Róza El-Hassan, Stretched Chair, 1995, Moderna Galerija / Photo Dejan Habicht
Exercises in a Collection
Feb 28 – Jun 4, 2023
Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova
Ljubljana, Slovenia

Exercises in a Collection is an exhibition based on reflection about collections and their exhibitions. It puts forward the idea that works of art and their displays are not something static or permanent, with univocal meanings and ways of seeing, but that works of art need to be considered and thought about over and over, displayed in various ways, in diverse interrelations and concepts. In other words: a collection needs to be practiced. Over the last decade, discussions about collections and their exhibitions have become a significant part of contemporary museological practices. This of course entails more than just talking about the changes in their formal and conceptual aspects; it also requires looking back into their past, examining their history: what were the mechanisms that triggered starting a collection, which methodologies were used, what role did financial incentives play? Because collecting is not a neutral process, but is tied to various cultural policies, which are, for the most part, reflections of the ideologies of a certain time.

Historically, museums, and thus their collections, are associated with the Enlightenment, with the idea that works of art and knowledge about them are meant for everyone, and not just the aristocracy and the ecclesiastical elite. But such ideas were not without a dark side. Colonialism in particular made possible the possession of countless (art) objects from (former) colonies that are now kept in numerous Western museums. This process of acquisition was almost without fail a violent act, and at the same time a constitutive part of the process of amassing museum collections of non-Western artifacts at the time. It is only over the last few decades that the restitution of artworks to their places or communities of origin has begun in earnest. For a museum, however, this restitution process is not enough. The knowledge we have about art also needs to be decolonized, with the inclusion of different perspectives, narratives, and histories, many of which have been historically ignored. Another process that has been underway for a while now is the deconstruction of not only the idea of the universal museum based on positions of power, the unlimited accumulation of art from across the globe, and a patronizing definition of the “Other,” but also of the universal knowledge produced by such “imperial institutions.”

Curator: Bojana Piškur

In collaboration with the Non-Aligned Art Collection Laboratory of the Center for Contemporary Art of Montenegro, Podgorica (Marina Čelebić, Anita Ćulafić, Nađa Baković, Natalija Vujošević)

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