European Cultural Managers of the Year 2020
A Thirst for Critical Content
The Contemporary And (C&) platform, founded by Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, has been offering insights into contemporary art and cultural scenes from Africa and the global diaspora for seven years. In 2018, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) and the Goethe-Institut began jointly publishing Contemporary And América Latina (C& AL) as well. The two founders were awarded the Kulturmarken Award 2020 in the category European Cultural Managers of the Year. “The Latest at Goethe” spoke with them.
By Melanie Zumbansen
First of all, congratulations to both of you on the award! You founded Contemporary And (C&) in 2013 as a platform that networks artists and art scenes from Africa and the global diaspora and provides comprehensive information to an art world that until then knew little about contemporary art from an African perspective. Have perceptions of contemporary art production from Africa and the diaspora changed since then?
We founded C& at a time when one could certainly say there was a lot of hype about artistic positions from Africa and the global diaspora in the art world. Something like that usually comes in waves. For example, the exhibitions The Short Century (2001) and documenta 11 (2002) curated by Okwui Enwezor were also accompanied by a sort of global turn. Many institutions followed suit at the time and showed projects with works by artists from Africa and the diaspora. But we always had long-term plans for C&. Hype was never a part of our vision.
At the latest with this year’s global flareups in the Black Lives Matter movement, which also had a noticeable influence on art and art institutions, the pressure has increased again to offer a more global, diverse programme. But we’ve still got a long way to go before we reach truly lasting, profound institutional changes – from long-term programme changes and acquisitions to the fact that diversity must not end at cleaning and security personnel.
What we see on the producer side among young artists from African cities is that the dream of working and exhibiting in London, Paris or Berlin has become secondary. Instead, many of them are deliberately returning to Accra, Cairo or Lagos with the desire to take part in shaping local cultural infrastructures. We think these trends are terrific.
What public is C& addressing?
A large and incredibly diverse one! One mantra of our work is the very appropriate word accessibility, and at various levels: We deliberately created C& as an online platform from the beginning in order to theoretically be able to reach everyone with Internet access. In addition, all of our content is accessible free of charge, thanks to funding from the ifa, the Foreign Office and, in the case of C&AL, the Goethe-Institut. We also distribute our print editions, which are produced two to three times a year, free of charge to a local community, usually as part of larger art events.
Another important aspect of accessibility also plays out in our interviews, features and essays. At C&, we consciously choose not to publish academic articles. The briefing that our local writers receive instructs them to reproduce complex discourses as comprehensibly as possible in order to bring many readers from very diverse contexts into our network. And this strategy seems to be working: C& Magazine and C& América Latina Magazine are read in over 150 countries, interestingly led by countries like the USA and Germany, Brazil, South Africa, France, Nigeria and England, with a total of almost a million pageviews per year and over 300,000 unique visitors, most of them between the ages of 18-25.
In 2018, you founded C& América Latina, which expanded C& to include the South American and Caribbean regions. Can you say something about your motivation for C& América Latina?
Since C& was founded, we’ve always discussed topics relating to the connections between Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. This met with great interest right from the start, which in 2016 led to us producing a joint C& print edition with our friends at the art magazine O MENELICK 2º ATO in São Paulo. We distributed these there for the São Paulo Biennial. Around 400 people from the Afro-Brazilian art and culture scene celebrated with us at the launch party in the centre of São Paulo. Afterwards, many came to us to say how rare it is for an art event with and for Afro-Brazilians to not be held in the outskirts of the city, but in the context of the rest of the art happening around the Biennial. By then it was clear to us that we wanted to give the topic more space.
What goals do you have for C& and C& América Latina?
Both magazines and the brand C& in general are defined in the idea of a global network. We are extremely happy about this slowly and steadily growing network of local writers and producers who, with their deep cultural knowledge, are the voice of C&.
As for C& América Latina, we feel that readers really have a thirst for critical content that discusses and makes visible an existing and diverse indigenous and Afro-Latin American art scene. And that’s exactly what we want to expand even more.
What kind of feedback do artists and art scenes on both continents and in the diaspora give C&?
Such good feedback that it makes us just as happy now as on our first day seven years ago! Even more so when we hear from people in Houston, Nairobi, Bamako, Munich or Paris that C& is their daily information and network platform where they’re informed about contemporary art discourses that take place not just in New York and Berlin, but also in Dakar and Dar es Salaam.
About the awardees
Julia Grosse is co-founder and artistic director of Contemporary And (C&). Until 2013, she worked in London as a cultural correspondent for taz, FAS, Architectural Digest and SZ Magazin. Her book Ein Leben lang (Hoffmann and Campe) was published in 2018, and in 2020 she curated Friendly Confrontations – Festival of Global Art and Criticism at the Kammerspiele in Munich.
Yvette Mutumba is co-founder and artistic director of Contemporary And (C&). Mutumba is also curator-at-large at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. She was part of the curatorial team of the Tenth Berlin Biennale (2018) and visiting professor for global discourses at the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne (2017-2018). From 2012 to 2016 she worked as a curator at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main.
Both awardees are also lecturers at the UdK Berlin, Institute for Art in Context.