Thursday 20 March, 5 – 7 PM at Konstfack (Mandelgrensalen)

The fourth Organising Discourse lecture session is exploring alternative approaches to institutional and curatorial practice, from the museum to the architecture triennale.

The Dutch curator Joanna van der Zanden will discuss how the museum role can change and become an active catalyst for critical thinking, through the new open ended and experimental project Reinventing Happiness at the Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch. The British architecture and design curator Beatrice Galilee will speak about the third issue of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale Close Closer and it’s approach to largely exclude the built-form of architectural practice.


Prototyping transition
The museum as catalyst

Many of the current challenges we face in society, are dealing with making a transition towards a more sustainable, resilience and social future. One could say that we are a society in transition, envisioning our next steps and questioning existing systems. What could a possible new role be for the museum or any cultural institution within this given context?

Artists and designers have always questioned society. They did so mostly in solitude, showing their vision of the world in functional, symbolic or conceptual arte facts in art galleries, museums or shops. Artists would use abstract language and designers and architects concrete, everyday functionalities. But today’s challenges are solved and reflected upon differently. More and more artists, designers, architects work with people and in neighbourhoods, playing a role in setting new relational situations, providing alternative everyday social and economic practices on the spot and making prototypes for the future in a trans-disciplinary and co-creative way. Their focus is more on the process than the outcome, and their audience is active and participating.

If the artists and designers way of working is changing where does this leave the cultural institute? Could the museum also function as a catalyst in prototyping transition? Locally and globally? What kind of participatory techniques could be used and which new programming formats should we consider? What would be the implication for the way of working of museum employees? And how to make sure that this new kind of ‘open and collaborative’ programming is a valuable experience for any visitor as well as a great opportunity for artists and designers to start a new research?

And last but not least: If the museum becomes a catalyst for critical and creative thinking would it have to give up its neutral place in society? And if it does so, would that also change the way the collection is presented? Could one show for instance, a porcelain cup without mentioning the enormous effect the porcelain industry had on its environment?


Close Closer

To give context to a manifesto that invites architects to consider life beyond buildings, it may be worth first describing my favourite work of architecture. It is a small chapel in a field in southern Germany; a work of craft, design, thinking and space so remarkable, moving and sacrosanct that the memory of standing quietly within its perfectly cast walls will always remain.

And yet, for all its quality, this architecture, the conditions in which it came to be and the working methods of its author is far away from what I believe constitutes a relevant, responsible and necessary dialogue of global architectural practice today. The craft and beauty of most built architecture is well known celebrated, praised and awarded. To situate it in contemporary language, it belongs to the 1%.

For three months in Lisbon, in autumn 2013, we are
interested in the 99%.

Close, Closer is conceived to examine the political, technological, emotional, institutional and critical forms of global spatial practice. By publicly interrogating the terminology, practicalities, inspirations, inventions and their influences on the city, we open spatial practice, one part of which is architecture, to be closer to vital new audiences and new publics.

From within their discipline, architects strive to expand
their practice through political, social theory, literature and philosophy. Students freely read the essays of geographers and sociologists, they investigate their work in the context of art and performance and are encouraged to be playful, creative and experiment with new technologies to design their buildings. From without, architecture is opaque, physical.
Bricks and mortar.

It is the gap between these two discourses that we seek to close. For the third Lisbon Architecture Triennale, the plurality of spatial practice will be presented as a multi-dimensional active and accessible idea. The city, the civic stage where money, power, commerce and culture meet, is where this meeting of ideas should happen.

The loosely termed ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ of
digital manufacturing, new production and fabrication, new technologies as well as crowd-sourced funding and the open source movement has transformed the idea of a bottom-up approach of production from idealistic, niche prac tice used in informal conditions into an increasingly valid and well-used strategy for self-funding projects.

This networked society requires new, intelligent responses to issues of civic space. Architects confront specific local policies including access to schools, health or housing by collaborating beyond the boundaries of their discipline and accessing reams of relevant data from around the world. By utilising existing structures and interacting with politicians, sociologists, programmers or developers, spatial practitioners are not only proposing structures, they are designing tactics,
behaviours and strategies.

In its own way too, the notion of the architectural exhibition is evolving. Biennales and Triennales are multiplying as the strength of city government rises and national boundaries dissolve.

The challenge to exhibit complex ideas and also utilise the momentum and power of a Triennale to generate meaningful content is immense.

In September 2013 in Lisbon, four curatorial projects:
Future Perfect, The Real and other Fictions, The Institute Effect and New Publics will examine distinct and discrete realms of spatial practice. From a laboratory of the future through to distorted atmospheres and political lobbying, the programme is intended to provide polar experiences and interpretations of spatial practice.

The Crisis Buster small grants programme is our alternative to an open international competition. By inviting proposals for civic-minded interventions we can invest and support the city’s entrepreneurs as well as encouraging architects and their collaborators to think about what small amount could do to their local environment. We will award a number of grants ranging from €500 to €2,500 specifically for Lisbonbased proposals.

One of the opportunities of a connected world is that we
have the opportunity to extend our ideas for Lisbon beyond national boundaries. Our series of digital publications authored by the curatorial team will provide detailed research, essays, insight and context to all exhibitions in advance of the opening.

The aim of Close, Closer is to question, excite and provoke. It is to provide a platform for debate and to put forward a proposal for an alternative narrative of spatial practice. We want to place architecture before a prism and accept all its facets, divisions, conflicts and neuroses. We are approaching a new understanding of our city, of an architecture whose craft and qualities are less tangible than before. We would like you to get closer, too.

(Curatorial Statement by Beatrice Galilee, from the Close Closer, Lisbon Architecture Triennale booklet, 2013)