Kevser Guler

Guler, Kevser.JPG

Participating the 2017 CIMAM Conference in Singapore, have been a great learning experience for me. Sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences about the ways and areas which the museums embedded various contexts have been exploring, enjoying and struggling, is particularly horizon opening.

The opening lecture of Nikos Papastergiadis, complicating and contaminating the idea of ‘publics’ today has provided a wide map of questions, articulations and concerns, for the conference whose focus was defined as The Roles and Responsibilies of Museums in Civil Society. The questions in relation to ‘How, what and who is the publics and the empowering means, mediums and practices of possible collaborations?’ which sparkled during this lecture had been vivid during the three days of the conference. Ute Meta Bauer (Founding Director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore) and Andrea Cusumano’s (Deputy Mayor for Culture of Palermo) perspectives and experiences provided two inspiring and sound pictures of the ways how institutions and artistic practices get engaged with the publics and nurtures the cultural ecosystem they belong. The third day, dedicated to the inquiries about the formation and presentation of the museum’s collections was engaging as well providing diverse perspectives geographically, historically, culturally and institutionally.

However, the second day of the conference, which was dedicated to the contemporary contexts and art histories of Southeast Asia, unfolding via the lectures on Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore’s art scenes with certain focuses by Patrick D. Flores, Ade Darmawan, Gridthiya Gaweewong and Post-Museum have been transformative for me. Not only because we were in Singapore, enjoying exhibitions and art works by artists from Southeast Asia at the National Gallery Singapore and also many other spaces that we visited via the most smooth and organized program of CIMAM; but also, the subtle criticality of each lecture, their being embedded in the regional specificity, and laying out cartographies of complex social and cultural phenomena were impressive.

There are many moments I recall from this day. For instance, Patrick D. Flores’ answer, to a response from the audience questioning the lecturers’ ways of dealing with the Southeast Asian political history and contemporary political environment, in relation to art history or their practices, was breath taking in terms of the discussions of arts and politics as well. Referring to my notes, Mr. Flores said: “I guess my presentation fails to provide a dialectical moment in relation to what was happening at the center. It is because I am trying to move away from that dialectical moment, to delay that dialectical moment a bit, and to create a space for a certain materiality to emerge relationally independent from an ideological function.” I think that, Flores’ emphasis on the ‘materiality’, instead of almost stigmatizing ‘political local histories’ discourse, anticipates affirmative possibilities of art works, art infrastructures and art communities which will enable more diversified, complex and non-dualistic affective realms for art and culture to flourish, both at individual and institutional terms. I strongly believe that, the critique of ‘dualistic’ or ‘oppositional’ thinking needs to be extended here till the point that it destabilizes the dualities of democratic/non-democratic, colonial/not colonial, public/private and historical/contemporary.

Thanks to CIMAM and the Getty Foundation for giving me the opportunity of participating in this year’s conference.