Desire Lines. A Symposium on Experimental Institutional Formats. (28 – 29 Nov 2014)

Friday 2–8pm

Saturday 11am–5pm

Event free, booking essential via

In 1967, the British artist Richard Long walked a straight line back and forth across a field in an improvised track, until his steps flattened the grass. Predetermined paths do not always lead to a desirable destination, and they are often not direct enough. Over time, walkers wear away regulated groundcover to create “desire lines,” maps of longing.

This project borrows its title from Long’s work in order to reflect on what it presently means for a contemporary art institution to commit to critical modes of working with artists and curators. Its focus on artistic programmes will enable different actors to expand on present-day research interests, modes of production and display, and how these curatorial practices can shape the institution that generates them.

The institutions invited for this symposium show divergent concepts of what a contemporary art institution is, how it functions and the social responsibilities behind them. As curators and producers, how do we handle and work with these complexities?

The first day takes the format of a forum on the differences and similarities between the institutions and their respective specificities and strategies, concluding with a discussion mediated by Vanessa Müller (Director, European Kunsthalle). The second day takes a more theoretical stance as speakers discuss notions of desire. In this context, desire is considered as a necessity that is never fulfilled but that always has to be reconstituted, which reconfigures itself according to one’s position and identity; in Lacan’s words, to desire is to answer the question ‘What does the Other desire?’ The day uses the notion of desire as an entry point for discussing the production of an institutional identity: how do we produce desire through a programme of diverse creative activities? What constitutes this desire within an ongoing process of redefinition and self-awareness? How can each organisation’s vision effectively respond to present situations while inspiring audiences, artists and collaborators?

The invited institutions, all founded after 2007 and based in Egypt, Germany, Lebanon, the Netherlands, and Portugal have positioned their identities not solely within expectations of the market and audiences, but through their commitment to research and focus on non-traditional programmes and formats. Framed within, yet not defined by, socio-political, economical and spatial contingencies, this symposium presents an opportunity to reflect on how these differences and similarities can be negotiated and transformed into a productive and feasible discourse and practice.


Desire Lines is a project conceived and organised by Nicoletta Lambertucci (Curator, DRAF) with Sofia Lemos (Curatorial Assistant, DRAF) and produced by DRAF (David Roberts Art Foundation) in collaboration with European Kunsthalle and Goldsmiths MFA Curating.



Friday, 28 November

2.00pm Welcome introduction
2.15pm Jens Maier-Rothe (Co-Director, Beirut) presents the not-for-profit art initiative and exhibition space in Cairo (EG), Beirut
2.45pm Luis Silva and João Mourão (Co-Founders, Kunsthalle Lissabon) present the Lisbon-based (PT) Kunsthalle Lissabon as an institutional hoax
3.15pm Kristine Siegel and Rhea Dall (Co-Directors, PRAXES) speak about PRAXES Centre for Contemporary Art, a not-for-profit venue for international contemporary art and research based in Berlin (DE)
3.45pm Break
4.00pm Arnisa Zeqo and Antonia Carrara (Co-Founders, rongwrong) discuss rongwrong, a space for art and theory in Amsterdam (NL)
4.30pm Mirene Arsanios (Co-Director, 98weeks) presents 98weeks a research project based in Beirut (LB)
5.00pm Break
5.15pm Discussion with the art institutions moderated by Vanessa Müller (Director, European Kunsthalle) followed by Q&A
7pm Drinks

Saturday, 29 November

11.00am Vanessa Müller (Director, European Kunsthalle) introduces the themes of the day and presents European Kunsthalle, followed by Q&A with the audience
12.00pm Rachel Mader (Researcher, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art) discusses the production of institutional identities, followed by Q&A
1.00pm Break
2.00pm Lecture by Simon Sheikh (Programme Director MFA Curating, Goldsmiths College) followed by Q&A
3.00pm Discussion with all participants moderated by Nicoletta Lambertucci (Curator, DRAF) and Simon Sheikh (Programme Director MFA in Curating, Goldsmiths College) followed by Q&A


Participating Institutions

98weeks is directed by Zeina Assaf and co-founded by Mirene and Marwa Arsanios. Based in Beirut (LB) it is conceived as a research project that shifts its attention to a new topic every 98 weeks. Since opening in 2007, it focuses on artistic research, combining both theoretical and practical forms of inquiry.

Beirut is a not-for-profit art initiative and exhibition space in Cairo (EG). Since its opening in 2012, Beirut has been considering institution building as a curatorial act. Its programme and activities are directed alternately by Antonia Alampi, Jens Maier-Rothe and Sarah Rifky. Beirut exhibits, writes, talks, shows, teaches, commissions artworks and organizes research, in Cairo and elsewhere. From October 2014 till May 2015, Beirut also runs the first edition of the Imaginary School Program.

Kunsthalle Lissabon directed by João Mourão and Luis Silva is based in Lisbon (PT). It was founded in 2009 as a wish for self-reflexivity for thinking about the existing conditions for the development and perception of a so-called institutional practice.

PRAXES Center for Contemporary Art is a not-for-profit venue for international contemporary art and research based in Berlin (DE). Founded in 2013 by Rhea Dall and Kristine Siegel, it investigates the objects, process and interactions that combined constitute an artistic practice, through half-year cycles centered on the full span of work of two unassociated artists. Recently Dall and Siegel were appointed Conveners of The Bergen Assembly 2016, a large-scale international triennial in Norway. In addition, they both currently hold positions as PhD Research Fellows at University of Copenhagen.

Rongwrong is a space for art and theory based in Amsterdam (NL), run by Arnisa Zeqo and Antonia Carrara, with Laurie Cluitmans and Vincent Verhoef. Opened in 2011, it explores recurrent questions concerned with the constant friction between the inner self and the theoretical, professional and artistic practices that describe and inscribe us in daily life.


Mirene Arsanios has been based in Beirut since 2008. Arsanios co-founded the collective 98weeks research project in 2007 and launched 98editions, a small press for experimental and cross-genre writing, in 2013. Her writings have appeared both in arts and literary magazines such as Bidoun, Cura Magazine, The Rumpus, Ibraaz, Ink & Coda, and Enizagam amongst others. Arsanios holds a Masters in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths College and an MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.

Antonia Carrara is an artist. Carrara lives and works in Paris and Amsterdam where she co-runs rongwrong. Recent projects include in Despite of Death, Yale Union, and Portland Ciment, Publication Studio, Portland, USA. The Issues of Our Times III, Artists Space Books & Talks, New York, USA. Supernaturel, Fondation Ricard, Paris, FR. Schlöss Ringenberg, DE. De Fabriek, Eindhoven, NL.

Rhea Dall has been based in Berlin since 2006. Dall held positions at the Berlin Biennial’s 5th and 6th editions, in between which she coordinated The Danish & Nordic Pavilions at the Venice Biennial 2009. From 2010 to 2012, Dall was the curator at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, initiating the Research Programme and curated projects including Palace PartyCorso Multisala, and solo shows with Christina Mackie, Nina Beier, and Clemens von Wedemeyer. Dall has written for and edited a range of papers and catalogues, and recently contributed to Spike Magazine, Bulletins of The Serving Library, and Mousse.

Jens Maier-Rothe works as independent researcher, writer and curator. He has exhibited widely and has edited and written for numerous publications and magazines. Since 2012, He co-directs the art initiative Beirut in Cairo together with Sarah Rifky. Recent curatorial projects include collaborations with the Lisson Gallery in London (The Magic of the State, 2013); the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (Lawrence Abu Hamdan, 2013 & 2014); the Stedelijk Museum and Trouw in Amsterdam (Here Today Gone Tomorrow, 2014); and the Kadist Art Foundation in Paris (A Guest without a Host is a Ghost, 2014–2015).

João Mourão and Luis Silva are a curatorial duo based in Lisbon, Portugal, where they currently serve as co-directors of Kunsthalle Lissabon. Alongside their curatorial practice, Mourão and Silva are co-editors of the ongoing book series Performing the Institution(al), published by Kunsthalle Lissabon, which addresses recent developments in institutional practice. They are the curators of the 2015 edition of ZONA MACO SUR, the solo projects section of Mexico City’s contemporary art fair. Recent curated exhibitions include, Mariana Castillo Deball, Moi-Peau (2014), Petrit Halilaj, I’m hungry to keep you close. I want to find the words to resist but in the end there is a locked sphere. The funny thing is that you’re not here, nothing is (2014), Patrizio Di Massimo, Me, Mum, Mister, Mad (2014), Amalia Pica, Memorial for Intersections (2013), Leonor Antunes, a linha é tão fina que o olho, apesar de armado com uma lupa, imagina-a ao invés de vê-la (2013), Daniel Gustav Cramer and Haris Epaminonda, Early Summer (2012), Ahmet Ogut, Stones to Throw (2011), and Mounira Al Solh, The Sea is a Stereo (2010).

Kristine Siegel was based in New York for almost a decade before relocating to Berlin in 2011. Siegel held positions at the Dept. of Photography at Museum of Modern Art in New York, International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) and Dennis Oppenheim Studio & Archive. Working as an independent curator, she was responsible for several exhibitions and live programs, many of them collaborative endeavors, including Definitely Provisional (London) and Cabaret Tribunale (New York and Copenhagen). She has contributed to a number of publications, magazines, and catalogues.

Arnisa Zeqo studied history of art and philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. In 2011, Zeqo co-founded rongwrong on the ground floor of her house in Amsterdam. In 2015, she will be Curator-in-residency at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. During her residency, she will research the relationship between art institutes and the presentation of performance art.


Rachel Mader is an art researcher. Since 2012 she has directed the competence centre Art in Public Spheres, at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Art. Between 2009 and 2014 she led the project Organising contemporary arts: artistic practice and cultural policy in Postwar Britain. From 2008 to 2009, she was a Research Assistant at the Institute for Contemporary Arts Research (IFCAR) at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). Recently, Mader edited the publication Radikal ambivalent. Engagement und Verantwortung in den Künsten heute, Zürich (2014). Other notable publications include “How to move in/an institution” in (2014), and “Nameless Science – künstlerische Forschung zwischen Institutionalisierung und kreativer Autonomie” in Autorität des Wissens. Kunst – und Wissenschaftsgeschichte im Dialog, edited by Anne von der Heiden and Nina Zschocke (2012).

Vanessa Müller is Head of Dramaturgy at Kunsthalle Wien and an independent writer. From 2000 to 2005 she worked as a Curator at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt/Main, and in late 2005 became Academic Director of the project European Kunsthalle, which explores different temporal and spatial models for a potential contemporary art institution. Her concerns for the social and philosophical contexts that contemporary art bring about can be found in numerous contributions to publications on contemporary art and art theory.

Simon Sheikh is a curator and theorist dealing with the modalities and potentialities of curating, within the relation between exhibition-making and political imaginaries.  He is concerned with how exhibitions articulate through arrangement, narrative and spatialisation, as well as how the very format of the exhibition can be expanded, negated or transformed. His research areas include the making of publics, the instituting of subjectivity and the politics of display, both in terms of critical writing, the conceptualisation and realisation of exhibition projects, and in the form of an ongoing formulation of histories of exhibition making and reception. He is Programme Director, MFA Curating Department of Art, Goldsmiths College.


European Kunsthalle conceives itself as a basis for a broad range of art forms including both known and emerging contemporary art practices, approaching these in an interdisciplinary and experimental way. It is a nomadic forum in which the aspect of artistic production is ascribed a similar significance as the presentation and reflection of art and culture. As an institution without a permanent site, the European Kunsthalle focuses on decentralised projects and collaborative structures.

Goldsmiths MFA Curating is a postgraduate study programme that draws on the international scope of contemporary arts practice at Goldsmiths College and in London, and instigates debate about the relationship between that practice, current critical discourse and concepts of curating. The programme is designed to provide a practice-led research context for students at any stage of their professional practice by focusing in-depth on aesthetic, social, political and philosophical questions that are brought to bear in any place or at any event in which contemporary art is situated.

DRAF (David Roberts Art Foundation) is an independent non-profit space for contemporary art in London, founded in 2007. It is directed by Vincent Honoré who with his team produces an ambitious programme of exhibitions, commissions and live events. All DRAF projects are open free to the public.


Supported by Arts Council England.

  • Participants and audience at Desire Lines, 28 Nov 2014
    Participants and audience at Desire Lines, 28 Nov 2014
  • Rhea Dall and Kristine Seigel present PRAXES (Berlin)
    Rhea Dall and Kristine Seigel present PRAXES (Berlin)
  • Luis Silva and João Mourão present Kunsthalle Lissabon (Lisbon)
    Luis Silva and João Mourão present Kunsthalle Lissabon (Lisbon)
  • Mirene Arsanios presents 98weeks (Beirut)
    Mirene Arsanios presents 98weeks (Beirut)
  • Art researcher Rachel Mader discusses the production of institutional identities
    Art researcher Rachel Mader discusses the production of institutional identities
  • Talk by Simon Sheikh (MFA Curating, Goldsmiths College)
    Talk by Simon Sheikh (MFA Curating, Goldsmiths College)