On a desk of the private study collection of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, an old stuffed parrot guards a vast ornithology collection. An excited young scientist reads a story on the origins of the desiccated animal for the purpose of entertaining a group of visitors: it may have been the last “speaker” of a dead Indigenous language from colonial Venezuela, or a German prince’s precious gift to the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. There is no clear understanding which of these versions, if any, might be true.
Never Spoken Again: Rogue Stories of Science and Collections is a traveling exhibition that reflects on the birth of modern collections, the art institutions that sustain them and their contingent origin stories. Curated by Colombian curator David Ayala-Alfonso, an alumnus of ICI’s Curatorial Intensive, the exhibition is part of ICI’s new series of programs, pioneered with the support of the Hartfield Foundation, aimed at championing emergent curatorial voices by providing opportunities to alumni of ICI’s Curatorial Intensive. The exhibition was selected from among 66 proposals submitted by Curatorial Intensive alumni from over 30 countries.
Considering how institutional collections organize our lives, Never Spoken Again brings together artists whose works open up a critique of material culture, iconography, and political ecologies. These practices examine not only the collected objects and the systems of distribution that facilitate their circulation but also the disciplines and subjects of study that they trade in.
Variously, the works shed light on myths, simulations, fake currencies, war games, and the slow violence of systematic racism that historically underpin collecting practices. Together they open the field for considering our agency in how our histories and futures may be constituted otherwise.
Artists: Morehshin Allahyari, Maria Thereza Alves, François Bucher, Giuseppe Campuzano, Alia Farid, Sofia de Grenade, Laura Huertas Millán, Ulrik López, Carlos Motta, Erkan Öznur, David Peña Lopera, Michael Rakowitz, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Reyes Santiago Rojas, Daniel R. Small, and Felipe Steinberg.
Never Spoken Again: Rogue Stories of Science and Collections is a traveling exhibition curated by David Ayala-Alfonso and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI). It is the result of a new series of programs, pioneered with the support of the Hartfield Foundation, aimed at providing opportunities to alumni of ICI’s Curatorial Intensive as they move through the stages of their career, and reflecting ICI’s commitment to fostering and championing new curatorial voices who will shape the future of the field. Never Spoken Again is made possible with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum. Additional support for Erkan Öznur’s participation is provided by SAHA.