“If a space has to be modified to enable you to participate, it is not just [harder] for you to participate; your participation is deemed disruptive. You stop how things usually flow… Trying not to cause disruption might require discarding parts of yourself, parts of your history, such as [what] you cannot say… Histories come in with who comes in.”

Sara Ahmed, ‘Institutional As Usual,’ Feminist Killjoys (2017)

Decolonial Hacker critically examines cultural institutions, their alliances, interests and behaviour. Born of a desire to entrench more consistent and collective engagement with institutional critique, Decolonial Hacker operates through a web browser extension that “hacks” institutions’ URLs with commissioned criticism, and an online platform that archives these texts. The extension activates when a user logs onto an institution’s website, dissolving their webpage to reveal an article that analyses certain problematics of that place informed by decolonial politics at large—for instance, pillaged colonial objects, funding sources and labour conditions.

By intervening in the digital territory of institutions and building a dedicated space where discussions about their actions can exist, we hope for more people to actively imagine and posit better alternatives for institutional governance. Here, at the beginning, it’s difficult to be doctrinal as to what Decolonial Hacker will do in its lifetime, for we are certainly open to deviations along the way. Decolonial Hacker is at its core a community driven initiative, and we aspire to join the growing chorus of people acting and thinking in good faith to conceive of what a “better institution” might look like, in an industry that is constantly reproducing systems of domination (to paraphrase the words of filmmaker, writer, and theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha).

Many advocate for the annihilation of cultural institutions in their present form, or rather, invoke an Afropessimist logic to pave the fabled alternative: destruction as an act of creation. Others may reject this negation and take a reformist stance that detoxifies the institutional body and infuses it, instead, with different kinds of corrective politics. There are others, too, whose alignments are more akin to a compromise between these camps, which is perhaps the clearest way one might locate the starting position of Decolonial Hacker. In other words, we see the idea of an “annihilated institution” as aspirational, while remaining conscious of, and receptive to, the various hurdles that stand in the way of this. In other words, we aren’t interested in defending arguments in favour of the fundamental existence of institutions, nor do we seek their return to a “state of innocence.” Our contributors might help us enunciate, nuance, and sublimate the distance between destruction and reformation, both of which are, nevertheless, products of a generative discontent with places bestowed the responsibility of representing “culture.”

As Decolonial Hacker’s founding editor, I have wondered whether this project is worth embarking on at all—that is, whether this project is but a mere reflection of some elemental naivety for a “better world.” But is there dignity in resignation? In a time where so many reactionaries are afflicted by, and platformed for, some kind of fashionable jadedness or fatalism with our institutions writ large, it appears more noble to seize the purported impossibility of change and work toward a foundational shift. Who will shoulder this burden? The old adage “if not us, then who” only feels trite here because it’s true. And indeed, herein lies an act of doing, one in pursuit of that something else along the way.

Download the extension for Google Chrome here, and for Firefox here.

Decolonial Hacker is now accepting pitches for texts – on any cultural institution in the world – between 2000–3000 words for the first publication period between now and September 2021. The fee for each text is $500AUD funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. Please submit pitches to eugene@decolonialhacker.org by 2 April 2021. If possible, please include a writing sample.

Decolonial Hacker is made possible by the indefatigable efforts of visual designer and web developer Joan Shin, and developer Caspian Baska. I owe Joan and Caspian my deepest thanks for their ongoing spiritedness, collaboration and work. I must thank Sanja Grozdanić, Miranda Samuels, Emerald Dunn Frost and Kai Wasikowski, who have been so generous in sharing their intelligence and kindness to make this project feel all the more viable. I am grateful to Soo-Min Shim, Jazz Money, Naomi Riddle, Michael Fitzgerald and Lisa Long for their friendship in all steps of this project. And finally, Decolonial Hacker owes thanks to numerous peers for their sharp and thorough feedback on the user experience and design.

No Dignity in Resignation
00:00 - 00:00
15 March 2021
Editorial by Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung

Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung is a writer, cultural worker, and founding editor of Decolonial Hacker. In 2023, he was the Asymmetry Curatorial Fellow at Whitechapel Gallery, London, where he curated the exhibition Anna Mendelssohn: Speak, Poetess. Eugene has been a curator-in-residence at Delfina Foundation, and was previously part of the curatorial and public program teams at the Julia Stoschek Foundation and documenta fifteen, respectively. In 2021, he won the International Award for Art Criticism (IAAC). Eugene holds degrees in art history, gender studies, and law from the University of Sydney.