Cultural and art institutions are dead! Let’s claim for new
– or notes on discussions (self-interview)
What is your personal/professional relation to space and institution in arts and culture?
December 2019, four years after starting Kino Kultura, and two years after the summit in Mannheim, still focusing with the notions of institution and space, and their relations to the practice of curating, to art, to labor, to conditions of work, to collaboration, to ownership, to power and its distribution, to different/ various forms of self-management… Probably these are ongoing issues, notions that are always in my horizon.
I understand space as extended one, as one that is not only related to infrastructure, but also as one shaped through the art and bodies and their action in the space, and time spent there. Space is a place through what the time and bodies are distributed, and through such distribution, values are performed and instituted. That distribution of values is forming the space, space as an environment, space as – becoming- institution, which should be re-discovered in continuity.
So, space, a physical infrastructure is re-shaped through the artistic practice and programing, and can become another subject, or gain new identity, but for such matter – we need to have the physical space. Before thinking of values, and ‘extended relations’ as well as those ‘distribution’ processes, we need to have the empty space that can be materialized through the values and principles of work.
In the tone of this start, one can sense urge, need, perspective, or even frustration of (not) having a space, a public environment in which one can act politically, can enhance communications through art, or where ‘public’ can happen.
However, for four years we (two organizations) started and run a space that we are trying to shape and reshape through diverse programs and actions. How I think and do, professionally in this space is – to curate programs in which we can bring new forms of thinking of art and produce art that is entangled with knowledge and actions related to activism, social movements and struggles, and critical reflection of institutional frames in which this knowledge and art is produced. To curate (in) new institution means to destabilize the traditional and neoliberal one, and bring fluid, flexible, but still sustainable structures for production, collaboration and thinking, or to destabilize the dominant hegemonic institutional structures and produce counter – hegemonic politics of curating.
The question is- in what kind of context a speculation can become an established practice? Certainly not in an unstable socio-political and economic one, or one full with non-community developed relations.
Thus, I suppose, the speculation can become an established practice, in the other, opposite one, environment ready to support another structures, communication and art.
So how can we create that kind of environment?
How the space is related to public, and what are the values of public in your context?
I was born as Yugoslavian, with the legacy and understanding of public and its roots in the system of social distribution of goods among the people. Then I become part of a transitional post-Yugoslavian country- Macedonia that in 90s had the priority of becoming an independent state, but also privatization of the public goods. Now the same country with new name, North Macedonia, with past in criminal privatization, being poor, and still paving the path towards the neo-liberal and self – proclaimed capitalistic society.
This is a short depiction of an environment with a rapid change of a value vocabulary, and total devastation of the public space and goods. Or, even more, public space vanishes more and more, understanding of public is distorted, or forgotten, or there is complete misuse of public (institutions, spaces, goods).
Thus, question is how to destabilize the established and anchored view that private as the capital in power is of value vs the public as capital that is misused and which value decreases, together with the value of the common and community itself? or,
how to get the power back – to the public?
So, how to get the power back -to public? What would be maybe your curatorial strategies to that?
I’m always busy with thinking about that and sometimes, even often, I loose struggles in practice. It was great to share with my colleagues here similar and different thoughts. I got some answers here, at the summit, and I try to understand what would be possible strategies to affirm critical curatorial practices for example, or to support critical artistic practices.
If we take Chantal Mouffe position that critical artistic practices are contributing in unsettling the dominant (traditionalist, conservative and neoliberal) institutional hegemony, and are part of processes of de-articulating those hegemonies, or the counter hegemonic politics, than we might search for de-articulation or re-articulation of hegemonic curatorial practices.
So, how to do that?
Firstly, we need to target the institutions, and hack them through implementing critical artistic practices there (as much as we can), and we need to provide and develop spaces, places, environments, where those art practices can emerge. Other than this, we need to relate and connect our spaces in networks, which would be a new “decentralized institution” as counter hegemonic environment.
State systems support the dominant institutional hegemony, since they need the institutions and spaces, among what, especially those in culture and arts, thus they can shape peoples’ desires and identities. Chantal, Mouffe proposes engaging with institutions with the aim of fostering dissent through what she names agonistic spaces where new modes of identification are available. Also, in that ‘decentralized institution’ we should address issues that are our concern, such as: (social) care, ecology, post-humanity, feminism…
Network or the “decentralized institution” should involve young, students, unions… unionization is also around, – how to do it, we don’t know, but, we share same or similar concerns on labor issues and working rights.
On this summit we talked about how we can develop those spaces, what would be the strategies… or which strategies to implement in our spaces. We all brought up the experiences of how we do it, and here are some of concerns and proposals bellow.
I would say that we should make a ‘Self reflective infrastructural performance’ of institutions and spaces, through:
– Shared economy – we put our knowledge and resources as a capital to share among us, we don’t need to use necessary money (for ex. One can give a class, other can give a lecture, other will help in administration, other can serve a beer etc.)
– Spaces of socialities, – these spaces as spaces for accumulation of a social capital, relations… based on togetherness and interdependence, where always, always! there is a space for other voices to be heard, where we can meet each other in vulnerability.
– Vocalize the culture of reflection and break the culture of silence – make agonistic spaces (as Chantal Mouffe proposes, and break the culture of consensus that becomes culture of silence- not speaking loud of all the frauds, mistakes, wrongs etc… in order to serve “the piece”)
– Life entanglement – to make places of “entanglement of different life realms (social, economical, or political)that deconstructs the understanding of art as an elitist and privileged system of signification isolated from quotidian life or from serious political involvement.” as Suzana Milevska proposes 
– Antistatic – to shake the static approaches, already familiar, and known, but always experiment with certain issues… ex. Alexander Dorner, director of the Landesmusuem in Hannover in the 1920s envisioned the new type of art institution as a “power station, a producer of new energy,” where the emphasis is not on the statistic museum display guarding “treasures,” but on the dynamic, experiences-based education.
– Introspective – always question, check, try to see what is going on, for ex. in contemporary art (visual) this practice was named new institutionalism and signifies a self-reflexive practice that examines institutional methodologies, aiming to generate a debate related to the transformation of the institutions, and it can be seen as interiorized institutional critique. This interiorized institutional critique also reflects on the artists’ methods of work.
Feminism as anticapitalistic strategy
Temporality – slowing down, like a slow food, preparing art with patience and give more time
To make institutions as home – and home to be constitutive form of power…
And what would you say at the end?
This self-interview is note to myself and for the others. Proposals need to be developed…
And at the end –
Maybe also is time to say – Cultural and art institutions are dead! – so we can start working and claim for new, the other!
 Milevska, S. 2011, Curating as an Agency of Cultural and Geopolitical Change, in Towards Curating As A Critical Practice, Workshop Reader, Novi Sad, Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina 27 – 29. April, 2011
Biljana Tanurovska Kjulavkovski is a performing arts curator, cultural activist and manger in culture. She is co-founder of Lokomotiva, Nomad Dance Academy (NDA) and Kino Kultura (KK) – project space for contemporary performing arts and culture in Skopje. Lately she is interested in research on models on institutions, labor rights, self-management and critical curatorial approaches in performance art. She is visiting lecturer on diverse academic programs, and writes and publish articles dealing with cultural policy, governing and curating.
Art Spaces and Residencies Summit is organised by Lokomotiva – Centre for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture in the framework of the yearly program “Contemporary culture and public policies” 2019, developed as part of the project “Program of Lokomotiva in Kino Kultura – project space for contemporary performing arts and contemporary culture” supported by the City of Skopje, Ministry of Culture of North Macedonia and Centar Municipality and Life Long Burning, programme line Performance situation room supported by Creative Europe.