Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is to be done?

There's a certain kind of bravery in the risk of the Museum to allow us to go through the skeletons in its closet, and it was this opportunity that initially drew me.

I heard a question that sort of said: What is to be done? Or: Where do we go from here?

Well, the now/here projects are by their nature open ended (or, rather, unfinished). Actually, some of what I really wanted to bring up was a thorough assessment of the projects. I'm not sure that a lot of them came out as planned, and some of them might have downright failed. And it would have been a great part of our work process to bring our failings to light. And yes, sure we uncovered holes in the fabric. But we didn't have enough time and material to patch all these holes up.

And there was a large degree of public participation, and a not so conventional idea of audience, particularly if you frame the projects (as Buen suggests) within a performative aspect - under the banner of investigating/critiquing a museum. But what happens when you bring these back to the museum (as documents), is it subsumed back into the system it's been trying to investigate/critique? Does it become "artefactual", dead signifiers, in a place deemed safe, clinical and separated from the actual world, specifically the actual world just outside the museum's door? I see no conflict, because the process informing the projects already had the exhibition in mind. They weren't institutional critique in the way that it is destructive, antithetical, but more a series of questions, proposals, and considerations brought into attention. The exhibition to us was not the end product, but documentation of process and questions posed between practice and theory, between production and mediation. The meat of it was the process, the performance, and seeing these as positive interventions into the public spheres, as scattering of seeds provocation (few and diminutive they may be), which inform (and hopefully entice) both publics (participants), investigators (us, plataporma) and institution (the Museum). A modern Museum should be unafraid to support works of question, works that question, knowing beforehand that we can't actually have all the answers.

Museums should be open space, free of bourgeois baggage (which both contradictorily deter and attract certain publics). They should not be "safe places" to elaborate critique and self-critique, there should always be an element of danger, of risk, to bring about a better sense of urgency. Modern museums should be immersed within it's immediate context, and ideally addressing issues brought about by the publics in its immediate geographic and ideological vicinity. And I see now/here as bringing some of these issues to light, especially because they (both collective and the Museum) took a chance at looking inward before looking outward, something the Museum should have done before: investigating itself within itself - it's geographic and institutional history as well as how it stands in the public imaginary (which is especially juicy because of the Lopez slant - which immediately suggest oligarchic, bourgeois tendencies within other publics). And there was a lot of (good) humor involved, in both our process and documentation and the institution's involvement.

So the question of what is to be done falls more on the side of the Museum now, because the research aspect of our group's process did provide practical information which the Museum can already act upon. But that doesn't mean that change is exclusively the Museum's burden - the publics and us cultural producers have a huge part in that too, and more so, educational institutions. But because of the Museum's prescribed (generic) traditional functions as institution and mediator/negotiator of "universality", it has a huge stake because of its role as determining the rules of play. New rules should be added, others should be dropped, others revised, others retained - you begin by reassessing the Museum's values and ideologies to make it more accessible, inclusive not exclusive, and without falling to pandering and ascribing to notions of "the mainstream" - because (corporate) ideas of "mainstream" are not the only actual main stream, there are several and they go several directions. The Museum should make the first step. The Museum should go out of it's cultural shell and deal with the rest of the world. And the least of its problems is finding the right door.

Just some thoughts.


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