Curator, DeLVe Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, Croatia
The Istanbul conference definitely showed a radical shift in the focus of CIMAM. The Istanbul gathering acted as an ambitious platform for a temporary reflection on the status of institutional practice. Simultaneously, it strived at establishing a space for the reconfiguration of network’s roles, responsibilities, scope and focus.
It was symptomatic that the program consisted almost entirely of the presentations of various smaller institutions, independent or ‘alternative’ organization and spaces, often coming from the so-called ‘marginal geographies’. This in itself could be regarded as the symptom of the overall institutional exhaustion of the museum format as we know it and, furthermore, stands for the recognition of the fact that we are witnessing the overall transformation of the institutional landscape worldwide.
Obviously, for some time now, museums have been facing a difficult task – how to be meaningfully situated and engaged in the specificities of their respective political, social and cultural context and at the same time act as an institutional subject and have a role in the international art field? The latter is becoming ever more important for any institution that sees its role in the production of diverse forms of knowledge in the global arena, from intervening into the master narratives of art history to giving visibility to less exposed forms of art and intellectual practice. In other words, the role of the museum today seems to be centering on the question of how not to be only reactive (able to respond to a certain sense of urgency) but, in fact, how to act proactively while establishing an agency ‘glocally’?
The fact that the organizers of this edition of CIMAM decided to give the stage over to the smaller, independent, flexible and ‘more progressive’ institutions further points to the fact that the larger institutions must open themselves up to new methodologies, forms and formats of flexibility but also be ready to face the precariousness that necessarily accompanies such flexible forms of intellectual and cultural work if they wish to maintain any kind of autonomy from the capital or the state. With the neo-liberal populism and ‘body count’ strategies of measuring success of art institutions as well as austerity measures penetrating all pores of society and culture, the museums facing a challenge of how to adapt to these new economical and societal dynamics?
Certainly, one of the lessons of this year’s conference is the need for mutuality and recognitions between ‘the big’ and ‘the small’. However, these mutualities will not stand for a true change before creating conditions for new forms of solidarity and responsiveness and establishing a sense of urgency to protect the sphere of art as one of the last zones for questioning the status quo and one of the last spaces of (political) imagination in times of neo-liberal enclosures of the common.