In my opinion, the work of a curator can only be conditionally defined as the act of making a selection from what already exists and integrating it into a manifest system of things already familiar. It is, in fact, much more about working along the limits of taste and potential perception, or of compromising and challenging established modes of perception. In their role as generative archives of contemporary art production, museums can and must comprehend themselves not merely as venues for the collection and presentation of art that already exists, the elements of which might be arbitrarily arranged in line with alternating themes, but also as institutions that play an active role in the production process. In practice, this means that I prefer showing performative art or work that has been created in situ to presenting work that has already been shown elsewhere and the experience and reception of which is thereby reduced to a mere retrieval of familiar terms and concepts.
With the exhibitions in the migros museum, I attempt not only to place art in an institutional context and international discourse but, equally, to create links to social, political and historical discourse. The work of Henrik Olesen and Cathy Wilkes for instance can be read as an example of how formalism coupled with social questions can look today. And exhibitions such as ‘St. Petrischnee’ or Mark Leckey’s, which transport counter-cultural strategies and aesthetics into the museum context, thereby challenge the genesis of artistic strategies as well as the innovative power of social movements.
Other issues that I am interested in and constantly address include the psychologically potent components of architecture and space (as demonstrated by the work of Heidi Bucher, Robert Kusmirowski and Paul Noble) and subversive, hedonistic and glamorous strategies (evident in the group exhibition “The Future Has A Silver Lining”, co-curated by Tom Holert) that effectively use humour with regard to themselves and their presentation, and playfully juggle with signs and symbols in order to counteract any serious treatment of them. This was also very evident in the sculpture show “It’s All An Illusion” (2004), in which this art-historical reference becomes a tongue-in-cheek historical subterfuge.
I consider it a great advantage that my generation is able to experiment with historical processes that were hitherto conceived in a much too linear manner, and to throw new light on the past. With “It’s Time for Action – (There’s No Option) About Feminism” and a presentation by Cosey Fanni Tutti, I therefore tried to positively revaluate a position that had formerly been discredited by feminism. Re-examining works that had been quasi buried alive or too hastily classified was also what motivated me to curate exhibitions showing Marc Camille Chaimowicz and Heidi Bucher. Art history should thus be conceived as an ongoing process that is open to revision, correction and variation.
An important aspect of my museum work continues to be the commitment and potential to build up a collection that could potentially be transformed by each new acquisition. Since founding the museum in 1996, we have therefore tried to enable the artists to create major productions and to purchase them ourselves. Close cooperation with the artists is hence extremely important, particularly with regard to fragile and process-oriented works; and it allows us to develop strategies for preserving the work or calculate its decay. The artists have an opportunity to actively engage with the migros museum’s collection, to address aspects of current discourse and, ultimately, to present works from the collection to the public, as a counterpoint to their own contemporary works.
Heike Munder (2007)