Does a Kunsthalle still satisfy the needs and demands of contemporary art, its presentation and mediation? Rather than looking for a simple response, we shaped this set of problems into a series of individual questions, and turned for answers to a cooperative collaboration with international artists, curators, theorists etc. “The Question of the Day” was developed within a framework of conceptual exchange and decentralization that characterized the founding phase of the European Kunsthalle (2005–2007).
For what reason – besides simply custom or habit – might citizens prefer a physical, tangible Kunsthalle?
Ilka Becker, art historian, Cologne
First of all the question of tangibility is, for me, not a productive one at all: gripping, seizing and grasping all sound a little like predetermined, consumable meaningfulness, one whose institutional form could offer both a kind of guarantee and a comfortable place to take a seat. A kunsthalle like the European Kunsthalle, which follows a de-centralized concept, should be more like a stage onto which the decision is made to make something intangible visible, (meaning to produce) a rupture in one’s own position – as a recipient and at the same time producer of signs, social codes, material and situations within the system of art. The artistic, curatorial, theoretical and critical work that can be carried out in such a field becomes especially interesting when it does less in the service of bourgeois subjectivity (whose criteria for art reception no longer function anyway), becoming instead a kind of controversial production collective to which different players can contribute. For this, a concrete location can become a very important factor.
How important is functional architecture for curating exhibitions?
Adam Budak, curator Kunsthaus Graz
Undoubtedly, functional architecture plays a significant role in curating exhibitions. It does it mostly in practical terms – organization of space, technical elaboration of exhibits, partly, as a guiding line for the exhibition narrative, etc. I am, however, interested in situations where the architectural function challenges exhibition staging and curatorial vision. I have been working for more than two years now in a (biomorphic) exhibition space which comes up with an architectural offer based rather upon dysfunction or a certain grotesque of such a traditionally understood function. Here, I consider this “ailment” as both challenge (for everybody involved: an artist with an artwork, a curator with a concept and an audience with perceptive qualities). Such dysfunctional architecture keeps you always alerted by constantly redefining an artwork, by making you more sensitive towards spatial conditions, by entering into an exciting partnership with whoever / whatever encounters it, this refreshing your perceptive habits and collaborating with you on staging one common distinctive identity. Such a dysfunction also works as a disagreement which finally becomes productive and enriching. It makes your life hard as it is always the case of a dominant partner, that’s true, but in the end it brings a lot of joy and (creative) satisfaction.
How can an institution for contemporary art be defined in relation to its audience?
Chris Dercon, director of Haus der Kunst, Munich
There is not just a “public”. The idea of “public” does not exist anymore, it is by the way a 19th century invention … just as the idea of “public” appears in paintings for the very first time and broadly speaking in the 19th century. Today we are confronted with many different sorts of “public” … with for instance many different expectations. I once said in a national Dutch newspaper “do not trust the audience”, an expression which I had to pay dearly until years after. What I meant was that the public is basically not confident anymore in itself – can it project its confidence on us or vice versa? That means we have to ask ourselves constantly: which public feels itself represented by what we do when and the way we do things? Indeed, we have to rebuild each time our constituencies. The public is therefore not a given … it has to be taken. And to make things even worse, there seems to b a general confusion of what is “public” and what is “private”, or what is the difference between “public” and “private” cultural concerns and considerations. Commercialism, in the field of culture, for instance, is transforming itself rapidly into a kind of “public sphere”. The public realm is therefore completely blurred. And sadly enough, our only weapon of defense – induced by our commissioners and subsidizing bodies – seems therefore to publicize huge … visitor numbers. But public numbers are highly different from public arguments! Is it not?
To what extent is there space for academic thought in the museum’s exhibition practice?
Charles Esche, director Vanabbe Museum, Einhoven
A museum is not an empty vessel to be filled with art. Instead we need to speak about its identity, its potentiality, its idealogy – all of which are present whether we choose to recognize them or not. To put these latter terms into motion and not simply accept inherited definitions, we need thinking processes. So if “academic thinking” means reflection, questioning and articulation of the practices of a museum, then we need to devote lots of space and time to it. We need to build in systems where museum workers have opportunities to learn new ways of seeing art and its relation to society. We need to create models of public presentation and production that include self-reflective mechanisms and opportunities of critical thinking. We need thus to construct the museum as a place for asking questions and developing complex answers. Of course academic thinking has another meaning that implies unreflective copying of existing models and that should have no place in the contemporary art museum’s practice.
Are changes in the social foundation of an art institution capable of transforming the institution from the inside?
Anselm Franke, director Extra City, Antwerp
I think it will happen anyway. The notion of education or also the public, even the methods employed by hegemonic culture are always in a state of transformation – and so the art institution either gears itself towards tourism and marketing on the one hand or will have to become a “Center for Creativity” in the future, one in which the productive force “creativity” is developed, trained or if nothing else even therapeutically “treated”. Art institutions cannot continue to legitimize the old support structures handed to them in the long term: their notion of the public sphere is corrupt, its prospects for exerting political influence are increasingly few. And yet the new supporting structure usually handles these as luxury extensions of art fairs to a large extent, a fact that has not escaped culture-political notice, resulting in an urgent need for thorough debate concerning public institutions’ relationship to a speculative market. And that goes of course not only for the experiment and innovation of the responsible institutions without collections, but also for museums, which are still capable of invoking the cultural consciousness argument.
Are publicly financed institutions for contemporary art now but an extension of the private art market?
Susanne Gaensheimer, curator, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich
No, absolutely not and this must never be allowed to happen. Of course, there is a great danger that the institutions will become financially dependent on commercial galleries and private collections, due to the permanent reduction of public funding. Art productions and exhibitions are becoming more and more expensive, prices of even very new art are rising disproportionately and at the same time, museums and public institutions are increasingly at the mercy of state and municipal consolidation measures. Thus there is an urgent need to develop new paths of productive cooperation between public institutions and the private art market. Many galleries, for example, are aware that they profit from museum exhibitions and are therefore also interested in getting financially involved in the production of artworks and publications. And an increasing number of private collectors want to display their works in public institutions, which an lead to thoroughly fruitful partnerships – whereby this only really makes sense if the collector is prepared to offer his works in the form of a binding, long-term loan. Yet it is precisely with overlaps such as these that a museum’s most important task is to remain autonomous and incorruptible in terms of their program and system, and to follow its collection-specific concept without being influenced by economic factors. Another urgent requirement is that the state and the communes finally acknowledge the need for an independent public space for the production and display of art and guarantee its survival by providing the necessary funding.
Is a Kunsthalle still a contemporary model?
Liam Gillick, artist
No, a Kunsthalle is not a contemporary model. There is, however, the possibility of continuing to use the word in relation to a revised structure, if only to avoid losing the potential of a notional public art space – a free-floating signifier that retains specific meaning within a historical context. What is to be avoided, however, is the mere maintenance of a word in relation to a structure where it can only be understood as parodic or paradoxical in terms of the name / structure relationship. A Kunsthalle that avoids a powerful role in terms of the culture should actually carry another name. If you want to occupy a specific historically determined meaning / space in the culture then continue to call it a Kunsthalle. If you want to start again, assume the social / historical / political space of the Kunsthalle without actually calling it a Kunsthalle. But at the same time, ensure that there can be no other institution within the city than can be called a Kunsthalle, by legal or other means. If you want to replace something, you cannot allow others to assume the intellectual space that you are transcending.
Facing the replacement of traditional artistic media by participatory approaches, moveable structures and conceptual works, do we still need static museum buildings for the presentation of art?
Krist Gruijthuijsen, freelance curator
No, certainly not. Though I support and see great importance in the architectural element of the institutional framework such as the one of a museum. I don’t think we need yet another building stashed with “dead” material on display. The European Kunsthalle could be a great example for a conversive Kunsthalle that discusses frameworks within the (re)presentation of art. In that sense, it could work more as a thought than something concrete. An overviewing think-tank that is not connected to a certain place.
Are forms of institutionalisation limiting to independent projects?
Vit Havránek, project coordinator tranzit.cz, Prague
I understand an “independent project” as an activity where financial or working forces are defined internally by a the group of people without strong support by the state, municipal or corporate bodies acting from the „outside“ . Such an activity is a result of citizens’ enthusiasm. I agree with Hakim Bey (t.a.z.) that once an initiative is officially recognized and adopted, it loses its autonomy and acts in regard to the so-called general interest. That’s why Bey proposes that autonomous zones should be only temporary ones. But certain “independent initiatives” are already born with the hope to become institutionalized. To me that is the most interesting aspect of this model: the relation between so-called “independent initiatives” and the official institutional structures, since it forms the basis of any independent project. Today, the awareness that institutions provide a kind of negative self-definition is the main motivating behind the wish for independency. Very good examples for this can be found in art itself – currently in conceptual art or land art. In some cases the artists thought that their program and the ideas behind it could change the institutions. But only those who adopted the institutions’ strategies and thematized them as one the matters they were dealing with are actually interesting.
What are the places for contemporary Art?
Jörg Heiser, author and co-editor-in chief Frieze magazine
Kunsthallen are as contemporary as the people running them. Not every, but almost any given structure – provided it fulfills the architectonic and urbanistic basic requirements such as a halfway central location and the spatial adaptability for contemporary art – can become a good place for contemporary production and mediation so long as the focus remains on ideas and aesthetic experience rather than cultural bureaucracy and local economic policy. Another contributing factor would be if a relatively small team can work in a relatively autonomous way and, instead of merely being supervised by a financial and administrative authority, can at least affect the economic and political parameters themselves – hybrid models. Networking and workspace rhetoric, however, often deviates from the task of appropriate mediation of artistic production and over-emphasizes the curator’s role over the artists’ as a participant in discourse. In other words: „Show me, don’t tell me“, as the scriptwriters say. The European Kunsthalle is a unique chance to do it all right according to the points outlined above. Anything else is site-specific.
What does a decentral institution expect from the general public in terms of an ability to receive artworks?
Tom Holert, art critic and theorist, Berlin
In principle, only that which is necessary for them to learn about the production of visual art. Cultural institutions are perceived as part of a network of institutions, called for and consumed. That fraction of the public which, in a way following the traditional principle of subscription, only concentrates on one opera house, one art association, one book club and in this way limits their cultural activities, is falling. Exhibitions or orchestrated events are linked with other exhibitions and orchestrated events. The art system forms the context for how we receive art, and this system is – like the market that supports it – organized in a transnational and decentralized way (if we overlook certain cities and leading institutions designed as “centers”). Moreover, visits to cultural institutions are part and parcel of being a tourist, be it in your own city or elsewhere. One of the ambitions of prospective or experienced “culturati” is to know one’s subject, which always also means to travel. Thus the decentralized aspect of an institution like the European Kunsthalle, in terms of both space and administration, corresponds to a certain decentralized nature of the subjects of the cultural market. Perhaps these decentralized subjects of a institution, which designs itself to be decentralized, are even constituted, in a particular way, in their subjectivity.
In how far is the number of visitors relevant for the success of a Kunsthalle?
Max Hollein, director Schirn Kunsthalle, Liebighaus, Städelmuseum, Frankfurt
The number of visitors does not symbolize the success of a Kunsthalle, but it is very important for its success. This is because a high number of visitors creates long-term room for maneuver with respect to clients acting to political ends and their public, it signalizes acceptance and thus prevents the questioning of more complex ideas in terms of the program. With high numbers of visitors you can follow the program you want on a long-term basis. With lower visitor numbers it has the exact opposite effect in the long run. In this context therefore, the achievement exists in attaining high visitor numbers with a complex program – this is one, if not the moment of success for a Kunsthalle.
IS THERE A CORRELATION BETWEEN THE SUCCESS OF AN ART INSTITUTION AND THE CONCRETE CONSTELLATION OF MEDIA COVERAGE IN THE CITY WHERE IT IS LOCATED?
LARS BANG LARSEN, FREELANCE CURATOR AND CRITIC
In the era of the connected, technological city. the idea of the city is more relative than before. And as much as any art institution that sets the stakes of its reputation on a local as well as a regional, national and international level, the ambition projected by the European Kunsthalle is of a kind that reaches beyond the city limits. But the bigger part of un art institution’s audience, whom the art institution tries to reach through the media, still comes from the city in which they are located. It is obvious that art institutions in capital or bigger cities typically have better PR opportunities than provincial ones, because the big city s ‘media-umbrella’ reaches further than local or regional media. At the other end of the media food chain, creating your own micromedia structures – such as your website-is playing an increasingly bigger role. This opens up to the bigger question of what success is. At the end of the day, media success depends on what your criteria are: in the art system as in pop culture, media success is no guarantee for meaningful communication. Nevertheless media are an important part of communicating your program. But then one will also have to discern what media are relevant in which ways for one’s communication to the audience, because different kinds of media matter in different ways. What is more important to an art institution: 90 seconds on TV, an article in a regional newspaper or a review in an art periodical that is considered to be serious and informed by art professionals? Coverage of these divergent kinds offers different interfaces to your audience that are not mutually exclusive.
What are the contemporary places for art?
Sven Lütticken, art historian and critic
The short, slightly cynical answer would be: biennials and art fairs. And yet the question that we should be asking ourselves is if it’s really necessary to be “absolument de son temps” or if it isn’t possible to be contemporary and timely in another, more anachronistic way. By this I don’t mean guarding against new developments, but rather that one shouldn’t necessarily see and passively accept them as historical forces of nature. Interesting places for contemporary art are those able to act on aspects of the current event-oriented culture, integrating them into an exhibition and activities program and drawing an open, yet focused public to the margins of dominant culture. To do so, a kind of balky and even institutional presence is necessary. Dematerialized institutions content to organize something at whatever “interesting” place before disappearing again only sabotage the creation of an art public not generated by advertising and hype. Institutional Critique carries all the risks and side effects of “stable” institutions such as museums, and yet only physically accessible institutions might possibly become critical institutions.
Do static institutions actually have a future?
Florian Malzacher, curator steirischer herbst, Graz
No. But why is it so often precisely explicit non-institutions, which have the opportunity to be fully flexible, that are the most static? Often, the freedom of the unofficial art scene and off-culture us anything but promoting forward movement. Whether institution or non-institution: Static thinking is artistically and curatorially boring. Not even the most streamlined and flexible structure can protect against this. The problem is that many institutions are enclosed in fixed thought patterns, aesthetics and social images by their architecture. Then there are tough payroll structures and the set expectations of politicians, journalists and audiences. And laziness. Something stationary can of course also cause friction. Given things firm foundations. Make borders and control mechanisms visible. An institution that is always stretched beyond recognition by flexibility also quickly becomes unproductive and predictable. Static institutions have no future. But neither do static models for non-static institutions.
Is the audience right when they claim they do not understand contemporary art?
Chus Martinez, director Frankfurter Kunstverein
The night lasted for twenty seconds. After that a big flash took over: GNAC. Big, loud, real, shining from the roof top opposite where Marcovaldo – the working class hero of Italo Calvino – lives. But GNAC is only a part of a bigger neon sign saying SPAAK-COGNAC, which shone twenty seconds, then went off for twenty, and when it lit again you could see not anything else. The moon faded, the sky became uniform. Is the audience right when they “claim” they do not understand contemporary art? That is the question you posed me. I once was quoted to have answered “yes” to that. I was actually saying they need to be taken seriously when they “claim it”. But it can be that they are seeing only the GNAC of the story. So the crucial part is where is the rest of our sign?
Is the institutional critique as articulated in the field of art of particular relevance to the founding of a new institution?
Nina Möntmann, freelance curator and author
Classic artist participation in institutional processes is goal-oriented. As expected, the result of an artist’s work is put on display. Thus artistic production is understood as something for the general public. However, this only reflects one aspect of artists’ actual role as active coproducers in the various areas of the field of art. Institutional Critique was or is also partly an expression of discontent with using prefabricated structures without commenting on them, even if they are seen as problematic. In addition, Institutional Critique is not only practiced by artists, but is also a fixed feature on teaching plans for curatorial courses and at universities. In the meantime, curators who in the 1990s studied, for example, at the Whitney Program, are now active in museums and Kunsthalles. I am interested in working closely with artists as regards the structural work of institutions, too, i.e., involving artists in the planning stages and decision-making processes. This also aims to prevent the institution from occupying itself only with the expectations of sponsors, politicians and other groups, but first fulfills the requirements for artistic work as best as it can. This collaboration can occur both at the level of exhibition planning and in institution-forming processes. There is an opportunity here for new institutions whose profile is not yet determined.
Are models such as the migros museum for contemporary art in Zurich also conceivable in Germany?
Heike Munder, director migros museum, Zurich
1. Set up a company such as a cooperative and direct one percent of the sales towards culture.
2. Use this money for literature, theatre, music, media, art, education and social projects and don’t forget to put aside a certain sum per year for an art collection.
3. Open a museum when you have enough art for a program alternating between exhibitions of permanent works from the collection and temporary exhibitions.
4. Conduct research, preserve, communicate and produce. Enjoy your freedom. Your serve no management board, circle of friends or similar group.
The question whether the concept of the migros museum for contemporary art in Zurich can be transferred to other places depends on whether such classic financing methods, based on patronage and borne by the trust of the cooperative, can be applied to other places. This art, liberated from instrumentalization and bearing the task of social eduction, is a piece of utopia come true that is worth preserving.
How important is the spatial aspect for a Kunsthalle?
Juliane Rebentisch, philosopher and critic
My question: the “spatial aspect” of what? The Kunsthalle itself or the art presented in it? If it is the former, i.e. the importance of the concrete exhibition space for a Kunsthalle’s business, then the answer should probably relate to aspects of its architectural design: and then both in terms of its representativeness on the outside and its functionality on the inside. That these are important questions for a Kunsthalle is obvious. In order to get that done, however, it would be better to ask others. On the other hand, if the latter is what is meant, i.e., the spatial dimension of the art itself, this question only becomes an important one for a Kunsthalle if you take into consideration that advanced art today always has something of an installation in it. For this also applies to traditional forms such as painting and sculpture: here too the exposition in the space influences the meaning of the exhibits themselves. This means, however, among other things, that the dialogue with the concrete exhibition space falls increasingly explicitly to the ability of the artists themselves. It is no longer a neutral background, but rather has long since become part of the artistic material. A Kunsthalle has to take account of this development in its daily practices today. This applies to the necessary openness in terms of formal and programmatic interventions in the space of the respective institution as well as the dialogue with the new zones of friction between artistic and curatorial practices and the role of mediation, which in this context falls to the exhibition architecture. Perhaps interesting aspects such as these on the practice and theory of art that relate to the spatially reflexive daily life of a Kunsthalle could be discussed in other, somewhat more concrete “Questions of the Day”.
Is a Kunsthalle able to develop a European dimension?
Beatrix Ruf, director Kunsthalle Zurich
Yes, of course, is the first thing that comes to mind. And then it becomes difficult. A Kunsthalle, in the sense that this type of European art institution has been understood thus far, has mostly put international art up for discussion at a specific place and in the specific context of a city, an art scene. If you extend the location and therefore also the reference to a place, to an urban situation, to the local context of Cologne, Bonn or Berlin etc. to include the whole of Europe as a location, then you will no doubt have a different understanding of the concept of location or the significance of the local context – and place the interplay between the institution and its context in a wider cultural and political framework. Thus a question, one that changes, would perhaps be: What does internationality (of art) mean with reference to Cologne? And: What does internationality (of art) mean with reference to Europe? But perhaps the most difficult question of all is still: How European is Cologne?
Why isn’t there a Kunsthalle in bigger cities like London, Berlin or New York?
Edgar Schmitz, artist and writer, London
I am not so sure about Berlin or Paris or New York where the conditions are specific, but London certainly is defined by (or rather indefinable because of) its hybrid landscape of cultural institutions across public, private and commercial sectors and the feedback loops produced between them. What is generated by this mix is not only a whole range of different working conditions, but also a multitude of audience clusters and visibilities. Their dynamics spill over into one another. There is no space in this for either the cultural / political leverage or touristic marketing potential associated with the Kunsthalle as exclusive marker for cultural production. Any claims to the status of a recognizable privileged player would be drowned out by the sheer mass of differentiation. Its condition would always be the “plus one” / “one more” / “yet another” (which might finally be an interesting position for a Kunsthalle to occupy).
WHAT ARE RISKS OF GLOBAL MEDIA NETWORKING FOR THE RECEPTION OF ART?
GEORG SCHÖLLHAMMER, EDITOR IN-CHIEF SPRINGERIN & DOCUMENTA 12 MAGAZINES, VIENNA
Slgmund Freud once said that you cannot satisfy hunger during a famine by distribuling menus. This is a lovely image about the relationship of texts to reality. Often exhibition designers actually obstruct visitors’ vision of the artworks with unnecessary texts; they obstruct a direct experience which is open to everyone. And all too often art is of course also used to illustrate a thesis, a theme, a curatorial idea. Then the power of art. which indeed also lies precisely in the ambiguity, in the contradictory nature and in the obstinacy of the images, is presented as something that we can read as if they were instructions for use. Not only perceptive exhibition visitors rightly resist this, but also good artworks. Yet there is also a sentence from Picasso, who once proudly countered the scorn of one of his conservative critics saying that his art was like Chinese art and no-one gets worked up if they cannot understand a Chinese text on first seeing or hearing it. To answer your question in a different way: Today, we can no longer write the history of contemporary art as local reporters between New York and Cologne or London and Paris. This idea of a contemporary art dominated by a couple of Western centres is thankfully beginning to fade. Even the New York scene sometimes seems provincial at the moment. There are many centers of art today and the art there speaks its own dialects. This is why we have asked the experts on these dialogs – authors and critics, curators, artists who also write, who work on site in the editorial offices of small and large media – to develop, completely independent of us, their own view of the central theme of the documenta 12 and then to discuss it with us. Good texts in the right place, in a publication, in a catalogue, for example, are no problem at all.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF TEACHING CRITICAL DISCOURSE?
SIMON SHEIKH, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR FOR ART THEORY AND COORDINATOR CRITICAL STUDIES PROGRAM, ART ACADEMY MALMÖ
For me, the challenge is how to implement critical theory into the thinking within artistic practice, and not have one illustrate the other. This involves acts of transferal and translation, with all the infidelity this implies, and hopefully in a (counter?) productive manner!
IN HOW FAR DO NEWLY FOUNDED INSTITUTIONS HAVE TO DEAL WITH NEW SOCIAL REALITIES?
DIRK SNAUWAERT, DIRECTOR WIELS, BRUSSELS
Institutions should occupy themselves with the issues of society and reality as closely as possible. New institutions are the direct, almost reflexive emanation of social change. Otherwise we would not see the necessity of a new answer to a new situation; the instruments and institutions of tradition would be sufficient. It is essential to ask oneself whether conditions are determining or whether they can be changed or subsidized and whether an institution is the right answer.
Why are exhibition spaces focussing on discourse seemingly less popular?
Bettina Steinbrügge, artistic director Halle für Kunst, Lüneburg
Counter question: Are they really less popular? What does popularity actually mean? Why should spaces that focus on discourse be popular at all? Popularity is identified with majorities, publicity and audience ratings. This comes from the fact that today, the audience is measured according to market criteria. The modes of access and articulation are being replaced by the modes of the exchange of goods and consumption. Simon Sheikh recently suggested that the Enlightenment developed the ideas of the rational-critical subject and disciplinary social order, while these ideas have since been replaced by the notion of entertainment. Spaces focusing on discourse cannot and are not meant to achieve this. Their task is far more to avoid the principles of the art market and the event culture. Good ideas mostly need longer to develop and above all to establish themselves in general thought. In contrast, popularity is generated by quickness, which cannot be the aim of a critical practice that breaks with common sense and doxa. Therefore, popularity is also frequently linked to brevity. It is very difficult to measure popularity, because it mostly assumes a non-specific public. The territory of the “public” and thus also “popular” sphere however is imaginary. The idea of the universal civic public is a historical construct, and the question arises, whether this has actually ever existed as something other than a projection. In the end, it can only involve manufacturing particular audiences among the public. I think that the unpopular is an important starting point for a discussion with long-term effects. Incidentally, it is not obvious that discourse-oriented spaces are less popular, for according to statistics, spaces like, e.g., the Generali Foundation in Vienna or Kunst-Werke in Berlin or events like the last documenta shows generate a huge interest when compared to average visitor numbers and media presence. And here again we can ask ourselves: From which point can something’s popularity be measured? Criteria please!
IS THE IDEA OF INTERNATIONALITY IN / OF ART A MYTH?
BARBARA STEINER, DIRECTOR GALERIE FÜR ZEITGENÖSSISCHE KUNST, LEIPZIG
When we started the two-year research project “Cultural territories” in early 2003, many people from different areas feared a marginalization of our institution, which is now established on an international scale. Even now, two years on, we are still reproached for having put and for putting internationalizatlon on the line to such an extent. Since it was founded, the declared objective of the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst (Museum of Contemporary Art) has been to be international, but has also adopted (unquestioned) this term’s traditional association) with the West. In contrast, art from the former Eastern Block seemed ideologically charged and only accepted to the extent that it could be reconciled with these ideas of “internationality”. Now, the project “Cultural territories” was devoted against the background of the history of the foundation of the gallery – explicitly and limited in terms of time from the beginning onwards, to the political and economic implications of culture and Its territorializing power. While in the first year, cliches, stereotypes and projections 111 connection with the construction “Osteuropa” (Eastern Europe) were used as themes, the second and third years saw definite focal themes that can no longer be considered independently of global influences. The artistic analyses ranged from the economy, the role of the media and how it creates identity, the space-creating power of language to tolerance or intolerance, migration and space allocation. Here, curators and artists with different cultural experiences and backgrounds worked in close collaboration. A small tip at this point: Those invited did not only come from post-communist successor states. The force of the criticism leveled at our program and above all its stereotypical persistence until the present day has surprised me, and we have indeed long since been working (also) with artists again who fulfill all the required criteria for “internationality”. Their works are shown in economically powerful and politically influential parts of the world, they are debated, traded and bought. However, we also collaborate with artists who are not present, or barely present, in these hegemonic networks and are no less active In national relationships of exchange. So what kind of internationality are we talking about? In the positive sense, the call for Internationality means a promise to break out of local / national constriction. It strives for an intellectual and material exchange beyond national borders and values open mindedness and a cosmopolitan attitude. The call for an international art is on the one hand the expression of a longing for a community of values stretching beyond borders, but on the other hand masks its dominant character. In 2003, we started taking the specific history of the foundation of the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst as the starting point for deciding the direction of the new program, to discuss its legitimacy, its construction, its function and role, and to begin a debate about the “nature of institutions”. Investigating ideas of “internationality” are a part of this almost by necessity. My answer to the question “Is the idea of internationality in / of art a myth?” is a definitive yes. A social construction, a fascinating one in the Utopian sense, is declared a hard fact and, to quote Roland Barthes, history to nature.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF OPENING YOUR OWN EXHIBITION SPACE AS OPPOSED TO LOANING YOUR PRIVATE COLLECTION TO A PUBLIC MUSEUM?
JULIA STOSCHEK, ENTREPRENUR AND COLLECTOR, DÜSSELDORF
Having my own space for the collection basically gives me a greater range of freedom. Among others. These Include the freedom to exhibit what I would like to show, such as artists who have yet to become well-established, for example. My decision to also make these freedoms accessible to the public is a personal request and an invitation to others to follow my decisions with interest and a critical eye. The tasks and above all the duties of a public museum are different than those of a private one, and I would like to see public spaces endowed with the financial resources that would enable them to fulfill their classical duties – namely those of collecting, maintaining, researching and exhibiting – in an adequate way.
How important is an actual place within the city for an art institution?
Aneta Szylak, Direktorin Wyspa, Institutute of Art, Gdansk
Site is a catalyst. The location is crucial for an institution’s profile and message – if one really wants to have a space. Having a space can easily become a burden, both in the artistic and economic sense. But if we assume that the building is attached and the notion of institution then, yes, the location is important. Spatial relations and the contextualization within an urban tissue seem to be the most defining factors for an art organization. Choosing the place (if you have a choice) is then not only the search for an attractive location in the city, but also influences what you will be actually doing. There is no such thing like a neutral location. But you can also see the institution as freed from being placed and tailored to be a floating project. Easily movable, quick to be re-arranged, harder to pin down. It is cheaper, more surprising, probable sexier. If you know how to do it, how to not operate in fixed and defined spatial relations. This changes the message of the institution entirely. The lack of a spatial definition is a definition, too.
IS THE DISCUSSION ABOUT CENTRE AND PERIPHERY ANY LONGER IMPORTANT?
SUSANNE TITZ, DIRECTOR MUSEUM ABTEIBERG, MÖNCHENGLADBACH
In fact it is. Because otherwise we would not hear this pair of terms as often as we do. Yet. happily, no longer with the sympathetic, arrogant tone that earlier mostly meant metropolis and diaspora. On the one hand, this is linked to the fact that a knowledge of transience has presented itself. Centres became peripheries, some nondescript place suddenly acquired meaning, nothing remains for eternity. On the other hand, the so-called periphery has become quite an attractive place of residence and of production, whose quality can be said to be in cheap rents, greater freedom and personal space and whose output sooner or later penetrates the so-called centers and perhaps questions their validity. Modern ideas of the center – from Paris to New York and Cologne to Berlin – were heavily opposed by peripheral areas, for example, in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, as early as the 1960s and 1970s. The fact that people stuck with the concept of the city can also be explained by their mythical quality. Los Angeles was only discovered, finally, in the 1990s, then Glasgow and Warsaw, for example, were added to the map, as were artists’ living and working areas in Brussels and Rotterdam, curatorial projects and new exhibition addresses in Ljubljana, Gdansk, Lüneburg and Luxembourg, which all led to increased travel and permanent attention to new, mostly unknown and foreign places. It would certainly be wrong to declare one periphery after the other a new center. The Belgian Ardennes will perhaps remain a region of Ardennes ham, the polders in the northern Netherlands a source of inspiration for Jenever schnapps. The deciding factor lies in the extended perception of culture, which should prove to be a consistently recalcitrant and surprising element given the fact that centristic marketing and market ideologies run in the opposite direction. Therefore we need to watch out in the European Kunsthalle and avoid being centralistic in our consideration of cultural developments in Europe and elsewhere.
IS THE ART MARKET ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE INSTITUTIONALIZED ART SYSTEM REGARDING INTERNATIONAL NETWORKING?
Nicolas Trembley, curator and gallerist, Paris
The question is broad and should be precized: What exactly means international networking and for whom (public, artists, curators, collectors)? Shall we understand “network” as an up to date knowledge, information on the state of the art? If so, can the art market and the institutionalized art system be summarized in two separated entities? Certainly not. Traditionally the art market located within the networks of the gallery system has always played its role in discovering and exposing hand in hand with the institutions. It is a back and forth movement: art goes back from the institutions to the market with added value. But the goals of the art market are different than the ones of institutions, and if it is right that sometimes institutions are slow with networking, it is because they play the role of intellectual observer and need more time to digest and analyze the information. The art market concerns only a small amount of information and thus might be more efficient in networking – like an octopus. But what does it propose? Not much. The case of Bilbao has been an important lesson on how a marketing strategy linked to an institution became an empty shell. It pushes the world to refuse that art institutions end in shopping mails due to the information spread there – networks that don’t really concern art any more. Art institutions will have to find new ways of networking, different to those of the market.
Can a Kunsthalle establish a critical counter-discourse questioning the art system?
Jan Verwoert, critic
It is definitely within the power of a Kunsthalle to provide room for critical discussion. Critical discourse needs a venue. It is not for nothing that the Greek term “criterion” not only refers to the standard gauge of a judgment, but also to where the actual trial takes place (where the court is). Thus the place Kunsthalle can be a criterion. Yet the question remains whether the institution is able to establish a discourse, or whether the institution should not, when it offers itself as the venue of the discussion, curb its power in order to play the ideal host. Really, criticism can only come from guests, i.e., from the outside. But you cannot “establish” guests, only invite them. Whether they then come or not is up to them. Thus the Kunsthalle is dependent on a discourse where they can never guarantee that it will take place, even if they are able to provide a venue for it. That such a discussion can achieve anything against the narrow-mindedness of the art business and not get lost in the general frenzy of activity itself is just as hard to predict. Perhaps it is exactly in this way that discourse can avoid becoming business, by continually opposing the establishment of institutional routines by inviting unusual guests.
WHICH STRUCTURES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR THE PRESENTATION AND MEDIATION OF CONTEMPORARY ART?
ASTRID WEGE, MEMBER PROGRAM TEAM EUROPEAN KUNSTHALLE
Even if people like to say presentation and communication in one breath, they mean different things. Let’s take the term ‘presentation’. In my opinion, it is fundamental to understand it not only in terms of that which already exists, or the institution as secondary to what is being presented, but the crux of the matter is how far it wants to forge new paths of production and (discourse) culture, in close collaboration with artists and cultural producers, and in this sense, create space for thought, action and design. With regard to communication, even if grasping this is almost a commonplace, it is decisive; where we would like to locate ourselves within the artistic field, which audience we would like to address with which offer. However, it is especially important here to allow the questioning of openness and attention, the idea of the “audience” which is always implicitly evident by way of the actual audience and to take this up in one’s own forms of communication. We hardly need to mention that independence in terms of content. reliable financial support and continuity are essential for the development and realization of considerations and activities such as these.
Is a decentralized Kunsthalle the adequate answer to European demands for new art institutions?
Axel John Wieder, artistic director Künstlerhaus Stuttgart and bookseller pro qm, Berlin
On the one hand, the concept of “European” denotes a concrete reference to a political community. In this regard, the European demand, similar to national prefixes used to identify national institutions, for the Deutsches Historisches Museum, for example, could understood as a prestigious contract for an institution. In this sense, the European Union would be the corresponding reference point, which could be given cultural meaning by way of a Kunsthalle even in Cologne, for whatever reason, maybe its geographical location, or in another place. So the answer to the question whether it would not be better if this institution were to be decentrally organized would then depend on the prevailing view of Europe at the time, which, in fact, also involves the question of the representation of Europe, or in other words, the concept of a European institution also always says something about how we see Europe as a
political entity. On the other hand, the reference to Europe can also be interpreted in the sense of a scale. The opposite would presumably be a regional Kunsthalle. As an institution of full-scale European significance, a European Kunsthalle would address a larger audience and not least prove a relevant advantage in terms of location. Decentrally organizing it would not necessarily cut across this mechanism, but would possibly even strengthen it, as the flexibility of the Manifesta thus far has similarly not hindered its festival character, but rather made it mich more effective. In contrast, a stable location could offer the chance to establish a more long-term dialog between local and European discourses. I think that a European-oriented institution has to place itself between these two force fields, less in the sense of a definite location, but much more in order to provide an exemplary and concrete place to do business, also in terms of its organizational form. In the ideal case, both options and all possibilities in-between would be available, as its actually already the case with contemporary forms of institutions, for example, by means of partnerships.
WHICH SOCIETAL SPACE CAN A KUNSTHALLE OCCUPY?
GESA ZIEMER, PHILOSOPHER AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE THEORY DEPARTMENT, HOCHSCHULE FÜR GESTALTUNG UND KUNST, ZURICH
A Kunsthalle can be just as much a place for critical reflection on society as certain universities have been at given points in time. Since the universities (at least in German-speaking countries) have become extremely quiet in this regard, there are few places for this kind of public, divergent discourse. There are places for criticism, though you also have to consider what criticism in terms of the art of evaluation even means anymore. I wish criticism would emerge from its super-marginalized position and rid itself of its expert jargon. To be sure. critical reflection taking place in a Kunsthalle could never be academically led, but rather through various media, a mixed range of people, always connected to art but also everyday practice. In other words: Given the program-flood of artistic and discursive activities with which I am constantly inundated: When do I notice that a Kunsthalle is not only an art venue, but also a social space? When the curator succeeds in building a promising constellation around a certain subject (or even thesis – yes, I’m always happy to see theses!) – between art. theory, politics, economics, and so on. When it’s not art that is up for reconsideration, but society.