Call for papers | esse arts + opinions

Call for papers


Send your text in US letter format (doc, docx, or rtf) to, before January 10, 2021 (feature (Re)seeing Painting). Please include a short biography (35-45 words), an abstract of the text (80-100 words), as well as postal and email addresses. We also welcome submissions (reviews, essays, analyses of contemporary art issues) not related to a particular theme (annual deadlines: September 1, January 10, and April 1). An acknowledgement of receipt will be sent within 7 days of the deadline. If you have not been notified, please contact us to ensure your text has been received.

No. 104: Feature Collectives
Before September 1, 2021

In recent years, collective art making seems to have soared, attracting a keen interest that inevitably involves new ways of envisioning the creative act. As demonstrated by the Indonesian group Ruangrupa, which was selected to curate the next documenta, collectives blur the boundaries between artwork and exhibition, between art, research, and activism. They offer shared spaces, processes, and occasions to collaborate through forms that reinvent art practices and reconsider interactions in a world traumatized by social distancing.

Group creation is obviously not a new phenomenon. By joining the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, Bauhaus, Fluxus, and conceptual art, artists have been decompartmentalizing art and life for a long time through material and architectural forms, events, performances, and happenings developed and carried out collectively. Motivated by a series of utopias, from the investigations into the revolutionary potential of aesthetics by avant-garde artists to the poststructuralist aspirations of post-May 68 counterculture movements, collectives have established political and often radical communities around art creation.

More than a century of cooperative practices has assembled a reservoir of models, issues, and ideas that are now being re-examined by increasingly diverse collectives not only of artists, designers, and architects, but also of curators, activists, theorists, and scholars. Given the urgent need to act, in a world where a state of emergency has become permanent, laboratories of social action, interdisciplinary research groups, and international discussion forums are forming on the margins of the art field. They value improvisation, spontaneity, autonomy, flexibility, innovation, and utility, which may bring them closer to post-Fordist work for which the artist had been established as the absolute model.

Rejecting all disciplinary distinctions, these progressive think tanks are able to invent alternative spaces that combine knowledge, expertise, and methodologies. By incorporating experimental social structures, considered to be regions of exchange between expertise and lived experience, art is decentralized and becomes one resource among many in these collectives. The techniques of putting things in relation to and in combination with one another, the performativity of speech and gesture, the potential of fiction and the imagination, as well as an interest in methods and knowledge dismissed by science are just some of the art resources mobilized by these groups. Their skills serve to establish reciprocity between art, the university, and activism, which is focused on concretely solving social, environmental, diplomatic, scientific, or technological problems.

At a time when the effort of inclusion seems more urgent than ever, recently formed collectives are reinventing the common. Collaboration also encourages dialogue, problematizes power relations in institutions, occupies marginal spaces, and reallocates roles and responsibilities. Embodying the intersectionality of social struggle, these groups do not aim only to share costs or break down isolation. They engage alternative, more horizontal, less hierarchical forms of being together, aiming for an equal division of tasks, consensus-based decision-making, a sense of belonging, and the free movement of interests, ideas, and affects. The radically democratic forms of cooperation and ethical co-activities of certain collectives can also refer to practices of commoning, in which individualism and private property are replaced by a structure of social interaction and the communal management of resources, which puts emphasis on mutual aid and sharing for the benefit of the many.

For this issue, Esse arts + opinions invites writers to reflect on collectives of artists, theorists, curators, scholars, and activists as well as on collaborative contemporary art practices. What organizational structures do collectives prefer? What socioeconomic models do they embrace? How are they reconsidering transdisciplinarity in art today? Does the shared authorship of these groups succeed in transcending the figure of the genius artist (a bourgeois, white, heterosexual man)? What characterizes works created by a group? What do these works critique? Do they succeed in making us aware of constructed absences and silences? Could they represent the emergence of new communal forms of living?

No. 105: New New Age
Before January 10, 2022

Like mischievous ghosts or intractable supernatural forces, occult beliefs—witchcraft, fortune-telling, astrology, magic, alchemy—have constantly resurfaced from time to time to haunt the history of humanity. Figuring, in turn, as the enemy of Christianity, a stumbling block for Kantian logic, or a clear threat to the patriarchy (witches being powerful “evil” figures largely appropriated by feminists), this sporadic infatuation with the mystical and its countless varieties seems to be a tangible symptom of gnawing fatigue with the established order and hegemonic thought systems. Again today, a renewed interest in mysticism and the parallel forms of agency and power that it suggests reflect a general political inertia. From “homemade” hormonal concoctions to anti-speciesist animist practices, the many strategies offered by this “new New Age,” as we might be tempted to label it in homage to the Western countercultural movement of the 1970s, responds to the pressing need to move beyond the neoliberalism that is killing, inch by inch, our planet and the relationalities that play out in it. But more than a simple esoteric response, the existence of occult—or theoretically inexplicable—forces now seems to be endorsed by science itself, as borne out by the recent discovery of quantum mechanics and almost “magical” states of matter, throwing the door wide open to quantum mysticism! If the occult is both attractive and frightening, it is because it cannot be subjugated, because it constantly evades common sense.

Women, Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, persons with disabilities, and sexual minorities have always been persecuted for their supposed “spontaneous” mystical devotion, in a world that nevertheless constantly appropriates their spiritual practices and material culture. Thanks to their knowledge, or to their otherwise sensitive interpretations of the world, they can apprehend—and not master—alternative forms of living together that evade capture by welfare and “personal growth” capitalism. Mobilizing fertile and innovative exchanges between ancestral knowledge and technologies, between nature and culture, between living and non-living, these “heretics” enable us today to respond appropriately—or at least to respond in other ways—to social, climatic, or economic crises by trading rigidity and the general status quo for a reparative and benevolent holistic approach capable of re-enchanting the world.

Artists are far from impervious to this bewitching appeal, and they also propose alternative ways (discursive, formal, political, technical) to come into contact with reality (or realities), conjuring invisible and evanescent forces with which to grab onto and understand experiences that are otherwise quite tangible. The disciplinary hybridity of this new New Age, which encompasses philosophy, psychology, science, ecology, religion, and the arts, brings to the surface an ardent desire for connection with—love for and from—the world and the many entities (bacteria, spores, hormones, water, stars, materials) that inhabit and exemplify it.

A fundamental figure in these interdisciplinary meldings and a consummate iconoclastic icon for many of today’s artists, the witch is also an essential source of inspiration. Healer, shaman, alchemist, herbalist, magician, and sibyl, the witch calls for decolonialization of knowledge and spirituality, the shattering of patriarchy and capitalism, a close affinity with nature and the cosmos, and the blending of arts and crafts, of politics and magic. Far from being the only avatar for the new New Age, the witch is accompanied by a multitude of real and imaginary entities, queer methodologies, anti-speciesist positions, and hybrid forms of creation that are always expanding the frontiers of art. In light of the perspectives opened by the new New Age, this thematic section explores how multifarious approaches to the occult and spirituality 2.0 intersect with contemporary art practices.



1. Published by Les éditions Esse, Esse arts + opinionsis a bilingual magazine focused mainly on contemporary art and multidisciplinary practices. Specializing in essays on issues in art today, the magazine publishes critical analyses that address art in relation to its context. Each issue contains a thematic section, portfolios of artworks, articles critiquing the international culture scene, and reviews of exhibitions, events, and publications. The platform also offers articles on contemporary art and an archive of previous issues of Esse.

2. Submissions are accepted three times a year: January 10, April 1 and September 1. The texts can be submitted for one of the following 3 sections:
Feature: essays between 1,500 and 2,000 words. The guideline regarding the theme is available online 4 to 6 months prior to the deadline:
Articles: essays, articles or interviews between 1,250 and 2,000 words (including notes).
Reviews: reviews of exhibitions, events or publications (maximum 500 words, without footnotes, or 950 words, with one or two footnotes maximum). You can find guidelines for reviews here:

3. With the exception of the expressed consent of Les éditions Esse, the writer agrees to submit a previously unpublished, original text.

4. All articles are reviewed by the Editorial Board, which reserves the right to accept or refuse a submitted article. Selection criteria are based on the quality of the analyze and writing, the relevance of the text in the issue (in regards to the theme) and on the relevance of the chosen artworks and artists. Selection of articles may take up to 6 weeks after submission by the writer. The Board’s decision is final. A refused text will not be re-evaluated.

5. With the exception of the expressed consent of the Board, the Board does not consider articles that may represent a potential conflict of interest between the writer and the content of the article (i.e., a text written by the curator of an exhibition).

6. The writers whose pieces are selected commit to format their text according to the typographic standards of Esse, following the guidelines sent to them with the publishing contract.

7. With the respect to the vision and style of the writer, the Board reserves the right to ask for corrections and modifications to be made to ensure overall clarity, and coherence of an article.

8. Conditionally accepted articles will be up for discussion between the writer and the Board.

If changes are requested by the Board, the writer will have 15 (fifteen) days to carry these out.

9. All costs of typographical correction of the author's text shall be borne by Esse except the author's corrections, if applicable, which shall be borne by the author.

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