Friday, November 11, 6 to 9 pm
6 pm – Symposium opening notes
6:05 pm – Boris Groys
There is a long history of discontent regarding art museums, which could be related to the main promise of the museum: to protect artworks. In response to this promise, people often think that there is either too much, or not enough, protection for art. Most often, these two responses become intertwined. Though this may seem paradoxical, the art museum is nonetheless regularly criticized for being simultaneously too protective and not protective enough.
7 pm – Liam Gillick, Anne Pasternak, and Nancy Spector
Liam Gillick moderates a discussion between Anne Pasternak and Nancy Spector—who are both relatively new to the Brooklyn Museum—about reconciling progressive, community-based projects or collaborative, experimental exhibitions with the reifying effects of a major art museum. Topics include the exhibition theanyspacewhatever at the Guggenheim Museum in 2008, which brought together a group of artists who had worked together and separately since the early 1990s, but who had not yet exhibited collectively within the constructs of an institutional environment. What is lost and what is gained when collaboration is dictated by an organizing entity? Similarly, the question of translation will be applied to many of the itinerant, social practice projects of Creative Time. Is there a space for such outreach in an encyclopedic museum?
7:40 pm – Hans Ulrich Obrist
Classical, traditional exhibitions emphasize order and stability. But in our own lives, in our social environments, we see fluctuations and instability, a plethora of choices, and limited predictability. Alexander Dorner, who ran the Hannover Museum in northern Germany in the 1920s, defined the museum as an energy plant, a Kraftwerk. He invited artists such as El Lissitzky to develop new and dynamic displays for what he called the “museum on the move,” where exhibitions would be in a state of permanent construction, and where the viewer could permanently create—and question—his or her own history.
8:20 pm – Anton Vidokle, Immortality and Resurrection for All
Anton Vidokle presents part of a new film based on Russian Cosmist philosopher Nikolai Fedorov’s c. 1880 essay “The Museum, Its Meaning and Mission,” which is included in Avant-Garde Museology. Starring members of the present-day Fedorov Library in Moscow, as well as Arseny Zhilyaev, the film was shot last winter at the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Zoological Museum, the Lenin Library, and the Museum of Revolution. Entitled Immortality and Resurrection for All, the film is an artistic interpretation of Fedorov’s universal museum, where immortality and resurrection will be actualized.
Saturday, November 12, 11 am to 8 pm
11 am – Session introduction
11:05 am – Arseny Zhilyaev
The editor of Avant-Garde Museology reflects upon the main conclusions drawn from his research for the book. Today many contemporary artists uphold the historical avant-garde’s negative attitude toward the museum as an institution for maintaining the class enemy’s order of things. In 1917, with the new social agenda of the Russian Proletarian Revolution, art was transformed from a bourgeois ghetto into a means of production in the service of a new communist society and a new human. Marxist museology appeared to provide a possible solution to the dilemma the historical avant-garde posed for artistic institutions. The display methodology and concept of the post-revolutionary museum drew closer to historical materialist practice, even echoing a number of avant-garde principles. According to Zhilyaev, the final stage in establishing museology as a means of production and a medium for social and human development is best described by the philosophy of Russian Cosmism, which envisioned the museum of art as the ultimate frontier for human expression—based not on social or physical contradictions, but on overcoming any limits imposed by nature or earthbound political or economic orders.
11:45 pm – Molly Nesbit, "Duchamp's View"
Marcel Duchamp was always considered by his peers to be the outlier, not part of any one avant-garde, and yet setting the benchmarks by which the radicality of their work would be measured. On a few special occasions he designed installations for avant-garde exhibitions, but this was the exception, not the rule. In March 1961, Duchamp told a group of art students at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art that the great artist of tomorrow will go underground. In the draft for this talk, he used the French word maquis. The wider scope of this resistance and Résistance can be seen throughout his work and measured empirically. In his own underground, there was always already a politics casting its shadows over them all.
12:25 pm – Nikolay Punin, "The Dead-end of Bourgeois Art"
A few years after the Soviet Revolution, some museologists began thinking about the role of art and the art museum in the new socialist society. If socialism is the most advanced society, then its art should be the best, while the art of previous epochs must be considered inferior and presented accordingly. Thus, in the early 1930s, Aleksei Fedorov-Davydov organized several "Marxist exhibitions" in which pre-Revolutionary modern art was labeled "bourgeois" and "formalistic." Soon after, works by Malevich, Tatlin, and Rodchenko were removed from museum walls and gradually erased from collective memory. Meanwhile, primarily thanks to Alfred Barr, the Russian/Soviet avant-garde was promoted and exhibited in the West and became an important part of the modern canon. However, in Russia today there seems to be a rising question of how to reclaim and reinterpret this avant-garde heritage using a different narrative, which looks for its origins perhaps not so much in Cubism and Futurism, but rather in Fedorov and Cosmism.
1:05 pm – Lunch break (1.5 hours)
2:35 pm – Session introduction
2:40 pm – Fred Wilson
Fred Wilson speaks about Mining the Museum and other museum projects that he has created over the past twenty-five years, particularly focusing on the aspects of his installations that question the orthodoxy of meaning, subvert the systems of display, and/or reveal denial within the museum. All of Wilson’s projects are inspired by observation, not premeditated intention. Projects may include ones the artist created at the Hood Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Old Salem Museum, Allen Memorial Museum of Art at Oberlin College, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and The Ian Potter Museum of Art (Melbourne), among others.
3:20 pm – Lynne Cooke
What defines whose work is shown and collected in museums of modern and contemporary art today? In the 1930s, Alfred Barr argued that the work of self-taught artists, beginning with Henri Rousseau (who had no formal academic training), constituted a tributary or division within the narratives of modern art that he was then constructing at MoMA. Recently, a number of institutions, spurred on by the example and advocacy of well-established artists, are beginning to revisit this notion—albeit in substantially revised terms.
4 pm – Kimberly Drew, "CTRL + F ‘Black’ "
Kimberly Drew, a.k.a. @museummammy, will talk about her blog Black Contemporary Art, diversity in museums, and the role of the digital institution in 2016.
4:40 pm – Short break (30 minutes)
5:10 pm – Session introduction
5:15 pm – Irene V. Small, "Notes on the Lives of Art"
Avant-garde practices have frequently asked how art might become life. What if instead we questioned the life of art itself? This presentation considers the work of Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, whose wearable Parangolés have long embodied a paradigm of art’s exit from the museum. Yet principles of another museum—a natural history museum where Oiticica worked while he conceived of the Parangolés—complexly condition both his own participatory proposition and the afterlives of his works. Excavating these principles suggests an alternate model of a museum: one that does not stand polemically between art and anti-art (or more crudely art and life), but functions as a space for the investigation of living things.
5:55 pm – Fionn Meade, "Objects of Prohibition"
Whether it’s Trostky’s bullet-riddled villa in Coyoacán, Mexico, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s retreat house in Sussex, or the Nietzsche House in Sils-Maria, Switzerland, a trip to the preserved and thereby altered sites of truly significant creative production falls somewhere between the tourist cliché of encountering a time capsule and courting the uncanny. Both embarrassing and comforting to the visitor, equal parts homage and opportunism, the space of the house museum provides an uneasy model for considering the critical stagecraft of museology. By considering such examples as the Avant-Garde Institute in Warsaw (home and studio to the artists Henryk Stażewski and Edward Krasiński) and the late Decors of poet and artist Marcel Broodthaers, alongside additional contemporary artistic examples, Fionn Meade looks to the paradoxical testament of "avant house museology" for its capacity to question and disrupt the retrospective gaze.
6:35 pm – Bruce Altshuler
The e-flux publication of Soviet writings on museums reveals a largely unknown history, one in which such familiar themes as the museum-as-mausoleum and the socio-political use of institutions are presented within the framework of Marxism-Leninism. Focusing on a variety of exhibition strategies—from early twentieth-century displays in Germany, the U.S., and Russia, through changing postwar conceptions of the museum mission, to innovative exhibition-making in the 1990s—this talk investigates how particular museological ideas have been deployed for instrumental use in very different ideological contexts.
7:05 pm – Juliana Huxtable
About the participants:
Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Program in Museum Studies at New York University. He is the author of Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1962–2002; Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History, 1863–1959; The Avant-Garde in Exhibition; and the monograph Isamu Noguchi, and editor of Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art. Altshuler has written and lectured extensively about the history of museums, exhibition history, and curatorial issues. He has been a member of the graduate faculty of the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies and the Board of Directors of the International Association of Art Critics/United States Section.
Lynne Cooke is Senior Curator for Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 2012–14, she was Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In 2008–12, she served as chief curator and deputy director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, and from 1991 to 2008 as Curator at Dia Art Foundation. In 1991, Cooke co-curated the Carnegie International, and has helmed numerous major shows since, including the 10th Biennale of Sydney (1996), the traveling exhibition Rosemarie Trockel: Cosmos (2012), and Cristina Iglesias: A Place of Reflection, recently on view at the Casa França-Brasil in Rio de Janiero. She is currently working on a project researching the interface between mainstream and outlier artists in the United States in the twentieth century.
Kimberly Drew (a.k.a. @museummammy) received her B.A. in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College, with a concentration in Museum Studies. An avid lover of black culture and art, Drew first experienced the art world as an intern in the Director’s Office of The Studio Museum in Harlem. Her time at the Studio Museum inspired her to start the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art, sparking her interest in social media. Since then, Drew has worked for Hyperallergic, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Lehmann Maupin. She has delivered lectures and participated in panel discussions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Basel Miami Beach, Moogfest, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Brooklyn Museum, and elsewhere. Drew is currently the Social Media Manager at The Met, was recently honored by AIR Gallery as the recipient of their inaugural Feminist Curator Award, and was selected as one of the YBCA100 by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Liam Gillick is an artist living and working in New York City. His work exposes the dysfunctional aspects of a modernist legacy in terms of abstraction and architecture when framed within a globalized, neoliberal consensus, and extends into structural rethinking of the exhibition as a form. Gillick’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Tate in London, and at documenta and the Venice, Berlin, and Istanbul Biennales, and is included in collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Bilbao, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. Over the last twenty-five years, Gillick has also been a prolific writer and critic of contemporary art, contributing to Artforum, October, Frieze, and e-flux journal. He is the author of a number of books, including the recent Industry and Intelligence: Contemporary Art Since 1820 (Columbia University Press, 2016).
Boris Groys is an art critic, media theorist, and philosopher. He is currently Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University and Senior Research Fellow at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe, Germany. He has been a professor of Aesthetics, Art History, and Media Theory at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design/Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, and an internationally acclaimed professor at a number of universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, and the Courtauld Institute of Art, in London.
Juliana Huxtable is an American artist, DJ, and model who works in photography, video, performance, poetry, and music. Huxtable's work primarily focuses on archiving and abstracting representations of art history, the internet, and her experience as a queer woman of color. In her photography, Huxtable uses her own body as the primary subject. She draws from a broad range of references, including the Nuwaubian movement. Huxtable is co-founder of the nightlife gender project SHOCK VALUE and is a member of the New York–based collective House of Ladosha. Her recent multimedia performance, titled There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed, was co-commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art and Performa to be performed during the latter's biannual festival. She lives and works in New York.
Fionn Meade is Artistic Director at the Walker Art Center, where he has curated the exhibitions Less Than One and Andrea Büttner, and the upcoming Question the Wall Itself, and has served as the Walker’s coordinating curator for the traveling exhibition Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Previously, Meade curated Coming to Reality (2014) as well as From the Sky (2014) with Laure Prouvost at Danspace Project, New York. Meade has served as a curator at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, and SculptureCenter, New York. He has written recent catalogue essays on Dieter Roth, Camille Henrot, Nina Canell and Laure Prouvost, Uri Aran, and Elad Lassry. His writing has appeared in Artforum, Bidoun, Mousse, Modern Painters, Parkett, and SPIKE Quarterly, among other publications.
Molly Nesbit is Professor of Art History in the Department of Art at Vassar College and a contributing editor of Artforum. Her books include Atget’s Seven Albums (Yale University Press, 1992) and Their Common Sense (Black Dog, 2000). The Pragmatism in the History of Art (Periscope, 2013) is the first volume of Pre-Occupations, a series collecting her essays. The second volume, Midnight: The Tempest Essays, will be published this winter by Inventory Press. Since 2002, together with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija, she has curated Utopia Station, an ongoing collective book, exhibition, seminar, website, and street project, opening next at the Brooklyn Museum in April 2017.
Hans Ulrich Obrist is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries, London. Previously, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show World Soup (The Kitchen Show) in 1991, he has curated more than 300 shows. In 2011 Obrist received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence, and in 2015 he was awarded the International Folkwang Prize for his commitment to the arts. Obrist has lectured internationally at academic and art institutions, and is contributing editor for several magazines and journals. His recent publications include Conversations in Mexico, Ways of Curating, The Age of Earthquakes with Douglas Coupland and Shumon Basar, and Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects.
Anne Pasternak recently joined the Brooklyn Museum as Shelby White and Leon Levy Director, where she envisions new ways to connect the Museum to its historical collections with leading-edge practices. Previously, she served as President and Artistic Director of Creative Time, a New York City–based nonprofit arts organization that commissions and presents adventurous public art projects. Renowned projects include performances in the historic Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, sculptural installations in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, sign paintings in Coney Island, skywriting over Manhattan, and the Tribute in Light, the twin beacons of light that illuminated the sky above the former World Trade Center site six months after 9/11, and which continue to be presented on the anniversaries of that date.
Nikolay Punin is a well-known art theoretician from the time of the Russian avant-garde who, in 2011, many years after his death, reappeared with the lecture "Malevich in the West" during the exhibition/conference Anfang gut. Alles gut. at the Kunsthaus in Bregenz. In the lecture, Punin first presented his thesis that Kazimir Malevich has been conceived of as one of the most important characters in the History of Modern Art in the West—primarily owing to his inclusion in the 1936 MoMA exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art. Punin gave the same lecture during the exhibitions Art Histories (VOX, Montreal, 2012) and The New International (Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2014).
Irene V. Small is assistant professor of modern and contemporary art and criticism in the department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, where she is also an affiliated faculty member of the Programs in Media and Modernity, Latin American Studies, and the department of Spanish and Portuguese. Her essays and criticism have appeared in Artforum, Third Text, October, and Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, among others. She is author of Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame (University of Chicago Press, 2016), and a contributor to the catalogue for the exhibition Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium, opening at the Carnegie Museum of Art in October 2016 and touring to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is currently researching a new book with the working title The Organic Line and the Ends of Modernism.
Nancy Spector is Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Brooklyn Museum. During more than twenty-nine years at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, she organized exhibitions on Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle, Richard Prince, Louise Bourgeois, Marina Abramović, Tino Sehgal, Maurizio Cattelan, and Peter Fischli/David Weiss, and the group exhibitions Moving Pictures, Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) and theanyspacewhatever. Spector was Adjunct Curator of the 1997 Venice Biennale and co-organizer of the first Berlin Biennial in 1998. She has contributed to numerous books on contemporary visual culture with essays on artists such as Maurizio Cattelan, Luc Tuymans, Douglas Gordon, Tino Seghal, and Anna Gaskell. In 2007 she was the U.S. Commissioner for the Venice Biennale, where she presented an exhibition of work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Spector is a recipient of the Peter Norton Family Foundation Curators Award, five International Art Critics Association Awards, and a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award for her work on YouTube Play, a Biennial of Creative Video.
Anton Vidokle is an artist and editor of e-flux journal.
Fred Wilson is a conceptual artist whose work explores the relationship between museums, individual works of art, and collections of other kinds. Wilson is a 1999 MacArthur Fellow and represented the United States at the 2003 Venice Biennale. Since 2001, Wilson has explored making sculpture in glass, among other media. His work can be found in several public collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Whitney Museum of American Art.
Arseny Zhilyaev is an artist who lives and works in Moscow and Voronezh. Using artistic, political, scientific, and museological histories to uncover and propose potential futures, Zhilyaev explores a productive space between fiction and nonfiction. Within his projects, the artist casts a revisionist lens on the heritage of Soviet museology. Zhilyaev is a member of the editorial board of the Moscow-based art magazine Khudozhestvennyi Zhurnal.