Circular Facts is a collaborative endeavour between three European contemporary art organisations: Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory (Utrecht), Objectif Exhibitions (Antwerp), The Showroom (London) in partnership with Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen and Electric Palm Tree. Between 2009 and 2011, Circular Facts formed an itinerary for the production and presentation of art projects, creating a circuit through which experience, meanings and ideas can travel and be exchanged. The emphasis of the collaboration was on finding non-bureaucratic ways of working together, the sharing of imaginations, and open-ended forms of circulation. 50% of the project was financially supported by Cooperation Measures Grant as part of the European Unions Culture 2007 programme, with its agenda of How many artists and artworks are circulated? How often does the exchange take place? Eleven artists and other participants that have a critical engagement with ways of thinking around the contemporary conditions, in particular through foregrounding different forms of artistic research, produced projects that were developed across the different platforms offered by the organisations involved. Through this, the organisations were interested in expanding the possibilities of what an art organisation could be in order to best facilitate and understand these kinds of practices, which is something they believe they can do most effectively together and hope to continue beyond the scope of Circular Facts.
Each project was based on specific research and took place over two or more sites. The projects were built up over time, absorbing input and regenerate from each local context. No two presentations were the same, and each involved an ongoing dialogue between the artists, curators and the surrounding contexts. In addition to artists’ commissions, this international partnership organised symposiums, workshops and collected their joint knowledge on a shared website.
The title Circular Facts is borrowed from a work by Ruth Buchanan, who participated in the project. Buchanan probes questions around the tension between private and public spheres by practising a method that was named after the project title, Lying Freely (2009-2010). The project was the first produced by Circular Facts and was developed in an itinerant form, each stage taking place in a different location and involving three different forms of address: Nothing is Closed (Part I) — a guided tour to the Rietveld Schröder Huis, 18 - 21 June 2009; Circular Facts (Part II) — a theatre piece at Frascati Theatre, 21 October 2009; Several Attentions (Part III) — an exhibition at The Showroom 2 December 2009 - 16 January 2010; the final phase was also an exhibition at Casco, Lying Freely, with the book launch, 28 March - 2 May 2010. The three organisations worked together to assist the project’s evolution through encounters with local organisations and contexts; this embodied their attitude towards their collaboration. Buchanan’s attempt at negotiating private and public strikes a balance that the organisations are searching for, which engages the project research with the current cultural policies and future funding systems, especially in a time when neoliberal cultural policies attempt to direct the organisations toward entrepreneurial management and private funding.
Other projects include Agency’s Assembly, which was presented at Objectif Exhibitions and The Showroom. Within Circular Facts, the assembly is an educative tool that informs and helps the organisations to consider their position towards intellectual property, in line with open source ideology and copyright, and its relationship to their work and roles within the cultural field. Agency’s practice is a crucial investigation into the impact of market-driven regulation of art, which stands very much against the understanding of independent practice. The various presentations of each artist within the programme constitute the open-source logic for Circular Facts. This open-source approach was extended by Ei Arakawa, Sergei Tcherepnin, and Gela Patashuri’s performance Be a Speaker, So be it… iterated at Casco, The Showroom and CCA Bretigny. The artists used Circular Facts to develop plans for a new centre for contemporary art in Tbilisi, Georgia. They learned from the organisations, researching and developing their own organisational model, and in so doing productively instrumentalising the opportunity. Turkish artist Can Altay’s project ‘COHAB’ went beyond the policies for “social cohesion”, worked within a specific locality to activate different kinds of collaboration and cohabitation. Making use of each organisation as para-institutional venues, the emphasis of his research was on conflicts and negotiation, involving collaborations with the neighbourhood around The Showroom and with different local stakeholders in the city of Utrecht.
For the Circular Facts book, Anthony Huberman wrote in his text “Take Care” that, ‘Much of the difficulty with making an exhibition lies in the fact that to extract something from circulation – an object, image, practice, or idea – and interrupt it, examine it, and exhibit it, is to do it a great injustice.’ Circular Facts is not just an extract of something, it is a total circuit of research, production and presentations over a period of two years with different local contexts, as the international project was tailored to the local audience. Indeed, Huberman pointed out that, instead of regarding an exhibition as a means to keep objects and processes under control and to use them to prove a point, the curator might use the exhibition to discover, along with the visitors, how the point you wanted to prove behaves itself and how it develops. The curator and the institution would be publicly following, with others, the life of an idea rather than having the explanations ready in advance. The opening of an exhibition is the start of a process of thought, of a curatorial idea and not the end thereof. Traditionally curators played the part of the interpreter who was to “enlighten” the visitors. Huberman uses terms introduced by Jan Verwoert in his essay ‘Exhaustion and Exuberance’ – experts in the field of ‘I Know’ who do not want to associate themselves with the ‘I Don’t Know’. But as a curator, one could also embrace a fragile relationship with knowledge and as an institution, it might stop behaving as an interpreting machine. Instead, Huberman referred to Jacques Rancière, that one should invest in the “equality of intelligence”, in which they who know something engage with those who know something else.  ‘This is not a plea for abandoning the expertise of the “I Know” in return for the anti-intellectual “I Don’t Know”, but for going beyond these binary positions.’ What needs to be embraced is the affective curatorial approach of what Verwoert suggests: the performing both the “I Know” and the “I Don't Know” in the key of the “I Care”; shifting the focus of the institutions from ‘knowing’ to ‘caring’. And this could point to the affective relationship that ties people to ideas and become a place for attachment rather than consumption. It is more important for the visitors to care and be curious about something than it is to understand; to thank artists and to honour them, than it is to dissect them—‘As an essential source of this creativity lies in the people on the outside of this idea institution, the artists and visitors who shape the institution by entering it.’ The organisations were then identified in various public and counter-publics and the book is utilised as an external analytical tool for expanding self-critical institutional critique.
Agency is a Brussels-based agency that was founded in 1992 by Kobe Matthys. It constitutes a growing list of things that resist the division between ontological categories of culture and nature. These things are derived from juridical processes, lawsuits, cases, controversies, affairs and so forth, around intellectual property (copyrights, patents, trademarks…). Agency calls things forth from its list via varying assemblies inside exhibitions, performances, publications, etc.
Anthony Huberman, ‘Take Care’, Circular Facts, p.15
Jan Verwoert, ‘Exhaustion and Exuberance,’ Dot Dot Dot, No 15, Winter 2007, p. 89-112
Maaike Lauwaert, ‘Size Matters – An exploration of the indispensability of small art spaces’, http://maaikelauwaert.com/articles/size-matters/
Jan Verwoert, ‘This is Not an Exhibition’, Art and its Institutions, Current Conflicts, Critique and Collaborations, (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2006), p.137