Notes on a post-representational museum
Since the 1960s representation has been confronted with increasing scepticism in the art field, in theory and in political activism (as in today’s Occupy!-protests). Representational critique became an important engine for conceptual artistic practices,
curatorial approaches and activist reclamations.
Let’s think for example of the process character of happenings and all the artistic strategies of institutional critique. As a rule, they were opposing the idea of art as representation. Now, some decades later, these strategies became representational themselves. We can find them canonised and depoliticised in Museums of Contemporary Art worldwide.
Has institutional critique become institutionalized? And what does it mean for the possibility of taking a critical position?
One thing is for sure, the only perspective available now is one of critical complicity. It has become impossible to presume an external standpoint for criticism. Hence, the question “What is to be done?” has to be posed nevertheless. What we need to envision is a curatorial and artistic practice after the regime of representation.
So what comes after the show? A post-representational Museum would not represent scenes, fields, nations, tendencies or discourses. Emphasizing the referential and relational dimensions of curating, a post-representational museum would turn into a public space where things are “taking place” rather than “being shown”.
So when we talk about an “educational turn in curating” this is not about handing down existing national and bourgeois values, nor is it about the mere reproduction of knowledge. It is about exploring the possibilities of an alternative and emancipatory production of knowledge that resists, supplements, thwarts, undercuts, or challenges powerful canons.
Writer is one of the keynote speaker in It’s all Mediating - an international conference on curating and education in the exhibition context 30-31 May 2012.