Monday, 1 July 2013

Guest post: "From 'Museo' to 'Useo'", by Jorge Barco (Colombia)

Medellín is Colombia´s second largest city. For some, it´s still synonymous of the drug cartel. For others, it´s the example of a city which, through cultural and social policies, managed to lower its criminality rate and show its inhabitants new paths for their development, as individuals and as a community. Recently, I read an interview by Jorge Barco, Director of the Education and Culture Department at the Modern Art Museum of Medellín. I was very pleased when he accepted to write for Musing on Culture and to share his thoughts on the role cultural institutions, and museums in particular, may have in the development of a new relationship between creation, heritage and life in community. mv

Colectivo Impar (Photo: Andres Sampedro)
“La estabilidad que estamos construyendo ahora es afectivopráctico y no material, un inmenso laboratorio de la imaginación, aprovechando de toda grieta que se puede encontrar para dar cuerpo a lo que sentimos dentro” Las Grietas

Maria Vlachou´s invitation to write for her blog, as well as ICOM´s invitation to participate in its next conference in Rio de Janeiro, is an opportunity for me to start organizing some ideas which have motivated big part of my thinking as manager, educator and activist in the museums of the Antioquia region (Colombia) in the last seven years. 

Today, it makes sense to think about the role cultural institutions – museums in particular – may have as places where one may redefine a new relationship with creation, heritage and life in community. Museums – in a role that is definitely becoming close to that of ‘cultural centres’, in the case of Medellín – have an important role in the promotion of educational, cultural, and exhibition programmes, which go beyond the walls of the institution and reach slums and distant settlements; while in their interior, they continuously reinvent the forms of relating to their visitors through expanded education (Edupunk), the new focuses of cultural management and networking.

On its part, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM) – located in the last four years at an old iron foundry workshop – has been consolidated as a strategic place in the country, for its exhibitions, but, mostly, for its educational and cultural programmes. It´s the appropriate place to ask the following questions:

What are the guidelines for this work? What are the elements in order to start creating a new institutionality and definition of what we historically call a ‘Museum’?

Looking for answers for these questions makes me suggest the construction of trust as one of the guiding principles: a fine, persevering and delicate work of texture and community involvement, which is being developed together with collaborative projects and by working in network, which may be registered in the mapping of a more and more expanded cultural scene. The LABSURLAB project is just one example of how an initiative which originated in MAMM was converted into an international network of activists who work around the notions of art, science, technology and communities with a biopolitical focus.

LABSURAB (Photo: Checho)

Through the mapping of the projects being developed on the ground, we are creating relationships between the cultural agents of the city, the region, the continent and the world, trying to bind social, identity and professional groups, as well as institutions, universities, enterprises, projects and communities, for the mobilization of ideas. The mapping of cultural projects is a fundamental instrument in the processes of contemporary cultural creation.

Another line of action is directed to the exploration of new definitions of what we normally call ‘cultural management’, aiming to attribute to it its whole creative power, through open models which allow to reinvent the relations of creation, circulation and appropriation; recognizing that – just like it happens in the case of artistic practices – in cultural projects a big part of the work is based in the same management. Inevitably, this situation makes us also rethink the roles and relationships – between those who create, those who receive, those who educate, those who exhibit and those who manage –, while there is, at the same time, a transformation of the disciplinary fields.

There is one more element which links our work as cultural activists to the technologies, apart from the mere technical aspects: the tools offered to us by this movement involve new formats for collaborative creation, education, management of projects, activism, reorganization of the work and the production of common goods. The cultural and artistic processes related to digital culture are today territories of limits, fronteers and exchange and the museum is a strategic place, from which one can activate these processes.   

An additional guiding line has been taking us towards the generation of creative dialogues between the museum and the independent movements and initiatives, from artistic residencies to music circuits and bars, to non conventional spaces of non formal education, with the objective to carry out projects from cooperation and mutualism.  The purpose has been to generate environements of dialogue, co-creation and opportunities for both spheres (institutions and movements).

MAMM Education and Culture team (Photo: Clara Botero)

From this perspective, the function of the museum is global and, at the same time, local, offering a place of encounter between multiple layers and occupations of contemporary creation, making possible the development of sujbectivities. A place of encounter, work, production and research, apart from a place for exhibiting and promoting, where all elements mix and feed and from which a new institutionality and space may emerge, which I propose to provisionally call ‘Useo’.

Jorge Bejarano Barco works in the museum sector of the Antioquia region (Colombia) since 2007. He is the Director of tghe Department of Education and Culture of the Museu de Arte Moderno de Medellín. In the past, he worked in the Museo de Antioquia, in the Museums Network and in the Municipal and Departmental Councils of Culture. He participated in the creation of independent projects and networks which brought together the arts, sciences, technologies and communities (see here and here and here). He was invited to lecture at the Cátedra Medellín-Barcelona, the Encuentro Internacional los Museos en la Educación organizaed by the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza in Madrid, at the Master en Gestión Cultural y Economía de la Cultura de la Universidad de Valladolid, at the Facultad de Diseño y Arquitectura da Universidad de Buenos Aires, the Festival de Cultura Digital de Rio de Janeiro, the Festival Internacional de la Imagen (Manizales) and the Universities of Antioquia and Jorge Tadeo Lozano (Bogotá). His interests today focus on the research on cultural production, philosophy of the media, expanded education, proposing dialogues between institutions and movements, from collaborative networking or the redefinition of a series of actions which join arts and cultural activism. 

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