Walker Art Center

How, practically, does one create curatorial contexts that are themselves up for consideration? For instance, I'm a little confused by the statement "information artworks and new-media works can take to networks and to networked exhibition contexts in the same way that archaeological artifacts gravitate toward museums of antiquity."

One of the critiques of the museum is precisely the case of the Elgin Marbles, which "gravitated" from their incorporation in a temple of worship to a museum of antiquity for a different kind of veneration, a moment, as Paul Valéry described it, when art and sculpture lost their mother, architecture.

The idea that information artworks can "take to networks" seems to me absolutely correct, but my question is whether there is a fruitful relation between the network and the museum that is not, merely, the expression of an asymmetry of power or of the museum as mausoleum, sav(or)ing things by killing them. How to exhibit translocally, where the context is both the global network and the physical setting?

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From: Raqs Media Collective <raqs@sarai.net>
Date: Wed Mar 20, 2002 4:09am
Subject: on networks and museums

There was a certain deliberation with which we put the network and the museum close to each other in the same sentence, and we are glad that Steve immediately zeroed in on it.

It was wicked :) on our part to slide these two spaces that seem so far apart from each other into a space in thought where they seem close, but the intention was to provoke a reflection on conceptuality, and on what belongs where.

Of course, we are not arguing that new-media networks, as exhibition contexts, are analogous to archaeological galleries in museums. The museum, as Steve pointed out, could be a dead space, and the network is, by definition, alive.

But there is a point about the loss of context that we want to stress: whereas the artifact in a museum loses context when it "gravitates" toward or is pulled into a museum, the data object has little or no context to lose. The immateriality of the data object does suggest the possibility of a certain aloofness from immediate cultural geographies and contexts--"above or below" rather than east or west of given latitudes.

If anything, a data object has much to gain by being positioned in an interlocked way and by being embedded in or at least coincident with other data objects. Contextlessness is the context of the data object.

There can be two ways of thinking about belonging: one is to say "I belong to this culture," and the other is to say "these cultures belong to me." In the second sense, one is privileging a notion of taking things, using them, abandoning them, fashioning other things with them, while one is on the move; our belongings then can be said to travel with us as we course through culture. This need not be understood in a foraging or acquisitive sense alone; it can be seen in terms of circulation and the sharing of belongings that never stick to their momentary custodians but rather travel among their custodians in the same way that their custodians travel through the network. We are speaking of agile practices, mobile curators, and floating works, which construct complex matrices of belonging and claims on one another, none of which are based on the principles of mutual exclusivity. This presupposes an art circuit that has something in common with the pattern of conversation and give-and-take that might otherwise be the defining feature of an affinity group. This is a form of practice that presupposes the existence of a network, and thus means that the building of the network is as much a part of the practice as the fashioning of the objects that inhabit it. Because the way the objects are positioned and oriented has everything to do with the architecture of the network--of the living as opposed to the dead collection.

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