Chronic Promises

There are no sanctuaries
except in purposeful action;
I could say to my child,
There are wounds deeper
than flesh. Deeper and more 
concrete than belief in some god
who would imprison your eye
in the sterile sky instead of
thrusting it on the piece of earth
you walk everyday and say,
Reclaim it.

 But I let it pass since
it is really about knowing today and how.
This is what it has come to. Daughters
and sons are born now and could ask,
you know: Knowing your impotence why
did you bring me here?

   I could say:
Life is the unarguable referent.
What you know is merely a point 
of departure. So let’s move. [...]

Excerpt from "Notes from No Sanctuary" by
Keorapetse Kgositsile

CURES: CHRONIC PROMISES opens a series of exhibitions deliberating on the power of artistic transitions. It will effloresce into many intertwined, yet autonomous, figments of exhibitionary forces akin to a rainfall or a shower of petals. Situated in the troubled milieu of (German) decolonization, the exhibition explores the work of art and artists that emerged from practices of collectivity, a quality of alternative world-making that has been endorsed by, and celebrated in, global contemporary art.

CURES: CHRONIC PROMISES inaugurates a question that challenges the conventional notion of an illness-progression timeline (whether bodily, psychic, or ecological) imagined to have a finality. We ask, what if cures – like decolonization – produce no cure? How do we imagine decolonization beyond the remit of cure? This exhibition looks towards artists in collectives, institutions, and movements who have offered utopic proposals or promises for decolonization. Accessing them through diverse art histories and sites of production, works previously presented in different contexts meet non-western examples of modernism, while various forms of avant-gardism are renewed in their presentation with contemporary non-object based art. This aesthetic background situates our engagement with Germany’s colonial histories and its ongoing presences, as we expound the lens to examine different mediums of artistic transmissions and diverse epistemes: in order to meander within the questions, rather than explain our fractures away. We trail pedagogies and methodologies of artists entwined in collective practices to learn from their tools within their distinct geographies and legacies.

The exhibition and research project challenges the perceptions of “cure” and its promises. In recent years, we have found ourselves in a troubling gap and period of foreclosure that has cultivated more extremist views opposing decolonization, where conservative and authoritarian politics inhabit the frameworks of a supposedly democratic life. These challenges to emancipatory struggles demand new appraisals and even inventions of language, foundational values, and spaces of well-being. In this vein, together with the artists, CURES: CHRONIC PROMISES dilate the nodes of decoloniality, cures, and collectivity in the frames of wound, motherhood, and chaos. We follow the provocation by anthropologist Bharat Venkat, that the idea of a final cure is often elusive and unknown. [1] When thinking of chronic illnesses with ambiguous, if not impossible ends, we can see our broken “post”-colonial systems as structures that fail communities who try to be held by crutches of their own, often without structural support. We hope to find routes of articulations in looking at the material universe, linguistic aptitude, performativity, and relational pedagogy of artists who have approached notions of wound, mothering, and chaos in their creative output.

Cures and collectives operate in symbolism and towards a catharsis of expression. Symbols of cures and collectivity that we may gather from the recontextualization of mothering, chaos, and wound in the works of art collected in the exhibition revitalize subjective experiences. With the intention of problematizing western and hegemonic impositions of a singular, static, universal, or linear mode of being, we reposition ourselves in relation to “chaos”, expanded upon by Édouard Glissant as an embrace of fluidity, diversity, migrational dispersal, and resilient transformations. The chaotic is a process of being coupled to the alterable as well as the restorative, where disruptive or conflictive grounds of passage call for fertile renewals and emergences. Inscribed within wounds and scars are the realities of stories and traumas, standing also as a perpetual testament to the body’s innate ability to move towards healing. They signify mending without forgetting, repairing by tending to it. We invite the dynamic lessons of wounds, mothering, and chaos as a foundation for critical learning, as calls for intersecting forms protection and transmutation within crisis.

Like illness, particles of CURES: CHRONIC PROMISES subsists around us: soft and hard, minor and major, acknowledged and unacknowledged. The art of juxtaposition is “the method of cure writ large.” [2] Within the exhibition, the interweaving of juxtapositions as opposed to comparison and association is the blossoming of political, ethical, and moral possibilities for artists to sustain their utopias. Can the powers of mothering, chaos, and wound sustain and accomplish life-producing dreams of utopia? The dynamics of juxtaposition operate in such a way that propositions can work, that the art of proposing is the magic of cure and collectivity. It returns us to how this symbolic order creates meaning in the chronicity of life. 

Venkat noted the gendered dichotomy within the biomedical and its typically masculine view of cure as opposed to care work, a practice conventionally considered feminine and a process without end. [3] Speaking in relation to this chasm, Breya Johnson invites us to further consider, feminist genealogies embedded within care ethics which, thus, examine the realities of death, disability, or its prevalent possibilities for many [4]:for an embrace of “interdependen[t] ... mutual (nondominant) differences” [4] as necessary for dismantling institutional oppressions. Moving past binary worldviews, the exhibition troubles monologues and insists on forms of communing that mothering has achieved, as a form of treatment to the violent and oppressive context they exist within. CURES: CHRONIC PROMISES also pays tribute to one of the most persistent manifestations of coloniality: a newly commissioned research looks into the history of HIV/AIDS and the cultural production that accompanies the experience of non-western relations to the epidemic. The open-endedness of this research invites further inquiries in the following exhibitions.


Bharat Jayram Venkat (2021). At the Limit of Cure, Durham: Duke University Press.




Bharat Jayram Venkat: “At the Limits of Cure”, Lecture at the Center for South Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 15. September 2022,


Breya Johnson, “Black Women Care Ethics, Radical Love, and the Anti-Black World”, March 27, 2022, 


Audre Lorde.1984. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ed. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. 110–114.