The explicitation of the contradiction
“Why, yes; and not exactly that, either. The fact is, we have all been a good deal puzzled because the affair is so simple, and yet baffles us altogether.” Edgar Allan Poe
There is something that professionals of different fields of knowledge do not like –and strongly avoid– to do in a public manner. That is to raise the question and attempt to face the intricate threads of contradictions that allow the reproduction of a system; any system.
This is why it was remarkable and surprising that an organization like CIMAM decided to call attention to the uneasy connections between the spheres of the “public” and the “private” in relation to the future of modern and contemporary art museums.
Under the title: Museum in progress: Public interest, private resources?, the 2014 Annual Conference made me curious since I wondered how the problematic of funding of (particularly public) art institutions was going to be addressed and how it was going to be related to their social use and value. Moreover, I felt intrigue because in Argentina (and in most local art scenes of Latin America), budgeting, financing and money issues are topics that are usually eluded by art agents. It could be said that in this region of the world the phrase l’art pour l’art synthesizes the dominant ideology; as the set of beliefs that allows these local (and sometimes underdeveloped) art systems to be reproduced under the logic of disinterestedness. Curiosity increased when I found out that the conference was going to be held in Doha (Qatar), basically because –far from being perverse– the fact to have chosen a financial blooming country as host city manifested (once again in history) the links between art, art institutions and capital.
Power tends to conceal itself (on that relies its force) and one of the best and most effective ways of hiding is doing it in plain sight, like The Purloined Letter.
Nowadays transparency is a demanded value; but we tend to forget that this claim is simply impossible: language (and, therefore, culture) is obscure. So, when asking for transparency we are (directly or indirectly) reinforcing the crystallization of power relations, we are asking not to see the letter (neither its content).
The conference, yet, was put together in order to exhibit the very basic triad that constitutes the possibility of art as a system of interactions, disputes, negotiations, articulations and (re)production of knowledge, symbolic and financial value, politics and ideology. It was organized so as to see the paradoxical choreography that shows how every element is necessary: from the art market to small visual arts organizations; from public museums and collections to private foundations and private ones. Every piece of the puzzle is needed in order to have one (with some kind of meaning).
Like in the story, during those days, there were those who could see (and tell) the truth; those who –in order to hide it– expose it in plain sight and those who were incapacitated to disclose it, allowing its distortion.
Art institutions were the main character of the conference and their meaning was emptied in order to speculate about their significance and hypothesize the scope they could reach in the near future. Three days in order to deal with a game of mirrors of something that we want to reach but is constantly running away from us.
It is simple: art baffles us. And bring us together for its complex simplicity.