“Which of the discussions or lectures did you find most interesting, most useful?” The question was posed by X as we sat before three cups of rather bitter kopi before our walk to the orchidarium of the botanical gardens in Singapore, in an attempt to brush off the fatigue of the past few very intense days. “For me,” replied Y, “the most interesting part is always the interaction, on both a professional and a human level, with all those in attendance.” Of course, the three of us agreed, but I added that in general I found the second and third days more enriching: to get to know how things are perceived in Asia, so apparently alien to our Latin American context, was a real learning experience. The fact that we share a past molded by colonialism gives us other things in common that are not so obvious. It seems to me that a way of absorbing and understanding what comes from without, a way of seeing the rest of the world, is something we “non-Western” peoples have in common.
Particularly interesting were the reflections on censorship by some of the participants. In the presentation by artist Tiffany Chung, who explained the complicated circumstances surrounding the exhibition Sunshower at the Mori Art Museum, it was fascinating to learn the precise details of the situation, and above all to hear the response of the museum officials present in the audience. Realizing the pressures and constraints to which they were subjected, as museum professionals working within complex structures and hierarchies, one could not help but sympathize. We curators and museum professionals also experience censure, if not censorship, in different forms, not only from powerful agents in the political sphere, but even from the artists themselves. The decisions we are faced with are always difficult and judgments must be the result of an impartial analysis of all the elements taken together, in the particular context in which agiven museum finds itself.
Donna De Salvo talked about the review and diagnosis made of the Whitney Museum collection. She said nothing about the scarcity of works by women artists or the yawning gender gap, nor did she comment on the measures that have been taken to fill in that gap, the result of a male vision of art history. Nevertheless, she was careful to include women artists in the examples she presented, and at the reception later on she assured me that they were not only aware of the pending task, but were changing the way exhibitions were set up to give a place of power to women artists, so that they would have greater and more efficacious visibility within the museum.
One of the activities I profited most from was the group discussion about collections. I was particularly interested in taking part in this discussion, because although the MAZ does not have a permanent collection (functioning rather as a Kunsthalle), there are plans to start assembling one. Personally, I find the issue highly problematical: the question not only of what, why, and how to collect, but also of who is to make these decisions, has become more complex than ever. It was very illuminating to hear the different positions and experiences. The issue of the scarcity of works by women in public collections came up again, along with a debate –which remained friendly enough– on whether a space without a permanent collection could even be considered a museum. Of course, the ideal of the contemporary museum prevailed: a collection full of ideas, complex thought, public criticism, children, projects, doubts, failures, and successes. A museum with empty galleries and storerooms: empty so that there is space to exhibit works from so many places and so many artists. A sort of Suprematist black square that may contain all the art of every age.
Possible Professional Outcomes
A possible collaboration between the Ateneo of Manila University and the MAZ to recall the five hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines. Mexico and the Philippines were both Spanish colonial possessions and shared both governmental and religious institutions, including the Inquisition, as well as a flourishing maritime trade. The Manila Galleon set out from the port of Acapulco before putting in at Manila, on its way to Spain and then back.
A possible collaboration between the MACBA and the MAZ, with an exhibition by the artist Domènec about a critical approach to the utopian content of modernity.
Ongoing conversations about a possible collaboration with the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. Among other things…