“Try to complete the picture”
No wonder, as the 49th edition of CIMAM annual conference happened to be a quite honest space for debate between art museum’s professionals, in response to the main meeting’s question – “how can museums sustain democratic practices and democratic imaginaries when they are undermined by dominant neoliberalism?” –, an urgent and deeply serious issue aroused: self-censorship.
That happened specially – but not only – due to the crucial role of the artists who took place in the conference. In despite of the patronizing approach to them in the first day of discussion, when Chen Chieh-Jen talked about “reimagining history”, in general, the conference managed to create relations between different perspectives, what was of a core importance when the debate came to censorship. It was at the last day when the collecting theme, within the framework of “museum’s responsibilities”, was slightly moved forward to questions on (self)-censorship, as pushed by the artist Tiffany Cheng. She pointed out the contradictions of counter-diplomacy and soft power in museums and their connections with corporatists’ states, corporate diplomacy and neocolonialism.
“Undermined by neoliberalism”, both when private or public, museums have been recently struggling with censorship, which has sometimes become a demanded practice by an (increasing) variety of “stakeholders”, leading museums to relook at their paradigms.
Institutions such as CIMAM, that have in some way inherited the modern belief in “global” initiatives, are clearly also struggling to respond to that, therefore the general assembly has high-lightened the importance of the reinforcement of CIMAM’s museum watch platform, addressing guidelines to threats and historical materials of these issues. In the other hand, the also evident diversity of situations, contexts and specificities of museums around the world makes the applicability of these worldwide intentions (and anxieties) seem displaced, as in another sense Adriano Pedrosa pointed out, when talking about the ongoing (though sometimes invisible) identity crisis of modern museums.
Between the utopia of cosmopolitism and the perversion of globalization, such as mentioned in Nikos Papastergiadis’ keynote, when it comes to museum’s roles, it seems to me that, as Tang Da Wu performance They poach the rhino, chop off his horn and make this drink (1989) shows us, there is a “missing part” in our discourses, practices and desires. Once we have been, such as the rhinos, constantly pursuit by outside interests in specific parts of our activities (as the rhino’s horn), but not in its whole comprehension, it becomes easy to get confused about ourselves. “Trying to complete our picture” is, thus, a huge and continuous challenge.