The role of Contemporary Art Museums (Workshop, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, November 2006)

Mihalis Papadakis, sculptor
Member of the Board of Directors (B.D.) of the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)
Ioannina, November 2006
(Workshop, University of Ioannina)

If we assume that an Art Work needs at least 100 years to achieve its scientifically established historical evaluation, this gives the Contemporary Art Museum (especially if it is a national institution) a very specific role. The role of an institution that functions in a strictly scientific frame as far as the approach of the phenomenon of artistic creation is concerned. And, without entering organizational and administrative details, the basic structure of this frame referring to its Fine Arts policy could be described as follows:
1. The B.D. should be constituted by representatives of Fine Art and scientific institutions and bodies. The role of this Board should be to guarantee the operation of the scientific frame, with the responsibilities undertaken by the bodies represented in it.
2. The employment by the B.D. of an adequate number of scientific staff, who will register the whole art work produced in our country, the artists and their resumes. Who will make comments and give opinions as a first arrangement of the artistic material (Is it, perhaps, accidental that the publishing house ΜΕΛΙΣΣΑ has done such an effort, even with many and serious errors?)
3. The constitution of a dense scientific group, comprised by prestigious specialists of skills relative to those of the bodies represented in the B.D. This group should meet periodically, study these registrations and call issues of aesthetic proposals and fine art methodology as well as issues of scientific methodology of analysis and interpretation of the Work of Art to attention. These issues that will come about through the study of fine art creation of the working artists should be raised in an international dialogue through the organization of a congress once every year, as an institution.
4. Questions and opinions of the congress, together with the fine art material of research should constitute an annual exhibition, so that the wide public can be let into both the contemporary artistic work and the questions aroused during its scientific documentation. The exhibition should last for many months, so that during the exhibition speeches, educational programs etc can be held.
5. At the same time, the Museum should encourage and support with scientific staff and economical means the materialization of fine art programs that artists will suggest, of art creations by which aesthetic proposals will be studied. The competence and the necessity of the proposed programs will be judged by the dense scientific committee.
6. The permanent collection of the Museum should be constituted by works of art, which, with the above mentioned procedure, will be selected –again by the dense scientific committee – as the most representative of each tendency. In the permanent collection of the Museum all the tendencies of the contemporary artistic creation should be represented.
7. International exhibitions should be also organized periodically, that should be related to the theoretical issues aroused at the annual international congresses of the Museum. Some of these exhibitions can be organized in collaboration with international institutions.
 A Contemporary Art Museum, in other words, has to be a constant and restless laboratory for the production of research knowledge and aesthetic theories on contemporary fine art creation, so that this creation is combined to artistic creation in general, the history of art, that is.
The above result from the nature of Art itself, as it is historically expanded until today. 
Art appears after the tool. The humanization of man is conducted around the fire and the use of the tool, which gave man the possibility to start facing the world, which surrounds him, from the point of view of the creator of his own living conditions.
The power of abstraction, which is impressed on the form of the tool, proves its truth on the success of the result –in action. On the form of the tool, the properties of the object (e.g. of the prey) are impressed elliptically, as well as the skills of the subject that handles it and, of course, the knowledge of Man for the above. This, at the same time, led man to search for the confirmation of the truth of abstractive forms, which he builds, on another level as well, the level of the development of his social relations. This way he facilitates the satisfaction of his needs and he creates new needs, by widening the horizons of his existence. This way, Man, on the long experience of the tool discovers and conquers a language – the language of image-, with which, until today he sets in order of precedence and evaluates the phenomena of his world and their mutual relations. In this language, the orders and the relations appear as “values”, “composition” etc. The language of image has the privilege to project fully the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the natural object, its relation with Man, the relation of man with himself as well as his intentions. Man, that is, creates a material image, on which he thinks. He draws his thought, on which he thinks. He thinks his thought. This is the base of Philosophy, before it even appears. 
During the procedure of use of the language of image, its shapes (its expressional means) acquire an entity, which coincides in the consciousness of people with the nature of the expressed content. With the systematic use, the shapes of the images acquire a relative autonomy, and this has two consequences:
First consequence: From these shapes symbols and writing are produced. From the continuous use of the representation Symbolisms are produced, as means of representation of general concepts. From the stabilization of the symbolisms in the representation Symbols are created, and Writing is created from symbol evolution.
Second consequence: The forms of expression, what we call fine art language, develop to specific tools and consist a system of rules, through which Man (as in Mathematics) not only describes and impresses his presence, but also intuitively detects the essence and the nature of a widening Being. And this is a procedure that lasts until today with the same force and meaning. 
The development of expressional means and of the system of rules as characteristic elements of a discrete creation of images creates the distinction of Art from other social operations.
So, from one point of view, the development of the expressional means of Art and of the system of rules is accelerated-as it happened in sciences as well.
From the other point of view, the development of aesthetic proposals is accelerated- the achievements of Art-, which enroll Art to man’s philosophical pursuits. 
The causative relation between Art and Philosophy exists first of all in the cognitive issue, which is the nucleus of Philosophy, where man thinks his thought, and in the aesthetic approaches, from where man produces the concept of the essence of the world and himself as its part, Ontology.
I believe that we must insist in seeing Art in its historical dimension, so that it is discernible how big the distraction that happens around us is, at an international level, for human civilization and its future. The vexed issue is not, if the “icing of our cake” is threatened or the “beautification of our well being”. The point is that THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR HUMANIZATION ARE THREATENED.
Of course, the main reasons have to do with the huge crisis, today, of man’s production forces, from where Art and social relations directly derive. 
In the last fifteen years the attack of non-rationalism against even the foundations of Art has taken bigger
dimensions, with the aim to decompose and to deprive Art from all of which characterizes it as a discrete creational operation with history and laws.
Recently a book titled “But is this Art?” by Synthia Freeland has been released. Freeland writes: “…there doesn’t seem to exist some “laws” of art that predict artists’ behavior or explain the “evolution” of the history of art, describing in detail which is the “heritage” of a nice leading art work”.
This point of view that denies the laws, the evolution of Art and the rules that it creates, has as a natural consequence to deny even the history of it. 
The same point of view seems to be dominant in our own EMST. The only difference is, that in a more “thoughtful” way, it “grounds” it on the opinion that the “End of Aesthetics” is due to the “End of History”.
We read on the catalogue of the exhibition of the EMST “Art of the seventies in Greece” (2005): “We are passing through a new evolutionary stage of modern civilization (of internationalized economy) that, contrary to the industrial period, does not rise social or of aesthetic type revolutions, for the very simple reason that…it does not need them.
Art does not have laws, criteria and history, because it is the product of supremacy of the will-objective activity, as Freeland supports.
However, the society is a product of supremacy of the will- objective activity as well, and as it (the society) has stopped considering its own revolution as useful, it stops to consider Aesthetics as useful as well and it abolishes it, sais the theoretical group of the EMST.
So, with these “theories”, the road is opened for anything to be named “Work of Art”. This way, the exhibitions of the EMST consist of works of art of the taste of the curator, which comes in line with fashion, as it is established by metropolitan museums, franchise exhibitions, that is.
For six whole years, the EMST is functioning under a hermaphroditic legislative order where the curator is assigned by the minister of culture, and not from the B.D., while the legal responsibility for all the acts of the curator is worn by the B.D. 
The B.D. consists of, beside the representative of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece, persons selected by the Minister of Culture in his opinion.
The curator, wearing the prestige of the minister and having the administration of the mechanism of the
Museum imposes an individual-based order as if it is a private company. A state-of-the-art example of this individual-based function is that for six years now the curator blocks for the Museum to obtain an internal operation regulation.
Unfortunately, on the basis of such hideousness does not lay the ability of one or some persons, but first the government policy that insists to face the Work of Art as a commercial product and the Museum as an enterprise in the Art market.
Like this we come back to where we started:
Either we will have a national institution working under the conditions of scientific deontology, in order to enhance the development of contemporary artistic creation and the education of the public.
Or we will construct a franchise, by which Art is merchandised.
Until now the National Museum of Contemporary Art is functioning as a franchise.

Mihalis Papadakis














Designed by Design-It