Walker Art Center
The Local Tango and the Global Dance

An Unfinished Conversation between Vasif Kortun and Cuauhtémoc Medina.[1]

Dear Vasif,

There are few pleasures so great as conversation, my dear Vasif. It was really great to spend time with you in such a faraway location as Helsinki. Then I got home and found your almost compulsory invitation to talk about what curating has meant in Mexico since the late 1980s, and I thought about our meeting over noodles and coffee, hoping to draw some ideas from it. I took out your card and read your quite imposing title: Yönetmen from Istanbul Güncel Sanat Müzesi. That sounds grand to me, but what does it mean? So I thought: why not continue the conversation not over coffee but across two or three oceans? What is the Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art? What is Proje4L? How do you envision its role in Turkey in regard to the balancing act between local activists and international curators that we started to discuss in Helsinki?



Dear Cuauhtémoc,

The man whose name I could never pronounce now has a face. The lunch was memorable for me as well, but why do you have to ask questions first, just when I was gearing up to commence an interview with you?!

Regarding your first question, the easy one, Proje4L and Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art are one and the same; it can be read all together in one breath. Although I am pushing the Proje4L part as a concept, like that of Kiasma or Baltic or Moderna,[2] it is simply a label. But, let's break the name apart: Proje (an experimental space for contemporary visual arts; a place for multidisciplinarity and critical dialogue); 4L (the shortened name of a modernist housing district close to the museum, built in the 1950s); Museum (a public space open to new and diverse audiences).

Regarding the second, more complex question, I use the dualistic terms (local activists and international curators) only for convenience. The periphery needs a singular center to utilize and to exploit, whereas for the center, there are always multiple peripheries that it can visit upon and dismiss at its own will. Hence, the center

1 Vasif Kortun is director of Proje4L Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art, and a member of the Walker's global advisory committee. Cuauhtémoc Medina is a researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, National University, Mexico; a member of Teratoma, a group of curators, critics, and anthropologists based in Mexico City; and associate curator of Latin American Art at the Tate Gallery, London.

2 I refer here to Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England; and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.