Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, Sweden

Conference Sept 15: Curating NoThing.

On Notions of Dematerialization in the Exhibition Context.

September 15 there will be an open symposium with several exciting participants such as Ivana Bago, Daniel Birnbaum, Dora García, Annette Jael Lehmann, Ana Texeira Pinto and Sven-Olov Wallenstein. The event will be moderated by Nina Möntmann.

Time: Sept 15 at 10-17 (lunchbreak 12.30-13.30)
Place: The Royal Institute of Art, Flaggmansvägen 1, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm.

Curating NoThing. On Notions of Dematerialization in the Exhibition Context

How can an exhibition, the traditional arena for curated things, be a medium to reflect the implications of information and virtuality in art and society? With art’s own interest in processing and communicating information and transferring data, the physical and visual appearance of classical exhibition formats has been challenged. The concept of ‘dematerialization’ was introduced to the arts in the late 1960s in connection with conceptual art practices. Mainly in the U.S., in Argentina, Brazil and Eastern Europe, the reduction of the materiality of art works was connected to a political agenda. According to the critic and curator, Lucy Lippard, conceptual artists placed “the idea above the material” as a way “to reflect on or stimulate a Utopian extreme” in times of protesting the Vietnam war and struggling for minority rights. The Argentine writer Oscar Masotta, however, relates the dematerialization of the art object to the potential for mass communication as a political tool to mobilize a large group of people in the times of military dictatorship.

By exploring the relations among new information technologies, objects and the human being, the conceptual exhibition Les Immatériaux at the Centre Pompidou in Paris 1985, curated by Jean-Francois Lyotard and Thierry Chaput, could be regarded as a link between a conceptually and a digitally evoked process of dematerialization.

Today digital technologies produce an omnipresent reality, which takes place to a large extent in virtuality. Artists are not only using digital media as a matter of course, but also thematize the proliferating virtual existences of the economy and social relations in their works. In addition, a turning toward dance and theatre can be observed, which likewise require new curatorial approaches as well as institutional structures and exhibition formats that go beyond the traditional role for performative arts to framing exhibitions with occasional events.

In this context, the conventional format of exhibitions as a relational composition of objects is at stake and several fundamental questions arise: What function does the art institution and its collection take on in a world of big data? And in relation to the turmoils of global conflicts, can we imagine a dematerialized art institution as a political arena, offering a safe space to rethink a “Utopian extreme”? And finally: Do artists still need the exhibition as a format or medium? The symposium aims at opening this discussion on the changing roles of exhibitions, institutions and curating in the context of dematerialization.


10.00  Introduction, Nina Möntmann

10.15  Ivana Bago, An “Incomplete Entirety”: From the Labor of Industry to the Joy of Concept

11.15  Daniel Birnbaum and Sven-Olov Wallenstein, From Immaterials to Reistance: The Two Sides of “Les Immatériaux”

12.30  Lunchbreak

13.30  Annette Jael Lehmann, Material Leftovers — Immaterial Possibilities? Exhibiting Performance Art in Contemporary Museums

14.30  Coffee Break

15.00  Dora Garcia with Nora Joung and Victoria Durnak, Buenos Aires is Not a Swedish City (lecture performance)

16.00 Ana Texeira Pinto, Semiotic and Financial Dematerialization

Very welcome!