The reshaping of cultural institutions under contemporary paradigms and the founding of new institutions pose a raft of questions for museum and cultural practitioners in the 21st century. As institutions begin to reconsider their roles, responding to the various fallout effects of neoliberal governance models —ranging from resistance to accommodation, from budgetary restraints to visitor-friendly programming, new considerations for social, political, and environmental justice start to emerge with equal urgency. The unsustainable and highly volatile conditions that form the background against which cultural institutions shape their policies offer a more and more compelling case for the argument that institutions can and should co-create and support counter-narratives as “agents of change” while adopting totally new roles, programs, policies, and curatorial practices.
The Institution as an Agent of Change, TBA21’s 10th annual seminar, held on the island of Lopud, Croatia, brings together artists, thinkers, lawyers, curators, and professionals from other disciplines to discuss the responsibility of institutions in times of social discontent and upheaval, environmental degradation and unstoppable extractivism, and facing a new socio-digital paradigm. While the ecological crisis has become the post-political field of engagement for new eco-moralists, “Carbon democracy,” based on models of affluence and progress continues to shape personal and institutional imaginaries in the global North and to define practical horizons of governance. The non-sustainability of the dominant financial, social, and ecological models have created the prevailing dystopic, crisis-ridden, and frenetically consumerist atmosphere that forces institutions into at least passive forms of consent.
How can and to what extent should institutions adapt to the ever-transforming, techno-optimistic realm of the digital? To what extend should museums respond at all to external urgencies and how can they critically think about the future without hiding behind fictional indeterminacy and simplified agendas? The amplitude of these questions is channeled through six panels: the Institution as an Agent of Change, the Institution in the Era of Adaptive Change (= the Anthropocene), in the Era of Digital and Educational Environments, Social Turbulence, and the irreducible Present (= the Contemporary), and the Ocean Space.
The distinct panels generated participatory forms of knowledge exchange while at the same time allowing for in-depth explorations of individual and local cases. Materializing hypothetical / theoretical ideas / concepts of change into concrete initiatives and transcending the conventional conception of institutions as preservers of conformist value systems, artists, curators, critical thinkers, and activists presented compelling institutional or individual examples of social-political engagement in a plethora of locations, such as the Jamaican costs, New Delhi, Warsaw, Tierra del Fuego in Peru, Dhaka, Paris, and the Croatian islands.
The 2017 Lopud seminar co-hosted the International Law Association’s conference on the law of the sea convened by Davor Vidas. Functioning as a ‘double helix’ with convergences and dialogues between art practitioners, scientists, and lawyers, this unique encounter exemplified the sort of trans-disciplinary forms of exchanges needed to grapple with the complex, intermingled realities of our times.
The TBA21 Lopud Journals offer hindsight reflections on the topics and discussions that take place on the Croatian Island. This edition gathers recordings of the panel discussions and performances, conversations, and texts produced by the participants.