MUSEUM 2050 Dispatches

Updates from KADIST

Shona Findlay

During the first month of shelter-in-place, I was so overwhelmed by the glut of newsletters, movie recommendations, books, recipes, online exhibitions, and online screenings. I was frustrated by this pressure to produce, remain connected, visible, and at the top of your inbox. I was also at a moment in my shelter-in-place journey where I couldn’t focus on any long form content. I run KADIST’s social media accounts and despite spending significantly more time on these platforms, I was somewhat paralyzed by a fear of posting insensitive, triggering or meaningless content in a moment all of us had very little understanding of. It felt like social media and online spaces became our only shared place where our thoughts and ideas converge and are made public. I suddenly felt like there was so much at stake. After tuning out for a month or so my  focus slowly returned and I’ve started to embrace the luxury of being able to tune into programming and exhibitions from all around the world without the boundaries of geography. 

These geographic boundaries are something that I’ve been thinking about a lot since the beginning of the pandemic. While on one hand we seem more connected–I speak to my family and friends on the phone a lot more–but at the same time the fact that I can’t hop on a plane and go home to Singapore when I want to is quite terrifying to me. Our online and offline spaces have collapsed and while our lives are more compressed, the world also feels bigger than ever. At KADIST San Francisco, our artist-in-residence Jeamin Cha’s solo exhibition was scheduled to open to the public on March 18 and San Francisco went into shelter in place on March 16. It was so surreal to put the finishing touches to an exhibition–cleaning, dusting, receiving printed brochures–and then boarding up the exhibition space without knowing when the show would open. This feeling is quite aptly captured in Hikaru Fujii’s new film Covid-19 (2020) made at the MOT Tokyo in collaboration with KADIST that navigates the darkness of the closed exhibition space. Fujii talks about how the video “captures current confinements of closed national borders, city lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, as well as the present moment of paradox— solidarity in solitary.” 

Fast forward four months later and the US is back to square one with the extraordinary surge in Covid-19 cases the country has also gone through an intense moment of reckoning. The protests that rippled across the country and the rest of the world against police brutality and systemic racism have sparked a much needed call for transparency, and change. It’s definitely made me reconsider my position as a white passing individual, and a newcomer to the Bay Area that has such an embedded history of dislocating BIPOC communities. The KADIST San Francisco team has started doing Layla F Saad’s workbook Me & White Supremacy together and it’s been an important moment of learning for us as arts workers and as individuals. And to reflect on the responsibilities of contemporary art organizations such as ourselves in the perpetuation of these power structures. It’s also been a moment of learning for myself, to examine the ways that I uphold white supremacy, and how I may unknowingly perpetuate these systems, as well as how this seeps into my curatorial practice. It’s especially important that I use this time to consider how these systems manifest within the context of Southeast Asia and Singapore, where I am from. At KADIST we are still working on understanding our complicity as a cultural organization and also trying to understand how our programming can embrace the new travel-less artworld. 

About the Author:

Shona Findlay is Curator of Asia Programs at KADIST.

About the Series:

Museum 2050 has always been about bringing people together through our community’s shared passion for museums and institutional development. As the world slowly and carefully starts reopening, we are checking in weekly with various members of our broader network to share personal reflections, anecdotes and musings about how they and their institutions have been operating in the face of this pandemic. In these incredibly difficult times for all, we hope that these brief vignettes from around the world bring us closer together, and remind us that even when the world stops and museum doors close, we still persevere.