‘Café-com-leite’ is a seemingly inclusive concept that originates from children’s games in Brazil. When kids are playing a game and it happens that another kid wants to join—but this kid does not meet the requirements to play the game at the same level as the others—the kid is then admitted in as ‘café-com-leite’. The kid can play but does not count as a ‘real’ player. This is a simple resource to allow younger kids to join the older ones without compromising the course of the game. The older ones would agree they could join and blink at each other to guarantee everyone knows the status of the new player. This seemingly inclusive expression begins to become more tricky when transferred in the world of grown-ups. Suddenly ‘café-com-leite’ becomes dissociated from the game and the game changes into politics. You can play but you don’t count!
How to address this game when played in the artworld?
Within ‘Cafe-com-leite’ we intend to examine complicity at various intersections of the art world. One of those is the sound of silence by institutions when artists try to complain i.e. to disobey. We are starting a line of research and discussions to develop methods of complaints to call on this hostile practice.
This research is by and for the artists whose work is branded by institutions as ‘inclusivity and care’ but who only get to play as a cafe-com-leite. Together, we want to think about tools to address the gaps between symbolic commitments to diversity and the experience of those who embody diversity. It corresponds with Sara Ahmed’s argument that commitments to diversity are often ‘non-performatives’ that do not bring about what they name.
‘Cafe-com-leite’ is a first attempt to name institutional power and the language of symbolic commitments to diversity in Belgium and to gather methods of complaint with the artists concerned.