Glossary of Common Knowledge

Beyond the conventional usage of the language in contemporary art

A list of terms associated with six referential fields, as proposed by a number of narrators in the course of several seminars, to negotiate various positions, contexts and local narratives about contemporary art referential fields. The aim of proposing six referential fields (historicization, subjectivization, geopolitics, constituencies, commons, and other-institutionality) is to meet the need for discussions that can address various localities and temporalities. Contemporary art contains a variety of social, historical, cultural and political references that exist as referential fields outside the focal ideas, concepts, and artworks themselves. These references also condition the form and practice of artistic production.

Constituencies are plural; they grow, develop, change, mutate, hybridize, overlap, separate, cluster, recombine and re-align. Constituencies are always in flux, depending for their existence upon their relationship to one another. As such constituencies are never the givens - constituency itself is always something to be struggled over and negotiated. Constituencies also provide both the tools for self-production and the toolkits for self-understanding; they hold within themselves the possibility of change, transgression, re-imagination, and re-articulation. Constituencies are neither reducible to ‘publics’ nor are they self-identical with ‘counter-public spheres’; instead they demand to be recognized as the porous, mutable and protean basis for whatever remains of, or cans still be imagined, as a self-determined democracy.

Within the cultural sphere, it could now be argued that constituencies provide the building blocks for museums, galleries and equivalent ‘public’ institutions to re-imagine their role, function, and positions within the production of new forms citizenship. Whilst it is commonly accepted that alter- institutionality must be based on a fundamental shift away from a hierarchical, top-down and ‘broadcast’ based models of knowledge dissemination, the question remains of how such institutions can begin to operate dialectically as constituencies themselves. Furthermore, it could also be asked how such constituency thinking would enable museums and galleries to re-occupy and re-use those very discourses of alterity, specificity, autonomy and self-determination which have, themselves, become colonized by the logics and discourses of global economic neoliberalism.

Curated by Zdenka Badovinac (MG+MSUM), John Byrne (Liverpool John Moores University), Bojana Piškur (MG+MSUM).