{ brad brace } on 16 Mar 2001 15:09:29 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] <the art museum is not your friend> more

"I am not troubled by the current proliferation of art museums, since it
seems to be the logical outgrowth of a culture that craves both progress
and certainty. As anyone familiar with risk-taking knows, progress and
certainty are not compatible goals. To make progress necessarily means to
move into unknown terrain and to be uncertain about that movement.
Inversely, to be certain means to focus on ground that already has been
covered and to be confident about what will be found there. Historically,
the former has been the job of artists and the latter the job of

"The question regarding museums, then, is not whether we need so many but
whether it is possible for any of them to promote progress and certainty
at the same time. In an effort to reconcile these contradictory goals, the
museum in our time has become a place to conduct experiments and to
confirm their results; a place to give birth to ideas and to prepare them
for the grave. Any tension that might ordinarily develop between the
introduction of an artwork and its eventual acceptance or rejection has
been squeezed into the time it takes for the elevator to travel from the
prep room to the project space. As an act of control, this containment is
much more representative of our culture than any of the artworks our new
museums might display..."

"... If any of us are startled by the fact that art and museums have
become adversaries in the pursuit of beauty, then this is because the
framework we have built for the reception of art is modeled on impatience
and insecurity, an approach to culture in which few things are done and few
risks are taken without first assessing their potential audience. Whether
this means scheduling a time slot with one of the artists of the moment or
organizing a show around the latest consumer trends, art gets subjected to
the scrutiny of a system that needs to be fairly certain of its effect
before it can invest in a cause. In such an environment, art becomes
predictable. All the while, museums devote more of their resources to
raising the money necessary for maintaining that elaborate

(a speech delivered at the conference of museum architecture II, vaduz,
liechtenstein, november 2000, donelle woolford)

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