Showing Without Telling – Concept


Showing Without Telling

The seminar Showing Without Telling  An Alternative Approach to the Trans-Cultural System of Art? was held in Brissago, Switzerland, Thursday, September 15 – Monday, September 19, 2011.
Burger Collection launched the seminar “Showing Without Telling” about the trans-cultural dynamic in contemporary art. Participants included artists BANI ABIDI (Karachi/Berlin), DAMIEN ROACH (London), and BARTHELEMY TOGUO (Paris/Bandjoun), the critic and writer MANUEL CIRAUQUI (Valencia/New York) as well as the researchers ALEXANDRA CHANG (New York) and STEPHEN CHING-KIU CHAN (Hong Kong).

The research was established as an extension of the Theory/Conversations, and consists of an on-going series of seminars, lectures and workshops at various sites in different regions of the world. The research serves to deepen both the knowledge about the artistic practices represented in the Burger Collection as well as giving a new twist to the discussion of the much talked of but ambiguous terms ‘trans-cultural’, originally coined by Cuban writer Fernando Ortiz and revived mostly in the late 1980s in the discourse about art.

Reaching beyond some of the neo-ethnic takes on art from different regions in the 1990s, but also questioning the more recent inclusion of art in the agenda of geo-political discourse, “Showing Without Telling”, explored how art is conceived of as a specific form of communication between different art regions. It especially tried to convey a complex sense of art that avoids bare applications of information, journalism, or academic knowledge production onto the shifting nature of aesthetic experience. What is it that makes art a specific form of showing without telling?

The seminar also addressed the role of the private collection within the system of contemporary art. The term ‘collection’ nowadays seems to be mainly understood as an organization that acquires, stores and lends works of art. But how can a private collection expand such known tasks and become more broadly enmeshed in the social fabric? What transformations are necessary for the collection to eventually become a social medium engaging with the concerns of civil society?

Numerous ideas were put forward during the seminar that would essentially remodel the customary facets of collecting. By expanding the notion of collecting, the private collection maintains its posture as the public-spirited “art patron”, but also takes on a more operative and proactive standing in the cultural sphere. Some examples of special pursuits brought up were:

– tying various cultural forms such as visual arts, literature, film and popular media to each other subjecting them to cross-analysis (opting for an integrationist view),
– furthering research about more localized cultural concerns within their social environments and,
– acting as a cultural prime mover across the social and aesthetic spectrum in specific sites.

The collection as social medium aims at different levels of understanding by examining its reliable public use. For example, public programs centered on a collection’s holdings, a by now often-applied feature of contemporary collection’s operations, as a measure to establish public use is not entirely convincing. Therefore, what are the alternative measures to be taken? Also, what operations have to be necessarily taken into consideration in terms of a constitution of an authentically public use of a collection? Answering such questions ultimately helps understand the potential—but also the limits—of private collections to engage with diverse audiences as well as with the concerns of civil society.

The seminar took into consideration the recent global network of commu­nication and exchange that keeps influencing and alter­ing the production and reception of contemporary art and gave leeway for the interpretation of the concept of trans-culturality, disputing its meaning, application, relevance and use in the present-day art system. The participants were able to calibrate definitions of the trans-cultural object and to look at the eventual mis-readings and misapplications of the complex term, one that is often overshadowed by, or even equated with, terms such as globalization, internationalism, or multi-culturalism.

The seminar challenged contemporary notions of trans-culturality, and came to a more secure grasp of its properties and subtleties. One apparent problematic is how trans-culturality is dealt with within the art field. Three co-ordinates were charted as essential when mapping a discussion around trans-culturality in artistic practice:

– applying sound historical frames,
– maintaining an integrationist approach to the general cultural field and,
– conceptually focusing on art as communication beyond extra-aesthetic

As to the recently much-used term ‘research’: It is understood as a medium to enhance exchange and knowledge in real-time encounters and localized scenarios, to encourage a critical stance and an attitude of intellectual curiosity backed up by historical contextualization.


Seminar participants:

Bani Abidi (Karachi/Berlin), Stephen Ching-kiu Chan (Hong Kong), Alexandra Chang (New York), Manuel Cirauqui (New York/Valencia), Damien Roach (London), Barthélémy Toguo (Paris/Bandjoun)

Burger Collection team:

Monique Burger (director), Max Burger (co-director), Daniel Kurjaković (curator/head of program), Linda Jensen (curatorial assistant), Sandra Jeker (research assistant), Joanna Lisiak (administrative director), Angelo Romano (documentation), Gaudenz Welti (intern)

Conception of seminar:

Daniel Kurjaković, curator / head of program of the Burger Collection; in collaboration with Linda Jensen, curatorial assistant, and Sandra Jeker, research assistant.

Seminar Participants



Bani Abidi

Bani Abidi was born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1971. She recieved her BFA degree from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan in 1994 and an MFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, USA in 1999 . Abidi has worked primarily in video for the past 8 years. Her videos have been exhibited widely in solo and group shows internationally. Her group exhibitions include:The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds After 1989, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; Blockbuster: Cinema for Exhibitions, MARCO, Monterrey;Where Three Dreams Cross – 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Xth Lyon Biennale: The Spectacle of the Everyday, France 7th Gwangju Biennale 2008, Kwangju, South Korea; Thermocline of Art – New Asian Waves, ZKM, Karlsruhe,Germany (2007); Singapore Biennale, Singapore (2006); Sub-Contingent- The South Asian Sub Continent in Contemporary Art, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy (2006); 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, Fukuoka, Japan (2005); . Solo shows include: Bani Abidi – Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, 2011; Green Cardamom- London,2010; Project 88 – Bombay,2010; TPW Gallery- Toronto 2007, Haines Gallery,San Fransisco 2006, V.M Art Gallery, Karachi 2006. Her work is in the collections of the The Musem of Modern Art, New York; The British Museum, London; Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas; Patricia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo,Turin, Italy; Marguelies Collection, Miami; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan and Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi. Bani Abidi was a fellow of DAAD Artists Residency in Berlin for the year 2011/2012.


Stephen Ching-kiu Chan

Stephen Ching-kiu Chan is Professor of Cultural Studies and Academic Dean of Arts at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. He also coordinates the Kwan Fong Cultural Research & Development Programme to promote cultural research, education, and policy. Published internationally on Hong Kong culture, film, literature, education and cultural studies, Chan’s current interest is in cultural research and education, urban creativity, creative enterprise, intangible heritage, audience development and cultural policy. He was a member of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and Convenor of Heritage Watch and People’s Panel on West Kowloon. Currently, he is Steering Committee chair of the Consortium for Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Institutes, and a Board member of the international Association for Cultural Studies representing the Asia constituency. Active in the civil society, he is a founding member of The Professional Commons, an independent policy think-tank, and a policy fellow of the Community Development Initiative. He is now a part-time member of the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.


Alexandra Chang

Alexandra Chang is the Director of Public Programs & Research Manager at A/P/A Institute at NYU and is an arts scholar, filmmaker and independent curator. She is also the Co-Director of the 2012 NEH Summer Institute “Re-envisioning American Art History:  Asian American Art, Research and Teaching” at NYU. She is the author of Envisioning Diaspora: Asian American Visual Art Collectives from Godzilla, Godzookie, to the Barnstormers (Timezone 8 Art Books, Beijing, China, 2008 and publishing partner A/P/A Institute at NYU). She conducted the oral histories on Godzilla: Asian American Art Network for the Art Spaces Archives Project ( Recently she curated the exhibitions: “Art, Archives and Activism: Martin Wong’s Downtown Crossings” at NYU’s A/P/A Institute (2009) and “Happy Together: Asian and Asian American Art from the Collection” at the Bronx Museum for the Arts (2010-2011). She is a member of the organizing committee for “The Drop: Urban Art Infill” art festival in multiple indoor and outdoor sites in Chelsea and co-curator of the festival’s special exhibition “2012+” in 2009. She is the co-organizer of the Diasporic Asian Art Network and on the executive committee of the International Network for Diasporic Asian Art Research. She has served as the Managing Editor for Art Asia Pacific magazine and Features Editor for amNewYork. As a filmmaker and writer, she has conducted over 100 hours of artist interviews. She holds a Master’s from the NYU John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s program in Humanities and Social Thought with a concentration in Asian American Art History.

Manuel Cirauquismall

Manuel Cirauqui

Manuel Cirauqui is a writer and curator based in New York. A former resident researcher at the Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation/ Centre Georges Pompidou and curator at Jeu de Paume Museum (Paris, France), he has lectured at numerous art institutions and universities in Europe and America, and his writing has appeared in magazines and journals such as PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art; Bomb (USA); 20 / 27 (France); Frieze (UK); and Lápiz (Spain), among many others, and a number of exhibition catalogs and art books. Cirauqui is the producer of the radio program §ympo§ium on WGXC station. In parallel to his practice as an independent art scholar, he currently works as a Curatorial Associate at Dia Art Foundation, New York.


Damien Roach

Damien Roach is an artist and lecturer currently based in London, who has been working on manifold projects internationally for a number of years.  Roach’s work is like a do-it-yourself kit for rewiring the human brain, where it is not the (ordinary) materials he works with that are transformed, but rather the way we see the world around us. (1) The found object becomes an artefact which functions as the materialised end-product of certain world views, as a symbol of understanding and interpretation of the past and future. (2) A multiplicity of sources funnels into situations best described as ‘constellations of possibility’, a firmament of incessant creative arbitrage. (3) Each exhibition space is posited as a sensory adventure, where artfulness is intended to trigger new horizons of meaning. (4) Sentences loosely connected from texts by: Skye Sherwin, 2008 (1), Melanie Bono, 2007 (2), Martin Holman, 2007 (3), Francesco Pedraglio and Caterina Riva, 2008 (4).

PN 1

Barthélémy Toguo

Barthélémy Toguo, born in 1967 in Cameroon, lives and works today in Paris and Bandjoun, Cameroon. He began his studies at the Abidjan School of Fine Arts, Côte d’Ivoire. His artistic apprenticeship at first involved his fashioning copies of classic European sculptures, until he took part in a workshop in 1992 devoted to woodcarving, an event that enabled him to radically modify his approach. He decided then to continue his studies in France in order to experience a different type of instruction and enjoy greater liberty in his personal creative research. He took classes at Grenoble’s Graduate School of Art and later enrolled in Klaus Rinke’s studio at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf.