As a follow-up to my interview about the October 4th Artists+Institutions: Common Ground event at the Mak Center with David Burns, Sara Daleiden, and Kimberli Meyer, I wanted to post some supplemental material that might illuminate the content of the conversations. Below are the 20 questions culled and refined from the many dozens of questions submitted anonymously by the artists, organizers, curators, and writers who attended the three summer salons leading up to the public event at the Schindler House on King’s Road. I was honored to host one of the six tables at the October 4th event, and I believe we may have only used a couple of these questions as conversation starters…but quite naturally the conversation migrated to many of the topics covered here.
To get a taste of where these discussions went, of the topics and ideas most urgent to the ecosystem of people at these events, I have also included the beautiful notes created by Christina Sanchez of phrases uttered at the summer salons, many of which were repeated and expanded upon in the public event.
1. How do artists, curators and other cultural producers maintain a sense of integrity, social responsibility, and truth to their own moral compass when working within institutions that are increasingly influenced by the forces of the art market, corporate desires and/or donor-initiated programs, particularly in the current economy?
2. What are the most auspicious models for relations (power, economic, communicative) between the autonomous agency of artists and institutional identity?
3. What infrastructure, resources, and representation is needed to adequately support socially-engaged work and other developing practices that aren’t amplifying an object-based tradition of art production?
4. How can new sources of funding be generated in light of the deep shifting in the global economy and subsequent decrease in established arts funding?
5. Is it still relevant to value curators as both an agent of institutional interests and a dynamic advocate for artists, serving as an educational bridge for scholars and audiences interested in the flow of art history?
6. When is it productive to comprehend poetic performance in all activities within institutions, understanding artists have a capacity to rethink institutional structures from a position within the structure?
7. How do we work to best demystify the institution with the option to strategically rebel so that the relationship between artists and institutions can be the most mutually beneficial and productive?
8. What is the role of art in these times of polarized politics?
9. Must populism be at odds with rigorous aesthetic conceptualism?
10. Is an umbrella term such as cultural worker appropriate to describe the overlaps of artists, curators, directors, organizers, and producers within all artistic disciplines?
11. As empathetic and politically minded cultural workers, how can our desire for complex and rich metaphors within artwork translate to a complex and rich distribution within the public?
12. How do we want the next generation of art institutions to be structured and experienced in light of past tendencies towards the academic, historic and intellectual?
13. As more cultural institutions increasingly work to include socially engaged art practices and extend their responsibilities towards broader publics, how do we safeguard such incremental advances in social justice while discerning the institutions role in picking up the slack for the failures of the state?
14. What are differences between established art institutions and an artist’s work inventing agency to mimic institutions?
15. What do the changes at MOCA mean to you?
16. How do we support our museums and their directors and curators to prompt a new civic imaginary through reflection on their own operations?
17. Artists are functioning as curators and institutions are functioning as curators. How does this affect the power dynamic for valuing and production within art and culture networks?
18. What terminology is productive to describe the frequent occurrences of institutions curating an “artist producer” to curate “artist supporters” to produce large-scale discursive projects?
19. How can artists and curators best work together to navigate institutional resistance to projects that won’t necessarily drive attendance or augment an institutional “brand”?