|Ilha de Barão Forrester, Porto ©Foto: ACP, 2011|
by ANTÓNIO CERVEIRA PINTO
Art must evolve to a new collaborative and responsive “techne”.
Museums should be more socially oriented to local and global communities.
The present financial and economic meltdown arrived a bit earlier than I could foretell back to November 2005 (1), when I first mentioned the idea of transforming so-called “contemporary art” museums in some kind of techno monasteries as well as new community cultural centres.
The techno monastery (2) can be seen as a new “logos” [λόγος], as an environment dedicated to preserve the “modern” and “contemporary” machines of art and knowledge.
The basic definition of techno monastery responds to a twofold coming reality: the financial collapse of public and private contemporary art museums, and the extreme public need to find a surrogate temple for the non-believers. All those millions of urbanites immersed in the rational culture of freedom of choice, creativity and reason are under a massive threat of extintion. Like medieval monasteries the techno monastery could play an important role as an intellectual refugee for survival activists focused on the preservation of the last 200 years most relevant examples of industrial and post-industrial culture. Like old monasteries the new techno monastery would also have public facilities devoted to local and global communities.
Art, science, technology and democracy are the primary gods of modern paganism. Abundance though has been its sin, its illusion and the cause of its fall.
If coming dramatic readjustments are unavoidable, the ‘moderns’ and the ‘contemporaries’ will finally realize that we’ve all been dreaming if not sleep-walking for almost 200 years!
Art and Knowledge will have to give up insensitive speculation and learn the way back to the people.
The main motive for this lays in its intrinsic civilizational values, which are a step forward as far as conventional wisdom concerns. That rational fire that is the realm of modernity cannot be jeopardized by the catastrophic events foreseeable in the horizon. We must find a way, that is a common language and a common terrain, across the many languages of human-centered activities, so that the best of mankind can cure its wounds and reenvigorate a new masterplan for the entire planet as well as for all living creatures. The “selfish gene” is dead! We have to give power to new forms of cultural symbiosis and to a global-collaborative effort for the survival of Gaia.
We need to implement massive collaborative interdisciplinary projects for the exclusive benefit of humankind, and restore Gaia as the only and ultimate Paradise we always had and will always have.
Old churches and traditional religions are welcome to this restoration task. They have their own cross to bear though. What matters here, as far as the metamorphosis of the ‘modern’ and the ‘contemporary’ world concern is the urgent need of adaptating creativity and belief to a new world social fairness. A just social order, empowered with freedom and democratic accountability, is missing. And we need it!
As far as anyone knows, conventional politics is fully contaminated with lies and unfair priviledges. We cannot count on them anymore. We only hope the coming collpase will forge a new political attitude, new ethical standards and above all more, much more imagination and good-will.
Our freedom and abundance have been of little use in the end of these industrial and post-industrial times. We have changed work for productivity, but we are not ready for leisure time! Billions of human beings are unemployed and will not recuperate from that stage consistently. What shall we do then? Shall we terminate all the high-tech machinery and organizational wonders that we have managed to evolve and co-evolve with computable numbers and neural networks since the beginning of the oil era?
Artists and scientists, as well as writers and technologists, are the ones better prepared to grasp the complexities, drama, but also the wonders of a post labour society. That is why I believe museums and concert halls should mutate towards a new interactive web of socially responsive plattforms.
On the one hand the ‘contemporary’ art museum has to change to a kind of techno-monastery, where preservation tasks should take place in a sistematic fashion. On the other hand the new cultural plattform should become a glocal, public, collaborative and interdisciplinary “topoi” focused on the deeply dramatic and complex change of the conventional worker to a reinvigorated holistic “Homo faber”, kind of a new religious persona, where knowledge-intensive based art, as well as intensified awareness, will apart exploration and alienation as the most poisonous derivatives ever produced by man.
This is an obviously huge task! Now is the time for it.
All governments will have to spend massive amounts of money in what appears to be the most important metamorphosis ahead. We should force them to do it sooner than later. Not less than 10% of each country’s GDP will match the ambitious goals and responsabilities at stake.
February 6, 2009
Copyright © 2009 by António Cerveira Pinto
1. Lecture guidelines by António Cerveira Pinto for “Tiempos de vídeo. 1965-2005″. Mediateca Caixa Forum, Barcelona, 2005-11-24. Curated by Antonio Mercader.
- How did video evolved in its short life, and what made audiovisuals so irresistible?
A) moving image and cinematics: the most perfect cultural metaphor for the ‘modern-contemporary’ era
– urban design
B) “peak oil” will end our civilization as we know it
– the mitology of exponential growth,
– Welfare State,
– and the ‘modern-contemporary’ culture
C) culture and post-contemporary art (the new monasteries)
D) survival and conservation of ‘modern-contemporary’ heritage
– cognitive and esthetic heritage (science, technology and art): the fire we have to preserve no matter what (that is, notwithstanding the global meltdown of world Capitalism and the end of that hiper-civilization we still stand for)
2. The Technological Monastery (in The post-contemporary condition (Lisbon, December 2005.)
We can now examine the modern movement and its sequels in the light of the energies which gave birth to them.
If there had been no coal or steam engines, what would it have been like? And what if there had been no petrol or natural gas? And if these carbon-based resources, which guaranteed the expansion of the industrial era, allowing the planet’s population to grow from a hundred million to 6.5 billion souls in the space of only 200 years, had already begun down the slippery slope of unavoidable decline? What would happen to our intellectual optimism if within 20 or 30 years the majority had to live without petrol, without natural gas, and without the richest varieties of coal (or with drastically limited and extremely expensive access to this energetic paradigm)? Worse still, what would happen if a third of the world’s population, around the year 2050 (which by then would be about three billion struggling souls), made the decision to sacrifice the other two thirds of humanity and abandon them to hunger, thirst, continuous bad weather-related disasters, viral epidemics and permanent war, in the name of the survival of the species?
There is nothing delirious about these ponderings. The modern condition based itself upon an unconscious hypothesis, which we only discovered to be mistaken far too late: that of the unlimited and abundant availability of natural resources which corresponded to an ideology of continuous growth of the economy, consumerism and the state of “well-being”. The post-modern condition, upon foreseeing the overtaking of the utopia of growth by a utopia of knowledge, nevertheless still retains a strong belief in the possibilities of world economic expansion. The post-contemporary condition, on the other hand, already takes into account evidence that there will be a dramatic rupture of the current global energetic paradigm before 2030-50, which will bring in its wake inevitable social decomposition on a planetary scale.
The doubt which still persists in the post-contemporary spirit can be summed up a need to know if a dramatic cut-back in current levels of waste of energy and prime materials, combined with a genuine techno-cultural revolution committed to the digital duplication of the world, i.e. a substitution of a large part of the current macroscopic disturbance with electronic and digital interactivity, can possibly avoid the disaster and allow humanity to continue its progress on Earth.
One way or another, we will have to prepare ourselves for this rapidly approaching shock to civilization. Some thinkers argue that the overshooting of humanity has already begun, and that we will inevitably fall into the great pit of energetic scarcity, lack of drinking water, deterioration of agricultural land, the depletion of various basic prime materials, the inviability of continuing to create and manufacture synthetics derived from petrol and natural gas (plastics, fertilizers, dyes, varnishes, medicines, etc…), chains of environmental disasters, uncontrollable epidemics and new wars of mass destruction. What is to be done? What place is there for art and museums in a scenario of this nature? I asked recently, in a seminar on “audio-visualization in art” promoted by the “la Caixa” Foundation in Barcelona, what would happen to the artistic heritage of the 20th and 21st centuries in a future in which the scarcity of energy and basic resources determined the entropy of the technological systems which currently support not only the continuing production of virtual and enhanced reality in which we are immersed (including the info-sphere and all types of techno-cultural manifestations on-line) but also its electronic conservation. What will happen to Bill Gates’ photo-digital repository, to recorded music or to cinema and television archives, on the day that it ceases to be economically viable to produce new equipment and means of storage and digital reading and all analogical equipment has been permanently discontinued? Who among us has not seen, on a small domestic scale, the harmful effects of technological obsolescence: the hundreds of video cassettes lovingly collected over the course of the last 20 years are about to pass their sell-by date and DVDs will not even last that long! Computers go into the rubbish bins every four years or so, mobile phones every two years or so. It is easy to imagine this phenomenon on a global scale: the whole technological civilization suddenly hit by an unprecedented energetic and ecological rupture. Alarming!
The cause can hardly be the technical potential of “History”, but rather the model of so-called post-industrial society itself. The service economy, great cities and their suburbs would cave in, and the return to subsistence-based socio-economic models would end up being imposed upon humanity. Following a catastrophic and violent interim, the survivors would have to rise up from the ashes to re-embark upon the long and difficult journey of human development.
What is the starting point? How? With what tools? With what knowledge? With what convictions? Will we return at the end of this century to a regime of low-intensity plastic arts? Will we revert to the times of wandering storytellers, aesthetic religious rituals based around crop seasons, or to anti-cataclysmic votive offerings?
What will happen to the cognitive and technological heritage of the commercial and philosophical arts from the two centuries marked out by the invention of photography and the possible implosion of the technical reproducibility paradigm as described by Walter Benjamin?
These questions would take a long time to answer, but nonetheless I believe they are pertinent. Philosophy and art will need to be reinvented in the light of radical changes in the anthropological paradigm looming on the horizon. For this reason it would perhaps be worth considering the transformation of the world’s museums into real community centres dedicated to simulations of the approaching scenarios of change. As far as I am concerned, and I hope to come across fellow enthusiasts up to the end of the present decade, the time has come to consider the idea of technological monasteries, i.e. a strategic withdrawal which will allow us to reflect with absolute honesty on possible ways to safeguard knowledge and art.
Copyright © by António Cerveira Pinto
COMMENTS TO “RELIGARE”
by Nuno Sacramento, Shadow Curator
I think your text is good but what I am missing is a pragmatic approach (proposed below) and a more structured manifesto. I think we should start by describing the current situation in artistic and economical terms, then propose what we think is the way forward, through quite practical steps.
I do think the text is pointed at the right direction, by underlying a change in paradigm from no limits to a limited world. Obviously art and the museum must follow this change. What we are calling is for a marriage of art and the social, and for the development of new tools which emerge from the technosphere. Art must be social-participatory, collaborative, and consequential without forgetting it has its own tradition. It is a very difficult balance… the one between artistic quality and social consequence, between aesthetics and ethics.
Now that the boom is over, and speculation is in disrepute, what is left for art to do?
The situation in Portugal is a characteristic example. There is an overall feeling that cities and regions should have museums of contemporary art. Why? Because other cities and regions have it. Being a sign of emerging regionalisation, this does less for art than it does for tourism. There are many heritage buildings which are now being re-developed as contemporary art museums. What for politicians is a golden strategy, showing work in a twofold manner, recuperating a building and bringing a ‘much needed’ contemporary art museum into the town, for artists and for communities remains a nuisance. The result is often an empty shell, with no money for the program and often no vision either.
And the empty shell soon becomes a problem. Overheads and pay for the team is a heavy burden, in exchange for the few visitors the museum often attracts. In economical terms the museum is not viable, so it must be prolific as a social enterprise.
There is a possibility of turning this space into a relevant institution for a constituency, city and region. We have decided to call it project Religare…
Religare operates within a holistic business model. It looks at the development of the project and at the same time the fundraising, marketing and education strategies. It integrates everything with a view of being socially relevant.
Museums have the opportunity to reinvent themselves and to emerge as socially relevant institutions that are absolutely instrumental in the switch to a new paradigm. From mausoleum-like edifices museums can turn into active agents in the shaping of the public sphere in the 21st Century, attracting minorities and operating as the glue that aggregates communities that are interested in issues of resistance. Museums must redefine their public significance through being subversive, transparent and accountable.
Areas of expertise:
Culture, Education, Economy, Technology, Sustainability and Solidarity
Curator and assistant (shadow)
Residents and tenants
Publics and public space
© 21/02/2009 Nuno Sacramento
Pós-Doutoramento em Curadoria – Fac. Belas Artes da Universidade de Lisboa/ Post-doc in Curatorial Studies at Lisbon School of Arts