FIELDWORK International Summer School Online 2020

4–5 September 2020

Now What?

FIELDWORK International Summer School 2020
4-5 September online, 10am-2pm GMT
Programmed with Bik Van der Pol

Hospitalfield invited Rotterdam based artists Bik Van der Pol to work with us to programme the FIELDWORK International Summer School for 2020. The ideas and conversation emerging from this year will then be extended in to 2021 when we can hold the School once again at Hospitalfield. We are looking forward to working with Bik Van der Pol over these two years with the opportunity to develop the programme in 2021 as a response to the discussion this year.

Contributors to the online programme include curators Binna Choi, Galit Eilat, Tessa Giblin, and artists Ashanti Harris and Olivia Plender. In addition, the film What is Democracy? by film-maker Astra Taylor was screened.

Now What?

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
From: Parable of the Talents, 1998, Octavia E. Butler

2020 marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. One of Scotland’s most important historic documents; it is a letter from the Scottish nobles sent to the Pope in Avignon in 1320 from Arbroath Abbey. The document seeds the first ideas of democracy by declaring the desire to be disentangled from hereditary rule which was dominated by the relationship with English monarchy.

Near Arbroath, in the Meffan Museum & Art Gallery in Forfar is a ‘scold’s bridle’; a torture device that was used until the early 1800s. It is an iron mask with a bit that would tear a person’s tongue if they attempted to talk. In Scotland these were intended to be used on non-conforming people cast to be witches, most often, women. The act of ‘making mute’ or not having voice in society has been written about by feminist activist and political theorist Silvia Federici specifically in relationship to women: “In many parts of the world, women have historically been seen as the weavers of memory—those who keep alive the voices of the past and the histories of the communities, transmit them to the future generations and, in so doing, create a collective identity and profound sense of cohesion […] They are also those who hand down acquired knowledges and wisdoms. […] It is in this way that women have been silenced and to this day excluded from many places where decisions are taken.” (Witches, Witch-hunting and Women, PM Press, 2018).

With the help of participants and invited speakers we ask, think and talk through what ‘muteness’ is at the present time: What are possible consequences of making mute, of silencing, of suspension, for people, species and the earth? How can we, in times of the pandemic crisis, take advantage of collective silence, and actively take care of the world we share and pass on? Do we stumble to the next crisis, or do we listen? What would care look like? What would we like to see not coming back, and what would we like to see develop? How can histories and experience of the past and of others help us to organize our thinking and acting wisely? What would you like to speak about or hear now?

Departing from objects and documents described above, participants and invited speakers are invited engage in a collective dialogue, to understand place and bodies as carriers of experience, as archive and scene. Considering loss of voice and silence as a political imperative, we propose to rethink this as instigator and potential for alternative learning for the future, and to increase the volume of the stories that must be told.

Moving towards eventually creating a scenario, a speculative narrative that takes place here, now and in the future.

In 2021 a three day residential summer school on site at Hospitalfield will further the conversations begun and continue to consider questions of democracy now.

Image: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Allegory of Good Government. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Contributions to the Summer School were recorded and available to watch via YouTube on the Summer School Playlist.

Friday 4 September 
10.00-10.10: Introduction by Hospitalfield
10.10-10.15: Digital housekeeping
10.15-10.45: Introduction by Bik Van der Pol
10.45-11.30: Talk by Tessa Giblin
11.30-11.45: Questions and discussion from group
11.45-12.45: Workshop by Olivia Plender
12.45-13.15: Q&A and Conversation speakers and participants
13.15-13.30: Intro evening screening and Saturday programme
20.00-22.00: Screening of Astra Taylor: What Is Democracy?

Saturday 5 September
10.00-10.45: Talk Galit Eilat
10.45-11.00: Questions and discussion from group
11.00-12.00: Introduction and Movement Provocation by Ashanti Harris
12.00-12.15: Reflections and discussion by group
12.15-13.00: Talk by Binna Choi
13.00-13.45: Q&A discussion with participants and reflections on screening
13.45: Concluding remarks

Preparatory Programme Materials

In advance, participants were given a selection of preparatory articles, videos, plays and sound files that the contributors and programmers have suggested would be helpful to work through in advance of the Summer School.

Bik Van der Pol suggestions:

In Praise of the Dancing Body, August 2016. Article by Silvia Federici

“A history of the body then can be reconstructed by describing the different forms of repression that capitalism has activated against it. But I have decided to write instead of the body as a ground of resistance, that is the body and its powers – the power to act, to transform itself and the world and the body as a natural limit to exploitation.”

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Witchtales: An Interview with Silvia Federici. Viewpoint Magazine, April 2015

“To formulate the common from a feminist point of view is crucial because currently, women are the ones most invested in the defense of common resources and the construction of broader forms of social cooperation.”

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How the Demonization of “Gossip” Is Used to Break Women’s Solidarity, Silvia Federici, published in In These Times, Jan 2019.

“Labell­ing all this pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge ​gos­sip’ is part of the degra­da­tion of women — it is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the demo­nolo­gists’ con­struc­tion of the stereo­typ­i­cal woman as prone to malig­ni­ty, envi­ous of oth­er people’s wealth and pow­er, and ready to lend an ear to the Dev­il.”

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 Alan Riach: It’s time to re-read the Declaration of Arbroath, The National, 2020

“…it was an act of loyalty not merely to a particular leader in a state or kingdom or an area on a map, but to an idea which has its own history, in Broun’s words: “an idea which people have engaged with, recreated and adapted.”

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The Declaration of Arbroath is Alive and Kicking in Modern Scotland, Gerry Hassan, January 2020

“The relevance of a 1320 document has to be carefully handled. Scotland of course then was not a democracy in any sense of the word. The Declaration is about a dispute in the narrow confines of the ruling classes and elites of Scotland and England – and hence has similarities with Runnymede and Magna Carta of 1215, the power of barons and monarchs, and the issue of vassalage and the claim of the English king to the Scottish throne.”

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Declaration of Independence: How writing about democracy can become more democratic.
Astra Taylor, Bookforum, November 2018

“Like democracy (and reading), documentary filmmaking involves the art of listening. Whenever I begin working on a new project, I have to relearn how to actually hear what the person in front of me is saying. It’s always a challenge to break the habit of saying, “Yes,” “Right,” “Umhmm,” and other words to signal that I’m engaged in the conversation, to learn not to interrupt and instead let people finish their thoughts. I have to train myself, minute by minute, to really take in what people are saying so I can respond to the conversation without simply steering it in a predetermined direction that inevitably misses rewarding digressions and revelations.”

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The art of good governance: how images from the past provide inspiration for modern practice.
Text by Gjalt de Graaf and Hanneke van Asperen

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Galit Eilat suggestions:

Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The series and book criticise traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images.

An Oral History of Picasso in Palestine, Michael Baers, Haus der Kulturen de Welt, 2014

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Binna Choi Suggestions:

The History of Democratization. Coordinated by Korea Democracy Foundation Written by Myung-sik Lee. Edited by Norman Thorpe.

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Remembering Gwangju or Owol – Uprising, People, School and Art. Text by Binna Choi. 2020

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Near Arbroath, in the Meffan Museum & Art Gallery in Forfar is a ‘scold’s bridle’; a torture device that was used until the early 1800s. It is an iron mask with a bit that would tear a person’s tongue if they attempted to talk. In Scotland these were intended to be used on non-conforming people cast to be witches, most often, women.

photograph of a metal object, held up by hands. The object is creating a shadow on the white wall behind.












One of Scotland’s most important historic documents; the Declaration of Arbroath is a letter from the Scottish nobles sent to the Pope in Avignon in 1320 from Arbroath Abbey. The document seeds the first ideas of democracy by declaring the desire to be disentangled from hereditary rule which was dominated by the relationship with English monarchy.



Bik Van der Pol

Since 1995, Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol work together as Bik Van der Pol.

They work and live in Rotterdam (NL). Through their practice they aim to articulate and understand how art can produce a public sphere and space for speculation and imagination through which ‘publicness’ is not only defined but also created. By setting up the conditions for encounter they develop a process of working that allows for continuous reconfigurations of places, histories and publics. Their practice is site-specific with dialogue as a mode of transfer; a “passing through”, understood in its etymological meaning of “a speech across or between two or more people, out of which may emerge new understandings”. In fact, they consider the element of “passing through” as vital. It is temporal, and implies action and the development of new forms of discourse. Their work is both instigator and result of this method.

Bik Van der Pol are one of the initiators of the School of Missing Studies that started in 2003 as an initiative of artists and architects who recognized “the missing” as a matter of urgency.

Investigating what culture(s) laid the foundations for the loss we are experiencing from modernization and how this loss can talk back to us as a potential site of learning, they believe we must be calling for a space to turn existing knowledge against itself to affect our capacity to see things otherwise, to trust that seeing, to re-set one’s own and set new terms.

Bik Van der Pol came to Hospitalfield in 2015 as part of the Talking About Influence Summer School programmed by artist Pavel Buchler.

Captions:Accumulate, Collect, Show. Bik Van der Pol. 31st Bienal Sao Paulo 2014

Binna Choi

Binna Choi will discuss the ethos and art with regards to the 1980 uprising in Gwangju aka 518 through her project Gwangju Lessons organized in collaboration with artist Christian Nyampeta, currently presented at Akademie der Künste der Welt. Gwangju Lessons is an art exhibition project cum school cum what she calls “a monument in action”, dedicated to the People’s Art School. The school was organized by a group of local artists in the wake of the uprising – or  May 18 Democratic Movement –  in the city of Gwangju in 1980 that transformed the city irreversibly and sustained the country’s ongoing struggles for democratization unfolding in its (post-)colonial, (post-)war, and (post-)dictatorial context.

Binna Choi is the director at Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons in Utrecht (, where she engages with both its artistic program and the organizational and (de)instituting practice as her curatorial and collaborative art practice. In doing so, the commons are both an end goal in systemic change and methodology, by which she means equal, loving, and sustainable modes of caring and sharing common resources. Travelling Farm Museum of Forgotten Skills, Common Grounds: Song / Value, Site for Unlearning (Art Organization) are some of her recent curatorial works, next to the process of restructuring and rearticulating the institution itself. There earlier she conceived a long-term trans-disciplinary project Grand Domestic Revolution (2010-2012) and the multi faceted program Composing the Commons (2013-2016). In 2018 Choi also co-initiated Unmapping Eurasia a long-term, movement based curatorial project with You Mi. Arts Collaboratory trans-local art organizational ecosystem and Dutch Art Institute Roaming Academy is where she for years has been involved in with different capacities. Besides, Choi is the member of Akademie der Künste der Welt / Köln where in 2020 she in close collaboration with Christian Nyampeta curated Gwangju Lessons over the 18 May Democratic Uprising and takes it to Asia Culture Center as part of the MaytoDay project by the Gwangju Biennale Foundation. In 2016, she was a curator for the 11th Gwangju Biennale.

Photo: Martha Stroo.

Galit Eilat

“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.”
 Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Galit Eilat’s workshop examined the project Picasso in Palestine through John Berger’s (methods) Ways of Seeing.

Throughout her workshop, Galit referred to the attached PDF Imagination Map.

Those who curate are able to narrate the next version of history or even comparative versions of histories, that future generations learn. Museums and art educators have the power to tell stories about humanity and human histories, live conditions and their world view only through the art they created. A nostalgic approach, Berger says, tells an incorrect story. He calls this approach “the final empty claim for the continuing values of an oligarchic, undemocratic culture.”

In the first chapter of Ways of Seeing Berger discusses how historians and art educators often elevate Western art to a spiritual level. They don’t emphasise enough for example, how art reinforces colonial power, misogyny, racism, poverty, and inequality. As many paintings of women emphasis man’s power over a woman. Paintings of the poor often disclose beliefs that the poor are lazy and the rich are virtuous etc.

In June 2011, a single painting of Pablo Picasso was presented at the International Academy of Art in Ramallah. Much has been written about Picasso in Palestine, or rather, the contemporary art scene in Ramallah had never received such generous media coverage, nor had the Van Abbemuseum in the south of the Netherlands, which loaned one of the most expensive work in its collection and gained international acclaim like never before. ‘Picasso in Palestine’ became a symbol of the triumph of art over the crimes of the occupation.  But what really happened there? How an art work by the most important artist of the 20th century was transferred to a region under military occupation. Is it even logical that an art work with an insurance value of 7 million euros could travel through a military checkpoint without prior coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Defence, any political or military permeation? We will begin with an innocent question: If a painting by Marc Chagall had been loaned to the IAA in Palestine, not a Picasso painting, would the project have developed in a similar fashion? Did the ghost of Pablo Picasso — a painter, freedom fighter and misogynist — come to life and take control over the project? And is it possible to separate a work of an artist from his heritage?

Galit Eilat is an interdependent researcher and curator based in Amsterdam. Her current research trajectories are dealing with the Syndromes of the Present 2016 -2021 and Art under authoritarianism 2018 -2022. Eilat is the recipient of the Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism, Bard College (2017-2018) and she has been the director of the Meduza Foundation since 2018.

Image: Bil’in (Arabic: بلعين‎) 12 July 2006 Photo: G. Eilat

Tessa Giblin

Tessa Giblin is the Director of Talbot Rice Gallery of the University of Edinburgh, where she has recently curated solo exhibitions of Samson Young (currently on at MUMA, Melbourne), Lucy Skaer, David Claerbout and Jesse Jones. Since coming to TRG she has curated ‘Borderlines – art in the age of Brexit’, ‘At the Gates’, ‘The Extended Mind’ and during lockdown has been working with the team at TRG on an exhibition called ‘The Normal’. With a 19th century gallery and a contemporary white cube to fuel its engine, Talbot Rice Gallery is exploring what the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art can contribute to contemporary art production today. Giblin was also Commissioner and Curator of Jesse Jones’ ‘Tremble Tremble’ for Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2017 which continues to tour internationally, and was Curator of Visual Arts at Project Arts Centre, Dublin from 2006 – 2016 and curated the steirischer herbst festival exhibition in Graz, Austria in 2015. She was raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she emerged as a curator through the network of artist-run spaces.


Ashanti Harris

Ashanti Harris will invite participants to be part of a workshop titled ‘Listening with the body’. This workshop will take the form of an instructional audio recording which participants will follow whilst walking in a place of their choosing. The audio will guide participants through a series of body awareness exercises. Collectively in our individual locations we will move towards an understanding of the body as an archive of memory, experience and knowledge and a tool for listening.

Ashanti Harris is a multi-disciplinary visual artist and researcher working with dance, performance, sculpture and film. With a focus on re-contextualusing historical narratives, Ashanti’s work dissects epistemologies of mobilities – the movement of people, ideas and things and the wider social implications of these movements. As part of her creative practice, she is co-director for Project X – a creative education programme, platforming dance and performance from the African and Caribbean diaspora; and works collaboratively as part of the collective Glasgow Open Dance School (G.O.D.S) – facilitating experimental movement workshops and research groups. Recent solo shows include: The Skeleton of a Name, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, (2019); Second Site, Civic Room, Glasgow, (2019). Recent group shows include: Pre-Ramble, David Dale, Glasgow (2020); Walking Through the Shadows Eyes Open, SUBSOLO Laboratório de Arte, Sao Paolo, (2019); BLIP! as part of Annuale 2019, Broughton Place, Edinburgh, (2019); As of Yet, Many Studios, Glasgow (2019); Just Start Here, The Anatomy Rooms, Aberdeen (2019); Festival of the Not, Circa Projects, Newcastle (2019).

Image: Presenting Les Ballets Negres (installation detail), 2018, Ashanti Harris.

Olivia Plender

Olivia Plender will lead a group workshop: the starting point is a play titled Liberty or Death, by activist and artist Sylvia Pankhurst, written around 1913, which details the struggles of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS) for better living and working conditions, as well as the vote. We will be reading and discussing scenes from Liberty or Death, alongside commentary gathered from Crossroads Women’s Centre, Focus E15 Campaign, London, and other contemporary activist groups that campaign in ways similar to the play’s protagonists. By applying their knowledge of political organising today, the groups focus on those aspects of the play that relate directly to their own experiences in campaigning against gender-based violence, benefit cuts, the asylum system and for decent housing and support for carers, among other issues. This material forms part of a project by Olivia Plender titled Neither Strivers Nor Skivers – They Will Not Define Us (2020), which was an attempt at collectively re-writing feminist history.

Olivia Plender is an artist who sets up situations in which something is expected from the audience. Plender collaborates and makes workshops, performances, installations, videos, comics, and exhibitions. Her endeavour is to understand how people form group identities. Plender began by scrutinising the education system, which led her to the margins, searching for alternatives amongst fringe social movements. Much of the work focuses on the ideological framework around the narration of history and the relationships between gender, power and authority. An installation at Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2019), focused on the Fogelstad Women’s Citizenship School, asking: what can we learn today from this early twentieth century educational experiment?

Image: Neither Strivers Nor Skivers – They Will Not Define Us, ink on paper drawing, 2020

Screening: What Is Democracy? directed by Astra Taylor

Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted.

Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Featuring a diverse cast—including celebrated theorists, trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, and former prime ministers—this urgent film connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political, in order to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.

From the director of Zizek! and Examined Life!

Images courtesy of Zeitgeist Films.

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