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This month of August I have been invited A*DESK by to choose a text from its archives and make a brief comment on it. From among dozens of apposite texts I have chosen the one penned by Martí Manen, ‘Real Time and Institutional Time‘, in which the author evokes the divorce or the time discrepancies between what takes place outside the museum or cultural institution and what takes place inside, i.e., the discrepancies between ‘life on the street’ and ‘life in the white cube or the black box’. I think it is interesting to point out that the issues raised by the text, written in February 2009, are still completely valid today, almost ten years later.
A colleague of mine who works in an American art centre was telling me recently that conservators and curators at his museum are now obliged to include spaces within their exhibition designs and itineraries where audiences may freely ‘connect’ with the outside world, through social networks, to describe their museum experience. Could this strategy be an attempt to connect ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ realities?
If this is the cleverest and most original proposal for breaking down the time between the museum and the street, I prefer the idea that we are indeed heading towards museums or cultural institutions for quite the opposite reasons — for experiencing a different sense of time, removed from the pressing needs and immediacy of our everyday lives. As suggested by Jacques Rancière, perhaps in this other time, that of the museum, we may be able to assert our ability to see what we see, to know what to think and what to make of it all. I believe that, despite its difficulty, this is a much more suggestive and exciting challenge.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)