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Doctoral dissertation project of Christoph Chwatal

Forums, Assemblies, and Arenas: Knowledge Production in Contemporary Art Practice and Theory (working title)

This dissertation examines projects of the London-based research collective Forensic Architecture (2010–), Dutch artist Jonas Staal’s New World Summit (2012–), Palestinian artist Khalil Rabah’s The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind (2003–), and The Silent University (2012–), a project initiated by Turkish-Kurdish artist Ahmet Öğüt. As paradigmatic examples of contemporary art practices they build on cooperation with art institutions, state agencies, and nongovernmental organizations with the prospect of social and institutional transformation. Ranging from pedagogical to para-institutional and para-legal practices, the works discussed problematize fields of knowledge including the legal apparatus in Forensic Architecture, liberal democracy in Staal, the Western museum in Rabah and Raad, and education in The Silent University.

The dissertation project offers to its prospective reader a typology, circumscribed with terms such as forums, assemblies, arenas, and platforms. As dominant expressions and self-designations of art institutions they carry with them a certain complicity with dominant regimes of knowledge in times of imperative participation, collaboration, and co-production. Likewise, the term knowledge production has become ubiquitous in light of educational and discursive formats in the contemporary arts. This went hand in hand with comprehensive rearrangements of artistic practice, institutional programming, and art education since the early 2000s, which this dissertation sets out to sketch.

Centrally, the practices discussed exhibit a shift from short-term project work in the art of the 1990s to mid- and long-term forms of strategic collaboration involving actors from various social fields in the present. This dissertation sets out to shed light on the conditions and theoretical-political premises of this development. Equally, the aim is to reflect the emergence of such work alongside overarching social, political, and economic change. Furthermore, it can help establish a critical vocabulary of both artistic and institutional practice foregrounding the material and discursive conditions and the modalities of “counter-hegemonic” knowledge production in the contemporary arts.


Short biography

Christoph Chwatal studied art history at the University of Basel, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the University of Vienna. In 2017 he earned his M.A. with a thesis titled “Photography, Performativity, and Memory in the Work of Walid Raad” from University of Vienna. Christoph was awarded the Association Internationale Critiques d’Art Austria Prize for Young Art Criticism in 2017. Christoph writes as an art critic and he is a regular contributor to publications such as Art Papers and springerin, among others. His academic writing has appeared in journals including kritische berichte and the peer-reviewed Stedelijk Studies Journal. In April 2019 Christoph joined a.r.t.e.s. EUmanities as a Doctoral Fellow. He will conduct research for his dissertation at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Contact: christoph.chwatal(at)


Publications (selection)

“Labyrinth and Rhizome: On the Work of Walid Raad”, in: Stedelijk Studies Journal, no. 7, 2018.

“Ruins and the Void in Post-War Beirut: Spaces of Contestation and Imagination”, in: kritische berichte 46, no. 3, 2018, pp. 39–46.

“Decolonizing the Ethnographic Museum: Contemporary Art and the Weltmuseum Wien”, in: Art Papers 42, no. 1, Spring 2018, pp. 13–18.



“Das „Para-Museum“ im Spiegel institutionskritischer Kunstpraktiken der Gegenwart”, June 24, 2019, workshop “Nora Sternfeld: Das radikaldemokratische Museum“, Institut für Philosophie der Universität Wien/Depot Wien.


Portrait photo: Patric Fouad

a.r.t.e.s. EUmanities has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 713600.

Call: H2020-MSCA-COFUND-2015 | Proposal: 713600 – artes EUmanities