“Artists’ Exhibitions”: The Museum Exhibition as Medium for Contemporary Art Practice
"Babeș-Bolyai" University Cluj-Napoca, Romania
This paper explores contemporary artists’ engagement with museums, as both subject and medium of their practice, focusing on exhibitions that take shape as the result of artists’ interventions within the museum. Referred to as „para-museums” (Nora Sternfeld, 2017), „museum interventions” (James Putnam, 2009), „artworks” (Fred Wilson, 1994) or „artist’s museums” (Harald Szeemann, 1972), these practices should be understood within the context of the blurring of boundaries between artistic and curatorial practice and the phenomenon of the artist-curator. Moreover, they are rooted in the 1970s trend of artist’s personal museums, and institutional critique. Drawing on recent theorization of the aesthetic medium in contemporary art practice – Rosalind Krauss’s reconception of the medium as paradigm (2011), Juliane Rebentisch’s concept of “intermediality” (2003) and Thierry de Duve’s concept of “multimediality” (1993) – we analyze the conditions under which museum exhibitions are considered artworks, and the museum, a medium in itself. We advance the exhibition apparatus and the museological methodology (the process of selection, design, display, arrangement, presentation, classification, hierarchization, labelling) as support, both material and as a paradigm or logic, in the artistic practice of Marcel Broodthaers.
At The Intersection Of Spatial And Conceptual Change. A Case Study Of The Amos Rex Museum Project.
Tampere University, Finland
Tracing the museum project of Amos Rex, the newly inaugurated art museum in the city centre of Helsinki, this paper offers a spatially driven theoretical perspective of how to examine processes of change in art organisations and more generally in art worlds. The Amos Rex project produced not only a new museum building, but brought along with it also a renewed museum concept. It expanded the former emphasis on experimental contemporary art of its predecessor, Amos Anderson Museum, to cover “visual culture” in all its multitude. The paper focuses on this dual process: how the space and the conceptual renewal of the museum intertwined and mediated each other during the project. The paper draws on the recent discussions of imagined futures: the impact that imagining possible future scenarios have for orienting our actions in the present (Mische 2009; 2014; Eliasoph & Tavory 2013; Beckert 2016; Tavory 2018). Following Ann Mische (2014) I approach the museum project as “a site of hyper-projectivity” – as an arena of “heightened, future-oriented public debate”. As such it presents future aspirations in an explicit and conscious form. The study demonstrates how in the project these very ideas about future operations are developed in relation to the ideas about space, location and different materialities. In this sense, the building is not only an empty platform, but also an active counterpart on re-thinking the museum conceptually. The case study is based on expert interviews, media articles and documents.
Meditated Seeing: Taking Photographs of Artworks in Art Museums
Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
Photographic recording has fabricated contemporary experience—everyday and extraordinary. When brought into the art museum space, this photographic perception challenges the institution which historically has attempted to keep popular forms of seeing outside its doors. How do art museums now accommodate both types of seeing—the photographic and the direct? How does the performance of the first type configure the visitor’s encounter with the artwork? Visitor photography is treated in this research as a potentially destabilising factor which re-shapes both the art museum as an experiential space and the visitor’s relations with the exhibited artwork. To explore this topic, ethnographic observation at four London-based art museums and galleries—complemented by that made in other museums in various cities and countries—and interviewing with both museum professionals—curators, educators, visitor experience managers, and invigilators—as well as visitors were conducted. On the one hand, while the curatorial plans still do not usually take the photographic seeing into consideration, visitors’ demand for picture-taking is acknowledged by many art museums by loosening their photography policies. Visitor photography is thus gradually normalised. On the other hand, picture-taking—by occupying more of the attention and time of visitors and thus replacing to some degree direct-seeing—can be seen as a popularly performed ritual through which visitors establish their connection with the artworks and the museums. It is suggested that this altered dynamic between art museums, artworks, and visitors requires art museums to rethink exhibitionary design and their roles as art mediators.
Seeing like a Museum. Art Museums‘ Cognitive Map of Organizational Ecologies and Conflicting Institutional Goals.
University of Lucerne, Switzerland
How do public art museums meet multiple demands in times of a globalized art world, neoliberal cultural politics, and heterogenic audiences? Based on interviews with high-ranking museum professionals in Germany and Austria from 2015-2018, I show how the most important institution for collecting and exhibiting fine art navigates in a complex landscape of artists, academics, cultural politics, visitors, media, and private sponsors – each with particular interests in the museum. To understand multiple and partially contradicting practices of museums, I argue for reconstructing the museums' perspective in form of a cognitive map of these dynamic organizational ecologies.
My study refers to concepts of “conflicting pressures” (V. Alexander) and “tension of missions” (V. Zolberg) in modern museums of art. I critically add nuanced insights into museum’s strategies for maintaining aesthetic and professional evaluative criteria for fine arts (P. Bourdieu, N. Luhmann) in times of neoliberalization, “instrumentalisation” and “commodification” (C. Gray), or contamination of the art world by “hostile worlds” (O. Velthuis) through particularistic market interests or an indicator-driven bureaucracy.
My research design is based on constructivist organizational theory (K. Weick, N. Luhmann) and applies sociological concepts regarding (e)valuations (M. Lamont), comparisons (B. Heintz), and quantification (T. Porter). My findings show how museums gather, process and communicate different data in different form (language, numbers, visualizations) to meet own professional goals as well as external demands by different environments. I argue that these strategies are shaped by organizational constructions of these environments, which allow following professional art world logics without sacrificing the museum's cultural mission for economic or political profits.