SAVVY welcomes Renan Laru-an as artistic director from 2023 on

Image: Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum
Image: Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum


The transition of leadership in an art space that is home to a community where thoughts and sounds, meals and pains, realities and imaginations are shared, is not a technicality. It is a continued tuning of frequencies.

We are grateful to have met Renan Laru-an in a constellation of wavelengths that commend him as the new artistic director of SAVVY Contemporary. The researcher and curator speaks of his presence in the world and his vision for the SAVVY space with that rawness and vulnerability which suggests resilience and possibility. His poetical practice moves into lived urgencies beyond the “projectness” of our short-termed and short-sighted now. This approach convinced the SAVVY Contemporary team as well as our advisors Koyo Kouoh, Oscar Murillo and Nora Sternfeld who we thank for their continued commitment in supporting our work.

Renan Laru-an will join us in Berlin–Wedding in January 2023 as artistic director, taking over from founder and director of 13 years, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung who will begin his position as director of the Berliner Haus der Kulturen der Welt, as well as from the artistic co-directors Elena Agudio and Arlette-Louise Ndakoze. 

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung: „One of the most difficult things in life is to let go. The only thing that makes it bearable is to know that one is passing on to and entrusting in good hands.

For thirteen years, we – now 24 people from 14 countries – have tried to establish a non-center of critical thinking with and through arts and creating a community of affinity. As I personally make a step beyond SAVVY Contemporary, I am reassured by the fact that we found in Renan an artistic director that is a deep thinker and an affectionate leader who could continue this task of critical and affective community building, while accompanying SAVVY Contemporary to new destinations, together with the executive co-directors, Lema Sikod and Lynhan Balatbat, as well as the rest of the team.

As for me, I can move beyond SAVVY, but will always carry SAVVY in me. I am proud to pass the baton to Renan Laru-an.”

SAVVY Contemporary was founded in 2009 by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung to offer a platform for critical thinking and conviviality which developed under his direction into a community space that believes in forging relationships through care. As a (para)institution in perpetual becoming, we have been experimenting with manifold formats radically engaging with perspectives of epistemological diversity, the colonial invention of sciences, decanonisation, unlearning, untraining the ear, participation, solidarity, ultrasanity, and radical love – in our neighbourhoods in Berlin, in the wider context of Germany as well as in international collaborations and networks. 

SAVVY Contemporary celebrates the plurality of epistemologies as we articulate knowledges as a means of decolonising the singularity of knowledge. SAVVY Contemporary gives space to reflect on colonialities of power (Anibal Quijano) and how these affect histories, geographies, gender and race. It is a space for decolonial practices and aesthetics where epistemological disobedience and delinking (Walter Mignolo) are practiced. Where we propose to move with Sylvia Wynter “towards the Human, after Man.”

The new director will work closely with a team of circa 20 people. We identify the strength of SAVVY Contemporary in both conceptual and corporeal axes of our practice. At a moment when the world is facing challenges that threaten the pluriversality of cultures, languages, cosmologies, ecologies, economies as well as life itself, we hold steadfast to the belief that “Another Knowledge and Way of Being is Possible” (Boaventura de Sousa Santos) and strive to use art and culture as a tool and method to negotiate and persuade towards imaginaries that actively resist all forms of violence and othering. 

Or as Renan Laru-an put it: „We need a faith to the fantastic – what else could be the least uncanny of sensations in today’s anxieties but to be artistic? In an ongoing crisis of reunions, when we all navigate the coasts of the can and can’t, we carry art to its socius – to the obligatory field of reaching out.“

A warm welcome, Renan! We give thanks for continued beginnings.

RENAN LARU-ANis a researcher and curator. He creates exhibitionary, public, and research programs that study „insufficient“ and „subtracted“ images or subjects at the juncture of development and integration projects.

A founding member of the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN), a recently initiated public institution for contemporary art housed at the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum, he serves as the Public Engagement and Artistic Formation Coordinator since 2017. Laru-an has (co-)curated festivals and biennials including the 2nd Biennale Matter of Art, Prague (2022); the 6th Singapore Biennale, Singapore (2019); the 8th OK.Video—Indonesia Media Arts Festival, Jakarta (2017); and the 1st Lucban Assembly, Quezon (2015). Other exhibitions are Sourcebook: Mandy El-Sayegh and Helena Hunter, LUX, London (2022); But Ears Have No Lids: Maayan Amir and Ruti Sela, PCAN, Manila (2021); Motions of this Kind, SOAS, London (2019); A Tripoli Agreement, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (2018); The Artist and the Social Dreamer, Forecast Festival, Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin (2017); From Bandung to Berlin: If all of the Moons Aligned, SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin (2016); among others.

Renan is editor of the anthology Writing Presently (PCAN, 2019), and with titre provisoire, he co-edited Turning Points: Coincidences in Prepositions (2022) for the Harun Farocki Institut’s Rosa Mercedes Journal. Ongoing project is Promising Arrivals, Violent Departures, a theoretical study on the formation of the artistic, the curatorial, and visual cultures in the exhibitionary heritage and practices of non-metropolitan Mindanao, the southernmost region of the Philippines.