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Envisioning the Future of Contemporary Art from Different 'Glocal' Positions

Author: Hans Ulrich Obrist 2002

Hans Ulrich Obrist, "Envisioning the Future of Contemporary Art from Different 'Glocal' Positions," China National Art Academy of Arts, Hangzhou, March 2004.

One of the most important possibilities for the museum today is to think about how bridges can be made between fields of knowledge. "On the bridge you have two points, two ends" (Huang Yongping).

Normally we think a person should have only one standpoint, but when you become a bridge you have to have two. This is also a kind of explanation for the concept of crossing the border of the self: as one person, you should have many standpoints. Between these two points, there is one that is more stable, your original personality and another point which is less stable, floating. This bridge is always dangerous.

There is a great deal of potential, for example, that could be exploited by linking art institutions at universities with other fields and other institutions of learning and research - including science, architecture, design, etc. Museums for their part could invite people from various disciplines to take on an active role in the museum's production of cultural meaning. The enduring impact of Jean-Fran?ois Lyotard's exhibition, Les Immateriaux, is a perfect example of the potential that lies in such unexpected curatorial ventures. As another way to collaborate, the museum could work more actively with artists to develop exhibitions, programs, permanent displays, and other museum structures. Some of the most far reaching and experimental of exhibitions of all time were organized by artists, including Herbert Bayer, Walter Gropius, Marcel Duchamp, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, or architects such as Frederic Kielser, Mies van der Rohe or Lilly Reich.

Dorner saw this potential in the 1920s. More recently, inspired curators and museum directors including Willem Sandberg, Pontus Hulten, Walter Hopps or Johannes Cladders worked closely with artists at a moment when museums were otherwise increasingly disconnected from the actual producers of culture. These curators developed collaborative artistic projects, but also pushed the exhibition's form, and made sure that their respective institutions collected some of the most difficult or thought-provoking works of their contemporary period.

To return to the notion of the museum as paradox that I began with, let me mention that another way in which museums can attend to the interior complexity of exhibitions is to incorporate the possibility of change at the very heart of the institution. The museum has indeed been long defined by its monumental immobility and by its historical roots, but the late visionary architect and urbanist Cedric Price (from whom I learned much about redefining the museum) offered another possibility for the institutions of culture. In his Fun Palace project from 1961, he responded to the necessity of preventing institutions from sitting permanently and concretely in place. He proposed a building that would, by definition, not last forever-it would disappear after a limited life span of ten to twenty years. But more than simply disappearing, it was to be a flexible structure in a large mechanistic shipyard which, according to changing situations, would be continuously built from above. Radical in its implications, Price's proposed Fun Palace was a building that could be responsive, it could be altered whilst it is occupied. Price's ideas envision a new kind of cultural centre for the twenty-first century, one that utilizes uncertainty and conscious incompleteness.

Museums should consider Price's urgent message and conceive their exhibitions as complex, dynamic learning systems with feedback loops, so as to renounce the paralyzing homogeneity of exhibition master plans. An exhibition thus might be under permanent construction.

Price was extremely present in the concept that I developed with Hou Hanru for Cities on the Move. Rather than producing a transportable, repeatable exhibition-as-product, we thought of the exhibition as a process, as a laboratory. The result was what you could call a three-year ongoing dialogue in the form of a traveling show. The show would not only change in every city it went to but it learned from every city in which it took place. The show became a procedure of sedimentation: building up in layers with each edition. It thus resisted the too common tendency to either send a show to travel exactly the same way no matter its context or, conversely, to put up a show and then erase it with a tabula rasa once it is over. Here, there was never a fixed artist list, fixed exhibition architecture, or fixed number or kind of works, so that each version of the show reflected something of the new situation (cultural, institutional, geographic, social) in which it was presented.

And, little by little, very interesting things started to occur which go beyond the scope of the display of finished works. Artists involved in the various editions started to collaborate with other artists.

Many projects were triggered that existed beyond the exhibition itself. And the exhibition in this sense truly became "on the move." I mention this project just briefly here to underline the lesson Cities on the Move learned from Cedric Price, which also suggests the radical potential of the museum: to, in destabilizing itself from within, inspire new artistic practices from without.

To envision the museum of the twenty-first century, we thus must urge it to be less stable, more open, more collaborative, and less definitive in its articulation of history. We must use different models and allow disparate conditions to co-exist so that it can, as Price so eloquently said, "thrive through both protection and exposure."

The following notions play an important role for the future of the museum ACCESS, BROADCASTING, CIRCULATION, DISSEMINATION, DISTRIBUTION, INFILTRATION, MUTATION, NETWORK, PORTABILITY, STORIES, TEMPLATES, TRANSLATION, TRANSMISSION one recent example to take this into account  is a show I co-curated for the Schirn in Frankfurt of compressed narratives in 3 minutes clips. '3' investigates how a new modus of cinematographic narration - which could be described as condensed or concentrated - has developed recently through filmic genres such as advertising films, music videos, or movie trailers, and to locate where and examines how a productive and meaningful intersection between this new trend and the work of contemporary artists can emerge. This research is linked to the practice of contemporary artists who have developed new modes of making films within the changing public media and cultural landscape and the new "perceptual plateau," where viewers have been taken to. It relates to what Doug Aitken identifies as a "quiet revolution in perception" that has started to take place in the late 20th/early 21st century leading to an extremely fragmented experiential way of viewing and obtaining information, or to what Philippe Parreno describes as the processes of forming "narrative clouds" formation: how a polyphony of voices, and stories, and ideas and images can produce a more or less apparent structure.

These ideas also echo the pioneering efforts of Alexander Kluge, the great German filmmaker, story teller, and one of the great cultural critics of our time, who, since the late 1960s, has consciously aspired in his various roles - as filmmaker, theorist and activist -, to develop new modes of constructing films that will in turn provide the spectator with new and more active ways of engaging with films, ways of activating the spectator's own capacity to make connections between vastly disparate images and narratives.

tutto, tutto, tutto e memoria (Ungaretti)

This future of the museum also raises the issue of memory it  has to do with what Eric Hobsbawm calls a "protest against forgetting." In a BBC breakfast with Frost
Hobsbawm said: "I mean our society is geared to make us forget. It's about today when we enjoy what we ought to; it's about tomorrow when we have more things to buy, which are different; it's about today when yesterday's news is in the dustbin. But human beings don't want to forget, it's built into them."

In terms of the future of the museum
I would like to end/open at the end of this article with some reflections on the future:

I have asked some artists to send a sentence on the future here it is

the future will be chrome
Rirkrit Tiravanija

the future will be curved
Olafur Eliasson

the future will be "in the name of the future"
Anri Sala

the future will be so subjective
Tino Sehgal

the future will be bouclette
Douglas Gordon

the future will be curious
Nico Dockx

the future will be obsolete
Tacita Dean

the future will be asymmetric
Pedro Reyes

the future will be a slap in the face.
Cao Fei

the future will be delayed
Loris Greaud

the future does not exist but in snapshots
Philippe Parreno

the future will be tropical
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

future? must be mistaken
Trisha Donnelly

the future will be overgrown and decayed
Simryn Gill

the future will be tense
John Baldessari

Zukunft ist lecker
Hans-Peter Feldmann

Zukunft ist wichtiger als Freizeit
Helmut Kohl (proposed by Carsten H?ller)

a future fueled by human waste
Matthew Barney

the future is going nowhere without us.
Paul Chan

the future is now - the future is it
Doug Aitken

the future is one night, just look up
Tomas Saraceno

the future will be a remake...
Didier Fiuza Faustino

the future is what we construct from what we remember of the past - the present is the time of instantaneous revelation
Lawrence Weiner

the future is this place at a different time.
Bruce Sterling

the future will be widely reproduced and distributed
Cory Doctorow

the future will be whatever we make it
Jacque Fresco

the future will involve splendor and poverty
Arto Lindsay

the future is uncertain because it will be what we make it
Immanuel Wallerstein

the future is waiting - the future will be self-organized
Raqs Media Collective

Dum Spero/While I breathe, I hope
Nancy Spero

this is not the future
Jordan Wolfson

the future is a dog/l'avenir c'est la femme
Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron

on its way; it was here yesterday
Hreinn Fridfinnsson

the future will be an armchair strategist, the future will be like no snow on the broken bridge
Yang Fudong

the future always flies in under the radar
Martha Rosler

suture that future
Peter Doig

'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow' (Shakespeare)        
Richard Hamilton

the future is overrated
Cerith Wyn Evans

futuro = $B!g(B
Hector Zamorra

the future is a large pharmacy with a
memory deficit
David Askevold

the future will be  bamboo
Tay Kheng Soon

the future will be ousss
Koo Jeong-A

the future will be...grains, particles & bits.
the future will be ..ripples, waves & flow.
the future will be ...mix, swarms, multitudes.
the future will be ...the future we deserve but with some surprises, if only some of us take notice.
Vito Acconci

In the future...the earth as a weapon...

the future is our excuse.
Joseph Grigely and Amy Vogel

the future will be repeated.
Marlene Dumas

ok, ok i'll tell you about the future; but i am very busy right now; give me a couple of days more to finish some things and i'll get back to you.
Jimmie Durham

future is instant
Yung Ho Chang

'The future is not.'
Zaha Hadid

the future is private
Anton Vidokle

the future will be layered and inconsistent
Liam Gillick

the future is a piano wire in a pussy powering something important
Matthew Ronay

in the future perhaps there will be no past
Daniel Birnbaum

The future was
Julieta Aranda

the future is menace
Carolee Schneemann

the  future is a forget-me-not
Molly Nesbit

the future is an knowing exchange of glances
Sarah Morris

Tthe future:  Scratching on things I could disavow.
Walid Raad

the future is our own wishful thinking.
Liu Ding

le futur est un étoilement
Edouard Glissant

the future is now
Maurizio Cattelan

the future has a silver lining
Thomas Demand

the future is now and here
Yona Friedman

is a fax best to use as facsimile G&G FAX is:

The future is without you
Damien Hirst

by lack of interest the future has been cancelled
Pierre Huyghe

the future is a poster

we have repeated the future out of existence
Tom Mc Carthy

the future has two large beautiful eyes
Jonas Mekas

less, few tours in my future
Stefano Boeri

Future is what it is.
Huang Yong Ping

the future is the very few years we have remaining before all time becomes one time Grant Morrison

Jan Kaplicky

The future is a season.
Pierre Huyghe

Future is more freedom
Jia Zhangke

My art is very free, I don' know what to do in the future. But I am positive
Xu Zhen


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