Upside Down: Hosting the Critique
External activity | Yane Calovski and Hristina Ivanoska | exhibition “Upside Down: Hosting the Critique” | concept: Alenka Gregoric and Suzana Milevska | curatorial-research team: Zoran Erić, Alenka Gregorič, Vit Havránek, Suzana Milevska, Vladimir Vidmar and Raluca Voinea | Museum of City of Belgrade | 24.06 – 24.07. 2016
The exhibition Upside Down: Hosting the Critique is built on the long-term curatorial and research project which was initiated by Alenka Gregorič and Suzana Milevska in 2014 who co-curated the first exhibition entitled Inside-Out: Not so White Cube held in the City Art Gallery Ljubljana/MGML from September 24 to November 22 in 2015. After the realization of the first exhibition, publication and the conference in Ljubljana, the decision was made to form a joint curatorial-research team comprising six curators and researchers (Zoran Erić, Alenka Gregorič, Vit Havránek, Suzana Milevska, Vladimir Vidmar and Raluca Voinea), who were offered an equal role in the adaptation of the exhibition to the context of Belgrade. The exhibition Upside Down: Hosting the Critique was thus reconfigured for a new contextual and institutional framework. The primary focus of the curatorial-research team was placed on the position of museums which is one of the dominant subjects of this exhibition.
Upside Down: Hosting the Critiqueis a co-curatorial cross-disciplinary exhibition which focuses on the transformation of the role(s) of museums, galleries and other public institutions in the production, presentation and collection of contemporary art in periods of transition and the part played by artists and independent artist-run spaces in these activities.
The exhibition is an attempt to analyse the art practices that focus on critiquing the existing models of institutions, their programmes and the working conditions they provide for art production and on the urgency of pursuing new alternative cross-institutional or trans-institutional models of institutions, strategies and roles of art institutions. The main project’s research questions are: how institutions influenced and changed each other while interacting and/or cooperating during the transition from centralised to free market economy and what was the artists’ and art project’s impact on such transformation. The project ultimately questions the outcomes and limits of the institutional critique and neoinstitutionalism (as they were originally defined in the Western art context) and the different methods used by the artists for critiquing institutions in different historic, socio-political, economic and cultural contexts. The main issue is whether the artistic practices can produce specific arguments for research and analysis in a situation where often the individuals and institutions are working in the same precarious conditions and thus the hegemonies and hierarchies are established according to very peculiar and uncertain criteria. The specific understanding of the role of art in society, and its relation to work, labour and the production process, as well as the overall systemic difference in ex-socialist countries induced and fundamentally influenced the specificity of art institutions in such a context.
We are looking at concrete artistic practices that focused on critiquing the existing art institutions and on the urgency of pursuing new models, strategies and roles for such institutions. We are presenting works and projects that were proposed in different socialist and post-socialist contexts, with a focus on both examples from 1970s and the ones from the first decades of the twenty first century.
The projects from 1970s that are presented were seminal and specific for such debates in the different contexts of the then socialist countries even before and often regardless of the emergence of ‘institutional critique’ in the USA and Western European art. The socio-political and economic conditions in the socialist and post-socialist institutional context substantially differed and produced a completely different grid and pattern of relations between the institutions, artists, independent curators, etc.
In a situation where many of the regional institutions struggle with redefining their role or with the basic preconditions for their proper functioning, the task of this exhibition is to present and question different critical artistic reflections on the existing organisational models of institutions. The pertinent issue of the new-institutionalism and post-institutional critique remains how various art institutions can be analysed in the larger socio-political and economical systemic structures and frameworks. At this point, when after nine years of delay the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade is preparing for the final phase of reconstruction of its main building, the urgent questions are: what would be the future role of an institution that aims to cherish the concept of contemporaneity as a reflection on societal processes and how can MoCAB avoid the reproduction of the dominant ideological models in society and turn to the contrary aim of opening up a space for critical dialogue in the sphere of culture and art.
Due to the long lasting institutional crises on the Belgrade scene where two major museums were closed for reconstruction, it is of utmost importance to revisit the potential of such an institution as the museum in the production of the cultural public sphere. The possible model of the critical Museum, which MoCAB strives to become, necessitates the creation of a platform for critical dialogues and reflections on situations of social transformation which marginalise culture to a great degree. In such situations it is fruitful to reflect on the institution itself, its potential to host radical and critical artistic practices and to reflect on the libidinal circuits between artists, institutions (museum) and the State. The question remains as to whether museums are capable of producing an “agonistic (cultural) public sphere” as opposed to the dominant culture of spectacle and festivalization with which the public is saturated in the media.
Artists: Azra Akšamija, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Yane Calovski & Hristina Ivanoska, Vlasta Delimar, Goran Đorđević, Miklós Erhardt, Stano Filko, Fokus Grupa, Liljana Gjuzelova & Sašo Stanojkoviќ, Jusuf Hadžifejzović, IRWIN, Sanja Iveković, Dalibor Martinis, Mladen Miljanović, Alex Mlynárčik, Ivan Moudov, Ilona Németh, Elif Öner, Dan Perjovschi, Lia Perjovschi, Tadej Pogačar, Zoran Popović, Vladan Radovanović, Tamás St. Auby, Škart, Apolonija Šušteršič & Bojana Kunst, Raša Todosijević, Goran Trbuljak, Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas and GVS group, Martin Zet.