Who are we?

Notes on Hapticity Collective comprises Elena Kostenko-Lefebvre, Karolina Rupp, Hannah Dawn Henderson and Kees van Leeuwen. We work in collaboration with other artists, curators and initiatives, both based locally in The Netherlands and further afield. Frequent collaborators include Yindi Chen (CN/USA), Alexandre Richardeau (FR), and PrintRoom (NL).

Our collective traces its origins back to 2017, when artists Elena Kostenko-Lefebvre and Karolina Rupp began hosting weekly forums in their shared studio in Leiden, The Netherlands. These forums were orientated around the overlaps that can be found between between artistic, philosophical and anthropological enquiries. The programming was left purposefully nebulous — having been born from the desire to support non-hierarchal, non-ideological, cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange. Any attendee was free to propose and organise a subsequent presentation — a lecture, performance, screening, or even a pop-up exhibition.

This approach reaped an eclectic audience and programme. The materiality of friendship itself became a medium for mutual learning and questioning.

The beginning of 2020 saw us underway with preparations for a group exhibition, to be presented in The Hague. Our opening was set for May 2020; however, for all the contingencies we’d anticipated, we hadn’t considered the prospect of a global pandemic. Our last in-person meeting in mid-March 2020 was punctuated by a government announcement: the first national lockdown. We parted ways without our typical embraces. We became fragmented — geographically, at least, and perhaps also in the sense of the occasional glitch of our respective webcams, struggling with overburdened broadband connections.

As the weeks passed, we found ourselves confronted by the understanding that our project had been marked by the pandemic, necessitating that we take time to examine such an impact, integrating the realisations, challenges, and ultimately the sensibilities it presents to us.

As such, we decided to indefinitely postpone our original exhibition. At the same time, however, we found ourselves confronted by the sheer relevancy of our exhibition’s title, which we subsequently adopted as the name of our collective efforts: Notes on Hapticity. Not only the theme of hapticity, but also the notion of notes — the implication thinking, observing, annotating, existing in a periphery space like the bottom of the page or along the margin. We take notes when we are trying to make sense of something, and through such an act one is also effectively preserving that very something. In this regard, the prospect of the exhibition had served as a vehicle for us to preserve our contact with one another, as well as a hopeful gaze towards the future in the midst of upheaval. For this reason, letting go of a concrete date for the exhibition initially seemed crushing, given that this date had also signified a return to our ordinary routine — namely, being able to once again gather in the same space. However, on the foundation of this sense of loss, we began to reflect on how our note-taking can yet still persevere and lead us through these unstable times, much like how the exchange of letters between distant lovers, friends and peers is a means of keeping an idea(l) alive.

In the spirit of our origins, we continue to operate in a manner that is distinctly fluid and embracing of transition and adaption. Strictly speaking, there are no fixed positions in our operating structure — rather, we organise ourself as according to the activity at hand. In much the manner of respiration, we expand, contract, adapt to different rhythms, and perpetuate ourselves through an organic process.

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