[artinfo] Avant Museology symposium at the Walker Art Center

e-flux info at mailer.e-flux.com
Tue Jul 19 13:26:32 CEST 2016

Avant Museology
A two-day symposium copresented by the Walker Art 
Center, e-flux, and the University of Minnesota 
November 20-21, 2016

Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
United States


Museology is a two-day symposium copresented by 
the Walker Art Center, e-flux, and the University 
of Minnesota Press featuring:

Jonathas de Andrade in conversation with Adrienne 
Edwards; Claire Bishop; Ane Hjort Guttu in 
conversation with Nisa Mackie; Boris Groys; Fionn 
Meade; Sohrab Mohebbi; Timothy Morton and Cary 
Wolfe; Elizabeth Povinelli; Walid Raad; Hito 
Steyerl; Anton Vidokle; and Arseny Zhilyaev.

Taking its cue from the recently published book 
Museology, the symposium will address the memory 
machine of the contemporary museum vis-à-vis its 
relationship to the contemporary artistic 
practices, sociopolitical contexts, and 
theoretical legacies that shape and animate it. 
Where the museum may have once been a mere 
container for objects and ephemera, the 
mutability of the contemporary museum has 
facilitated the apparently seamless absorption of 
its own complex histories, paradoxical political 
and socioeconomic functions and ideas. It begs 
the question: Can contemporary museology be 
invested with the energy of the visionary and 
political projects contained in the works that it 
circulates and remembers?

The museum of contemporary art might very well be 
the most advanced recording device ever invented 
in the history of humankind. It is a place for 
the storage of historical grievances and the 
memory of forgotten artistic experiments, social 
projects, or errant futures. But in late 
nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russia, 
this recording device was undertaken by a number 
of artists and thinkers as a site for 
experimentation. Edited by Arseny Zhilyaev, 
Avant-Garde Museology documents the progressivism 
of the period, with texts by Aleksandr Bogdanov, 
Nikolai Fedorov, Kazimir Malevich, Andrey 
Platonov, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and many 
others-several of which are translated into 
English for the first time. At the center of much 
of this thought and production is a shared belief 
in the capacity of art, museums, and public 
exhibitions to produce an entirely new subject: a 
better, more evolved human being. And yet, though 
the early decades of twentieth-century Russia 
have been firmly registered in today's art 
history as a time of radical social and artistic 
change, the uncompromising and often absurd ideas 
in Avant-Garde Museology appear alien to a 
contemporary art history that explains 
suprematism and constructivism in terms of formal 
abstraction. In fact, these works were part of a 
far larger project to absolutely instrumentalize 
art and its rational capacities and apply its 
forms and spaces to a project of uncompromising 
progressivism-a total transformation of life by 
all possible means, whether by designing 
architecture for life in outer space, developing 
artistic technology for the resurrection of the 
dead, or evolving new sensory organs for our 

Today, it is hard to deny the similarity between 
the bourgeois museum and the contemporary liberal 
dogmas of open-ended contemplation and abstract 
self-realization that guide curatorial and museum 
culture since the dismantling of the Soviet Union 
in the 1990s. This symposium will investigate the 
social and artistic decisions of a critical 
period of left politics as well as contemporary 
museological culture. In shedding this light, an 
explicit question suddenly emerges: Under a 
regime in which social experiments and upheavals 
become abstract formal gestures, what has the 
political application of historical memory become?

Perhaps the museum of contemporary art already 
serves this purpose. Consider what Nikolai 
Fedorov wrote in the 1880s: that the ultimate 
function of the museum is to unify progressives 
and conservatives, vitality and death: "And our 
age in no way dares to imagine that progress 
itself would ever become the achievement of 
history, and this grave, this museum, becomes the 
reconstruction of all of progress's victims at 
the time when struggle will be supplanted by 
accord, and unity in the purpose of 
reconstruction, only in which parties of 
progressives and conservatives can be 
reconciled-parties that have been warring since 
the beginning of history."

Avant Museology will coincide with the opening of 
the Wall Itself, an exhibition curated by Walker 
Art Center Artistic Director Fionn Meade, 
featuring the work of Jonathas de Andrade, Uri 
Aran, Nina Beier, Marcel Broodthaers, Tom Burr, 
Alejandro Cesarco, Theaster Gates, Ull Hohn, 
Janette Laverrière, Louise Lawler, Nick Mauss, 
Park McArthur, Lucy McKenzie, Shahryar Nashat, 
Walid Raad, Seth Siegelaub, Paul Sietsema, 
Florine Stettheimer, Rosemarie Trockel, Danh Vo, 
Cerith Wyn Evans, and Akram Zaatari. Question the 
Wall Itself will be presented at the Walker 
November 20, 2016-May 21, 2017.

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