Over the last years, we observed the emergence and disappearance of small-scale, independent artistic institutions, who strove to create conditions for artistic research and labor to thrive; while encouraging communal encounters and social interventions in their respective contexts. Often initiated by artists and curators, these institutions relied on fragile economies, which may partly explain their short lifespan. Despite that, they managed to leave a durable imprint on their local community as well as on global art audiences who sometimes did not even visit them physically. Without the means to maintain archives, the afterlives of these institutions depend on individual memories; scattered traces; hearsay; and the ghosts they left behind.

How were these initiatives created, why and for whom? What kind of model did they seek to propose, in relation to what artistic institutions represent, permit and foreclose? What local and transnational bonds did they generate? What mythologies did they produce, in which languages? Why did they close and what does remain of the activities, objects, ideas and relationships they generated? Lastly, who gets to tell their stories?

Qalqalah قلقلة and artist Mounira Al Solh (co-founder of the performative magazine NOA and the independent space Modka Beirut in Zuitphen, The Netherlands) are similarly engaged in a daily practice of instituting — of creating the means for ourselves and others to work together and support each other, outside from, yet in dialogue with, artistic and educational institutions. Hence our interest in gathering and sharing the stories of our forebearers, tending for their ghosts, acknowledging their influence and the possible models they continue to embody for self-organizing and commoning in a highly neo-liberal and violent world. Our inquiry is also a pretext to initiate conversations and bonds, strengthen solidarities and forge tools to act upon this world.

This project will notably develop during a residency at BUDA Arts Center in Kortrijk, Belgium (2022-2023) in the frame of the Feminist School of apap – FEMINIST FUTURES, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. It will notably take the form of a public program at BUDA during the Almost Summer / Feminist Future Festival in July 2023.

The fruits of our inquiry will later be published in the 5th issue of NOA and in Qalqalah قلقلة.