An open letter from Théo-Mario Coppola to the practitioners and their representatives, the editor, the coordinator, the person in charge of designing the installation plans, and the allies and partners taking part in his project for the eleventh edition of the MOMENTUM biennale
25 June 2021 at 1:30am (CEST)
To all of you who have accepted to work with me on MOMENTUM 11 – HOUSE OF COMMONS,
I am thankful for your support.
Since we began collaborating, I have worked with dedication and followed ethical principles. Although I did my utmost to ensure that proper working conditions be provided, the current situation with the biennale severely impacts our collective work on HOUSE OF COMMONS.
This situation contravenes the core principles that a cultural institution should observe. I cannot tolerate to see you exposed to uncertainty, disregard, and manipulation. I refuse to see injustice and appropriation supplant respect and independence. Cohesion and dignity must be regained for the consequences of this situation to be repaired.
Contrary to Galleri F 15’s recent assertions, the group exhibition is not ready to open, not even in practical terms. The production of some works is on hold. The installation and the placing of some works are incorrect or have not been finalised. I have not refused to collaborate with the institution but asked for a number of safeguards to be put in place.
As you know, HOUSE OF COMMONS includes but is not limited to an exhibition. My curatorial project is also composed of a reader, a curatorial platform in the form of a dedicated website, and a series of international events.
The biennale’s edition therefore cannot be considered as being complete on the day of the exhibition opening but only when all constitutive parts of the project have been implemented.
I have received no assurance from Galleri F 15’s leadership that the residencies, activations, iterations and newly-commissioned performances as part of the exhibition, the curatorial, editorial and graphic work on the curatorial platform, the newly-commissioned essays and the curatorial and editorial work on the reader, and the public conversations and reader launches can be fulfilled, nor that this ongoing programme would be done under my curation.
I do not know whether and under what conditions the institution will honour their obligations to practitioners and other art professionals, as well as to the institutions, programmes, platforms, and publishing and printing partners that are involved.
Several people and entities are still awaiting contracts. Some of the fees are yet to be paid, whether in part or in full.
I applied the same dedication and followed the same ethical principles while working with the institution but my efforts have been neglected and invisibilised.
I encountered issues and professional misconduct that became pervasive and prevented me from working under acceptable conditions. I expressed my concerns to Galleri F 15’s leadership, but these were not taken into account.
Instead of supporting my curatorial initiatives and working towards the project’s fulfilment, the leadership questioned my choices and complained about my involvement. The institution expected me to do work that was incumbent on them. Until late in the process, the institution’s follow-up of the project was scarce, and work on the biennale sidelined.
Insufficient preparation, incomplete and inaccurate information, numerous delays in administration, in research, in press and communication, in education and outreach, and in production, obstruction in my access to the overall budget, and unfulfilled grant applications have been detrimental to my work process and organisation, and have induced excessive overtime.
Despite my commitment, I repeatedly received peremptory emails, inappropriate calls, and derogatory comments, and my role as curator was undermined.
From the beginning of my collaboration with the institution, I have shared information about my curatorial project and the practitioner's projects. I have shared working texts, including project proposals and descriptions, explanatory texts, bibliographic references, and other background information about the practitioners and their work. I have given detailed oral presentations during staff meetings. I have also worked on curatorial texts for several months.
To my knowledge, the institution has not done any research nor produced any text for the biennale.
In early May 2021, I asked the institution to provide me with an official letter to come and supervise the final stages of the installation of the exhibition on site. Due to the strict restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, I needed this letter to be able to travel to Norway. Galleri F 15’s leadership declined sending me such a letter, arguing that pandemic regulations prevented them from doing so. Later in the month, when I informed them that other curators and arts and culture professionals travelling from the European Union had been authorised to enter Norway and asked again for a letter, the leadership replied that I 'should not come'.
At the end of May 2021, I alerted the institution that major production and shipping issues had still not been solved and that this would affect the integrity of the exhibition and require the opening to be postponed. Although these issues were imputable to the institution, the leadership did not want to look into potential solutions and refused to postpone at the time.
The curatorial texts were about to be delivered when on 4 June 2021 I received a letter from the leadership stating that the institution was terminating my contract.
After I received the termination letter, a process of conciliation with Galleri F 15 was initiated at my request and through my lawyers. The institution jeopardised the process several times by disseminating unsubstantiated and false information, and by putting some of you under pressure. Last week, while the process was still underway, Galleri F 15 broke off negotiations and unilaterally announced 26 June 2021 as the new date for the opening of the exhibition.
The institution’s determination to open by all means demonstrates that our concerns are not taken seriously, and that we curators, practitioners, representatives, colleagues, allies, and partners are being relegated to a secondary position. Opening the exhibition without our prior consent would not only infringe our rights but would also cause serious and irreparable damage to the integrity of the project.
Should I not be reinstated in my position and should we not be able to collectively resume our work, I will withdraw the project and the title HOUSE OF COMMONS, my texts, as well as my own name from the eleventh edition of MOMENTUM.
With my support and solidarity,
Public statement by Apparatus 22, Augusto de Campos, Nina Canell, Catherine David, Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, Camilo Godoy, Silke Helfrich, Délio Jasse, Sandra Jeppesen, Orietta Lanzarini, Maria Noujaim, Frida Orupabo, Karol Radziszewski, Rahul Rao, Suely Rolnik, S-AR, Marinella Senatore, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Trinh T. Minh-ha
14 June 2021 at 1:30am (CEST)
Last modified on 17 June 2021 at 11:30pm (CEST)
Curator Théo-Mario Coppola invited us to take part in HOUSE OF COMMONS, the project he conceived for the eleventh edition of the MOMENTUM biennale. It is with enthusiasm and commitment that we have worked with him on this project for more than a year.
We reiterate our confidence in Théo-Mario Coppola, and we have yet to receive clear justifications from the Galleri F 15 art centre for the alleged end of collaboration with him.
For the biennale to move forward, it is indispensable that the institution acknowledges Théo-Mario Coppola to be the author and curator of HOUSE OF COMMONS, and that it secures his return in this capacity. It is also crucial that a spirit of horizontality is recovered and that the values of the commons are respected.
We ask the institution to take a prompt decision for HOUSE OF COMMONS to be safeguarded and for our participation and collective work to be fulfilled.
This statement was updated to include additional signatories.
Public statement by Théo-Mario Coppola
9 June 2021 at 5:00pm (CEST)
Last modified on 13 June 2021 at 2:00pm (CEST)
Galleri F 15, the institution that produces and organises the MOMENTUM biennale in Moss, Norway, is acting against HOUSE OF COMMONS, the project I have conceived for the eleventh edition, which is scheduled to open on 12 June 2021. For several months now, I have been confronted with serious acts that hinder the realisation of the project and prevent the exhibition from being implemented as I intend it to.
I cannot accept for HOUSE OF COMMONS, the project I am the exclusive author and curator of, to be disrespected and appropriated by the institution that is supposed to host it.
I observe that the conditions are not met for the exhibition to open on the scheduled date. At this stage I have no other choice but to refuse its disclosure.
This statement was amended to correct a syntactical error.