Assembly for permacircular museums – Opening remarks


Opening remarks

This introduction session will harvest a broad range of questions from the project initiators and guest lecturers, framing the following focus sessions. Institutions increasingly speak of giving nature a voice, and even rights. How are the ethics and practices of cultural institutions affected once we take this claim seriously? Which new visions do we need for art institutions in what Bruno Latour has called the New Climatic Regime, and how can we translate self-criticism into action?


Lucia Pietroiusti (curator of General Ecology at Serpentine Gallery, London)
Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro (artist, ecologist, curator)
Peter Weibel (CEO of ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe)
and an activation by Mira Hirtz (performance artist and art mediator, Karlsruhe)

The cultural sector is giving more and more space to ecological as well as postcolonial discourses, but at the same time is itself caught up in capitalist entanglements. How can its institutions make the radical shift towards a permacircular future?

In recent years there have been numerous artistic and discursive contributions across museums, biennials, and institutions that all addressed the following question: How can art contribute to fostering solidarity, ecological becoming, and multispecies caring? The emergence of this »terrestrial turn« in cultural spheres has been, however, codependent on the globalization of the art industry and its reliance on abundant fossil energy, cheap flights, and material accumulation. Simultaneously, postcolonial debates have also gained visibility in cultural spaces historically established on colonial theft. How can institutions reflect their footprint and conditions of production despite being situated in a capitalist context? In other terms, can the institution be trusted to reinvent itself and, if so, what should a museum be?

In sustainable economics, »permacircularity« advocates resizing organizations in balance with Earth systems, while also retooling knowledge and practices towards planetary reparation. Taking as a point of departure the ecological blind spot of the exhibitionary complex, this assembly convenes institution leaders, curators, activists, artists, and educators to explore museums’ potential to become agents of radical mutation.  

Over three days, the event brings together keynote addresses, case studies, roundtables, professional workshops, and artist performances to discuss the future of art institutions, share experiences, and explore alliances with radical and grassroots movements. The conference is initiated in the framework of the project »Notes towards a Permacircular Museum« by Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro for the exhibition »Critical Zones«. Following an exercise in mapping the show’s environmental footprint and a collective effort to restore an abandoned fruit orchard near ZKM, the project explores the possibility of expanding museum maintenance practices to more-than-human solidarity and sheltering.



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