Disenabling Spaces

Initiated in the spring of 2021, Disenabling Spaces was initiated as a series of discursive retreats aimed at creating a protocol that can provide a framework for cultural institutions to deal with allegations of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as develop tools to make art spaces and event sites unwelcoming to predatory behavior and rape culture. The geographical focus of the retreats is regional, and started by primarily considering the experiences of Arab women artists in their home cities and elsewhere. As a first step, Mophradat invited over 250 women artists it has collaborated with in some form during the last five years to take part in an online facilitated discussions to share their experiences of sexual violence within arts communities. The discussion groups appeared to establish a much-needed space for these practitioners to speak freely about their stories, collectively delineate the structural and systemic issues they face, and articulate their needs from cultural institutions and communities alike. In doing so, Mophradat aims to redistribute the power dynamic in how these issues are dealt with, letting the community inform the discourse on sexual violence and propose mechanisms to combat the issues that threaten their practices and lives. 

A protocol is in development for publishing, and will be suggesting a code of conduct to follow in art spaces and relations. Recommendations include designating and training members to be accessible to receive and act on complaints of different forms of abuse and assault in any given organization, offering workshops on nonviolent communication, and other abuses of power to recipients of grants, clearly displaying a code of conduct within collective spaces, and training team members to intervene, negotiate and moderate in tense, risky, or dangerous discussions or situations, from a queer and feminist perspective. In addition to developing these in-house policies, the retreat will continue to question both conscious and unconscious practices of violence in the artworld, aiming to develop active steps to unlearn them and, in parallel, offer alternative approaches to collective wellbeing, while stressing the importance of language, confidentiality, trust, personal space, and privacy.