Introducing Bassam El Baroni, Assistant Professor in Curating and Mediating Art
Would you tell a bit about your work?
I have been curating projects and exhibitions for about fifteen years and teaching for about ten, five of those at the Dutch Art Institute. My research happens where art, philosophy, political theory and the sciences meet. I am interested in how these different disciplines, when combined, can influence how we face the social, environmental, and technological issues challenging us. I understand curating as a process of transdisciplinarity and how it can affect and change the world. Recently, I curated some projects that engage with prominent scientific and philosophical concepts. An example would be Nemocentric, a small exhibition that examined how neuroscience approaches subjectivity, and compared it to how that topic is addressed within artistic practice. I wonder if there is a way to examine these subjects without falling into the trap of l’art pour l’art? Can art take scientific research into the political realm in a constructive manner? My teaching will tackle such questions and look at how art and curating can be used to weave together fragments of scientific, sociopolitical, and philosophical perspectives.
What enticed you to come to Aalto and what are you planning to do here?
The Aalto School of Arts, Design and Architecture is part of a multidisciplinary university intent on building bridges between the schools’ various disciplines. I think there is so much work to be done at this crossroads. This is work that is theoretical, practical, aesthetic and political all at the same time. One reason I applied to work here was because I wish to engage and develop discourses and events that can be helpful in thinking through the nature of transdisciplinarity as a contemporary condition, this is a current project of mine, but beyond this I think the university’s research environment and general affordances would be enticing for most scholars. As far as my goals while I am here, I would argue that long term success as a teacher – helping others achieve their goals – is probably as big as it gets. However, I do not want to leave Helsinki without having produced a series of events, publications, and perhaps exhibitions that would contribute to enriching and diversifying the discourse around curating and artistic research at Aalto, in Helsinki, and beyond.
I am quite excited about the potential to explore transdisciplinarity, which – despite its frequent usage – remains one of the least explored termini overall. Unpacking the concept will help move art research forward by putting a spotlight on objects we already encounter that are already transdisciplinary. It is everywhere we turn. Think of the enormous number of disciplines necessary to truly understand everyday objects in our lives. Take the produce we eat for instance: understanding a tomato we buy at the local grocery store in Helsinki involves agriculture, the history of Colonialism, molecular biology, chemistry, logistics, international law and market economics for starters.
From this vantage point, I think artistic research has an important role to play, it can de-enchant the world in the most engaging of modes. It makes facts visible in an interesting way, rather than in a dry manner.
How can people at Aalto get to know you?
I am very approachable and like to engage with people’s plans, ideas and think together through things. Write me an email and we can meet anywhere in the vicinity of Väre.
What new thing are you looking forward to doing or exploring in Helsinki?
Helsinki has been great so far, it’s been a wonderful place to explore: exhibitions, museums and music events galore as well as some mushroom and berry picking! I want to be more of a bookworm – an extroverted one at that - in upcoming months and the Helsinki metropolitan area has some great libraries and archives that I think will help me in acquiring more knowledge while living here.