referential fields

Note: The compilation of the terms on this website resulted from discussions in six seminars at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, +MSUM in Ljubljana (2014–2019) and one seminar at each of the following institutions: Liverpool John Moores University (2016), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid (2020), Valand Academy in Gothenburg (2021) and Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2022). Each seminar is dedicated to one of six referential fields.


The referential fields (Historicisation, Subjectivisation, Geopolitics I, Geopolitics IIConstituencies, Constituencies IICommons, Commons/Solidarity and Other Institutionality) met the need for discussions that addressed various localities and temporalities. Contemporary art contains a variety of social, historical, cultural and political references that exist as referential fields outside the focal ideas, concepts, and artworks themselves. These references also condition the form and practice of artistic production. Since each narrator spoke from a particular point of view connected to their local historical and cultural conditions, choosing the ways in which they direct themselves to the world, thus each term contains extratextual fields of reference, which are made visible to disrupt the existing dominant discourse in contemporary art. As a consequence, both the structures and semantics of these fields are subject to certain deformations. Each term may be connected to any other in an unpredicted manner, often surpassing cultural and geopolitical borders to form new contexts, which nevertheless include, and depend on, the very function these fields have within the structure of the dominant art world. This function provides the background against which the restructuring may take place.


One of the most significant processes undertaken by the method proposed by the Glossary of Common Knowledge is a shift from the act of selection to the act of combination, resulting in an intratextual crossing of cultural boundaries. This may be especially visible in a proposition of artistic neologisms (creleasure, re-dit-en-un-in-(a)-learning, mOther(ness)), neologisms from critical theory (heterochronia, occidentosis, new extractivism, post-exhibitionary), culture-specific terms (kapwa, ñande/ore, travesti, ruåttvuõttâd, şkl). Throughout this process, the lexical meaning of a particular existing word also fades out and a new meaning fades in, although without the loss of the original meaning. Another level of relationships is to be seen in the organisation of specific semantic demarcations within the text, which give rise to intratextual fields of reference. One of the most noticeable shifts from the beginning of the Glossary's seminars in 2014 until 2022 was a clear need to address the growing urgency of climate change – with terms such as air travel, being ecological, Earth, ecofeminism and rewilding, and to stress the anthropogenic colonial origin of the cataclysmic events, moreover, to entangle this continuous crisis through troubled thinking, for example in disappointment, choice, shipwrecks, Southern constellation, the crowd of the dead or After, and propose not to resign but to raise fists, revolt, use emancipatory propaganda and make a firm anti-fascist stand. The commons/solidarity and subjectivisation 2 seminars were also signified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications it had on escalating power struggles and injustices. Many speak of fragility while pointing to the structural violence of the existing social, political and economic contest in terms such as care is conflictual, direct action, decommodification, empathy, hapticality, interdependance, lucid interval, performance of care, solidarity and vulnerability and so on.


The various clusters of words that are interconnected, whether they are words with surpassed meanings or semantic demarcations transgressed by the narrative, are inseparably linked. They inscribe themselves into one another, every word becomes dialogic, and every intratextual semantic field is doubled by another. Through this multi-voiced discourse, every utterance carries something else in its wake, and thus the acts of combination unfold a space between them. What is said ceases to mean itself, so that what is not said can thus gain presence. The multiple meanings of words that depend on the cultural, social and temporal environments they emerge from and are used within are thus joined together in an unfamiliar way, and related through the different influences they have upon one another.


This semantic inplay happens on this webpage with hyperlinking and we've followed a similar logic in the printed versions of the glossary using the age-old glossary pointer  



Glossary of Common Knowledge, Volume 1 was curated by Zdenka Badovinac, Bojana Piškur and Jesús Carrillo. The book was edited by Ida Hiršenfelder, and published by Moderna galerija.

ISBN 978-961-206-132-6


Glossary of Common Knowledge, Volume 2 was curated by Zdenka BadovinacIda HiršenfelderBojana Piškur and Jesús Carrillo. The book was edited by Ida Hiršenfelder, and published by Moderna galerija.

ISBN 978-961-206-153-1