Foto: Jero van Nieuwkoop

Para-Institutions. Beside and Beyond the Museum, the University
A panel at the symposium “AUTONOMY” at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, 13. Juli 2018.

In recent years many artists have declared their work to be “museums.” We can call these practices of claiming museums “para-museums.” They appropriate the institution as institution using its own resources, insofar as they are simultaneously entirely part of the institution and of another order that may have only just begun to dawn. This complicated relationship – neither against the institution nor entirely defined by it – is described by the Greek prefix “para.” παρά means both beside and beyond. In Greek it is still about divergence and not about polarity (nonetheless, this is the prefix that becomes “contra” in Latin). The para–institution is thus not an anti–institution. It does not repudiate the institution; rather, it refuses the refusal (that the world may have ascribed to it).

With the Museum of Impossible Forms Helsinki and SAVVY Contemporary Berlin we will encounter two para-institutions: laboratories aiming to share ideas that might not exist yet, places where we could learn together what we don’t know yet. What does all this mean in relation to the university and to the Kunsthochschule (Academy/School of Art and Design)? How to claim autonomy and how to relate to the university today? Is there any agency in the approach of considering the German Kunsthochschule as a para-institution, claiming autonomy, insisting on the freedom of art, refusing the economization and modularization of education?

The Museum of Impossible Forms is a cultural center located in the first floor of a shopping mall in Kontula – a quarter in the East of Helsinki. The space facilitates the process of transgressing the boundaries/borders between art, politics, practice, and theory, and between artists and spectators. The Museum of Impossible Forms is a space in flux; a platform for experiences and a laboratory of thought. The core of the space is a library and an archive: real, imagined, and embodied.

As an art space, discursive platform, eating and drinking spot, njangi house, and space for conviviality, SAVVY Contemporary situates itself at the threshold of notions and constructs of the West and non-West, primarily to understand and negotiate between, and obviously to deconstruct, the ideologies and connotations inherent to such notions. For this, it seems appropriate to invoke, convoke, or deploy the “cosmogenic powers” of artists and artistic practice to guide us. On this journey SAVVY Contemporary engages in what Paget Henry would call the “poetic power of artistic practice” to “un-name and re-name, to de-institute old selves and establish new ones, and to silence imposed voices and reclaim lost ones” in an effort to resolve the “crisis of entrapment.”

Chaired by Nora Sternfeld (documenta professor, Kunsthochschule Kassel), Lecture by Christopher Wessels (Museum of Impossible Forms Helsinki), Discussion with Elena Agudio and Elsa Westreicher (SAVVY Contemporary Berlin)