How Institutions Think

cover-draftFollowing the conference titled ‘How Institutions Think’, which took place in Arles in 2016, and which was organised by CCS Bard, Central St. Martins, Valand Academy (University of Gothenburg) and the Luma Foundation, work has commenced on the book. I will be working on it as managing editor, alongside editors Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson.

The publication How Institutions Think: Between Contemporary Art and Curatorial Discourse brings together an international and multi-disciplinary group of writers who will reflect upon how institutional practices inform art, curatorial, educational and research practices as much as they shape the world around us. It also aims to propose new and emergent forms of institutional practice. Implementing a work-together methodology, combining and sharing networks and knowledge resources, the publication asks how we may begin to conceptualise and build possible institutions/anti-institutions of the future: What are the models, resources, skills and knowledge bases required to build new and progressive institutions now and in the future, if that is indeed possible?

Contributors include Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Dave Beech, Mélanie Bouteloup, Nikita Yingqian Cai, Binna Choi and Annette Kraus, Pip Day, Clémentine Deliss, Keller Easterling and Andrea Phillips, Bassam El Baroni, Charles Esche, Patricia Falguières, Patrick D. Flores, Marina Gržinić, Stefano Harney, Alhena Katsof, Emily Pethick, Sarah Pierce, Zahia Rahmani, Moses Serubiri, Simon Sheikh and Mick Wilson.

How Institutions Think is the second in a series of three publications and builds on the success of The Curatorial Conundrum: What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016).It is due in September 2017.

Oslo workshop

Having spent two days in the very ‘koselig’ bookshop space of Oslo’s Cappelens Forslag (and its very intimate back room-cum kitchen), with a morning’s detour to the nearby Kulturhuset, my head is full of thinking about writing, editing and publishing texts and books about art. The discussions were generous and challenging, the exercises proposed by everyone thought-provoking, and the amount of reading we all managed to get in beforehand and during was enriching.

I’ve more or less invited myself back to any appropriate future workshop to be organised by Anne Szefer-Karlsen and the MA in Curatorial Practice (based in Bergen) who invited me in the first place. The range of students is diverse – all of them working in some curatorial capacity across a variety of arts organisations in Norway, or beyond. And despite departing from London sans cash and cards, the kindness of strangers, and a loan from Anne got me through and back home.

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For more on Cappelens Forslag’s publishing project, the conversational encyclopaedia, see this article that popped up in the Guardian two days after the workshop.

Revisiting: Steve McQueen

I first met Steve McQueen in Amsterdam in 1996, when I was still working at De Appel in Amsterdam, and he came over to do a talk there. He ended up moving from London to Amsterdam around the same time as I moved from Amsterdam to London. We stayed in touch though, and when in 1999 he had his first exhibition in a publicly funded space in his old and my new home town, the ICA, he invited me to get involved with the catalogue for the show.

One of the works that generated active debate was the insertion of a brick wall in the long corridor that runs alongside the downstairs exhibition space towards the bar and other spaces, without any label or explanation. I’ve always thought about it as referring to issues of access, or lack thereof, of various kinds that Steve has often talked about and that has recently become and extremely current topic in political terms. In recent years Steve’s intervention, which I am inclined to consider both a work and a curatorial statement, was inverted: the wall separating the exhibition space from the corridor was removed, so we could look into the exhibition space without entering it, opening things up for all to see.

The catalogue for Steve’s show has a shot of his feet, a still from the film Deadpan (1997), on the cover. It contains three essays – Robert Storr’s ‘Going Places’, Michael Newman’s ‘McQueen’s Materialism’, and Okwui Enwezor’s ‘Haptic Visions: The Films of Steve McQueen’ – that had already been commissioned before I became involved. Between them they cover a wide range of aspects related to Steve’s then still relatively small oeuvre, as he was only 30 at the time. Three international art heavyweights talking about an artist who was in the process of becoming a heavyweight himself… The show gave Steve the nomination for the Turner Prize that year, which he went on to win. It is of course only with hindsight that this show and its catalogue, and the many intense conversations we had in the years leading up to it, were clear signs of things to come.

The exhibition was curated by Susan Copping and Katya Garcia-Anton. The catalogue was co-published by the ICA, London, and the Kunsthalle Zurich, and designed by Luc Derycke (with whom I had worked previously on a publication on Gabriel Orozco’s project for Artangel).

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Public Enquiries

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I am currently proofing texts for a book entitled Public Enquiries, which follows a symposium that took place in 2016. Public Enquiries is a research project that has its starting point in the artistic practice of Kerstin Bergendal, with a particular focus on her project PARK LEK. More information about the different phases of the project can be found here.

The symposium at Valand Academy in Gothenburg was the third in a series (the previous ones were held at Marabouparken Konsthall in Stockholm and Somewhere in Copenhagen), and  considered how long-term, temporary artistic projects can influence discussions about sustainability, city and cultural planning, how situated artistic practices can work as forms of enquiry, and why such artistic practices are highly relevant today. Videos of the conference talks can be found here.

Contributors to the book include, among the artist herself, Aleksandra Ålund and René Rosales, Christian Bjork, Mary Jane Jacob, James Holston, Andrea Phillips, and Anna Pilebro Bryngelsson and Robert Chako.

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workshop Oslo

On 31 January and 1 February I will be contributing to and participating in a workshop about writing, editing and publishing in relation to art. The workshop is organised by Anne Szefer-Karlsen, with whom I worked on the Dublett series, which combined the format of the artist’s book with that of more traditional contextualising essays on the artist’s work. Anne is currently course director of the MA in Curatorial Practice, now part of the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design at the University of Bergen. Other contributors to the workshop are Federica Bueti, Karen Grønneberg and Rachel O’Reilly. We’ve all suggested different texts to read beforehand, and will no doubt get writing in the course of the two days. I’ve borrowed a detail of a drawing by Pablo Helguera as a provocation.

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Revisiting: Luca Frei – The so-called utopia…

While talking to artist Anthony Shrag, he referenced Luca Frei’s The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg. An interpretation, unaware that it is one of the titles from the Fabrications series I was responsible for, published by Book Works. In turn I was unaware that Celine Condorelli did a reinterpretation of the work at the Southbank Centre in 2007 in a sound piece.

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-21-41Here is the link to it on her website. The screenshot above shows the adapted introduction, transposed onto the reality of the Southbank Centre. I got back in touch with Luca and he informed that there now also is a Portuguese translation of the book, and a variety of re-interpretations of his translation have been made by others. I also came across an interesting analysis of the book here. There is also a review in Artforum and on 3AM and even an in-depth critical analysis in a PhD thesis. With the above-ground Centre Pompidou going in for a proper refurbishment it is time for a reread of the story about the alternative.