Founded in 2012 by the city of Cologne, the Academy of the Arts of the World is a loose virtual collective of art practitioners – visual artists, musicians, dancers, writers, film-makers, curators – from different backgrounds and continents, as well as a cultural institution and a production platform.
Based in Cologne, a city of migrants, the Academy seeks to move beyond euro-centrist doctrines of cultural history, while attending to the global conditions of post- and neo-colonialism, and avoiding the romance of multiculturalism, globalism, and identity politics. Facing a social and political environment deeply affected by the overwhelming logic of global finance and neoliberal force, the Academy enables and supports practices that address and challenge these very conditions. It supports processes of reflection, intervention, and collaboration that aim at a critical understanding and transformation of the conditions of contemporary cultural production. As a nomadic institution, the Academy initiates events and discussions at different locations in Cologne, and elsewhere.
The Academy works in close cooperation with a diversity of cultural institutions and communities both locally and internationally. Ranging from member-developed projects to the funding of external projects and residencies, or the running of a Youth Academy, our programme reflects on the cultural flows, ruptures and questions that arise in a world where intercultural contact is increasing and inevitable.
Current members are:
Ekaterina Degot, Madhusree Dutta, Galit Eilat, Monika Gintersdorfer, Liza Lim, Faustin Linyekula, Tienchi Martin-Liao, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tom Holert, Soyoung Kim (a.k.a. Jeong Kim), Lemi Ponifasio, Walid Raad, David Riff, Ali Samadi Ahadi, Mark Terkessidis, Rosemarie Trockel, Terre Thaemlitz, Stefan Weidner, Liao Yiwu, Tom Zé.
Why another cultural institution in Cologne?
The Academy of the Arts of the World was founded by the city of Cologne out of a desire to address the problematic imbalance between the city’s greatly mixed population and a generally Eurocentric cultural scene. It is however not the intention of the Academy to be a forum for showcasing “something authentic” from exotic locations, in order to celebrate the many different world cultures. Instead, the focus is on the many emergent practices worldwide facing the burning political and social issues of our times. While Cologne has many cultural institutions, a concentrated discursive and artistic commitment to this problematic is something that the Academy offers to Cologne.
What is the Academy’s relation to Cologne?
The Academy is an international and internationalist institution, whose mission is to dismantle unjust hierarchies and hegemonies that exist in the cultural field. In so doing, it finds its home in Cologne, a city where such problematics are of great relevance. The Academy not only contributes to the richness of Cologne’s cultural landscape, but also challenges it and turns its face outward to the world. It is not in the Academy’s agenda to put forward representations of unfamiliar identities and cultures in an exotic light, but rather to promote dialogue, discussion, and a discursive approach to existing and emerging cultural and political phenomena and power dynamics. The Academy finds intellectual partners and collaborators among like-minded institutions, groups, and cultural producers based in Cologne.
Who finances the Academy?
The Academy of the Arts of the World is an initiative of the City of Cologne, which provides the majority of its funding. Additional funding is provided by the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture, and Sport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Youth Academy is funded by the Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland and Sparkasse KölnBonn. The Fellows Network Cologne, an interinstitutional program established to support international fellowships in North Rhine-Westphalia, is funded by RheinEnergie Stiftung Kultur.
Who is the Academy for?
The Academy organizes events that broadly differ in kind and disciplinary focus, ranging from (performative) symposia and political debates to (science fiction) screenings and events for young artists. Anyone seeking to understand and reflect on the conditions of life is welcome, not just connoisseurs and art initiates. The Academy strongly rejects populism, believing that culture, embraced with true interest and commitment, has emancipatory potential – things not reserved to professionals.
Which art forms are privileged?
The Academy works in the unexplored zones between different art forms and media. It does not focus on “pure” painting, theater, or music, but rather on fostering projects that explore and research the relations between sound and visual forms, performance and film, and political theory and dance, to give just a few examples.
What is the main focus of the program?
The Academy initiates and organizes a biyearly, interdisciplinary constellation of events called Pluriversale, which takes place across different sites in the city of Cologne. Each edition of Pluriversale is made up of projects composed and arranged by members and invited guests of the Academy, including the institution’s fellows, Artistic Director, and team, as well as invited curators. In parallel, the Academy runs an ongoing series of monthly Salons. The Academy’s activity is reflected on and expanded through its online magazine, coordinated by Academy member and Head of Publications David Riff.
Is the Academy an educational institution?
Strictly speaking, no. There are no classes or degrees, and no permanent faculty. The Academy does however offer an ongoing program of what could be called expanded knowledge production: the Salon program addresses urgent cultural and political questions, while all Academy events are generally guided by the notion of research as an animating principle. The productions initiated by the Academy feature a discursive register, and aesthetic values are understood in the political context.
The Academy of the Arts of the World also operates a Youth Academy. This initiative has been set up to enable a group of aspiring young artists to create their own parallel projects, and offers a continuous program of workshops, seminars, and lectures by international artists and theorists, which are open to everyone.
Who runs the Academy?
The original structure of the Academy was a gGmbH consisting of a Business Director (Generalsekretärin) based in Cologne, an Artistic Director who was not based in Cologne, and a body of members living in different parts of the world whose participation was on an honorary, advisory basis. In autumn 2013, the members of the Academy agreed to take a more active role in the Academy’s operations and initiated a new model for the Academy, in which a member-elected Artistic Director would be based in Cologne. Since spring 2014, the Academy has been run by Executive Director Elke Moltrecht, Artistic Director and member of the Academy Ekaterina Degot, and the Academy team.
How are members selected?
The members of the Academy are well-known cultural producers working all over the world. The Academy’s founding members were selected by a founding commission. New members of the Academy have subsequently been proposed and selected by its existing members, following a model commonly practiced by other Academies internationally. Membership in the Academy is generally limited to a period of five years.
What is the role of the members?
Members are encouraged to propose and realize their own projects in Cologne, to recommend projects and potential fellows of the Academy, and to take part in the program of workshops and/or in the program of Youth Academy. They also contribute to the online magazine produced by the Academy. Members meet twice yearly to discuss the general vectors of the Academy, to suggest new members, and to present projects.
What is the fellowship program and how are fellows selected?
The Academy offers residencies of up to six months (which can be extended in some cases) to contemporary artists, theorists, and curators whose practice focuses on non-Western and non-European countries and perspectives. The residency program does not oblige fellows to realize a specific project. Project resources can be provided to Academy fellows provided that the project develops from research in Cologne. Fellows of the Academy are encouraged to network with the artists and institutions located in Cologne, as well as with its independent scene. Fellows are proposed and selected by both Academy members and the Artistic Director.
Does the Academy support external projects?
The Academy initiates and produces its own program, however it also has a small yearly endowment for external projects. This is offered in the form of production grants to individual artists, collective initiatives, and institutions in Cologne carrying out interdisciplinary, critically engaged projects with a focus on intercultural and decolonial issues. The Academy calls for submissions at irregular intervals.
Why are the Academy’s events often in the English language?
The Academy is an international institution with a membership comprising many different native languages; therefore English is the most convenient lingua franca. Whenever possible and without interference in the artistic integrity of works or performances, the Academy tries to facilitate translations into German language.