Rakett Rakett presents Curating Degree Zero Archive

Rakett fanzine released on October 7th

Rakett Curating Degree Zero Archive Fanzine

In connection to Curating Degree Zero Archive in Bergen, Rakett has together with CTRL+Z printed a fanzine.

The writers invited are artists, curators and/or critics, that all have a diverse background working within different fields of cultural production. Some of the essays describe their practice in light of following questions Rakett has asked about the borders between artistic and curatorial praxis: How do we define a practice that is in-between the pre-defined roles within the field of visual arts? What happens when roles merge? Can the curator gain authorship through often function as an incubator of artist projects?

Rakett wishes through this collection of essays to encourage conversations around artist and curatorial collaborative practices today.

Ctrl+Z Publishing is non-commercial and project based. Its publications are made for and by artist groups, artists and curators in the self organized field. It is based in Bergen, Norway and run by artist Arne Skaug Olsen and curator Anne Szefer Karlsen. Our aim is for Ctrl+Z to be an active part of the region's art scene, at the same time as we connect our publishing policy to national and international practice and discourse. Ctrl+Z Publishing equals artistic practice with discourse, and aim to focus on and contest the both by concentrating on publications as an arena for development and mediation of contemporary art. Ctrl+Z is itself part of the self organized field, its profile is transient and the back catalogue is not defined by one aesthetic, political or institutional programme. Our main concern is to independently investigate structural conditions for art production, art mediation and art discourse in the form of printed publications.

by Rakett

In the article On Formatting History Martin Beck states that archives are the key resource in producing history and that archives have been radically transformed by digital technology making private and customized digital archives a mass phenomenon. Just think of the iPod archive of music and other cultural products that you might have in your pocket right now. Beck continues to emphasize the importance of seeing history as product and production simultaneously. Martin Beck’s thoughts around history can be seen parallel to the Curating Degree Zero Archive. The archive maps an area of the practice of curators, artist-curators and curatorial collaborations. It is not a fixed canon, but an ever expanding archive taking new material in as it is presented in various places and by various people. From September 20th to October 7th 2007 Rakett are the hosts of the Curating Degree Zero Archive in Bergen. In presenting the archive we have focused on the knowledge producing potential in the archive, using a discursive approach to presenting it rather than an aesthetical or cataloging one. During the two weeks of presentation, we have invited artists, curators, musicians and other cultural producers, to give presentations on their work, highlighting the collaborative aspects in their practice. Our aim has been to produce discussion and talks around these issues. In this way we see the archive both as a product, the material shaping the archive, and also the archive as production; being the platform for new works, discussions and exchanges around the set of problematics implied within this archive. This fanzine is especially made for Curating Degree Zero Archive in Bergen, and will follow the archive on its journey, thus becoming a part of its product. The invited writers come from diverse backgrounds and have experiences from a wide range of projects in the cultural field. We asked them to take their own practice as a starting point, reflecting upon the borders of artistic and curatorial practice, and what might happen when these roles merge. Also we asked them how they relate to the archive as being a source of knowledge or of artistic practice. As Anke Bangma describes it; The Rakett projects often function as lively, temporary platforms for collaborative, often interdisciplinary production where they see the role of the initiator/curator to not only to create a framework and a stage but also to bring together different cultural producers to create a moment of potentiality. Implicitly and explicitly, their projects touch on a range of questions around (co)authorship, (im)material or ephemeral production, the role of artist and curator, and the potential of mobile and changeable platforms in the institutional infrastructure for art. Simply put the artist is occupied with the production and the curator works with these products. In re-enacting the archive and with other Rakett projects we have tried to see art as product and production simultaneously.

Åse Løvgren is a visual artist based in Bergen, Norway. In her activity as an artist she uses a large span of strategies, having an openness towards how to produce meaning and artistic experience. Her projects include use of different media and curatorial strategies in doing projects and curating exhibitions. She is educated at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts both as an artist and a curator.

Karolin Tampere got a BA in Visual Arts from the Bergen National Academy of Arts, and has a postgraduate from the Curatorial Training Program of de Appel art centre. She has been curating independently since 2002. In 2006 she started I LoveYourWork at Landmark, Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; a series of performances focusing on artists working in a hybrid formate, in the crossover fields between music and visual art practice.


Ever Tried? Ever Failed?
by Hjørdis Kurås

OK, so it’s come to this, again: a brand new exhibition is on display, and you’re afraid to fail, whether you’re an artist, a curator or a gallerist; galleri Barbara Hansen, Barbara Kruger, Barbara London or Barbara Gladstone gallery. Passing by other points of comparison, the name of my artist run initiative was conceived when I saw the painstakingly decorated Art Deco sign of dentist Barbara Hansen in Gamlebyen in Oslo, with golden letters on a blue background. The name was appropriate, because it was wrong.

To show other artist’s work, doesn’t automatically make me a gallerist or a curator, even though I do run various art spaces. And that is excactly what gives me a freedom in the choices of artists, connections I make between artists and the mediation of the art. A first-rate curator should take hold of the exhibition, but should also be able to let go of it. One of the conditions for creativity is an open and flexible attitude. Possibilities and potential disappear as soon as we come up with restrictions. A piece of art can be reduced to an illustration of a premeditated theme if the exhibition is overly curated. If I invite an artist into one of my spaces to show work, I tend to let the artist explore every possibility, only limited by what is practically possible. It is no news that curators of international exhibitions control more and differently from the organizers of an artist run space. Large institutional shows have in recent years been important in shaping trends and currents in art; biennials and fairs which are supposed to generate sales provide the starting point for a new Grand Tour. The danger is that the market decides what is displayed in biennials and at fairs. A curator’s most important task is possibly to create an alternative to this by reconsidering an exhibition as a closed circuit.

I bring up the problem of the artist/curator for discussion with a friend who suggests the following: You are a whore, a pimp and a madam. But the comparison is off, because I do not protect my artists (against who? The audience? Themselves?), they are not “mine” and I hardly take commission. This is not supposed to be about my role as a whore. I see my role as a catalyst and generator - a partner for the artist and a link to the audience. I can suggest something that relates to a specific context to an artist, but I try to not to give a pre-prepared scenario to avoid that the result becoming predictable, stiff and boring. The goal is to find different models and strategies to challenge given and established patterns and fixed identities. An exhibition does not necessarily have to be built from an explicit theory or dogma, something already decided, but rather from fragments and different movements and tendencies as a response to the contemporary, or not. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and I try something else. Other times it works, and I still try something else.

Psychologists use primitive video games to test motor function. A row consisting of squares is displayed on a screen, and a keyboard has four buttons. A cross appears in one of the squares, and you are supposed to push the corresponding button on the keyboard. According to Daniel Willingham, your reaction speed will improve if you’re told what pattern will appear. First you hesitate, but after a short while your speed will improve as you learn the pattern. Willingham calls this explicit learning. Even if you’re not told there is a pattern you’ll learn it going through it enough times, and subconsciously learn it. You’ll become faster and faster even though you might not have realized there is a pattern. Willingham calls this implicit learning. Once you start learning something, like hit a tennis ball, you concentrate on how you hold the racket, hit the ball etc., but as soon as you know how to the implicit system takes over and you continue automatically. This happens gradually, and in the end you don’t really need to think much about what the arm is doing. I am sure this works well for tennis players, but it is an altogether different thing with art. You end up cluelessly repeating a form you know works, an acquired model, predictable and safe, a pattern which is just as dull in art as it is in curating or life in general.

The preparations to a failed exhibition demands just as much work as the preparations to an exhibition you’re happy with. Investment of meaning in a piece is apparent in the execution. A crappy art exhibition can just as well be a great experience as a good art exhibition. I don’t even need to like the exhibition, as long as I think the artist and the totality of the artistic works are interesting. It’s sufficient that I don’t understand what the artist is doing at all, as long as I want to understand. The selection is highly personal. So called objective critical analysis often turns out to be subjective after all. To follow the process behind is just as important as the actual exhibition. The starting point is the everyday artistic practice transversing the larger productions. Tests, research and failure is given room by letting the artist access one of my spaces which then is remade as a context for the works. I’d rather do it this way than having the artist make a product the art world lives off, the art world is not really where the artist lives. An artist run space is a community which understands the conditions the work is made from. Maybe that understanding is enough to legitimize the value of a work, and also its success.
And who the hell cares that it’s depressing to fail? A reasonable conclusion must be learning disabilities, and I’d like to speak to that looser. Make mistakes, learn from them (make the same mistake again, just to make sure), let go and move on.

Hjørdis Kurås is an Oslo based artist whos diverse practice has liminality as a common denominator. Combining different media and thematics, liminality works as a passage between different forms of framework, representing a possibility for a cultural hybrid or a celebration of paradoxes. She often samples from news, films and the Internet, edited together with her own filmed material.


Curating Degree Zero trough a window
by Steffen Håndlykken

Sparwasser HQ in Berlin opened the Curating Degree Zero Archive during the autumn of 2005. I was on a three months exchange as a third year student from The Oslo National Academy of the Arts and slightly overwhelmed by new names, terms, acquaintances and the whole international art world. Me and a friend met Åse and Karolin, that is; Rakett, when we were on our way to a bar after the opening. We were all going on the same errand.

There is something reassuring with meeting Norwegians abroad, strangers all of a sudden seem like old friends and the distance between Oslo and Bergen becomes insignificant. Åse and Karolin were in a rave about the following weeks’ Archive and the Sparwasser programme, so we decided to meet at one of the presentations in the gallery. We were in Berlin to learn, and it seemed like a good idea to start at a place with thousands of interviews, statements, presentations and catalogue texts.
The exhibition itself looked like a miniature art world; a sparsely
furnished room with well-stocked book shelves and a debate programme leaving room for ranting against capitalism and cultural vulgarization.

Aesthetics, in it’s advanced state, formerly existed at a subdued level in the culture. However with technological developments a magnified realm of aesthetics has effervesced into the day-to-day. The world of art acts as a subsidiary to the globalised engine rooms of design, advertising and marketing - orbiting the spectacularised culture. [Opposed to this are] performers, [who] unfettered by preceding art-form criteria or packaged notions of ‘live-art’ or interdisciplinarity, [...] understands that the commodification includes all human behaviour and they are obliged to consider their own performativity as ‘already aestheticised’. (1)

There is a tradition for artists to be outsiders, to make their own rules free from adaptation and standardization. The Romantic artist stepped into the shoes of the medieval saints: ascetics who spoke in tongues, reeked of fire and brimstone and reproached everything from the autocratic power structure to social morality. Artists of today happily appropriate the militant anarchist characteristic; lonely, mystical and with explosives in their pockets. Positioning themselves outside the system legitimizes system critique, a break with history and subversive activities.

The anarchist artist would have flung a paving stone through the gallery window to let in more air, and disappeared before the jingle of glass had ceased. But it seems that those positioning themselves on the outside only mimics the most bourgeois image of an artist. Is there not a certain resignation lurking behind this forceful stance? Thus this artist role is continuously challenged. The anarchist is contested by the pragmatic democrat wishing to reorganize the institution from within by diversity, discussion and respect.

[The notion of the self-contained artwork [...] has been eclipsed by a contingent art object that makes a new form of cultural memory necessary and always contains a note of protest and a critique of museum practices. [This notion of criticality] is inherently not a unified one. It is subject to constant historical change, just as the discursive formation of the visual arts is subject to constant transformation. [An attempt to grasp these forms will be] neither a survey nor a canon, [but rather] an ongoing research and event project foregrounding a variety of practices and positions. (2)

My friend and I were outside the window of this small gallery on the outskirts of Berlin Mitte and had an intuition that we, as young artists, should rather be participating on the inside. We had arranged to meet Åse and Karolin at the last CDZA-presentation in Berlin. But we were too late because I could never remember if the small gallery was east or west of the Rosenthaler Platz or Rosa Luxembourg Platz. We ended up outside, looking in at the serious faces. For a while we stood there watching the inaudible discussion, not daring to enter, leaving after a while. When Åse and Karolin later told us about the discussion, it didn’t seem so daunting. They were laughing and made it seem like the atmosphere outside the gallery window had been gloomier than on the inside.
They recounted the presentation and almost gave us a feeling we’d been inside that night. The friendly sense of community between Norwegians abroad softened the insecurity we’d experienced outside the gallery window.


(1) Tim Brennan, The Nu-Curator, http://curationism.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/page8.html

(2) Curating Degree Zero - Background to the Archive: http://rakett.biz/about.htm

Steffen Håndlykken works with sculpture, text and project based expressions both independently and collaboratively in the group Institute for Colour. He is a 2008 graduate from Oslo National Academy of the Arts, MA Visual Art.


The Popular Archive
by Hanne Mugaas

The thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment wanted knowledge to be of the greatest possible benefit to the greatest possible amount of people. Their goal was to liberate knowledge from the grip of the church and state. These ideas are easily transferable to the intentions of the Internet where information is freely distributed without the restrictions of authorities. Like music that has been written but not played: without distribution, information does not exist.

Information found on the Internet is not only to be passively consumed; it is material to be re-appropriated and re-circulated. In this way, the Internet is an ever-expanding archive, a popular archive, where one is free to both consume and to contribute information. Traditional archives are top down, where as new media, and more importantly the Internet, allows anyone to contribute. As a result of this active consumption, a new generation of cultural producers/artists is challenging notions of media, art, distribution, and copyright. On the Internet media previously unavailable outside of controlled broadcasts or locked into consumer products such as records and videos are made available. The working methods once the domain of hackers and the ’open source’ movement in which everyone is encouraged to participate, have developed into everyday practice. With the Internet, there is an explosion of creativity where young people who grew up with technology are at terms with their contemporary situation, know how to create a context for their work, and how to distribute it without the restrictions of the art system.

Chris Moukarbel, an MA art student at Yale, got hold of the script for the then upcoming blockbuster World Trade Center directed by Oliver Stone. He shot a scene from the director’s epic using the bootlegged script and a cast of students. Moukarbel further leaked the scene on to the Internet, where thousands of people linked to it. The student is now being sued by Paramount Pictures, which claims the movie clip visuals are almost identical to the scene in Stone’s production. Jean Baptiste Bayle, an Internet activist based in Paris, has recently copied the structure of MySpace to create MyOwnSpace. The site is operated as its original, enabling social networking, except the advertisements are links to Bayle’s projects on the web. Bayle also created Popautomate, a project made in collaboration with the Internet personality Talk-Over, that lets participants write their own pop hits. If the participant writes a text, the software performs this text as music by stitching together small samples consisting of these words from different pop hits. Bayle also created a website where one can download pop hits played in reverse, to combat copyright laws. On the collaborating blog supernatural.org very young artists and art students are sharing ideas and inspiration found online, from art videos on YouTube and tips on rare books, to Internet ephemera and art shows they are participating in. These forms of Internet research skills, to find interesting material in chaos, and to make an interesting whole from bits and pieces of information could easily be defined as curating.

These artistic means of production are creating new fields for artistic work. Refusing to stay in their field, the artists move out of the art system to inhabit and modify popular culture. At this moment, art is most often legitimized through being framed by an institution or written about in an art magazine, but in a society of comprehensive image production and dissemination, the distinction between art and non-art is extensively blurred. Art after the Internet is evolving, and some claim that the Internet is becoming art’s final frontier. Within mass communication, at least with the introduction of the Internet as memory, knowledge and culture are inherited in new ways. For example, a work no longer needs to be seen. One consumes the documentation by googling. Information is gathered through appropriations. The popular archive of the Internet is changing what is worth noticing and thus what is to become history.

Hanne Mugaas holds an MA in Curating from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Recent projects include Paris was Yesterday , at La Vitrine, Paris, The Artist and the Computer at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, and The Copy and Paste Show, for Rhizome at The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. She is currently assisting Associate Curator Barbara London in the Media Department at the MoMA in New York.


Producing content - not another archive
by Power Ekroth

Choosing to become a curator of contemporary art is not a decision one takes lightly. It is hard labor and even if you land a job at a larger institution the work is underpaid. One would have to have a pretty clear idea about “why” before one starts out. Few have, of course. I find it important to stress that there are as many ways of defining a curator and what a curator does, as there are curators in the world. Everyone works differently and has different approaches. This is also what makes the role of the curator so exiting and experimental. A curator is the middle-hand between the artist and the audience, someone who at bests mediates and forms the expressions and thus can be seen a co-producer of the work and how it is perceived. The curator is very close to the artist, without becoming one. The roles are both defined and differentiated – the curator stands behind the artist, pushing and helping out. Sometimes the curator also functions as an idea-booster and here is where the line gets blurred. Where some curators find their role to be the artist’s harshest critic or much worse, their tutor a hierarchy between curator and artist about the art work and its context has begun.

It is more or less exactly ten years now since I decided that I wanted to become a curator. I have also observed how the generation just above me, with curators like Hans Ulrich Obrist, Maria Lind, Hou Hanrou, Ute Meta Bauer and the Palais de Tokyo-duo Nicolas Bourriaud/Jérôme Sans, have during the same decade been extremely dominant as “young” and interesting independent curators, and during the latest two, three years have all been taking the helm of dominant institutions. This generation still finds “archive art” to be interesting and consider it “new” – and it seems that we will continue to see a lot of “relational aesthetics in the watered out field” as well as socially engaged, halfway political art presented in these archives.
Thankfully there are other ways to approach the field of curating, dealing with the artistic process, being self-reflexive but in the end producing other stuff than the “documentation of the process” in an archive.

One of the best experiences I had in exhibition production dug deep in to questions about originality and ownership of origin. I discovered that two artists had made the very same work during the same time without knowing each other’s work and then decided to invite them to do a show together. Their work – cultivated fields of four leaf clovers – was intriguing in itself of course, but what was interesting in particular was the artists’ reactions when I told them about each other’s work. They were both disappointed and curious to see who was “first”. I wanted to explore this strong modernistic notion of authorship and wanted to invite both artists to make one work that had two transmitters, so to say. After a discussion via e-mail that lasted almost a year we instead inclined to go with another idea; to produce new work with included contributed ideas from all of us three participants (two artists and one curator). In the end we produced one work that possibly could be taken into multiple pieces of art works where it was possible to differentiate the originator from the other, although the pieces in themselves would make less sense than put together in “one whole” art work, and also turned into something more interesting.
The work that we produced in the end consisted of an experience basically. The visitor entered an entirely black and empty room; at least it seemed so until their eyes started to adjust. After a while one could discern that there was something above you. At four meters height a net, much like the ones in the circus, were attached from a balcony and across the entire room. Above this; a film appropriated from NASA on millions of shooting stars were projected in the ceiling, approximately seven meters from the ground. The room used to be a prayer room that had been turned into a white cube, and the ceiling high up was still arched. If one entered the net from the balcony one felt of course at first fear. When you laid down you could watch the stars in the ceiling and maybe make a wish. We made a little folder to accompany the exhibition with an essay about the process and about the artists, and loads of images from the artist’s previous production. No one could in the end tell one contribution from the other, and none of us were interested in making any distinctions – it was one work by two artists and a curator.

It was a bubble of artistic production, and I was as a curator highly involved. Even though I would never claim to be an artist or take credit for the artistic process, I can’t deny that we were all a part in the making of this exhibition on different terms but at the same time equally involved. It was one of the best memories I have on collaboration with artists and the production of an exhibition to this day. The exhibition title was I could be so lucky, lucky, lucky and the artists were Lena Malm from Sweden and Nikolaj Recke from Denmark, exhibited at Galleri Enkehuset, Stockholm in 2001.

I could be so lucky, lucky, lucky was an exhibition that put many of the questions posed for this collection of essays to the core. It is also a personal leitmotif for how I personally would like to continue to curate – i.e. be truly sensitive to the artistic process and to push the good ideas forward in a keen, sharp dialogue so that both artists and audience will be rewarded with new ideas and intellectually challenged.

Power Ekroth is an independent curator and critic as well as an editor of the magazine SITE. With a base in Stockholm she writes for magazines such as Artforum.com, Contemporary, Frieze and Flash Art.


by Tone Hansen

For too long have we taken for granted that the relative autonomy of art is protected against the reorganisations taking place in the rest of society. Given the latest discussions and debates within and around the artistic field in relation to governmental reforms, political control of art production, and also the strengthened economic focus on the role of art production, it is necessary to reconsider strategies, forms of organisation, and the framework of critical art activity. Is it possible to find conditions for an activity that actively works to create a space for desire, fantasies, and discussions? Have the art institutions as they came into being as part of the bourgeois’s development got stuck in conventions? The conventions we sustain, and which we as artists and curators are the product of, can be challenged. “What can be done?” is the simple question. Perhaps we are forgetting that the art institution belongs to the community, meaning not only that it should be available as a place, but also by making knowledge accessible.

Today there is a need to reconsider alliances, collective forms of action, and the special function of the art field by investigating and learning from other fields of practice. We must challenge the individualisation of society, where the artist and the independent culture worker have become an ideal for the new flexible worker. We must challenge the uniformity of post-capitalistic society which hides behind individualisation. The debate must address how we can create a space for discussions about the ownership of the community, the rights and possibilities to influence, who has access to different arenas in society, about creating space for actions we perhaps cannot imagine today.

The lines between private and public are no longer as clear as before. The idea of the concept of the bourgeois public is dependent on the differentiation between public and private, while the private, understood as privately-owned capital interests and companies, can easily do without the public as anything else than a representative and imaginary system of signs or a fictitious space which brings quality to the space’s participants and sponsors. Art and culture have become a significant part of political power play, and the interests of private economy concerning the functions of the art field often coincide with the governmental expectations of the effect of culture on society. This affects our understanding of the public sphere and its scope of action.

Few fields of business have such a complex economy as art, especially in the Nordic countries where commercial galleries comfortably exist alongside the publicly funded and artist run system of galleries. Moreover, the situation today is one where we can observe these parallel financial systems coming together in the larger publicly funded mus-eums. The museums have gone through an extensive reorganisation during the last years where museums that have received their funds by the national budget have been merged according to geographical criteria and not by area of responsibility or subject. As new private foundations they are not restricted by the Law of Publicity and are in a freer position to apply for private capital, yet they are nevertheless funded by the state. The situation leaves the merged museums in limbo between the roles as business- and administration organisations, and a clear-cut identity is difficult to trace in the new conglomerates. If we want to identify collective strategies these are located outside the formalised and known systems which to a large extent have proven to be ineffective. A couple of years ago Markedets makt over sinnene(1) by Bent to Tranøy, market always means a struggle of power. Where there is a market there are concentrations of power, and way too often the agitators for privatisation of public property and institutions have personal interests in the matter. The oligarchy’s theft of property in Russia and the Baltic countries is as such not so far from reform-friendly Nordic politicians and administrators who follow slavishly when public property is sold to private corporations. That market fundamentalism, however obscure it might seem, has great impact through the introduction of New Public Management (2), the restructure of the public responsibility, cannot be doubted. Tranøy goes as far as saying that we live in a market fundamentalist era.

Every subtle distinction disappears in unequivocal assertions, but let us for the arguments sake say that state funded art institutions are lost to market fundamentalism and the democratic artist run institutions have capitulated to their own bureaucracy.
Another point may be added to the list: In some circles democracy is considered a completed project. We have a democracy, and that’s final. We are completely democratized, and democracy can therefore be exported. Combined with a continuous search for consensus in the political centre and an aversion toward confrontation, passion, involvement and temperament is kept out of the political sphere for the regular citizen. Political theorist Chantal Mouffe presents a way out of the neo-liberalist grip on democratic development by defining the term agonism. In the text For an Agonistic Public Sphere she discusses which public arenas a living and dedicated democracy is dependent on. Mouffe points out, as do many others, that a true democracy never can be completed but that it is always under discussion and revision, although she too seeks a form of universal understanding of democracy.

To the extent that art is in conflict with the prevailing development of society, challenges an expanding capitalism, or investigates bureaucratic structures, the art institution can function as protection for experiments, but also as a refuge for debates that do not take place in other spaces. As a parallel to society Sofus Tranøy was published, in which he suggests a clear and straight-forward political and financial analysis of what we call the neo-liberalism’s hegemony of our language, the prospects of the future, and the apparatus of notions that shapes our art institutions. Although Tranøy does not explicitly write about the culture institutions, he describes situations and conflicts in corporations and the public sector that are similar to the fights taking place in the field of culture.

Tranøy starts by arguing against the term neo-liberalism, which he believes is a too positively charged term of the ideas used by those who are most positive to a society which is regulated by the market. Instead Tranøy introduces the term market fundamentalism as a term of literal belief and confidence to the mechanisms of the market and thus a basic scepticism towards the state as an active provider of premises for the development of society. The market fundamentalists want a state that always respond in retrospect through revisions, rather than a state that puts down terms prior to movements. According the art space offers a possibility to step into a discussion on the development of society, as well as a place for temporary identifications of values, ideas, and collective strategies. The question is whether the field of art has been polarised as a consequence of financially measurable expectations to success in the large and dominating institutions. Is it possible for the small and temporary institutions to fight for a place in the public without playing by the same rules or using other networks than the big public and private museum businesses? And if so, do they then need to be self-financed as well as self-organized to avoid being swallowed by the desire for profit? The American-based 16 Beaver Group explained their (lack of) organisational form at a conference in Oslo in 2006 (3). In the American system Non profit is only a step on the way to become Pro profit. To organize in the meaning to register, means a much bigger bureaucracy and demand for transparency and reporting. By staying unorganized it is perhaps possible to manoeuvre more easily, but not possible to apply for public or private funding. In the case of 16 Beaver Group, their space of action is financed through sub-letting studios, which ensures independent management. Something similar is found in connection to Unitednationsplaza in Berlin, which defines itself as “exhibition as a school”. The artist Anton Vidokle finances Unitednationsplaza as well as a number of other curatorial projects partly by the advertisement platform e-flux. The art institution in plural must be understood as a chain of public spheres with many and contradicting interests in a larger web of different societies, NGOs, clubs, and political groups. To form a counter public sphere does not mean that one is against other public spheres, a negative withdrawal into separate cells. On the contrary, it is a pro-active participation as part of a complex and plural public sphere. Antagonistic public spheres must be understood as relational as much as oppositional as they often mimic structures from normative and dominating public spheres to get the message through. Some antagonistic public spheres, or one could label them groups in society, refuse to be recognizable by always answering questions with new questions, like 16 Beaver Group. This can be understood as a strategy; at all times be one step aside from those with the power to define, because by being identifiable you are also conquerable. A group, a society, a collective, or a sub-culture defines itself, more or less, conscious by what they consider to be their limitations as well as what they consider to be outside their own community. Several organisations are today operating without a regular exhibition space and use a variety of locations as their operating field in cooperation with artists. In this way they occupy or make spaces and situations visible in order to create temporary communal meeting places. Some are concerned with the question of what is necessary for actions to be possible, what is necessary to imagine them as possible. What seems important is to maintain the spaces of action that is created, because spaces of action disappear if not maintained.

The point of taking a critical position is to avoid being governed too much. It is about taking a position in a public sphere not only to make a stand but also to analyse and make one’s own position visible in the public, collectively and individually. If we don’t want to be governed the same way as today, we must ask ourselves how we can find other ways to be governed, or how we can avoid being governed as much.


(1) (Eng.) The Markets Power over the Minds Bent Sofus Tranøy, Markedets makt over sinnene, Aschehoug & Co, Oslo 2006

(2) New Public Management is a set of theories for changing the public sector, which is closely connected with neo-liberal market theory. NPM originates from New Zealand`s critical economic situation in the 1980s, but is perhaps most often associated with Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and Ronald Reagan in the USA. NPM has an implicit ideological goal of promoting a minimalist state, and in the development of the public sector it applies the administration principles and management ideals from the private business sector.

(3) Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri participated on the conference The New Administration of Aesthetics. Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, 20-21 April 2006.

Tone Hansen is an Oslo based curator and artist. She is educuted at Oslo National Academy of the Arts and at Malmö Art Academy and is currently Research Fellow at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Hansen has curated the exhibition Walk_Through_the _City, organized the seminar and made the antology The New Administration of Aesthetics together with Trude Iversen, edited the antology What does Public Mean? Art as a Participant in the Public Arena (Torpedo Press) and writes for a number of international newspapers and magazines.

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