TRANSFORM. Institution and critique

Lecture by Gerald Raunig (Wien)
October 20th, 2005

Under the title TRANSFORM, a transnational research project funded by the EU Culture 2000 priority will be launched this fall as a successor to republicart. Over the next three years, the project will explore aspects of the relationship between institution and critique. Coordinated by the Vienna-based European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (eipcp), art institutions throughout Europe will organize discursive events and exhibitions on the theme of institutional critique. The project’s main partners include the Kunstmuseum Lentos in Linz, the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art in Riga, the MACBA in Barcelona, and the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, as well as the Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg.

The TRANSFORM project will examine the relationship between institution and critique along three lines that overlap at some points but will be fundamentally differentiated.

  1. The line of institutional critique as a specific art practice. Here the thesis of the project is that after the two phases of institutional critique in the 1970s and 1990s, with their critical interventions in concrete (art) institutions and their problematization of art as an institutional field, a new phase of critique is emerging. This new development - in which a complex bundling of social critique, institutional critique and self-critique is announced - will be thematized in comparison and exchange with practices of the two earlier phases (for example, through solo exhibitions by Alan Kaprow at the Van Abbe Museum or Michael Asher at MACBA, but also through historical contextualizations such as the exhibition “Troublemakers” at the Lentos in Linz, as well as, above all, through the presentation of current positions).

  2. The line of art institutions. Here the current development of radical positions of critical art institutions is inquired. On the one hand, this is to be done against the background that art institutions are often criticized as agents of an appropriation of political themes and practices, while on the other hand, art associations, museums and initiatives that are openly critical of society are increasingly coming under pressure from a cultural policy that is partly authoritarian-repressive and partly neoliberal-populist. Beyond these defensive figures and the question of counter-strategies in this regard, possible new organizational forms of critical art institutions will also be discussed, which, in addition to artistic and theoretical reflections, also test a self-reflexive attitude and the redefinition of their social function.

  3. The line of the relationship between institution and critique as a (social) movement: On this most general level, the question of the relationship between institution and movement, state apparatuses and machines, will be negotiated. Against the background of general processes of dissolution of boundaries and appropriation of activist and critical practices, on the one hand, and ever-emerging fantasies of absolutely institution-free zones of autonomy, on the other, it will be examined how this relationship can be made productive in the sense of an emancipatory politics and beyond a strident setting of boundaries between the two poles.