Alistair Hudson & Charles Esche: S5: The LYC Museum & Art Gallery and the Museum as Practice

Hammad: This symposium and then,
of course, the exhibition itself
is around the idea of not just ‘who and we’ to requote Dobersur[?] but what can museums do to
help us answer that question. Given that we’re
looking at the museum as practice, I think it felt entirely appropriate for us to
end with two people who are practitioners of the museum. The structure of the next 45 minutes
or so is going to be following. I have asked both
Alistair and Charles to introduce their practice
to us and then we’ve been bouncing around
a number of questions around how museums can
show friendships, what museums do in terms
of exhibitions and collections in narrating nation
and interrupting those narrations and what
the position in Eindhoven and Manchester allow
for these positions. As I’m sure most of you already
know Alistair Hudson on my left is the newly appointed
director– Well, it’s no longer. You’re a year old
of both Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth
previously of Mima Middlesbrough and then
an institution that we’ve referred to a couple
of times Grizedale Arts. I think there’s some
interesting connections to draw out as of course with some commitment to the idea of useful art
and the museum being a useful space. Charles Esche is the director
of Van Abbemuseum and a professor at University of Arts London
and a curator of large exhibitions all over the world and somebody
who’s being really I think playing a pivotal role in the project
of provincialising Europe. I think there are some
of these things that we will pick up but what I wanted
to start off with and maybe Alistair if you can kick
us off is you have five minutes to tell us about
your practice as a director. Alistair: I might not cover it all. What I thought I would
do is I’ve got ten slides and I thought I would
do a CV in buildings. I’m going to show
10 slides of the ten buildings I have worked in as an employee where basically I have
been considering basically not only how you work in a building but
how you work on it and something that I– I trained as both
an artist and as an art historian. I always had this muddled idea
of what the hell I was doing. I think this idea of thinking
of the museum, the art gallery institution as a process in time
and space not as a fixed autonomous entity’s very key but also one
that any institution is created by basically the sum of its
constituencies of usership. Every institution is created
by sets of relationships some of who have
more power at certain times than others and have
more interest at certain times than others on very
different scales. To illustrate, really,
this is my first job which is this is the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds whose constituent
group is primarily art historians. If I’m cynical the public
never go to it. It’s designed to look like a castle. It is the fortress of art. The next place was this is
the British Pavilion in Venice which was– That was early ’90s,
Richard Hamilton but yes this being the constituent group
of this building being primarily the art world and in reality
the art market for the most part. This is all rather serendipitous. This photograph is by Richard
Demarco of Joseph Beuys in an Audi outside
the Anthony d’Offay gallery with Sandy Nairne and Heiner
Bastian the art dealer and Anthony d’Offay in the window there. I worked here for quite the longest
time which obviously is a commercial gallery there and one
of the biggest commercial galleries in the world dealing
with big blue-chip artists, big names with a constituent group
of people who buy art, the 1%. However you want to describe that. This is very informative
for me about what I wasn’t interested in some ways as well
as what I was interested in. The leap from that was
this building which is the UK government home
office headquarters which I worked
on with the architect Terry Farrell as an employee
of the government art collection on a scheme
with the artist Liam Gillick and a number of artists to do a public art
strategy and interestingly in a building that
wasn’t an art gallery. I think it was a basically
a building that was largely closed off to the public although
it had to use art and all to communicate to the public and was
in effect a project about how we get government to think
about itself aesthetically. Also, this idea of the working
environment filtered over to the next chapter of this decade of working at Grizedale Arts
of the Lake District. This is the headquarters
of Lawson Park Farm. Again not a building that’s open
to the public and not a gallery. It is a workspace and it was
interesting hearing about the ethics of LYC as being and founded
on work and a lot of what we developed at Grizedale was the idea
of an institution that worked within constituent frameworks
of that particular village, that particular community
in the Lake District, working with international artists from
China, US, Africa wherever but also with local practitioners whether
they be artists, craftspeople, farmers, hooky rug makers,
lace makers, builders, electricians. They were all considered
part of the project. This really was about
infusion operating in ordinary life
and doing things that were useful as
an antidote to the usual role of fantasist
residency about escape. It was about coming to
a place to work and to make a contribution
whatever that might be. It’s a bit funny
seeing LYC the demented wall with– It brought back memories of trying to hold this
13th-century farmhouse together in lots of different ways. This is also really where
I suppose this idea was developing around useful
art or [?] as we also referred to it art as a tool
which is where we have an introduction to Charles
and that led on to the– Charles might talk
about as well but really developing this international
network of like-minded people that were interested
in breaking art outside its 1% constituency and then
into everyday life. That led onto working
in this building which was in the same village
in [?] which is the Coniston Mechanics Institute
which was John Ruskin’s early start at a varied
art and life Institute. This was basically
a Museum collection, library, bathhouse for the miners,
community kitchen, lace-making, wood carving, copper repousse,
crafts workshop hybrid built in the 1870s which we then set about rediscovering this
history which became very informative in terms of, again, a lot of the things we might
discuss in a minute. The jump from that was really
to here, this is Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, a brand-new starchitect Dutch-designed
building with a regeneration agenda and probably one
of the most deprived towns in the UK or I used the deprived
in inverted commas. The idea was to how
you would repurpose this building which was designed for autonomous art world and to make this kind of a community
center in all the ways we’ve been
discussing today work in a place like
Middlesbrough for people who didn’t give two
hoots about the world of contemporary art on a whole. Latterly, obviously,
that idea then generated a body of interest which
led to the idea that we might take on or I
would take on the role here at Manchester Art
Gallery at the Whitworth. There’s an old photograph of the Whitworth as the Whitworth Institute
and Park in Manchester. A kind of a useful
museum of its day which was really about, A,
making a better life for people in the city
because it has a park as well like heart,
mind, lungs and all that but was purposely about
using art and a collection to turbocharge the cotton industry of Manchester to make
it a more productive economy and to make
people more creative. Interestingly, if I go back quickly,
the Manchester Art Gallery also founded in the early 1820s was again
a building without an art collection. It was an education
centre about introducing creativity into a town that was then growing into a city
of the kind of central heart of, let’s say fair capitalism. It was about a corrective
about creativity. It’s not such a big
jump from the LYC, I would argue as you might think. Finally, the other building which
is under my watch is this one which is Platt Hall, former slave owner’s mansion in South Manchester just beyond the Whitworth which is was up until recently the gallery
of costume, but we’re now re-purposing as a new idea for what
an art institution might be. But we are developing
that with constituents or users within the local context, the village of Moss Side, Fallowfield, Rusholme rather than deciding from a curatorial directive. Hammad: Great. That’s a great- Alistair: A potted history. Hammad: Charles? Charles: Yes,
I’m not going to compete with that. But what I thought I’d do is try
to get a little bit about how I see more or less 25 years,
I think [?] mid-’90s relating to certain developments which also
parallel, I think developments in society or certainly
in the political society, I think. So when I started I think which was actually in Tramway in Glasgow,
more or less. I think one of the ideas,
I think drove me was an idea which later
came to be called New Institutions,
which I really didn’t like at all because there was
nothing new about it. But I wanted to define
it as I would like it to be defined in a way, just sort of experimental institution
is, and which is I think,
was an idea that the institution itself, the art institution, could be reshaped or reformed according
to, not only the needs of artists, but also according to the needs
of the curatorial. I think it was very much
at that stage, when I look back at it now,
it was kind of top-down approach in which the artists
and the curators, and still may be the idea about
the avant-garde lingered as a notion of an experimental
area which would lead society, and because
the avant-garde has to know which direction the arm is
moving, otherwise, it’s not an avant-garde,
it’s just an isolated unit. So essentially,
this idea of the avant-garde, I think still lingers around
the idea of what I would call, Experimental
Institutions in which I played around I suppose most
specifically within [?]. I think the idea there was
in the name of– The experiment was to create possibility
which didn’t exist otherwise. So to understand that
in a sense to scan the artistic fields of institutions and how
they worked, and to see what was lacking in a sense,
so the experiment was not so much simply in a formal sense
or in an artistic sense. It was also to understand what might
be absent and to focus on the absent. That’s been, to some extent,
a running– is to go against the time, we have to go against
the trend and I think art at its best is often the thing that
goes against what seems to be the most modish activity that’s
going on at this particular time. I think that this experimental
institution is some kind of segue into– When I first
started in Van Abbemuseum, which is now 15 years ago,
so a long time ago, was something that I referred to at the time,
I’m writing a Ph.D. at the moment which divides this,
so that’s why I have it my head. What I called Democratic
Deviants at the time, I remember that’s what I
wrote my application about. The institution should understand
the game what the democratic majority was wanting and try
to do the opposite and such. You have to understand
that democracy is not the rule of the majority,
actually, democracy is
the permission of minority voices to have a public platform. That’s something I think that
we’re in danger of losing I think very often in our
understandings of democracy. But it felt to me that then
the public institution, I was always invested
inside the public. This is some old fashioned
social democratic or had become a sort of old fashioned
instrumentalist, I would say, by social democracy,
as a recognition of your state funding and the fact
that it was somehow in- not necessarily in place
of the market even, even in collaboration with the market,
but that it offered an idea of the public as opposed
to the entirely private activities that were going on as
Anthony d’Offay, for instance. But I think that sense
of publicness not so much in that social democratic
sense, but more in a sense of a platform which is open
to antagonistic encounters and because the public
isn’t antagonistic cult. We don’t go together
nicely most of the time. We talk about friendships
and we talk about how those connections happen,
but they’re always rough. They’re always struggling to coexist. In a sense as that struggle
for coexisting can be played out in a way I think
that Chantal Mouffe called at the time friendly enemies,
that the institutions democratic dealings could be
a meeting of friendly enemies. That became to me more and more to
mean a meeting between the artist and the public in a certain sense
which were often friendly enemies as well, but also the institution
and the artists that are actually owed an antagonism between
the curatorial and the artistic. That antagonism is something
you’re shooting to try and either smooth over or you
should try and understand the curatorial
of the facilitator or simply as somebody who is there
to serve the artist that actually there’s a curatorial
and institutional position and there’s
an artistic position, and they need in a sense to rub
roughly against each other, and they need to struggle
and they need to fight. So this idea of democratic
deviance became not only deviants
from the mainstream, but also within
the organisation itself, again, I think largely figured around the artist and the idea
of the avant-garde, still, but that there should be a sort of roughness
around those encounters and that we should push each other. That, I think produced many
projects which I could talk about, but we don’t really
have time to go into details. To some extent,
I think that that mirrored a society from the ’90s up until we could say the financial
crisis in 2007-2008, in which, I think particularly in mainland Europe which I was
working, I left the United Kingdom or left Scotland shouldn’t be in the United Kingdom anymore
but unfortunately is but I left Scotland
in 2000 or 99. So really most of this
experience has really come from Sweden and then also with biennales as you said
and then the Netherlands. There was a kind of an understanding
that I remember an Indonesian artist, who’s now doing documentary, I’ve just realised — Indonesian artist [?] who told me when he at the Rijksakademie
at the end of the ’90s, he said, “You know, it’s really difficult
to make art here because there’s nothing,
there’s no problems.” and there was this idea, I think, in the ’90s, in mainland Western Europe after 1989
and the supposed idea of victory of a sort of liberal democratic, which
became a neo liberal version but a liberal democratic version of the world
at the time, it’s the end of history. That they weren’t any many
problems to solve, there needs to be some fine-tuning
and there could be this and that that needed to be
changed, but essentially, within Western Europe,
things were sorted out. Therefore, this idea of an antagonism
of friendly enemies, of democratic deviance felt like an urgent
provocation to that idea that basically everybody could go along
swimmingly and that things were all right because it was clear
that things were not all right. Already issues of climate
change were present but also inequality was accelerating. We know now that inequality has
gone back to the time of Ruskin. We’re much more in circles, I think
than we are in lines in terms of history. Maybe to cut a long story
short, we then moved to or I think what
happened particularly after the crisis and also
the cuts that came, which was a sort of driving
force to rethink, I think our raison d’etre in a way
as a public institution cuts in the Netherlands were around
about 35% to 40% or so and I know that I think
you’ve gone through this similar kind of figures
here more recently. In that sense,
I think we began to build and this is where [?] and Constituent
Museum come in. An idea no longer of building on this avant-garde,
which had by this stage completely lost any sense of being
in the forefront of a society that was
moving in the same direction,
but had really become simply a minority,
which was defended only or was defensible only
in terms of its legacy and the vague hope the that maybe, we might be right but
it was more or less like a speculative
system in the economy way, you sort of trying
and bet on the company that’s going to be the next Apple or whatever,
but there was no sense in which there was really
an avant-garde in which there was a whole
force coming behind you to support that
avant-garde I don’t think. Society was going in 25 different
direction and it’s continuing to do. That model of the avant-garde
doesn’t work. But I think for us,
this move back if you like, into the body
of the society would very much be shaped
by not only the cuts and the crisis,
but also an understanding that avant-garde was
no longer sustainable as a raison d’etre and had become the preserve really of [?] and a sort
of monied avant-garde rather than anything which was ideologically loaded. Then, I think the Constituent
Museum in our two-tier,
which you’ve already introduced became very much,
sort of leitmotifs of how you might develop a programme
in an institution and what that institution might mean, which means of course to
listen, which means to understand
that there are different voices and the curatorial needs to take a backseat and that
no longer necessary to be ideologically
driven, but to try and define what
principles are that- where the lines you draw and I
think, issues of social justice of equality,
perhaps equity and emancipation,
I think that those are sort of fundamentals
that we should try and preserve from,
if you like the model. The final step which we’re
in at the moment and I’m very caught up in,
in my own thinking around this museum, maybe we’ll talk
a little bit more about it later, is the question of how
to de-modernise Europe. You talked about
provincialising Europe. I think also one of the responses to this sort of trend
for the de-colonial which I fear is a sort of temporary trends that sort
of interesting for a few months and then freeze
or move on to something else or whatever
because the de-colonial fully applied means an ends to patriarchy, capitalism,
and colonialism. It’s the whole system needs to be
undone if we actually decolonise and I don’t think that’s what’s
being proposed when Frieze do their reader[?]. In that sense, the answer I think that we might need to do as
whites, as old white men sitting here,
one of the things that we can offer is an idea the D-model. The idea of looking
at the modern itself, which is presumed to be the carrier
of the emancipation, equity, equality,
social justice and I see–Understands that
it’s not the carrier. It was just a convenient vessel for a certain period
of time but those qualities exist in other
cultures and other forms of thinking and that maybe separating those
values from the modern which is so complicit
with the colonial, and so complicit with the dark side
of modernity as [?] talks about it. That it’s no longer useful for us, it might have been useful
at certain times. It’s not to rewrite history and so everything’s wrong but
it’s to say that now the modern has become
a weight on our backs and of course as a modern
art museum which the Van Abbemuseum
is, when we talk about it a little bit later
that raises a whole set of- not new set
of questions about it, it’s raison d’etre it’s right to exist. Hammad: Well,
thank you and I think what some of these concepts
that have just been raised about usership,
the constituent museum, about
the experimental institution, about the public I
think we can also try and reframe within some of the themes that we have been running through whereas as we apply
to the LYC Museum. If you think about
the exhibition and publication literally as being modes
of finding a public as modes of addressing and conversing
with the public, as we think about, well,
we’ve literally talked about place. In both your formulations, place and the public that
you are then conversing with or seeking to
encourage to the users and then lastly,
that notion of friendship. Which if you then think about,
what is the role of the museum? Which child is going to go over there with their muddy boots
into the Manchester Art Gallery, make them a cup of tea,
do some drawings and then leave. I think if you then think
about what you’ve just described through that
lens of the LYC that we’ve just been looking
at, it would be great to think about what
that constituent museum. We don’t have to name it
whether it’s in Manchester or in Eindhoven,
what would that look like? How would it function? What would it say and what would
we then be right for these users? Alistair: I also
think one of the ways to think about this is to think is against this idea of autonomy as
well, that the institution, whether it’s a gallery, a shed in a park,
or a huge museum, is that they are a part of an infrastructure that
is being created socially, itself. We have to lose this
idea of it of being this kind of isolation chamber,
this place that you step over the threshold
to somehow enter this neutral gallery space
and then actually the myth of neutrality is a key
challenge, I think, that we’re kind of facing at the moment,
but actually, if you start to create
methodologies in which you can re-integrate
with the infrastructure. So, you were involved in housing,
you were involved in politics, you’re involved
in parking, or education for naught to five-year-olds
then you start to create a different value system
by which you could be judged or which you can then
have those conversations and relationships on a daily
basis and instead if you start to reverse
the polarities as I call it, of the normal ways of working
that Charles has described. Rather than trying to get
people to come to the museum and join in art,
you actually are looking for how the institution can join
in society and what is it that you can do with and for amongst
other people just as citizens yourself so that you’re no
longer, the authority figure but you’re just somebody
trying to have a go at making things work just like everybody
else is and that joining in, has actually- it can go
back to this idea of work. I think given a lot of projects
that I’ve been involved in outside of the normal frameworks
of the performance of frame of art or the 1%, is when you’ve actually shown that
you’re working then create those relationships from
those understandings that are really fundamental and very important and I think that applies
to an individual but also to an institution as well, but if you’re
seen as an institution to be working towards something, that you’re making
a contribution, it’s the equivalent to when somebody in a little
village in North Cumbria or Cumberland. So, it’s, “Oh yes,
I get what you’re talking about.” You’re joining in,
you’re contributing, you’re making cakes
for the village hall, or you’re helping us mend the fence. It’s a kind of similar
mantra I think. Charles: Yes, I think,
I want to preserve an idea of political autonomy, but not
necessarily artistic autonomy. I don’t think that that’s
interesting unless it performs a role within making your own
roles politically, being able to construct a deviance away from
the democratic norm if you like, and I think that that still
has aspects of the autonomous. I wouldn’t want to
lose the autonomous entirely at the same time I agree that the way the autonomy has been domesticated in a sense
by modernism into this kind of playpen idea in which
you can do your art over there but essentially it shouldn’t
have any impact outside of its own zone of influence. It’s highly problematic. So, we need in a sense,
through those connections to actually demonstrate an autonomy which can
be useful outside of its own [?]. I think that’s very
much what we’re showing. If I can give you one example of what
we’re doing at the moment, which I think is quite good
in that relationship in the– We’re working with a group of people who are
really– I don’t know why this happens in England at all, but there are asylum seekers who’ve
been– I’ve got a question for you. Being processed to
the point where they- I’ve been told they’re
not going to get residency,
but they’re not actually removed from the country,
at least not actively. They basically then sit in this
twilight zone and they can exist in there for decades, unable to
work but at the same time able to stay, and there’s a certain basic
idea in the Netherlands of everybody who’s in the country having
a certain right to roof and board. That would be something that
those people we’ve been working with recently with a couple
of our guards basically who are from Afghanistan,
who also went through that process but came out the other side
with permission to work. We have a small space,
a tea room, called the living room which
Sali Hilal set up, he’s a Palestinian artist
and there they serve tea and basically become a guest
which is the only moment that they have this
possibility to be a guest, sorry to be a host,
rather than to be a guest, to be a caster to be
somebody who gives hospitality rather than takes
hospitality or demands. I think the conversations which are emerging out of that,
it’s an artistic project in a sense that it has
a particular aesthetic of a cross between a kind of Ottoman, Arab,
Afghan living room, but in that space something else is starting
to happen over the last period. I think that’s
for people who come into the museum is actually a good example of what a constituent museum could be because that’s one,
relatively autonomous. I’d say by the group themselves who
come and go and organise themselves. It gives a certain capacity
for those random visitors who come in, who we never know who they
are yet they’re walking through the door to actually tell their
stories, to the point that at one point, Shafiq is one of the guards
met the Dutch ambassador to Afghanistan who happened to
wander in, then he started talking and said, “Yes,
I know Afghanistan quite well.” He turned out to be
the Dutch ambassador, completely coincidentally, but those kinds of exchanges would never
really happen without this space. It’s an artistic project. It’s almost the LYC
museum, yes in a certain sense, it’s this meeting of different cultures around a couple
of Afghans here in this case,
rather than [crosstalk]. Hammad: These areas are different. I’m going to sort of a last
thing then I’ll open it up and the difference really comes from I think something you pointed earlier, which is,
that you’re both sitting on collections,
and those collections, although most of them
live in stories, those stories continue and those
stories– I think it was, [?] who quoted John Dewey, “Art makes community,
community makes us.” What responsibility
does the constituent museum have to interrupt
those stories and how? Charles: I can start there because
I think it’s a reverse– We’re a modern art museum, essentially,
I won’t go through the whole history but
essentially our history is one that was
unbidently I would say imposed by the Museum of Modern
Art in New York more or less. The first director took that
model of the Cubism and Abstract Art, cover of the book made in 1936,
and adapted it for the Van Abbemuseum and in the Netherlands
and I think also in Germany at post-war,
the American occupied part of Europe essentially this was very,
very common, less so in this country perhaps because it was occupied
in a different way by American culture but we in the Netherlands
were thoroughly occupied in many ways which I can talk
about endlessly [chuckles]. That process in a sense means
that that as a museum of modern art our collection is a very
narrow slice of the experience, not only the 20th century but also
completely excludes the longest stories of art which could
be told going way, way back. There were other models
of what the museum of modern art could be so we could
put Alexander Downer and Alfred Barr next to each
other and we can understand two possible models
of the museum of modern art. The one that won was Barrs
and we can understand why but maybe it’s no
longer the appropriate one to have only a modern
art collection and I think that for us we’re
borrowing the Goya and the Hogarth which
is quite radical for us although it would seem
very transparent for other people but also the LYC
collection which its Roman remains as part
of the collection. With its, almost you could say
folk art aspects or craft elements that were coming in through
the hooked rugs and things like that. I think in a way that’s
a much more vibrant example of a collection
today and maybe ones that are actually more common in England than they
are in Europe now. I think we have a real challenge to understand what our
modern collection means and a lot of our exercises
to try and initially just take a distance from that modern collection and that
modernity and to try and understand that
this is a history which we can respect,
which we can bid farewell to in a certain way,
in a very polite way. It’s not about insulting it but understanding it’s no
longer of our time. It’s not now. The modern is not now and I
think that process also fundamentally would affect
the identity of a modern art museum. Alistair: In a way that’s
a slightly more luxurious position. I think there’s a quite
a cue to Manchester as well with these specific
collections that were built as collections of collections by
different people with different interests at different
times in their history. You do have folk art,
you do have textiles, you do have things from archaeology. You have a whole guddle
of stuff which is amazing and was designed
as this toolkit. It wasn’t designed
according to Barr because UK in a way resisted this idea
for a long period of time. It was part of it’s sort
of an island status to a certain extent in opposition to
Europe so that we’ve in a way accidentally landed
with something close to a version of where we want to be
that was already in place. A lot of this is about
uncovering actually the true intentions of these
institutions that perhaps in the UK has been
suppressed by the modern in order to conform to
that regime et cetera. Charles: I think it’s also this
circular time where we look at– Ruskin building a road
which seemed to be an incredibly contemporary if we want to call
it that [crosstalk] socially engaged our practice that
would come all the way back. There would have been
a long period where it was not seen in any
terms within artistic practice. It’s now come back. I think when we talk about autonomy,
if you read the arguments around 1968 in our forum you’ll find these
same arguments being engaged with. Yes, so these things are
also not- nothing that we’re doing is new that’s why new
institutionalism is rubbish. The idea that these things
come back and maybe you think the idea of a rural, I’m thinking
of Catherine Burn’s recent book. Even the idea of the rural
which disappeared for a certain time to
the extent that I know that our history it was
the YBA’s that became an incredibly urban
phenomenon in a certain way. Now we’re going back to look
at Banks and Cumbria because that circle is coming around again
and we can look at something else. Almost a form of resisting
commodification in the same way that
in socialist Europe artists would go to [?] himself
actually when he was in Texas [?]
sitting at the end would go outside of Prague
to make performances and make things because
that was the place where these things could happen
because in the centre of the city there was surveillance. In a certain sense,
the commodification of art is also a form of surveillance you could see in which the rural returns as a form
of escape from that. Alistair: Also in that
not just the rural but also the non-metropolitan
as well. Then once you start looking and you
start digging and you find like LYC, you find these strands where
it’s there but it need revealing. If you think about
what the Bauhaus diaspora was doing in the 1930s and you look at Dartington Hall
and things like Black Mountain even where I
was in Middlesbrough before there was this
rural offshoot, Bauhaus offshoot relationships
between the [?] settlement in Ancoats here
in the 19th century with Jimmy and Jane Adams in Chicago. There were these networks
of people to basically doing this other version of art that was
somehow canonised within the– It was sort of adopted or taken
into- captured is probably the right word by the modern
project but suddenly we’re in this moment where by looking
again we can start to reveal these threats were actually
something quite different. Hammad: On that moment of capture I really want to open
up to the audience. We can continue talking
for hours but we don’t have hours and anybody
can bring in questions. Participant 1: I just wanted to
say, building on that idea of the collection just to put
a little bit of context on that. At LYC there was the [?]
relics and there was all the other activities,
but there was always this use of [?] a connecting
piece which was just very delicate,
just hanging there. That was in amongst all the chaos
the drawing machines and stuff, this beautiful piece. Nick who owned that? [mumbling] Nick’s gone. Participant 2: Sorry
[crosstalk] moment it was in the first room
you couldn’t miss it. I think it might have been [?]. Participant 1: Extraordinary. Anyway, that’s what I
wanted, add colour to them. Participant 3: I want to mention also of course
the Van Abbemuseum or all the museums in the Netherlands
are not free like here. It’s a huge difference. How many people walk
around here or just come in got a cup of tea,
see some art but in the Netherlands
we all have to pay and it makes it very, very different. When you mentioned
that about the guards and the people coming,
was that in a free space? Charles: Yes, it’s in the free space. It has to be in the free space
otherwise it wouldn’t work. Alistair: When we did the museum
of art [?] museum if you entered as a spectator you had to pay but if
you entered as a user it was free. Charles: We have played
with that a little bit. Participant 1: Architecture
has a big part to play in this instance
because all the buildings that you know [?] and in a sense they are a reflections
of [?] that kind of power obviously. Very, very different and if
you’re talking about creating an atmosphere including a dynamic
which is a mesh up of unlikely participants, I think
architecture is a massive– It’s a different thing to overcome
I think and sometimes it’s [?]. Charles: I often feel that
it gets most interesting when like with the museum
of art [?] which we did together with Tanya
that there’s an element of squatting that’s
going on that we’re misusing the architecture
because the architecture is built for certain
purposes and if you like the repurposing
of that architecture it doesn’t necessarily
mean it’s destruction. You could actually repurpose
it but repurposing it would be treated with some
disrespect I suppose. Alistair: Also I think people get the idea of the institutional
power as well and I think
it’s not just us that enjoys playing with that as well. [?] for example of other
projects I can think of historically where were
working with for example people generally trying
to get legal status as a resident or asylum,
these people in between- Hammad: [crosstalk] Tanya
Bruguera the artist who’s project at Tate turbine hall was renaming
a building the Natalie Bell building who was a local
activist whereas the building opposite is the result of tens
of millions of pounds. I think just that kind of- Alistair: It’s the same thing I was moving towards which
is actually people understanding that institutions like
this can be a route to talk to power. Even if you are most disenfranchised
or however you’re sat in a position we can create the conditions
in which people can see the art institution, the museum as a way to
get things done or to have a voice or to- who are we to question in places
where you can’t do it [?] else. I think that has huge potential
in terms of this usership model. That if they can use the institution
in one way or another, it doesn’t include anybody
including still the 1% and the collectors and the art. That’s still all in play,
that’s still there but you have this
wider range of activity as well,
which you can also find inroads and pathways through
the institution as well. Participant 1: I
think that’s something that’s marvellous about Manchester. It grew rapidly,
swallowed up things like Platt Hall and lots of others
even as far as Wythenshawe and those halls are now
preserved and some are in museum use or could
have got quite good doors. Even if they are not
in use the door right now. It’s not the only
British city that did that, grew rapidly, which means that the places where those buildings are,
are now– it’s not regentrification. It’s the fall down
bits of the inner city. It’s where your immigrant
communities arrive and your minority communities arrive. They’re still doing that
here, and your asylum-seeking
communities, of course. That means those people aren’t felt. They have to be. That’s what’s great about
this, absolutely. Alistair: What’s very
interesting is just are the discussions we had with Platt,
for example, we’ve been doing these community
discussions around the neighborhoods around
and they loved the idea. Participant 1: You’ve got
the [crosstalk]. Haven’t you? Alistair: It was a slave
runner’s house. It was like, “Let’s bend this.
Let’s turn it. Let’s not deny that.
Let’s play with it. Let’s manipulate that, from our
perspective, as people who come from different cultures or maybe
have that antagonism towards that. Participant 1:
[crosstalk] integrating. I was talking with somebody
who– a tour guide. He couldn’t seem to fathom
why people from the north side of Manchester, except they’ve
never been in the art gallery. They only live three miles away. I said, “Yes,
but unless they’re culturally present where they live,
they can’t be culturally present in the centre.” That’s missing actually, particularly from the north
side of Manchester. I don’t know any historic houses up
that way, that might be my mistake. Charles: Heaton Hall. Alistair: Queens Park. Participant 1: All right.
Okay. That makes a difference. Whereas at least we know,
we’ve got this one at Wythenshawe but it’s getting your newer
community sent through the doors. Yes, you’re right. Or they talk to power. Most cities can do that
because of the nature of the rebuilt that
happened from 1830 on. Participant 2: I was wondering
when you talk about the architecture of the buildings
that have museums. I run a pop-up museum [?] people but
it’s a very small project I guess I’m interested in the notion
of the museum without a building. For example, museums like the museum of homelessness, museums in suitcases,
this kind of new interpretation on that, an open question
is, what’s your feelings around that new
iteration of the museum? Participant 3: I’m going to ask
you a question about whether it’s a new concept because my [?] he
has a museum in a suitcase I think. Participant 2: Without
space or with movable space. [laughs] [?]. Do you know what I mean? That kind of [crosstalk]. Alistair: We have to
remember that museums are quite a young new thing
with a geographic focus. It came out of predominantly a kind
of Eurocentric culture as well. There’s a lot of art that’s happened historically in the world
without museums. They are a product of the modern
project, if we define the modern project as beginning
in, I don’t know, 1418. I think we have to remember
that, but we also have to remember them as
being– this is why– I think it’s important to
remind ourselves that they’re not fixed,
that they’re constantly changing. They’re constantly evolving. They’re just as fluid as any
pop-up or any– things come and go and they change, and they become
something else and that’s okay. Of course,
you can have all those things. The world is much richer
for having all those things at the same time,
rather than one or the other. I think what we need to do is
acknowledge the spectrum of activity. Of course, the balance within
politics and economics is that normally the big institution
has the gravitational pull. The bigger it is,
the bigger the gravity. I think we probably have to
find ways to work to accommodate those other practices, which we
have looked at as institutions. Charles: I think it’s also
about who gathers around those. Let’s say, a collection in a suitcase
or something like that. The collection itself is
only as good as the people who gather around it in a sense,
I would say. It’s the gathering and the sometimes
antagonistic relations that’s sparked by that
and sparked by that collection. I’m sure that happens. I think
the collection itself is a wonderful tool to create that
agonistic relations which are the fundamental or the kind of democracy that’s
not with the majority. It’s very important that they happen,
but it’s important that they’re not just phenomenon in themselves,
but they have a social life in a way. That social life identity
is how we could judge them. In a sense,
it’s the same as the museum. I think museums can be totally
dead with their collection. Museums in suitcases can
be totally dead as well. They can be simply
individual projects. It’s about what is gathering. Alistair: Or in a glass case. Charles: Yes, it’s where
this gathering takes place. Hammad: In terms of this
gathering, and I think this is a question
really to both of you. Also, because you’re both operating
in Manchester and Eindhoven. So, cities which are not the capital. In countries which
both, shall we say, have moments
of questioning belonging. Again, those circles never go away. You’d think about, “Oh,
it’s 50 years since Enoch Powell.” That seems suddenly very resonant. Just thinking through,
and you’ve described how you’re addressing the local, with, say,
Platts House or with the Afghan refugees or the asylum seekers. I wonder what is
the responsibility that you feel as
practicing museums of intervening
in the national conversation of belonging that we’ve talked about? Charles: We did a project a few
years ago called Becoming Dutch, which was more as
a kind of provocation in a way because it was in that period–
I suppose we started it before the crisis, and then
it ended up being just after. It still felt like
a moment where this idea of Dutchness was
relatively unchallenged. There were reviews
of that expression. We said,
“Why are they bothering asking these questions about identity?” We just felt rather silly
because we already had a kind of, we could say, is a proto-fascist
or a right-populist movement already moving with Pim Fortuyn
and later with Geert Wilders. It was already underway, as it was. What happened here we’re
thinking up to Brexit, I guess you could see is more
or less the same thing. The sort of rejection of the outside
and redrawing of us and them lines. Nevertheless,
that was a little bit within the hour, there was still
this, what I would characterise as complacency
towards what was going on the outside
of that our condition. Alistair: I think
the big conversation now really,
internationally, nationally, it’s really how you get economics to
work, for me, in the broadest sense. Economics, as in,
how you maintain the society. Hammad: Equality, that
relationship of political economy. Alistair: Yes, exactly.
For me, I suppose what I’m interested in doing here,
and we’re trying to do is to create projects,
ways of working where you test out models for that to work. It might be within Rusholme or Moss
Side or here in the city centre, but with particular constituent
groups because you cannot generalise. You have to work
in specific circumstances. Then, those case
studies can then be part of a national,
international conversation with everybody else
who’s trying to tackle these things and to
then join those up. Charles: There’s also
an internationalism in the place that you’re in. That’s what I think,
becoming detrimental. We recently put two maps on the wall
as you go into the collection. One is the diversity of origin
of the citizens of Eindhoven, and the other is the diversity
of origin with the collection. The diversity
of decisions of Eindhoven is far greater than the collection. What’s interesting is
that the narrative because Eindhoven is a relatively
small city of 200,000. The narrative of Van
Abbe was always that it’s an international Museum,
in a provincial place. Actually, this shows that
the collection is far less international than the city
of Eindhoven itself. So, suddenly,
we are a provincial museum in an international city actually. The collection is provincial if
we talk about collections within that context of the city that
we’re meant to be reflecting. That’s also, in a sense,
our taskmasters in a certain way. Hammad: Which is a wonderful parallel
actually to a case that we were talking about of Cartwright Hall
whose collection is sort of pride of place in [?]
Where there was a political act to address
exactly that relationship that you’re talking about,
as how does a collection reflect or talk to demographics. I’m scanning the room again. Alistair: It’s interesting.
We’re doing this project this summer. It was announced today
actually because it’s a partly an international festival
here with Tania Bruguera. We’re going to run
a school for integration. It’s basically people from
other cultures teaching, theoretically, the local
people about their culture. So, it’s like reverse assimilation. In a way,
it’s about how you use a resource like this to actually
say, “Actually, this is a city with close to
200 languages spoken,” but if you came on a daily
basis and maybe looked around the galleries,
you wouldn’t necessarily know that,
but buried in these collections and buried
in the resources, there are those stories
as Speech Ark shows. It’s how we tell those stories. We need to have that collective
conversation which is inclusive in order to bring
that through, the truth, really. The reality of the complexity
of how culture works. Charles: I think it goes back
to how we use our resources, is one of the things that
we should be judged on. It’s like not to give up on those
large scale institutions and say, “Let’s do pop-up museums.” It’s both and.
It’s also that we need to respond to your kinds
of initiatives and to use the resources that
we have historically until we don’t have them anymore. [laughs] To actually use
them in constructive ways that can support a kind
of dialogue between us. I think that’s why we still do what
we do in a sense because we feel a responsibility to make use of those resources in the best
ways that we can. Hammad: Annie? Annie: Thank you. That’s really
interesting to hear from the perspective of the institutions. I guess in the spirit of [?]
weekends, I just wanted to ask because we’ve spent
a really wonderful, rich day. We talked about you and Charles’
practice and his alternative institution and he is very
much sidelined and forgotten until different occasions
and he’s popped up in this wonderful endeavour to bring
him back into the narrative. With all due respect,
I also kind of feel slightly uncomfortable
we’re ending the day with such a strong
institutional presence of two very respected
male white leaders. I wonder how we can disrupt
that as well this kind of plenary that’s always
there [crosstalk] of– Hammad: You are doing it. [laughter] Annie: Also I think
my colleague her point is really getting back to the how
do we decouple the museum as a form
with the institution as a bastion of power
or an instrument of power. I wonder how we can open
that up more, whether it’s through conversations
like this and other forms. Participant 4: I just wanted to go–
When we were talking [?] [crosstalk]. Oh, sorry. Yes. Annie: And also having more
people of color and maybe other women who are leading that sort
of projects to a panel perhaps? Thank you. Participant 4: I’m sorry, I just
wanted to add to your comment. I think the notion
of a museum is what seems persistently useful because
when we went to the public museum, and the LYC Museum,
and we’re talking about museums and we were looking
into buildings which is typically the [?]
and wondering exactly I suppose the same sort of questions
that you were just asking, what’s useful about
this discussion and is it that the notion
of a museum is still useful? Because I’ve just been
thinking a lot about an institution where
you find yourself in opposition to the idea of a museum and whether or not
that’s helpful or not. I suppose, could you answer
that question about is that notion of a museum
something that’s useful to you and your practices,
is it something that is helpful to you and why
[crosstalk] use it? Annie: Well it’s still useful, but I wanted to think about
how we can expand the notion of a museum apart from
just institutions with the buildings and the collections, which themselves
have to be very institutional because you have to
protect collections and therefore use resources. Therefore you need
political power to have all those things come
together, but how can we also fracture that somehow
to have other modes of museums within museums
perhaps, or even the word ‘museums
of the future’ which I think he was talking about
how to have museums without forms and how
other forms of museums could happen through
official perhaps. I am brainstorming here. As it’s been a long
day in a very rich case of– and a wonderful
night last night as well. I guess what I’m trying to say is how else can we open up
these conversations where they are so much about policy and really set the tone
perhaps for having put forward to have other
voices, other persons for other
communities with other interests to also join in that question of what is a museum,
perhaps. Alistair: If I could just come
back on that one and I think it does bring us back to how
I see a little bit as well. It’s a very clear
example of something that worked but just by doing stuff. It really discovered what it
was through doing and making. For me, that is actually where
the bread and butter of this is. Yes, of course,
we sit in these fora which obey the traditions of everything
we’re criticising. We got the projector, we have
the layout of the chairs, the podium. This has all the trappings. I think actually, what,
I would say, we’re trying to do as institutions is to
actually break those habits. It’s about changing behaviours. Whilst the architecture
and the building kind of stays the same, you can bend with it and play with it,
but that’s the framework, but there are lots of ways in which
we can, just by doing different kinds of things, start to develop
different behaviors and patterns. I think that’s where we get to
the point that you’re talking about. Annie: That’s actually exciting. Alistair: It’s quite hard to talk
about that because that is just talk. Actually,
I think if you see the texture of, for example, some of the things Charles has described into personal
moments like the conversation between the two Afghans in the museum, that’s
actually where what you’re talking is taking place because
Charles isn’t there, necessarily, in that conversation. Those people are allowing
themselves to take over the space
in a different kind of way. Charles: I agree with you
and I struggle enormously. I’m struggling with my own privilege
constantly in that relation. I’m not sure what to
do with it because my privilege is not
necessarily only personal. It’s a privilege
which is sustained by a structure and if I were to resign tomorrow,
it’s not necessarily true that that structure would be overturned. Annie: No,
I agree and I wouldn’t want you to resign because you’re
doing a fabulous job. [laughter] Charles: No,
but I think it’s a very legitimate question to ask and I
think I should soon. [laughter] Annie: Perhaps is not resigning. Perhaps it’s, say, can I bring
someone else with me [crosstalk]. Charles: I think there
are attempts to do that but I think
the structural change, which in a sense is the decolonial,
is the end of patriarchy capitalism
and colonialism. This is what the decolonial
or decoloniality applies, that’s the challenge. The holy trinity if
you like of these three which coexist and which
can’t be separated. The three are dependent
on each other. I think in those terms, that’s
the structure that we need to change. Now, while I can contribute to that
as somebody who is benefiting from all three all the time, is hard to
imagine, except, for me, the question of the de-modern, which feels like
something which me as a privileged subject of the world
owns, in a certain sense, owns that narrative.
That’s my narrative. It’s the museum’s narrative
but also– and I embody it. I embody the modern man. To try to de-modernize
that narrative and myself to some degree,
does mean allowing other voices, absolutely, and does mean
thinking about diversity in terms of the staff which
we think about very hard. Does mean changing your aesthetic
radar radically from a modernist set of radar to other kinds
of understandings of what art could possibly be,
including some of the work that we’ve seen there that’s not
necessarily named art today. I think that’s what the LYC
Museum actually was doing as Alistair was saying,
just by practice and not necessarily binding of the kind of rhetoric
that I’m giving you now as a white person in power,
I understand that, really. Alistair: You should
think of yourself as a museum yourself.
It’s like you’re the building. You’re getting to
re-purpose the building. [laughter] Charles: What would be nice is
we could change the structure sufficiently that when I resign
it doesn’t just repeat itself. That would be great. Alistair: This analogy
of bending is quite nice. I think our friends in Poland,
you could say are bending. You keep bending, you keep bending
and at certain points, it snaps back. It’s like steaming wood. At some point, it starts to give
and starts to grow in another place. Charles: Then you can use it. Hammad: I’d have to bring at least
a formal bit of this conversation to a close because we’ve gone well
over even our 5:15 limit but as an example of bending, and it may
be a very small bend, but I do want to acknowledge I think the openness
and generosity of Manchester Art Gallery to host
both the exhibition and this event, which in a way, is also inviting exactly this
kind of difficult conversation that we don’t have enough of,
which is around who speaks, for whom, how, in what form and how do
we open up those conversations. I think Annie,
you and the artist that you curated within the gallery
space itself with some bends here and not enough
bends there, I think is very much part
of that conversation. I want to leave it
there with a metaphor that I take from Tai chi. In Tai chi, which is both a form of moving meditation
but also a martial art, to practice the martial art, you
do something called pushing hands. Where the purpose is
to find the center of the person that
you’re playing with, and when you’ve found
it, you push them even a little nudge and they
will go flying. I think we have to push
hands with the museum, with middle-aged white men,
with middle-aged brown men. [laughing] With whoever you wish to play with. I think the key thing that we
can take away from Lee, his three-way ping pong table, is that
it’s really important to play. Thank you all for playing
with us today, and may we continue in that spirit. ?Charles: Thank you. [applause]

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