07.09.2017 - 31.12.2017

Rotterdam Cultural Histories #12: Witte de With; What’s in a name?

In Shared Space, our shared exhibition space on the second floor, TENT and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art alternatingly create presentations on subjects from the history of art and culture in Rotterdam. This edition, which is an initiative by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, is dedicated to the name of the institute.

Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art was recently challenged, through the process of the Cinema Olanda: Platform project by Wendelien van Oldenborgh, to reconsider the legacies of its name. The question that was posed by the Platform’s programmers during preparations for the project, and later through an open letter addressed to the institution, was ‘What does it mean for a white institution to do “critical work” under the moniker Witte de With?’

This edition of Rotterdam Cultural Histories is devoted to a part of this question. It attempts to lay bare the activities of Witte Corneliszoon de With, the motivation behind street-naming in the nineteenth century, and the naming of the institution 27 years ago. It also aims to provide a space for public feedback on the question as to whether Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art should change its name.

The project has finite parameters, running from September – December 2017, and once staged it will be archived both within the institution’s public archive, and made permanently available online on their website, as a record and exposition of the colonial history the name Witte de With is a part of. The name has been long untroubled by this institution, a fact that is symptomatic of a wider national issue regarding the denial and sanitization of colonial histories. This is their first step towards recognition and acknowledgment.

This project has been developed through the input of a cross-departmental team of Witte de With staff members.

Rotterdam Cultural Histories is a collaborative project between TENT and Witte de With that explores our common roots in Rotterdam and articulates meeting points between both of our programs. Rotterdam Cultural Histories is conceived by Defne Ayas (Director Witte de With) and Mariette Dölle (former Artistic Director TENT).