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The Museum as Medium
Dialogues on Museum Language and Contemporary Art

This international Symposium seeks to provide insights on innovative forms of display, presentation and interpretation of art. Museums in the Twentieth century have been shaped by the vision of contemporary artists, curators, and educators who have searched for various strategies of communication with their audiences. More than simply existing as a static structure, museums have become a contextual language that has allowed for reflection, critique, and innovation in the artistic dialogue.

The symposium will address topics regarding the function of contemporary art museums as tools for learning, dialogue and critical thought, particularly as it is reflected in the work of various contemporary artists. The panels addressing the same subject will take place in two parallel sessions in Mexico City and New York, with a different array of leading artists, curators and scholars. The beginning of each session will include keynote addresses by James Putnam (Mexico City) and by Stephen Jay Gould (New York). James Putnam will discuss the relationship between the artist and the museum in the Twentieth Century, as he explored in his work "Art and Artifact: The Museum as Medium".

Stephen Jay Gould, author of "Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors", will address a number of critical issues, including the origins, the form, and possible future direction of the contemporary museum.

Mexico City:
Aula Magna, Centro Multimedia
Centro Nacional de las Artes
Saturday, April 27, 2002
10am - 6pm

New York City:
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Saturday, May 11, 2002
10am - 4pm

The Museum as Medium has been organized by Pablo Helguera, Senior Education Program Manager of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This program is possible thanks to support from the Fideicomiso para la Cultura Mexico-EUA and the Centro Nacional para las Artes in Mexico City, the United States Embassy in Mexico City, the Colección Jumex and Aprendiendo a Través del Arte.

Participants (more to be confirmed)

Mexico City

Keynote Speech:
James Putnam, Curator, Contemporary Arts and Cultures Program, the British Museum

Marco Barrera Bassols, Director, Museum of Natural History, Mexico City
Lynne Cooke, Curator, Dia Center for the Arts
Abraham Cruzvillegas, artist
Minerva Cuevas, artist
Andrea Fraser, artist
James Elkins, Art Historian, Art Institute of Chicago
Pablo Helguera, Senior Education Program Manager, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Christine Hill, artist
Patricia Martín, Jumex Collection, Mexico
Cuauhtémoc Medina, independent curator and critic, Mexico City
Antonio Muntadas, Artist, New York
Cornelia Parker, Artist, London
James Putnam, Curator, British Museum, London
Osvaldo Sánchez, independent critic and curator, Mexico City
Guillermo Santamarina, Director, Ex-Teresa Espacio Alternativo, Mexico City (TBC)
Fred Wilson, artist
Julian Zugazagoitia, Exec. Assistant to the Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

New York City:

Keynote Speaker:
Stephen Jay Gould, Professor of Geology and Zoology, Harvard University

Francis Alÿs, artist
Marco Barrera Bassols, Director, Museum of Natural History, Mexico City
Norton Batkin, Director, Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, New York
Barbara Bloom, artist
Nicolás Bourriaud, codirector, Palais de Tokyo, Paris
Abraham Cruzvillegas, artist
Michael Fehr, curator, Hagen, Germany
Christine Hill, artista
Jon Ippolito, assistent cutaor, New Media, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, artist
Allan McCollum, artist
James Putnam, curator, British Museum; author "The Museum as Medium"
Osvaldo Sánchez, independent critic and curator, Mexico City
Nancy Spector, Curator of Contemporary Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Gregory Volk, independent critic and curator, New York; writer for Art in America
Fred Wilson, artist

El Museo como Medio. Symposium sessions / format

Keynote speech

The Museum as Experience

This panel examines artists intervention in the museum visit through the creation of all-encompassing experiences such as environments, narratives, and exhibition design.
Tentative questions:
What are the main elements that constitute a museum experience? What creates the connections between the objects of a museum and the visitors? How can the museum environment alter meaning?

12:00- 1:15
Scientifical Practice and Collecting as an Art Form

The discussion will center around collecting as an activity that becomes the core of the artistic process, and the way that scientific models of classification have been adopted as strategies by artists, particularly with new media.
In what sense can collecting is regarded an artistic activity? How is contemporary art informed by the implementation of scientific practices (archaeology, for instance) in the gallery space?
How dependent is the found object from the context of the museum for it to be considered "art"?

Contesting the Boundaries of the Museum

This panel explores ways in which artists question boundaries - whether physical of institutional- of the museum.
What happens to artists' work when it becomes museum-specific? What innovative alternatives within the museum context can artists offer? How can public art that breaks with the framework of the museum have an equivalent historical presence the art works that are preserved in them?
Where is the boundary between the art work and the museum architecture?

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©    Text: Pablo Helguera; website: Universes in Universe, 2002