Esma Moukhtar studied philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and graduated with a Master’s thesis on Hannah Arendt and other thinkers on the changing notions of identity in the private and public sphere. Since then she has written, mostly about art for various publications, catalogues and other media. She has lectured in art history, theory, philosophy and research at the Koninklijke Academie voor Kunst en Vormgeving Den Bosch, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, and still teaches at the WdKA, in the department of (De)Fine arts and Critical Studies. In her spare time, she writes and works on a voluntary basis as a curator/editor of programmes for Perdu, a space for experimental poetry, lectures and performances in Amsterdam. In 2017 she did research and wrote on inclusive art education for the WdKA Makes a Difference project and reader at the WdKA.
Branch of knowledge, subject:
Research tutor); writing and zine-making in the major of (De)Fine Arts; theory, read-ins & symposium in the Autonomous Practices for fourth-year students of Critical Studies, and some lecturing in practice programmes.
What inspires you?
Recently, I read the Dark Mountain Project's Manifesto Uncivilisation. It is already ten years old but anyway, I immediately wanted to read and discuss it with others, because it so radically tries to clash with how we think about the world and us in it. What I got from this text (also published online) is that we need to unlearn about everything from what we consider as ‘civilisation’ and to relearn and reimagine ‘uncivil’ ways of dealing with each other, with other animals and our surroundings. And that we need artists who make new stories, with words and imagery, to replace the old. But how then?
How can we stimulate our imagination to think beyond privileged, anthropocentric, neoliberal capitalist goals and how can we work more collectively without separating ourselves from what we call ‘nature’? Since having read the manifesto I have seen more and more examples of people actually doing this already…
We need artists who make new stories, with words and imagery, to replace the old.
What is your USP as a tutor?
I don’t sell. Often puzzled about what to know, think or do, I sometimes can still feel like a student. Only having lived and studied longer and by sharing what I learned or just discovered, I happen to tell and give them things somehow. I am not teaching anyone what to think (I hope) but rather making them feel more at home in how they reflect, referring to various ideas or visions. And I assume that it will one way or another affect and stimulate their mind and creative process.
What is your dream/goal as a tutor?
I try to build something up, to be able to pass ideas on, to really connect to students and learn from them as well. It is not all that much about this or that particular knowledge but more a way of knowing, thinking and doing I hope will stick: a certain attitude and feeling that you can do anything as long as you keep curiously and critically questioning what you are doing and why in a larger context.
Name one item from your bucket list?
No list, but I do have a book or two that I want to publish one day.
Name a true pioneer.
I don’t know what a true pioneer is, let alone who is one, besides, most work gets done by collective effort. But, for her writing and working in science and philosophy in a non-binary and playful way, for widening our perception of what subjects and non-human species are and how interrelated they function, I now think of Donna Haraway, of whom I read her Cyborg Manifesto long ago and who now is more into speciesism. I could also mention an intersectional collective working under the name of Xenofeminism - they have a great manifesto too.
Header: Esma speaks during Collapsology symposium, photography Florian Cramer.