributed substantially to the Netherlands’ leading role in the world of contemporary art. The Rijksakademie is—and hopefully will remain—a unique institution in the Netherlands. 

Read more on the ACIA Nederland website.

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