up an coming
a note from the curator
During the Venice Biennale 2019, the European Cultural Centre (ECC) has offered an exhibition space to graduating students at the Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam (WdKA) following the observation that art academies are underrepresented in this international showcase of contemporary art.
A Tenderfoot is unused to hardships; a novice, raw and inexperienced. Those who are named Tenderfoot are ridiculed for their sensitivity, having not yet developed the callus deemed necessary to tread this world unscathed.
To be tender is to be gentle, kind, careful; but it is also to be vulnerable, sensitive to pain, easy to chew. It means to be young or new, perhaps requiring protection or careful handling. And yet tenderness requires trust and intimacy, it requires another; always occurring between two or more bodies. Tender moments tend to escape the gaze of a wider audience, transpiring in covert exchanges, and seldom experienced alone, yet rarely public. Tenderness is touching and being touched, moving and being moved; the impossibility of resisting connection, the impossibility of being singular. To be tender is to open oneself up, to be porous.
I am in no position to decide who gets to show in Venice and who does not—nor do I wish to be. I am a practising artist, all too familiar with the anxiety inducing and opaque nature of application and selection processes, contingent on systems of power and cronyism from which I attempt to distance myself. And so, I decided to be tender. To curate is to care, to guide.
Taking part in the exhibition initially as undergraduates, the students will exit the event holding a BA in Fine Art. Along with Rolf Engelen (WdKA core tutor, friend, and co-founder of the educational collective, Friendly Stalking) I will entrust the graduating artists to devise a framework within which they wish to collectively present themselves, departing from the principle of generosity. This project springs from the gaps between us, in an attempt to find harmony in dissonant voices, and above all in taking the risk to trust one another. To invest in trust is a big political resource, the space between two subjectivities not only being a site for shared learning, but also holding the potential to actively (re)shape the world(s) we inhabit.
Tenderfeet are sensitive enough to notice the asymmetries and imbalances of the terrain they traverse. They are responsive and perceptive, ready to feel the ground anew. Above all, Tenderfeet have the curiosity and courage to venture into unknown territories, in directions overlooked by more stable amblers.
artist + curator