A Hy­brid In­sti­tu­tion

Can an art in­sti­tu­tion sug­gests al­ter­na­tives to both gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and a coun­try’s fo­cus on fi­nan­cial as­sets?

Domus - - CONTENTS - Pre­sented by Paola Ni­colin

Can a Kun­sthalle — which makes part of the art sys­tem while main­tain­ing a de­gree of au­ton­omy — sug­gest a third line be­yond eco­nomic crises and gen­tri­fi­ca­tion? Kun­sthalle Liss­abon is a hy­brid in­sti­tu­tion. It has a Ger­man name but it’s not in Ger­many. It’s a con­tem­po­rary art in­sti­tu­tion but in a post-in­dus­trial coun­try that “did not ex­pe­ri­ence moder­nity, mod­ernism or post­moder­nity” due to an “anti-mod­ern, ru­ral and in­su­lar” form of fas­cism [see Ana Teix­eira Pinto, The Art of Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, in After­all, no. 45, Spring-Sum­mer 2018]. It is mostly ac­tive within Lis­bon’s cul­tural dy­nam­ics, but it also works with plat­forms based on sim­i­lar in­sti­tu­tional ty­polo­gies. Founded in 2009 in a va­cant build­ing along Avenida da Liber­dade, which the debt-stricken Banco Espírito Santo had al­lowed artists to use, it is now lo­cated in the city’s Xabre­gas neigh­bour­hood, with Luís Silva and João Mourão as its di­rec­tors and cu­ra­tors. Paola Ni­colin Whom do you col­lab­o­rate with most fre­quently? Luís Silva, João Mourão Di­a­logue is a very pro­duc­tive force, and col­lab­o­ra­tions are im­por­tant to us as they rep­re­sent a pub­li­cally vis­i­ble man­i­fes­ta­tion of di­a­logues. We mostly col­lab­o­rate with like­minded plat­forms com­mit­ted to think­ing crit­i­cally about the world and the place that con­tem­po­rary art oc­cu­pies within it. Our 2019 pro­gramme shows how col­lab­o­ra­tions are so vi­tal to us. Next year Kun­sthalle Liss­abon is cel­e­brat­ing its tenth an­niver­sary, and we’ve cho­sen to mark the oc­ca­sion by dis­ap­pear­ing and let­ting our pro­duc­tion in­fras­truc­ture and on­line pres­ence be taken over by four other in­sti­tu­tions: Pivô, Cura and its Base­ment Roma, Kadist and ICA Philadel­phia. They will be in­stalling pop-up ver­sions of them­selves in our premises to think about how in­sti­tu­tions re­late to con­texts other than the ones in which they orig­i­nated. We’ll also in­ves­ti­gate tem­po­rary dis­ap­pear­ance as a way to re­flect on the cul­tural in­fras­truc­ture of a city like Lis­bon. Kun­sthalle Liss­abon’s reg­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties will re­sume in 2020. PN Why is it so im­por­tant for ‘small’ to re­late to ‘big’ nowa­days? LS, JM Kun­sthalle Liss­abon has al­ways tried to by­pass bi­nary think­ing that de­pends on ei­ther-or struc­tures. We ex­ist in the world at large, but we’re rooted in a spe­cific con­text. We want our mes­sage to be rel­e­vant for ev­ery­one, whether they’re phys­i­cally vis­it­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion, see­ing what we do on­line, or read­ing our publi­ca­tions re­gard­less of their lo­ca­tion. We op­er­ate lo­cally and glob­ally at the same time. Be­ing small al­lows us to ex­per­i­ment and be crit­i­cal in a way that’s im­pos­si­ble or even un­heard-of for larger in­sti­tu­tions. Small is the place for self-re­flec­tion, think­ing crit­i­cally about the world and imag­in­ing other fu­tures to pro­duce col­lec­tively. For the most part, ‘big’ tends to re­pro­duce ex­ist­ing power struc­tures, from ne­olib­er­al­ism to pa­tri­archy and so on. There are ex­cep­tions, but gen­er­ally ‘big’ isn’t where rel­e­vant reflections on con­tem­po­rary art and the world tend to ap­pear. In­sti­tu­tions are led to be­lieve that growth is an end in it­self and not just a tool. Mu­se­ums be­come big­ger and big­ger to at­tract more re­sources that will al­low them to con­tinue ex­pand­ing. More of­ten than not, this vi­cious cy­cle doesn’t ben­e­fit its con­stituents. Kun­sthalle Liss­abon is com­mit­ted to think­ing about de-growth as a re­sponse to a gen­er­alised state of in­sti­tu­tional hy­per­bole. We’re not in­ter­ested in be­com­ing big, pro­duc­ing more or over­pro­duc­ing. But we do want to se­cure bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions for artists, cu­ra­tors, writ­ers and our­selves. “Per­form­ing the In­sti­tu­tion(al)”, for ex­am­ple, is an on­go­ing book se­ries pub­lished by Kun­sthalle Liss­abon in which we de­part from the idea of the in­sti­tu­tion and the in­sti­tu­tional as a per­for­ma­tive ges­ture. We’re all per­form­ing the in­sti­tu­tions that de­fine how we re­late to one an­other, and we wanted to ex­plore this in a way that could be made avail­able to the pub­lic. The book for­mat is an

Above: a photo of the res­i­den­tial and in­dus­trial area where Kun­sthalle Liss­abon is lo­cated, just out­side the Xabre­gas neigh­bour­hood in Lis­bon Op­po­site page: the in­sti­tu­tion’s en­trance­way

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