ESR 3 Blog September 2021: Maria Mkrtycheva

A shift from an institution as a gallery space to the “mix of community centre, club, academy and “showroom” [1], marked as the New Institutionalism, has been in place since the beginning of the 2000s. In order to maintain the status of “an active space rather than of place for passive observation”[2] some institutions have been working on the redefinition of art, and some have been gradually displacing art objects, projects and practices from their agenda. Institutions took the lead of this paradigm shift and what remained for the visitor was to follow, and (as a special bonus) – to participate. I’m wondering if this new type of institution is something that the visitors need as much as the art professionals?

Studies show that visitors expect a museum to be easy and fun, culturally entertaining, and provide grounds for personal identification, historical reminiscences, and escapism (Sheng and Chen, 2012). At the same time, people practicing yoga in a museum appreciate that it is “a place of reflection, a place to find solace and to go inside as you look at the beauty around you”[3]. Despite being offered something else, visitors still look for what they customarily associate with art.

As the conditions of art change, there is, however, one that remains, which is a sense of possibility. Unlike the notion of experience, which relates to the opportunity granted by one to another, possibility is “not a fixed point of view but a slippery and changeable condition made of spatial, temporal and relational elements”[4]. It is a setting that leads to thinking differently or imagining things otherwise than they are, be these possibilities social, political or institutional.

Charles Esche talks about these possibilities in relation to the artist, but it is also valid for the visitor. In fact, the difference between experience and possibility is one of the things that draws out the difference between the visitor and the collaborator as it offers not entertainment, but the search for gaps, inconsistencies, and collective ambitions – which is equally needed by art professionals and visitors, who constitute the public.

[1] Charles Esche, “What’s the Point of Art Centres Anyway? Possibility, Art and Democratic Deviance”, 2004

[2] Ibid.


[4] Charles Esche, “What’s the Point of Art Centres Anyway? Possibility, Art and Democratic Deviance”, 2004

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.