What is a virtual feminist museum?

Griselda Pollock’s writes in her Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive (Routledge, 2007), about the choice and power, as well as about alternative views in the curating of art.

Spring time is full of art showings. Some of the contemporary art events used ideas that were earlier introduced. Current mixing of concepts and art are already well established. Where is art actually taking place, is it the person performing it, is it in unique details, or is art a social phenomenon, or is it in your subconscious? Looking into Griselda Pollock’s view on curating offers some interesting insights.

Would art galleries be any different than museums from the perspective of power? In case there would be no space for alternative voices in the museums, would ‘officially’ curated galleries be any different? What Pollock implies is that ‘reading against the grain’ is much more than just aesthetical choices. Virtual feminist museum needs to touch silenced territories. Whose story will be told in the future is important. But we choose to follow the path of retelling the same ‘official’ stories.

I just learned about an art project, which would fall into a category of ‘alternative’ curating. After all, writing about works in a more positive light, using the power of choice, and overall, rethinking the ethical parameters in actual processes, is crucial for this type of curating. Who gets to participate in a biennale, for instance?

I found some answers from Estonia. The contemporary art movement called Artishok was established in 2008 in Tallinn. It was initiated by a group of young voices who wanted to “scatter clusters of symbolic capital and status quo”. They were ten young artists, ten young critics, and ten exhibition days, showing new works with critical reviews that opened new works each day. Multiple tastes, philosophies and world views were the key words in the project, which aimed to do something around the exhibition experience as well.

“Artishok Biennale is an experimental exhibition format that was brought to life by art and criticism…”  (http://artishok.blogspot.com) The next, 3rd in a series, Artishok Biennale will take place in October 10th-20th 2012 in Contemporary Museum of Art of Estonia in Tallinn. The biennale aims to bring X young Baltic and Scandinavian writers to promote X young Estonian artists. This will happen in a moment, where Estonian art world “is struggling for the preservation of the most basic functions”… (III Artishok Biennale will be supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

Artishok seems to offer ideas for alternative curating. How would the project do something that relates to a virtual feminist museum?

Griselda Pollock states that “The dominant social and economic power relations that govern the museum make feminist analysis impossible” (2007, pg. 9). She further adds that “The museum in contemporary society is increasingly bounded into the circuits of capital between entertainment, tourism, heritage, commercial sponsorship and investment” (pg.10).

So, can this rhetoric be changes in establishing something like the Estonian biennale?

Art criticism is a tricky institution, and it needs to re-evaluate itself together with the artists. What is truly at stake today is that criticism still has a powerful voice in creating the future for the arts.  The mission statement of the Artishok Biennale is collaborative, as both the artists and writers can be at home “within the ever changing landscape of contemporary art”. What is so great about Artishok is that it has taken the art criticism seriously. It has created reading groups, interviewed renowned professionals from around the world, and brought professional circles and the media together. Artishok has also touched upon the idea of the exhibition spaces. The first two biennales were exhibiting in white and cubic city galleries. The 3rd biennale will take place in Contemporary Museum of Art. The group sees that the art museum is a positive space, because as a young institution the Estonian museum is ambitious and interested in experiments.

Coming back to the virtual feminist museum. This blog writing showcases one photograph, which is empowered by a writer of this blog. Her writer name is Firstindigo. In the picture she is looking at her camera, which is her documenting device. She also admirably pretends to hold her defined notes of the documented art. But in fact, this might be completely false. It is rather implied that she holds an art museum program or the museum floor map in her hand. The fact is insignificant in the picture. The location is Philadelphia Museum of Art. The sculpture in the picture matters: Diana was made in America in 1892-94 by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was born in Ireland.


{Addition to this article by Liisa Kaljula from Artishok comments on March 21, 2012}:

So nice to read your contemplations on alternative curating and also that you merge it with feminist theory! Some little remarks though on the purely factual: Artishok was founded in 2006 as a platform for different activities on art and criticism, but mainly as an art criticism blog, 2008 it started with Artishok Biennale. The founding formula of the biennale was that there had to be ten artists and ten critics involved in the exhibition each time. The rest has been up to the changing curator. This time instead of one person picking the participants, I wanted to let the critics choose, and for that to make sense, they had to be with as different backgrounds and agendas as possible. So this is why there are critics who are into queer theory and feminism, phenomenology, self-mythology, modernism, video games, sculpture and installation, photography and so on. So basically these ten critics who all have different agendas pick ten artists – and they will all merge in the autumn as one big happy family, when each and every critic has to write about each and every artist.

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