I have never been a huge fan of NY’s New Museum because I see it as the closest a museum can get to becoming an amusement park. If we see the succession of shows there, we can see that they started as post-minimalist uber-politicised shows such as Act Up in the early 90s to an increasing concern for engaging the viewer as a rather silly playful participant. In the specific case of the New Museum, idiocy seems to be the price tag of populism (or, as they call it, ‘attendance levels’).
The show that is currently taking place at 235 Bowery is a stage-like reconstruction of the interior of a spacecraft in the iconic Czech science-fiction film Ikarie XB-1 (1963), which, allegedly, as the press release states, ‘melded postwar utopianism with Soviet utilitarianism’. To be perfectly honest, I can understand what post-war utopianism is but I am struggling with the Soviet ‘utilitarianism’ thing. Having said that, what is the relevance of all this. It is certainly not artistic but, as I argue here, corporative.
This concoction of film set and theatrical stage is supposed to, as the press release states, ’recall future fantasies from the socialist Eastern European side of the Iron Curtain and explores the ideological role that outer space played during this time. On view in and around the spacecraft will be 117 artworks, including video, sculpture, print, and installation, by artists hailing primarily from cities around Eastern Europe, notably Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, and Bratislava, all of whom tranzit has worked with previously’. Can anyone tell me what the hell has this to do with anything?
The New Museum seems to have an answer for this by saying that ‘“Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module” offers an allegory of “anthropological science fiction,” where the exhibition space becomes an estranged and exciting universe that dramatizes the cross-cultural translation involved in the presentation of art. The unique model evokes the challenges that contemporary artists experience in exhibiting works, or that curators come across in organizing exhibitions that stitch together diverse artworks, selected across generation, cultural context, personal narratives, and time’. How does this lousily assembled ‘spacecraft’ dramatise the ‘problems in the presentation of art’? What ‘on earth’ (not pun intended) are they talking about? Is it me or these kind of institutions are going mad in order to justify themselves as what they think they are supposed to be? Where are the artists here? What is their role?
I think that the answer to these questions lies in the fact that museums are becoming over expanded bureaucracies with their own ‘international cooperation’ agendas (and departments) which function as an excuse to create more curatorial bureaucracy in the name of, how to call it…, ’globalisation’. I am saying this because this exhibition is guest curated by tranzit, a network of autonomous but interconnected organizations based in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. According to the press release: ‘Much like the Museum as Hub program (the New Museum’s international partnership through which the exhibition is produced), tranzit organizations actively collaborate with each other, but also work independently to produce art historical research, exhibitions, and new commissions. The work included in this exhibition—all made by artists that tranzit has worked with in some capacity or, alternately, documentation of events or exhibitions that tranzit has staged—constitutes an experimental archive of the organization’s work’. Please pay attention to the verb the New Museum uses when saying that they ‘staged’ this exhibition.
I have the impression that museums like MOMA, New Museum, PS1 and the Serpentine, to give only a few examples, have been taken over by this (not so new) curatorial bureaucracy that have started organising shows that are, in fact, allegorising their own irrelevance and self perpetuation. Just a thought.