Traveling to the Venice Biennale and Milan for the first time, I expected to find myself exposed to a variety of curatorial approaches and institutions in an international setting. From a massive global biennial to private museums and foundations, my destinations would offer a very different perspective, approach, and geography for exhibitions.
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“The world is a mass of intractable ills on which art must shed light…. This is not the time for art as an object of contemplation or delight, much less a market commodity—certainly not in a public exhibition whose chief responsibility is to stimulate debate.” –Roberta Smith
These were two dissonant cities. Copenhagen is smooth as butter, all its surfaces calm and uniform. A local artist-run scene is thriving there, supported by government grants and a stable society. Berlin is sutured by construction cranes. So many closed sidewalks and temporary walkways; so much dust. Berlin’s international art scene emerged out of gaps in its social structure, in buildings left vacant years ago.
In early May I set out on a four-day journey to Chicago, Illinois. I began the trip wondering how architectural organizations in Chicago, a city so densely packed with renowned buildings and structures, approach the challenge of engaging their viewers with these works. How can architecture be made more accessible? What techniques are used? Curated exhibitions of images, models, and research, or tours and activities that physically involve the structures? What methods have been found to be the most successful?
How many times have we overheard visitors looking at Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel or an Abstract Expressionist work for the first time wonder aloud, “But why is this art? How did this make it into a museum?” (And, let’s be honest, how many times have we seen a new piece and silently asked ourselves the exact same thing?)
The ideas of experimentation and radicalism live under a worldwide umbrella of cultural institutions. Social practice, community engagement, and the very meaning of the act of teaching are often part of the research pool we use to consider the responsibilities of cultural institutions in their attempts to provide aesthetic experiences. When we talk about experimentation, are we all operating by the same definition?
As an intern in the MoMA Archives, my favorite part of the day is paging through the material that our researchers have requested. Though pulling document files doesn’t seem like the most exciting task in the world, it is for me, because it’s the exact moment when archives come alive. Sitting in the stacks in hundreds of archival boxes, these documents are inactive forces of potential energy waiting to be picked up.
As urban sociologist Robert Park wrote, the city is “man’s most consistent and on the whole, his most successful attempt to remake the world he lives in more after his heart’s desire.” However, how aware are we of our right to reinvent the city, and not just access what is presented to us? How much more creative and human-centered could we be when rethinking the processes of urbanization?
It was around the end of April and I was still suffering from the cold of my first winter in New York, when I had the opportunity to choose a professional travel destination as a MoMA intern in the Department of Photography. And what better escape could there be than a photographic journey to California?
Art collections are the face of museums; how a permanent collection is presented speaks to the vision of the museum in the most elementary way. My interest in museum collections and how they are displayed took me to Paris, a city I love, where I was able to explore this confluence of display and institutional vision.
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