Questions of Belonging

Questions of Belonging

AWB guest curator Merle Radtke, director of Kunsthalle Munster

concept proposal for AWB 2024


Where do I belong? A question which can be asked for several reasons and at the same time not always has an answer. It might address a state of in-betweenness, a feeling of being lost, a condition of belonging everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It is a very personal question, which at the same time looks at larger social contexts. The main exhibition of this year’s Art Weekend Belgrade (AWB) plays with the essential means of orientation and disorientation. It is addressing the question of belonging and not-belonging at a time when the world seems to be increasingly out of joint, characterized by a lack of orientation and helplessness, whereby dissatisfaction and distancing are rampant.

The exhibition would like to focus on the question of how we can change the way we relate to one another and to the world around us, by asking several questions: Where does our sense of belonging—whether to a place or to a community—come from? What are the stories we share? What is our heritage? What gives us stability? What can function as an anchor? What role plays history, heritage, tradition, collective memory? In which way the past inscribes itself into the present and the future? What makes it possible to break free from roles that seem fixed? What does it mean to be part of a social community? A given or a chosen one? What makes us kin, what companions? What does a community consist of? What means the notion home? What if the feeling of belonging is wrought with contradiction? And how does belonging has to do with the contemporary question of identity?

Belonging, and its opposite, alienation, shape our identity, our relationships, the society around us, the world at large. Sometimes, that sense is defined by a longing, whether for the past or for a place left behind. Everything from language and nationality to the state itself can be harnessed as a means to a political end; to foster or to undermine our collective sense of togetherness. The exhibitions questions polarizations that are kept alive by race, religion and the class division (of extractivist capitalism). This is why a form of disintegration is playing an increasingly important role, as a form of resilience.

The exhibition uses resilience to respond to the current state of permanent crisis by embodying and celebrating plural narratives beyond a normative dominance. What can we learn by sharing different positions, different perspectives? And how can the given diversity of existences and their modes of life establish and maintain connections with one another and what kind of symbiotic relations can emerge from this? There is, ultimately, no such thing as definiteness but rather a multitude of stories calling for investigation.

The works in the exhibition might serve as instruments of self-reassurance, allowing one to question one’s own position in the world. They make it possible to stay in touch with one’s own humanity while offering space for vulnerability, imagination and dreams. Art here serves as an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new modes of sensibility, to reflect on the past and the present, bring up ideas for the future to shape together a new paradigm of living together as “we” desire.