Alter Institutionality

This research thread seeks to revitalise the recent discourses and desires for rethinking institutions. It is an ongoing conversation that often starts by exploring the effects of bureaucratisation and normalisation in traditional institutional structures that homogenise research, evaluation procedures, collection and archival policies, exhibitions and audience engagement. Accepting these symptoms, what could be progressive and radical new models for art institutions today?

Considering ambitions, functions and attitudes as well as formats and experiences, every facet of an institution should be open to real transformation. Yet cultural entities have to perform a balancing act, regularly needing to improvise somewhat precariously whilst juggling different, often opposing perspectives.

Institutions today are by their very nature conflicted. They try to deal with being elitist, while wishing to be open; promote and preserve specific cultural artefacts, yet desire to deepen their social orientation; aspire to canonise, despite stating democratic objectivity; work to be socially and politically engaged yet adhere to the crushing logic of neoliberalism; and are obsessed with modernity, yet all the time, they try to imagine the future. Under these conditions, it is urgent for institutions to radically re-examine their role in society and to invent new structures for their constituent parts. Only then will they be able to project social, political and artistic functions with renewed relevance. So, where to begin?

Brexit, New Nationalism, and the New Politics of Migrancy
John Byrne
The role, function, ideological position and real legal (or illegal) status of migrancy has again come under closer scrutiny and the possibility of multiple abuse and/or reuse. Far from a simple noun to denote the positive neoliberal condition of human movement, or a verb to identify the action of this desired movement, migrancy has become, once again, a contradictory symbol of our status, fragility, precarity and provisionality under the present conditions of globalised capital, emergent nationalism and the overt shift towards government as business.
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Solidarity in Arts and Culture. Some cases from the Non-Aligned Movement
Bojana Piškur
Words like solidarity, fraternity, equality, peace, and fight against imperialism, colonialism, and apartheid resonated at the Non-Aligned Movement's summits, at UNESCO seminars on culture, at political rallies around the world, in museums. It seemed as though art and politics were united in their quest to create utopian models adapted to social and political changes. It is no coincidence that experimental museology and concepts such as the integrated museum, the social museum, the living museum, and the museum of the workers were widely discussed in the so-called Global South.
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A Misunderstanding: Ines Doujak's Not Dressed for Conquering / HC 04 Transport and Differences of Scale
Pablo Lafuente
This misunderstanding is, simply, the act of privileging the curatorial and institutional frameworks as the location where meaning is enunciated and articulated in contemporary art. Perhaps this is a curatorial habit (a professional 'class' interest made into a universal concern), perhaps it is a response solicited by the historical privilege assigned to the artist-author as framework, possibly there are other forces at play.
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The Noise of Silence or ¿Por qué no te callas? (Why don't you shut up?)*
Ines Doujak
This censorship of this work constituted a denial of the history which the work explores: the continuum of colonialism from the past to the present, specifically that of Spain in Latin America, and the involvement of Nazis in the sub-continent's era of dictatorships. In Spain, history itself is still repressed. Demanding to be heard, the voices of the dead of the Civil War demanding to be heard were in effect censored by the right wing People's Party government in 2011 when it abolished the Office of Victims of the Civil War and the Dictatorship, which coordinated the exhumation of the remains of those who disappeared.
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Aesthetics of the State? A report on the conference NSK from Kapital to Capital at Moderna galerija, Ljubljana
Nick Aikens
In Slovenia and Eastern Europe, Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) has come to be identified, or over-identified to use Slavoj Žižek's term to describe how NSK positioned itself in relation to state ideology, with the 1980s and the break up of Yugoslavia. Specifically the work, reception and subsequent historicisation of NSK should be considered in the context of the proliferation of alternative culture in former Yugoslavia, the emergence of the concept of civil society and its complex relation to the state.
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Verifica dei poteri
Patricia Falguières
In this age of global neo-liberal redeployment, a redeployment that impacts on everything, including museums and schools, a much more refined analysis of institutions is required than the obsolete critical apparatus, inherited from the "institutional critique" of the 1970s. And that begins with an analysis of the institutional process itself which has always been postponed by previous generations, certain as they were that legal matters could only be a transparent mask of these same power relations.
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On The Recent Events at MACBA
Jorge Ribalta
This text offers a brief analysis of the recent events at MACBA provoked by the unintelligible decision of the current director Bartomeu Marí not to open the exhibition "The Beast and the Sovereign". My point is that what is at stake here is beyond a matter of censorship. Whose are the responsibilities for this institutional crisis?
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Back to the Future. Confessions of the Imperfect: 1848 - 1989 - Today
John Byrne
For the exhibition Confessions of the Imperfect: 1848 – 1989 – Today, curated by Steven ten Thije and Alistair Hudson at the Van Abbemuseum in 2014/ 2015, Ruskin provides a rhetorical figure through which neo-conservative reconstructions of history, as well as neo-liberal reconstructions of work and labour, can be challenged and re-imagined. More specifically, Confessions of the Imperfect re-uses Ruskin's role as an activist in early workers' education movements, or 'Mechanics' Institutes' as they were called, as a means to re-imagine a future in which art could play an integral role in learning and social improvement.
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The Use of History and the Histories of Use: Museum of Arte Útil and Really Useful Knowledge
Nick Aikens
The title of L'Internationale's five year programme The Uses of Art: The Legacy of 1848 and 1989 succinctly marks two areas of inquiry. The first is the question of art's use – from those that make, enact or deploy art to its public and the institutions that mediate it. The second is that of legacy, the remnants of history that remain in the present. These two areas address the fundamental questions of art's relationship to the world and how we meaningfully configure history.
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Art as Action
Victoria Lynn, Nikos Papastergiadis
An exhibition entitled Art as a Verb at Monash University Museum of Art recently considered the many ways in which contemporary art is engaged with action. The exhibition presented the opportunity to reflect on a set of verbs that have arisen in the context of the protests surrounding the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014: 'act', 'boycott', 'withdraw', 'protest'.
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When the Arrivant Presents Itself
Athena Athanasiou
A visual trace from a "book bloc", the mode of street action in which protesters marched wearing mock books as shields in the streets of Rome, London, and other cities in 2010, in defence of public universities and libraries, epitomises the spirit, or the spectre, of our time: a policeman raises his baton against a protester who carries a book sign of Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx. The list of the books that have been seen in the affective alliances of the book bloc include: Theodor W. Adorno's Negative Dialectics, Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto, and many other titles denoting a long chain of critical literatures and epistemologies.
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