MoTA Museum of Transitory Art: museum beyond the walls

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curating 2.0
By Nadja Šičarov

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MoTA Museum of Transitory Art is a non-profit organisation founded in 2007 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which started as a programme of the CodeEp Cultural Association, an association established to explore fields of contemporary visual communication, electronic music and urban performance. MoTA describes itself as “a multidisciplinary platform dedicated to advancing the research, production and presentation of transitory, experimental, and live art forms”. Instead of realising its programme in a permanent physical exposition space, MoTA exists as artists – and curators – run alternative organisation which takes place in various virtual and real spaces. Its main activities are based on funding artists’ residencies, amongst a realization of a broad variety of projects, festivals, performances, and symposia.

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The transformation of art of the last century has been tending towards the novelty – after modern and contemporary art, new media art came to existence as the consequence of cultural practice that arose with new media technologies. As with any other novelty, new artistic practices were reflected noticeably in modifying existing exposition models. For Boris Groys a museum “is not so much the space for the representation of art history as a machine to produce and stage the new art of today—in other words, to produce “today” as such. In this sense the museum produces, for the first time, the effect of presence, of looking alive.[1] However, transitory art is refusing terminology that tends towards the new, such as modern, contemporary or new media art, but rather remains a subject of transition from one artistic form to another and the convergence of analogue and digital. According to these specificities, the establishment of a museum which explores the conceptual and contextual boundaries of art examines the museological model of the future. Yet the notion of a museum in transition is not quite unknown. Sarah Cook and Beryl Graham wrote that the emergence of new media art has undoubtedly adjusted institutional models of presentation due to the technically variable nature of artworks.[2] After having followed the on-going technological shifts in museum practices for a few decades, it is now time to address how transitory art might extend these modifications. Is the landscape of coexisting digital and material culture able to reshape museological structure, ordinarily based on site-specificity, collecting, preservation, presentation and distribution?

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From historical perspectives, museums have traditionally played a role of a hierarchical institution that delivers the artists’ works from its collection to the audience through curated exhibitions and performances. However, Frieling suggested that the process of exhibiting a collection should be rather understood as an “expanded performance” where the artist, the institution and the public are equally engaged in the production of art, based on either material objects, digitally- or participatory-based experience.[3] For this type of experience, the performance is not dependent on the physical museum – it can extend beyond the walls of the site-located institution and be performed on a variety of online platforms or as temporal events.

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However, both institutions and artists can benefit from site specificity – for artists it represents the mode of avoiding individual participation in the art market, while institutions can use the reputation of a place as promotional tool for their activities.[4] In addition, long-term presentation in a location-based gallery gives artists recognition and offers them an opportunity for validation by academia and art criticism. This is particularly meaningful for artists that are practising new media art. Online platforms namely present virtual space for an unlimited distribution of web-based art, rather than it being selected by well-recognized curators. Thus the emergence of new media art hasn’t only increased the importance of a curator as an agent in the chain of the art market, but has also given museums the credibility of an agency that delivers refined and critically chosen works to a specified audience. In addition, institutional engagement with artists and distribution of their artworks allows for collaborative approach in the production phase as well. For example, apart from organizing multiple workshops and educational programs MoTA is running T.R.I.B.E., a network of residency spaces in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Following this, one of the most crucial activities that MoTA is performing takes an important part in the production and distribution of artworks.

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What results from establishing a museum that is a subject of convergence of new media art and contemporary art is the reconstruction of key concepts typical of a museum. Although the museum is not site-specific, it maintains some traditional parameters. The idea of a collection is being preserved through financial sponsorship and participation in production, while educational activities are held in a shape of the portal Artist Talk, an online platform for publishing and distribution of artist talks across Europe. In addition, in 2013 MoTA opened a new venue The MoTA Point, A Space for Art and Ideas, which performs a role of a working space for resident artists and workshops as well as a temporary exhibition space with the purpose to show works which are the result of continuous events at MoTA and will after the exposition continue to exist in virtual space or as temporal events. Taking these parameters into account, I believe MoTA is a significant example of a “museum that lives beyond the walls” which embodies the intersection of the established museological model and the nature of new transitory art.

[1] Groys, Boris. “On the New.” Artnodes December 2002. Artnodes online. Web. 7 May 2016.

[2] Graham, Beryl, and Sarah Cook. Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2010. 211. Print.

[3] Frieling, Rudolf. “The Museum as Producer: Processing art and Performing a Collection.” New Collecting: Exhibiting and Audiences after New Media Art. Ed. Beryl Graham. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 156. Print.

[4] Ibid. 145.

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