When the pandemic brought the world to a halt, art centres, like many other venues, were forced to close their doors and make their contents digitally accessible in different formats, without time to truly reflect on the role of the art institution in the digital world.
Responses have varied widely, from generating new online content (exhibitions, workshops, talks) and making the institutions’ own archives more visible, to showcasing the work of artists in different formats (screenings, portfolio reviews, conservations) and featuring contents from outside the institution, all with the aim of facilitating access to culture and maintaining the art institution’s presence in society.
Institutions have been reactive and, in a way, their reactions have overwhelmed us with possibilities, once again placing too many demands on our virtual space and time. The range of choices multiplied exponentially, without stopping to consider if they were truly necessary. While digital space offers access opportunities that physical space cannot, it also has several major drawbacks, one of which is the lack of face-to-face interaction: the experience of a shared moment and space that creates sociability.
How can the mission of art institutions (museums, art centres, residences and art institutions in general) be transferred to the digital plane? How should art institutions help us to understand current events? Have we learned something from the altered perception of time during the pandemic? What about the need for physical interaction? How will this transition between or coexistence of physical and virtual space work? Bearing in mind that the institution's role is not only to programme and provide access to culture but also to maintain, nurture and create spaces and conditions conducive to artistic production and community work, La Casa Encendida has decided to host five digital encounters where experts will try to outline a road map towards developing a set of principles, a kind of decalogue for the institution yet to come.
The title alludes to the concept of queerness posited by Cuban scholar José Esteban Muñoz, who proposed that we flee from the “here and now”, where everything has already been invented and standardised, and imagine the “then and there” as the potential of everything that could be, the “yet to be”. In the five conversations that comprise this cycle, we and our guest speakers will try to imagine a possible collective code of principles for the art institution yet to come. This list will be one of many, devised on the basis of the many potential roles of the art institution: as a place of encounter, a place of community, a place of care for artists, a place of learning and a place of research.
Calendar of conversation posts (22 June to 1 July):
22 June. 'The institution as a place of encounter'
With Matthieu Goeury, Vooruit (Ghent), and Nico Marzano, Institute of Contemporary Arts, ICA (London).
24 June. 'The institution as a place of community'
With Binna Choi, Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons (Utrecht), and Amelie Aranguren, Centro de Acercamiento a lo Rural, CAR (Madrid).
26 June. 'The institution as a place of learning'
With Antonia Alampi, Savvy Contemporary: The Laboratory of Form-Ideas (Berlin), and Carolina Rito, professor at Coventry University (Coventry).
29 June. 'The institution as a place of research'
With Mélanie Bouteloup, independent curator (Paris), and Elvira Dyangani Osé, The Showroom (London).
1st of July. 'The institution as a space of care for artists'
With Emily Pethick, Rijksakademie (Amsterdam), and Vincent Honoré, MO.CO. Montpellier Contemporain (Montpellier).
Curator: Ane Rodríguez Armendariz.