Imperial Pastoral: On constructions of rurality

Landings: a durational research project at the intersections of land history, geomorphology, rurality and corporeality, will launch with a colloquium event at Witte de With featuring a newly commissioned performance by artist Olof Olsson, as well as presentations by Anthropologist Rosalind Morris (Columbia University), Art Historian Brian Dudley Barrett and artist Filipa César. The event will be accompanied by a presentation of archival materials that will accrue throughout the project as a body of material and symbolic references.

This segment seeks to resurvey the active construction of rurality that accompanied western colonial histories, as well as the industrial revolutions and decolonization struggles of the 19th and early 20th century. It will address conditions by which landforms become a materiality of time and products of socio-historical processes.

The event will be initiated with a performance-reading by Olof Olsson of Virgil’s four-part agrarian poem The Georgics (29 BC). Besides providing key commentaries on relations between food production, natural catastrophe and divinity, The Georgics remain relevant as a treatise on early politics of Land, Empire and the Farmer.

Rosalind Morris will present a lecture discussing her formulations of the term ‘Imperial Pastoral’ while tracing the history of a translation of The Georgics by British Malayan official L.A.S. Jermyn. In doing so, Morris unravels a dramaturgy of recurring origins and the pastoral as a category where native and nature become conflated within the colonial imaginary.

Art Historian Dr Brian Dudley Barrett will map the ‘Pastoral’ demographics of rural artists’ colonies, particularly in communities that thrived along the coast of Western Europe from 1880-1920.

The long-term research project of artist and film-maker Filipa César centers on the influential role played by Amílcar Cabral (1961-1974) in the film production of Guinea-Bissau. Renowned as an African independence leader, Cabral was trained in Lisbon as an agronomic engineer. Through his early essays surveying the land-use of Guinea-Bissau a vision of land as a political being emerges. César will continue her research with a presentation in relation to these early essays and other archival materials.

Conceived by curators Natasha Ginwala and Vivian Ziherl. Landings is initiated upon invitation of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam) and presented with partner organizations including Studium Generale Rietveld Academie (Amsterdam); the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam); the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam); amongst others.

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