"If the museum is to be attentive it must not only listen carefully to affected communities [...] but to mobilize and act, in whatever capacity possible"
"If the museum is to be attentive it must not only listen carefully to affected communities (including our colleagues, artists, cultural and art producers, activists and educators) but to mobilize and act, in whatever capacity possible."
Marianna Dobkowska, Curator, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland.
In 2022, 41 contemporary art curators, researchers, and museum directors from 24 different countries were awarded to attend the CIMAM 2022 Annual Conference. The CIMAM 2022 Annual Conference, titled "The Attentive Museum. Permeable Practices for a Common Ground", was held in Mallorca (Balearic Islands), Spain on 11–13 November, hosted by Es Baluard Museu d'Art Contemporani de Palma.
Marianna Dobkowska's Conference Report
We need to listen and act
It is November 23, 2022. Wintertime has begun in Eastern Europe, the days are short, cold and dark. Sunny Majorca, where I was just a few weeks ago, is surrounded by the crystal, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The history with which this sea is steeped, the stories of exile and migration, and all those who lost their lives there, are the subject of audiovisual performance by Juana Gomil and Daniel Andujar. It was a final event at the annual CIMAM conference entitled The Attentive Museum. Permeable Practices for a Common Ground.
November 23, 2022 marks the 273rd day of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Today more than 80 per cent of Kyiv was left without water and electricity as a result of Russian shelling. Today I think of all the people who are being affected by devastating regimes, by war, by violence, I think of the brave people in Ukraine who have been deprived of water and electricity. I think about the overlapping multiple crises, wars and acts of violence which are happening at the same time around the globe. The struggles of Palestinians, Egyptians, Ukrainians and other oppressed communities around the world demand equal attention.
Today, the moving speeches from the final day of the conference entitled Learning from the Community: Collective Actions in the Face of Emergency come back to me. The words of Emily Jacir, Philip Rizk and Lada Nakonechna  echoed powerfully in the gothic, monumental hall of La Lonja. If the museum is to be attentive it must not only listen carefully to affected communities (including our colleagues, artists, cultural and art producers, activists and educators) but to mobilize and act, in whatever capacity possible. Reflection and real active listening to the real stories and daily challenges they face should be the basis for answering the question of how we - as an international community - in our localities and globally can mobilize all our resources to build networks of genuine support and solidarity. While the current functions of the museum include the responsibility of institutions to educate, create, support and practice alternative visions of the future it must also perform transnational solidarity, real and long-term support for people who work tirelessly outside of institutions and stimulate the imagination and deepening the knowledge of the public and attentiveness to the other, to the problems of people we do not know. This is what active attentiveness is all about.
The theme of Annual CIMAM conference in 2022 was The Attentive Museum. Permeable Practices for a Common Ground. The conference was filled with lectures by directors and curators of museums and contemporary art institutions, artists, activists and researchers, presentations of perspectives that gave insights into artistic, social, activist and educational practices and what challenges (artistic) communities from different places in the world (including Ethiopia, Ukraine, Spain, India or Egypt) are facing.
The conference took place in three venues in and around Palma de Mallorca: at Es Baluard Museu d'Art Contemporani de Palma situated right on the Mediterranean coast, in the phenomenal space of La Lonja and within the welcoming walls of Casa Esment on the outskirts of the island's capital. Since 1962, Casa Esment has been focusing its activities on activities for people with intellectual disabilities and their families, through collective work and education, using its own farm. A day spent outside the city, surrounded by farmstead, views of fields and mountains inspired conversations in my workshop group to target the relationship of the arts institution with the environment, nature and agriculture.
The conference was accompanied by a rich program of visits to local art institutions and galleries and included a meeting with Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, who personally presented her recent work created in collaboration with the local community exhibited at ALTTRA Foundation. "Not today" is a multidimensional work highlighting the everyday hardships of the residents of the most marginalized neighborhoods in Palma: Camp Redó, Son Gotleu and Verge de Lluc.
The conference also included networking and workshop sessions where we were able to get to know each other better in shared conversation and a not insignificant program of communal meals and evenings (the fantastic chef Maca de Castro, among others, was responsible for the menu with its strong emphasis on locality). It was this time in a less formal atmosphere that was a great opportunity to make many new contacts and meet old friends. It is good to be able to meet, listen, exchange, look each other in the eye, shake hands. It was a good time that will surely bear its fruits yet.
The premise of the conference was to highlight the practice of “active listening” and explore how today's museum can become “an active listener”, how it can become more attentive, to become a space that responds to the needs of communities and supports their struggle. This roadmap cannot be created without being attentive to everything that, through the hands of cultural workers, artists and activists, lives outside the big institutions, without sufficient budgets for that matter, in the closest contact with current issues. How much there is to do was vividly revealed by the situation at this year's documenta fifteen (presented by Iris Dressler). The question of what can be done to ensure that this need does not stop at the level of declarations, but actually penetrates the microbiome of institutions, remains without a clear answer. However, the genuine concern expressed in the conference by the heads of the world's most important art institutions is certainly a step towards the necessary changes.
I would like to thank Ines Jover and the Getty Foundation, as well as the CIMAM Travel Grant Committee for their trust and support in giving me the opportunity to attend the CIMAM Annual Conference in Palma de Mallorca. I would like to thank all the speakers and also the participants, old and new friends that I had the opportunity to meet through this event.
Warsaw, November 23, 2022
 As for today these presented perspectives will be published at CIMAM’s website shortly.