Stephanie Noach

Independent Curator, Havana, Cuba

What is the responsibility of museums in this time of biennialization and commercialization? – this very big and very ambitious question was at the core of this year’s Annual Conference. While most of the invited speakers seemed worried about burning their fingers, especially Marina Garcés and Mari Carmen Ramírez made a valuable and courageous effort to answer this question.  In her presentation “la fuerza del hambre” (the force of hunger) Garcés argued that the only possibility for creating a new encounter with culture is if we all get involved: if all of us stop hiding behind great words and discourses and start forming part of a “we”.  This “we”, she argued, does not make up a harmonious collective body, but is instead a body under continuous tension. Just as Garcés, Ramírez was skeptical about the course museums of modern and contemporary art are currently taking.  She analyzed how what were once non-profit, educational institutions have converted into temples of leisure and entertainment for corporate investors, philanthropist and mass audiences.  Archives and archive-based initiatives could, according to Ramírez, offer an   alternative and articulate a new system in the new global, cultural order.

Listening to people with such diverse ideas about the responsibility of the institution – and even listening to people who for whatever reason decide not to take their responsibility to sincerely reflect upon the responsibility of museums – helped me gain insight in the challenges museums are facing under neoliberal capitalism.

As a final note, of course, it was wonderful meeting so many people who are developing daring and significant projects outside of the world’s centers of contemporary art.