05 -Museums are schools

05 -Museums are schools

In times of climate crisis, the UN decrees the closure of the planet's museums and cultural centres, within a year, because of their lack of ecological sustainability. A Crisis Cabinet is convened to study how it will affect the cultural ecosystem and to define a common strategy to face this challenge.

05 -Museums are schools

In times of climate crisis, the UN decrees the closure of the planet's museums and cultural centres, within a year, because of their lack of ecological sustainability. A Crisis Cabinet is convened to study how it will affect the cultural ecosystem and to define a common strategy to face this challenge.

Chronicle

Matadero Madrid, Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo and Fundación Telefónica, Madrid, 2015-16.

The closing of the world’s museums and cultural centres (MaCC) is jeopardizing one of the basic institutions of modernity: the historical archives and the institutionalised epicentres of artistic production. The fifth CCPF assembled a group of experts involved in cultural management, art, sociology, geography, pedagogy, philosophy and literature, to define a common strategy.

At first, an attempt was made to get a gist of the scope of the crisis. Is this situation irreversible? Would it be better that way? Can a society exist without spaces for managing memory and creation? How will we channel artistic and cultural output? Will creation be shoved aside to other places? Was it not already? How will the crisis affect the geography of culture, the globalised art market and its connections with tourism and local economies? How will it affect future generations? Will we rediscover the experience of art in other ways? Should we create a hyperarchive of culture and art in the cyberspace? Are these techno-optimist solutions reliable?

The ecological dimension was also relevant. Will art be limited to manifestations with a low ecological footprint? Does an “ecological curatorship” make any sense? Will access be restricted to nearby local productions? Are we solving one ecological problem and creating another? Aren’t works of art extremely fragile “living beings”, cohabiting with other beings, accumulating years of evolutionary knowledge and interacting with (cultural) ecosystems? Shouldn’t we treat the survival of art by using the same ecological framework as we do for the Iberian lynx, for example? Should citizens take charge of caring for artwork? Could other places not affected by the cuts, such as homes, schools, or shopping centres, host the works? Should these labours of “care” be remunerated? Would this dissemination involve a redistribution or privatisation of art? Could alliances and interdependent networks be formed, with other institutions functioning as “energy banks” for the MaCCs?

Several participants called for a revision of the role of institutions. What legitimacy did the MaCC have to monopolize “the keys” of memory and creation? How did they participate in the libidinal economy of social energies? Do we need to rethink the role of experts and other artistic devices such as authors and name brands? Is it possible to disassociate the ecological crisis from other controversies, such as the distribution of wealth, gender or the politics of the body? Did cultural institutions use the banner of emancipation to hide an exclusionary programme that left out certain practices from enlightened discourse? What bodies have been excluded from their spaces in the name of the majority? Why did certain corporealities not have the same opportunities to access culture and creation as the hegemonic ones? What can we learn from subalternised bodies as we face the crisis? How do we share the fragilities, the inabilities and the dysfunctions and become stronger?

The debate continued reflecting on the future of spaces for art. Are they suitable places for reflecting on the crisis itself? Could they be squatted for other activities? Could they integrate small-scale experiences that had been operating outside the more productive logics? Could they be “shelters” for people who historically have been discriminated against? What if instead of understanding the crisis as something to be repaired, we thought of it as the starting point for a radical experience of the world and ourselves; as a civilising metamorphosis? Then, could the cultural infrastructures become “transformers” that, instead of concentrating energy, would impregnate themselves with it and multiply it, releasing it again and again, provoking different intensities? Rather than acting as semiotic machines that turn everything into static and collectable signs, could they instead operate as metamorphic machines that transform (themselves), enhancing the intensive reception of artistic, cultural and affective processes? Could they be reprogrammed to stop acting as “freezers” of power, but to encourage the mutation of difference? Could they serve as experimental platforms to try out other forms of coexistence, of language, of desire, of corporeality, to test affective-sexual and sex-generic diversities, beyond the normative canons?

[Suddenly, the light goes out. We are informed that the power restrictions have begun.]

The cabinet is detoured. “Donors of light” begin to shed light with their telephones. Do we need spaces in the semi-darkness, instead of “illuminated” spaces? Can the gloom be an occasion to put visual culture on hold and reclaim other senses? Can it be a chance to rethink slowness? Should we recover oral culture and storytelling? Can we shrink in terms of the material and grow in terms of the immaterial? Does believing in the immaterial constitute a mystical position that disregards (material) life? Can we learn anything from museums that existed before the widespread use of electricity? Would it make any sense to go back to primitive technologies? Have we lived through a 200-year “electric fiction”? Don’t millions of people in the world live without electricity? In fact, will the ecological crisis be relevant in these contexts or in others that have other cosmoviews? Will they heed the UN’s opinion? Is this crisis a problem of the “West”?

These issues and others can be found in further detail in the minutes of the session.

* Synthesis written by Uriel Fogué, from the minutes from the GCFP during each edition.