Museum in progress

Galerie Fricke

Museum in progress is neither an artist’s collective nor a neo-Conceptual innovation in terms of artistic production. It is, rather, an organizational structure: an immaterial museum, founded in 1990, that realizes projects in different places and through different media: newspapers, magazines, posters, and television stations. To exhibit art at such places also raises the problem of representing such art, since a documentary catalogue would be regressive. Thus, this exhibition represents an intermediate report on the activities of the Viennese museum in progress.

The media rooms in which museum in progress appears are synonymous with the public. Of course, traditional museums are public spaces—albeit limitedly public, but media works reach a far broader audience. The project Die Botschaft als Medium (The message is the medium, 1991-92) of the Austrian finance magazine Cash Flow reached an audience interested in the stock market. Other projects like Das Plakat (The poster, 1991-92)—poster designs by Gerwald Rockenschaub for the entire city of Vienna—Künstlerportraits (Portraits of artists, 1992)—artist interviews for television—or Lückenfüller (Gap filler, 1992)—empty spaces in the layout of the newspaper Der Standard, which were filled by Dominik Steiger—are directed at a broader, undefined audience. In the media rooms, both the question of how one should react to the quantity and undefinability of the audience and what importance this has, and the related question of the artistic nature of the projects are raised.

There are two different structures: the museum in progress and the projects. Museum in progress offers access to superstructures and opens channels to information systems. But as an organization-system it’s not a central theme within the projects. It redefines media-space as a museum space and thereby the artistic nature of the projects. This includes the interventions into mass-media that are separated from the processes of planning and presentation.

Generally there are three models for these projects: the educational (including the didactic), the political, and the esthetic. In examining previous projects, the esthetic is the most dominant. Thinking about the educational moment one may ask whether this is still a viable option for the art public. If media’s potential lies in the quantity of the audience, here is the challenge: using mass communication, media, in order to reveal truths or train perception. It should not be condemned at all. It’s simply connected to the question of providing the opportunity to restructure given reality. The quantity of the audience demands different definitions of the participatory roles. This harkens back to the ’60s, but except in the Die Botschaft als Medium project in most of the museum in progress projects the theoretical dimension of public participation seems to be secondary. Primarily, it’s stepping out of the traditional exhibition space into the mass communication space.

Museum in progress does not add a new facet to conceptual art’s use of the media. If one views the entirety of their production it is delimited—a division of labor into specialists that corresponds to a traditional factory. In this manner museum in progress offers access to superstructures and hence opens channels to information systems.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.