In Pierre Huyghe’s film The Host and the Cloud, visitors wander like performers around an empty museum on the outskirts of Paris. It appears to have been abandoned only recently, and the spirit of the museum continues to permeate everything that is subsequently seen there. A group of protagonists are exposed to influences that they have the power to shape and transform. Their roles and behaviour change as they experience a series of live situations, spatial configurations and fragmentary narratives. Ideas are formed and thoughts appear, giving a brief insight into what the museum may once have been and what a 21st-century museum could be or possibly achieve.
I regard curating as a compositional process in which temporary exhibitions and collection displays reveal the interconnections between the genres from a visual art perspective. The collection thereby responds in a dynamic manner to the contemporary artworks on show and in this way facilitates their thematic and historical contextualization. At the Belvedere, and specifically in terms of contemporary art, this opens up new ways of looking at art in Austria after 1945 and challenges established patterns of art-historical reception. It is a matter of reflecting upon an institution that unleashes untapped potential, refuses to accept simple answers to existing questions and instead seeks new ideas and concepts. The ultimate aim is to focus the museum’s energies and resources, to communicate these to the outside world and thereby convince as many people as possible of the potential contribution of art and culture to our future society.
A museum of the future is therefore not a place of historical truths, but a place where such truths are examined and opened up for discussion. A 21st-century institution must see itself as a site of heterogeneous realities, a field of possibility where processual aspects are foregrounded and visitors are encouraged to participate in these processes. A museum collection is more than just a collection of artworks; it must continually be reassessed in the light of new modes of interpretation, must react to current trends and constantly question its own truths. This means, however, that curators have to take risks and perhaps consider unpopular or unconventional means in order to reveal what today’s museum has to offer as a ‘potential space’.
(Bettina Steinbrügge, 2006–2011)