The CIMAM Annual Conference is undoubtedly a moment that allows discussion and reflection by the professionals involved in the development of proposals to promote contemporary art in the global scene.
Personally I found a valuable opportunity where to meet others on par, and to identify some shared questions and problems from different latitudes. Hito Steyerl mentioned a phrase that caused much resonance at the beginning of her conference on the first day. From her perspective as an artist, she spoke of the importance of having “duty free art”, i.e., artwork free of any obligation, an autonomous form of art.
On that first day, the conference proceedings focused on the museum as a place where people could build connections, an inviting place which encourages reflection, which is socially active and even has a familiar character, enabling it to function as a center where communities can feel identified.
For her part, Maria Lind spoke of the importance of small organizations that somehow have a similar function to that of a museum without, perhaps, having the same resources or visibility. She mentioned that in terms of budget, it is not so important what is spent, but how it is spent. This is something that certainly many of us who work in public institutions can fully identify as part of the daily exercise during project proposals.
It is vital to increase awareness of how institutions work and for whom they are conceived; to visualize small organizations as part of a collective awareness of how and where culture develops in each locality. In this sense, museums have the task of signaling that these organizations are not alone, they are not the only entities through which the arts can be positioned; the cultural ecosystem is vast and each organization plays a vital role within it in terms of culture. Somehow this subject became a constant in the following talks and even in discussions among colleagues during coffee breaks, and suddenly the main approach of this conference: Public Interest, Private Resources?, allowed for the identification of public interest as something that is not only found in the arena of state institutions, but also in those that lacking a cultural positioning by the state, emerge as small local institutions that vocalize the work of artists who, for various market issues, fail to have the same access to these positioning platforms, while also identifying the different interests of the communities.
To this end, it became clear that it is critical that organizations and small local institutions actually become visible not only at the international level –as is the case with many who have achieved international acclaim for different reasons– but also within their own localities, for this is how they secure their permanence.
Another relevant point of discussion was when the instrumentalization of museums today was on debate. That is, when excessive bureaucracy begins to disrupt the functioning of the institution itself. There was also an outstanding participation by Suha Shoman, who presented the work of Darat al Funun, an institution that invests in art in order to generate more art.