“The big exhibition has no form.” – Roger Buergel & Ruth Noack
During the American dot-com boom of the late 1990s, businesses began to re-evaluate the fundamental structure of offering products and services exclusively through their physical, brick-and-mortar locations. They began to create Web spin-offs, online platforms where consumers could research and shop regardless of their geographical location. The creation of the alternative marketplace of the World Wide Web mirrored a development in the art world. Art institutions were being explicitly criticized for the restrictions their physical form had on the exhibition of new art practices. The idea of “context art” originated in Austria by curator Peter Weibel, who argued that the “interaction between artists and social situations, between art and non-art contexts has lead to a new art form, where both are folded together… The aim of this social construction of art is to take part in the social construction of reality.” Museums around the world began to wake to artists’ disenfranchisement and were forced to re-evaluate their “raison d’être and the extent of their competence” to consider new solutions “for the art-versus-the-public equation.”
This kind of institutional critique had been raised before. In 1968 Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers explored the idea of art exhibited outside the confines of the institution. He considered the idea of a museum that had neither a permanent collection nor a permanent location. HisMuseum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles was first exhibited in his home and consisted of “thirty fine-art crates from around the world, bearing typical stenciled instructions: ‘Picture,’ ‘With Care,’ ‘Keep Dry,’ etc.” accompanied by postcards of historical works of art that were supposedly sealed inside. To emphasize the point of his project’s impermanence and intransigence, an empty art transport truck was parked outside the studio windows. Subsequent departments of the museum and its fictional collection were held at the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, the Cologne Art Fair and a beach on the North Sea, where Broodthaers built his museum in the form of a sand castle, literally liquidating its holdings.
The idea of art in transit and a formless space with ever-changing inventory was further examined in 2007 by German curators Roger Buergel & Ruth Noack in documenta 12. Held every five years, the exhibition takes over the entire town of Kassel. documenta 12 embraced the event’s “inherent formlessness” even as the curators acknowledged the fact that the public was “not really well equipped to deal with radical formlessness.” They repeated their hope that the exhibition would become “a medium in its own right and… involve its audience in its compositional moves.” As Peter Weibel imagined in his essay The Museum of the Future, “visitors must be freed from their passive role as consumers and encouraged to become active and interactive agents. The museum becomes a stage for the visitor – a place of options for activity and interactivity. In return, the museum elevates itself from a place of and for art to the level of art itself.”
De-Accessioned is an exhibition that imagines the de-centralization of the exhibition space. Taking as its title the term describing the deliberate removal of an artwork from a museum’s permanent collection, it is one of the most controversial decisions an institution can make. Disrupting the “museum’s stated ambitions to assemble disparate objects into a single space and to bestow on them the intellectual, aesthetic, and categorical coherence of a collection, conserving these objects for posterity,” de-accessioning a work and releasing it back into the world is a process of re-interpretation. Separated from their functional context and circulated back into the real world, the works in De-Accessioned declare the transitory space between package and delivery as the site of exhibition. Many of the artworks on display use art transportation materials as their medium. In transit, the artwork assigns specific function to the practice of location, commanding a re-evaluation of its site-specificity. This socio-critical action allows works that are recognizable, such as paintings, to perjure the installation with their symbolism, leaving the audience to imagine a more appropriate arrangement in another ideal environment.
Curated by Lucas Soi
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