Friday, December 26, 2008

Architecture and Imagination

On Support Lectures
Tuesday, December 30, 2008, 6.30
Wouter Davidts
Ottoman Bank Museum Conference Hall,
Bankalar Caddesi, 11, Karaköy

In 1977, museum director Ian Finlay remarked that “museum thinking has nearly always begun with the building.” Whenever people imagine a new institution, the proposal tends from a very early stage to crystallize as an architectural concept. Today, Finlay’s words appear more than visionary, if not outright prophetic. In the past three decades, just about every art institution has at least once renovated, rebuilt, extended or added to its existing architectural premises. Architecture, so reads the general belief, enables institutions to break new ground, not merely in the literal sense. The countless plans for renovations, additions and extensions are invariably coupled with the ambition to ‘tackle’ the institution as well, on both a micro and macro level. Architecture is taken up as the medium par excellence to rethink and remodel both the hosting establishment as well as the global concept of art institutions – whether they are a private or public museum, a Kunsthalle or an art gallery.

After three decades of excessive building of new art institutions all over the globe, it is worth asking if the resulting architectural extravaganza has indeed offered some thought-provoking institutional structures in exchange. While architecture – as both a medium and a mode of cultural production – seems to be constantly at play and at stake when people envision a future institution, it remains hazy to what extent the ensuing buildings have delivered truly imaginative solutions to frame and support cultural production and reflection. Is the exuberant crop of new art institutions the paramount illustration of architecture’s possible role and significance in stimulating the institutional imagination, or are we to look elsewhere?

In his lecture, Davidts will discuss the exhibition Beginners & Begetters, which he curated for the Contemporary Arts Centre Extra City in Antwerp, Belgium in the summer of 2007. The show presented a historical mapping of the manifold, often visionary initiatives and projects that museum directors, city officials, art supporters and architects dreamed up for the lacking official infrastructure for art institutions in Flanders in the post-war era. By retracing and documenting these unrealized and mostly unknown projects of the recent past, the exhibition aimed to elicit a discussion on the role and significance of architecture in the initiation, framing and support of new and future art institutions. It investigated how and when architecture – within a specific cultural field that was short of official support and engagement – was nevertheless used as a both conceptual and matter-of-fact means to dream up new institutions, to think of new sites and spaces for cultural production and reflection.
‘On support’ takes its lead from the larger project and ongoing collaboration between Architect Celine Condorelli and Artist-Curator Gavin Wade, ‘Support Structure’, which looks at the systems and structures conditioning how we inhabit our environment.

"On Support’ is supported in part by the British Council.
Additional support has been provided by the Goethe Institute Istanbul.