The Uses of Art (UoA) proposes new readings of European art history for the broader public. This new perspective on the past is anchored in the long history of civil society, tracing it back to the civic revolutions of 1848 through wars and social changes up to the revolutions of 1989, and then on to the economic crises of today. The projects planned by the members of L'Internationale can be divided into those that reflect on the formation of civil society in the mid-19th century from today's perspective and explore the role of art in democratic emergence; those that revisit the 1980s and focus on the relation between artistic experiment and the beginnings of a trans-European civil society; and finally, those that think through the future possibilities of European society based on common cultural references and transnational identities.
The organisation of exhibitions, symposia, publications, education programmes and staff exchanges, will culminate with simultaneous exhibitions across Europe. This will generate a content-driven, sustainable form of collaboration in the museum field that will ensure new forms of transnational access; both physical and digital; as well as intercultural dialogue on society and visual art, and the sharing of professional skills and knowledge about collections and artistic projects.
This was the first project organised within the framework of L'Internationale, a transnational organisation founded in 2009 in order to instigate new narratives, latitudes and chronologies of the art history of the second half of the twentieth century, and to encourage collaborations among museums and archives. The founding partners of L'Internationale were the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana; the Július Koller Society, Bratislava; the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, MACBA, Barcelona, the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerpen. The first step of the long-term collaboration was this two-year project with the title 1957–1986. Art from the Decline of Modernism to the Rise of Globalisation from October 2010 to October 2012.
Each institution has shown that they are repeatedly concerned to negotiate different forms of local knowledge and experience with the central art historical narrative written in one or two western political/economic capitals. This initiative enabled the institutions to more effectively connect to their own stories together in new rhizomatic ways and to reconsider internationalism and translocalism as more sensitive measures of art and its relation to society.
The intention of L'Internationale as a new transinstitutional organization of five European museums and archives was a long-term collaboration based on collective use of their collections and archives. One of the goals was to challenge the usual master narratives of art and investigate local to local comparisons and differences. In place of the global, hegemonic ambitions of the largest contemporary art institutions, L'internationale proposed collaboration between museums, each with its specific collection focus and history, as a way to instigate transnational, cultural narratives in plural.
The concrete aims of L'Internationale were to develop common platforms and methodologies for presentation, education and research dealing with the full range of museological fields including collections, archives, publications, public mediation and conservation. The plan anticipated a long-term cooperation that concentrated on replacing the institutional spectacle with a sense of persistent presence and offered the museums' constituencies regular connections between specific contexts.
In 2011 a part of the Arteast Collection 2000+ was presented at the MACBA as a Museum of Parallel Narratives exhibition, testing the hypothesis, and a first exercise of alternative relational taxonomies was made through a reflective cooperation of the different institutions in Museum of Affects in MSUM. The following year the new take was realised on a grand scale through Spirits of Internationalism, a mapping of the period based upon the six collections, presented at the M KHA and Van Abbemuseum. This kind of decentred perspective was to become ever more international standard practice in the following years.