performative publishing, research center


15 December 2014


Bureau d’Espoir is a long-term research project on hope, initiated by Elke Van Campenhout. Bureau d’Espoir researches the possibility for a new engagement with the concept of hope, both on a political, social, physical and spiritual level.

Bureau d’Espoir is a research practice that starts out from the question: why do something rather than nothing? The last ten years the artistic sector seems to be burdened by a nagging form of debilitating self-critique that blocks artists (and other artistic workers) from assuming an affirmative position on the scene. Not only does it feel like any kind of performative gesture has become over-identified by decennia of critical theory, but an all-encompassing economic system has rendered any kind of emancipatory or critical gesture close to impossible.

In this period of time some artists have developed strong strategies to deal with this catch 22: the embrace of radical cynicism, the strong emphasis on the no-manifesto of the arts, utopian projects, the over-identification with commercial strategies, the development of ‘tender’ practices, the deconstruction of the author position through collaborative practices etc. But on the other hand we also see a choreographic agoraphobic gesture that forced dancers to a standstill, that turned out the lights on the big stages for fear of over-exposure and virtuosity, the crippling insecurity of being misunderstood, misplaced, recuperated by ‘the system’. A malaise that forced whole generations of artists into experimental modes of working that lost their power to communicate outside a group of privileged partakers.

But, if we turn this artistic deadlock around, it might be that exactly in this despair, this reluctance from taking the stage, this vulnerability from a lack of a clear position, the artistic sector finally fundamentally challenges its (post-)modernist claim of autonomy, of steering clear from the political, ethical and economic apparatuses that keep the individual and the citizen in line. It is in this indolent despair that the artistic field once again becomes permeable, ‘tender’ to the influences of an outside reality. The non-productive modes of working that question the economic common sense of a neo-liberal arts world and the impossibility of the artist to undo himself from his responsibilities, insecurities and desires as an individual and a citizen, open up messy zones for misunderstanding that might be an affective tool in rethinking and (temporarily) reorganizing the social sphere, or what Rancière calls, ‘le partage du sensible’. (see text: ‘Het kapitaal van de kunsten’ in posts, translation soon to come)

In looking at the societal machinery that forms and molds our individual motives and drives, it is one thing to look away and try to avoid its influence, but it is another to look ‘awry’, to produce by turning towards the machinery that shapes our realities, and try, through a performative over-embrace to turn their effectivity around: to make affective what is effective. In a series of performance practices, developed under the working title ‘The Poverty Projects’ I would like to import some of these ‘machines’ into a performance context, and use them as tools for emancipation, the redefinition of the social body of artists and non-artists, and the embrace of a different sense of beauty and temporal recognition of the situation at hand.

Working on machines like ‘the Institute’ (in the Tender Institute), apparati for global food production (in the performance machine ‘Battery’), importing global poverty (the Poverty Projects), and other initiatives, Bureau d’Espoir wants to work on the gaps in a system that is overdefined by its own functionality. The Poverty Practices want to lay bare the absurd qualities and affective nonsensical by-products of a global economic and institutionalized bureaucratic system. Through these practices the Bureau also wants to redefine the highly moralized and capitalized categories of value, as they are employed in the evaluation of (artistic) knowledge today. By questioning the academic frameworks of knowledge production in the much more vulnerable modes of performance practice, the Bureau will develop a critical language for artistic research that questions the individual maker/writer, the language(s) of research, the possible strategies for communicating research, and the economic value of knowledge production.

performative publishing, research center

Ed. by Adva Zakai and Elke Van Campenhout Curating as Environmentalism

1 September 2012

postgraduate program, research center


1 September-30 November 2012

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conference, research center

international conference Tender Institute

7-8 September 2012

How can an institute still stay an institute when it is embracing its 'tenderness': when it recognizes its dependency on the interest of its users? The risk to become obsolete in the whirlwind of heterotopic interests? The challenge to re-invent its administration to shift from a politics of categorization to one of attention and engagement?
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lecture, performative publishing, research center

Elke van campenhout the tender institute

12 January 2013

“In the whirlwind of changing subsidy policies, and political crisis, the Institute has become a partner to be mistrusted. What has become clear from all the waves of institutional critique that have fueled the visual arts production in the last decennia, is the Institute’s extreme flexibility to reinvent itself, to recuperate and produce the ruling discourses, in a constant craving for the new. The Institute in this understanding has become synonymous with capital power struggles, with normative regulation of the arts scene, and with an unsavory attachment to a global economy that creates and sustains inequality, poor labor conditions and a sanctimonious elitist attitude towards knowledge and its distribution.”

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performative publishing, research center

Elke Van Campenhout Tarot of Hope

25 euro - tarot cards and book

1 December 2013

If you wanted to come up with a language that could be understood by anyone, and that allows for different ways to adapt to the situation, but that still speaks about what concerns us all, the Tarot is the way to go. The Tarot is an ancient method to gain insight into your current situation. It is a way to bring different aspects of your life together, and relate them to an outside world that sometimes appears hostile or unconcerned by your sorrows or doubts. With the Tarot of Hope, Bureau d’Espoir tries to get a grip on our current situation.
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performative publishing, research center

Bureau d'Espoir SELF-INTERVIEW Elke – Elle

1 September-31 December 2015 / Abbeye de Forest

Elke (a.pass researcher): Elle, with the new project ‘Mobile MNSTRY’ you again tackle some of the issues you have been dealing with in your extended project Bureau d’Espoir already for some years: the recuperation and embrace of practices and terms that have been categorized, marginalized and recuperated by capital strategies. For example: you worked on the mobilization of the concept of ‘anorexia’ in the Hunger and Anorexic practices as tools for rethinking our relation to the consumption of food, and our own place in the ‘food chain’ of capitalism. You worked in ‘Battery’ on the embrace of circumstances that are considered detrimental to the ‘healthy’ development of the individual: 21 days of imprisonment, hunger and lack of private space as a spiritual-aesthetic machine for the production of hope and change. Now you propose the Mobile Monastery: a practice that is based on rethinking the monastic rule, the disciplining and deep experience of the everyday, introducing ‘poverty’ and social service (karma yoga) into the practice. Your proposals all seem to verge on the extreme, uncomfortable, and frankly, possibly moralistic. How do you plan to make this collective practice seem inviting to collaborators.
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postgraduate program, research center


1 September-30 November 2015

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postgraduate program, workshop

Bureau d'Espoir Mobile MNSTRY

9-22 November 2015 / Abbeye of Forest

The Mobile MNSTRY (Monastery, Ministery, Monster-y) is a collective location project, organised in and around the previous Abbeye of Forest. The MNSTRY will install a temporary (monastic) community that lives and works within a limited area, following a shared time score and accepting the rule of poverty for the duration of the workshop. During this time all activities of the MNSTRY will be organised within the public contexts of Forest, and developed as an open invitation to the neighbourhood and passers-by. During the workshop the time score of the MNSTRY will bit by bit start to change: the original 'monastic' score will be taken over by the members of the community, who will start to decide on what there is to be done, what we will spend our shared time on, and what is it that is needed today, here, and for whom.
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Unfortunately we no longer have applications. Both programs: the Postgraduate as well as Research Center have come to an end due to the decision of the ministry of education to stop financing a.pass. At the moment we look into new plans for the future. More news soon on our website.

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