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Press Release

LUMA Foundation and Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS BARD) announce How Institutions Think - A Four Day Symposium

 Focuses on different concepts of institution and forms of institutional practice

Mark Primoff
This symposium is organized by LUMA Foundation with Paul O’Neill and Tom Eccles (CCS Bard), in partnership with Mick Wilson (Valand Academy of Arts, University of Gothenburg); Charles Esche, Alison Green, and Lucy Steeds (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London); Simon Sheikh (Department of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London); Maria Mkrtycheva ( the V-A-C Foundation, Moscow); and Guus van Engelshoven (de Appel arts centre, Amsterdam).
February 24 - 27, 2016, Arles France

FEBRUARY, 2016 - Contemporary art and curatorial discourse have been centrally concerned with questions of institution. In recent decades, we have seen many debates on institutional critique, new institutionalism, instituent practices, and self-organization. Most often these questions of institution have been apprehended through the categories of power, hegemony, hierarchy, control, value, and discipline. Often in these debates, we seem to reach an impasse in contemporary art’s dialectic of institutionalized anti-institutionalism, but nonetheless new institutions of art and inquiry are being conceived, inaugurated, and contested in different ways.

This symposium – taking its title from Mary Douglas’s 1986 book, How Institutions Think – addresses the contemporary possibilities and limitations of institutional formats, practices, and imaginaries, but starts from a different place, namely from categories of knowledge, cognition, and the social. While questions of knowledge have been activated in earlier discussions of the institutions of art, it is much less common for the debate on institutions to be engaged with an emphasis on the social epistemology or cognitive operations of institutional forms and processes. Participants are invited to reconsider the practices, habits, models, revisions and rhetoric of institution and anti-institution in contemporary art and curating by considering themes of epistemic practice, of cognition and social bond, of power/knowledge, and of institution as an object of inquiry across many disciplines including political theory, organizational science, and sociology.

Questions we face include: Is institution building anymore possible, feasible, or desirable? Are there emergent future institutional models for progressive art and curatorial research practices? How do we construct and legitimate our institutions? How do we know when institutions make decisions and whether these decisions are built upon ethical principles? Can we institute ethical principles and build our institutions accordingly? If so, for whom are we building these future institutions? Are thoughts of institution anywhere different? In what way might institution be multiple? In what ways can we think extra-institutionally, contra-institutionally, non-institutionally, para-institutionally? Is institution the condition of potential thinking and of critique? Wither institution?

This symposium brings together an international and multidisciplinary group of speakers who are invited to reflect upon how institutional practices inform art, curatorial, educational, and research practices as much as they shape the world around us. It also aims to propose new, innovative, and emergent forms of institutional practice. Implementing a work-together methodology, combining and sharing networks and knowledge resources, the symposium asks how we may begin to conceptualize and build possible institutions/anti-institutions of the future: What are the models, resources, skills, and knowledge bases required to build a new, innovative, and progressive research-led institution, if such a thing is indeed possible?

Through this symposium series we seek to develop a globally networked enquiry into the future of curatorial practice. For this second symposium in the series, we have come together in a period of radical uncertainty and reactive securitizing control to consider how we imagine the dialectic of institution/anti-institution beyond increasingly anachronistic and narrow geopolitical terms.

How Institutions Think builds upon the three-day symposium The Future Curatorial Whatnot Study What, Conundrum that took place at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College in 2014 and which investigated the tangled futurity of curatorial practice, education, and research. The next symposium in this series, How Institutions Think, is organized by the LUMA Foundation and CCS Bard, in collaboration with Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg; MRes Art: Exhibition Studies/ Afterall Books: Exhibition Histories; the MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins, London; Department of Art, Goldsmiths, University of London; the V-A-C Foundation, Moscow; and de Appel arts centre, Amsterdam.

The symposium takes place in Arles at LUMA Arles, Parc des Ateliers, Les Forges, 33 Avenue Victor Hugo, Arles, from Wednesday, February 24th to Saturday February 27th, 2016.  

Confirmed speakers include: Dave Beech, Luc Boltanski, Mélanie Bouteloup, Jason E. Bowman, Binna Choi, Céline Condorelli, Pip Day, Clémentine Deliss, Keller Easterling, Tom Eccles, Bassam El Baroni, Charles Esche, Arnaud Esquerre, Patrick D. Flores, Alison Green, Marina Gržinić, Alhena Katsof, Annette Kraus, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Paul O’Neill, Richard Noble, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Andrea Phillips, Zahia Rahmani, Helena Reckitt, Simon Sheikh, Lucy Steeds, Jeannine Tang, Mick Wilson, and others, with remote choreography by Sarah Pierce.

Detailed speaker schedule is available on our websites,  and Video of the symposium will be made available on-line after the conference. A follow-up publication will be released in 2017.

For more information on the conference please write, call 845.758.7598, or see

About LUMA Foundation and LUMA Arles

The LUMA Foundation was established in 2004 in Switzerland to support the activities of independent artists and pioneers, as well as institutions working in the fields of art, photography, publishing, documentary, and multimedia. The foundation produces and commissions challenging artistic projects combing a particular interest in environmental issues, human rights, education, and culture in the broadest sense.

The LUMA Foundation and LUMA Arles, the executive entity founded in 2014 in support of the project in Arles, are currently developing an experimental cultural center in the Parc des Ateliers in the city of Arles, France, with a core group of artistic consultants (Tom Eccles, Liam Gillick, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Beatrix Ruf) and the architects Frank Gehry and Annabelle Selldorf and landscape architect Bas Smets.This ambitious project envisions an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the production of exhibitions and ideas, research, education, and archives and is supported by a growing number of public and private partnerships.

Construction started after the ground-breaking ceremony in April 2014; the opening of the main building on site is scheduled for 2018, while an artistic programme is already presented every summer in the refurbished former railway warehouses. For more information see:

 About the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard)

The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) was founded in 1990 as an exhibition and research center for the study of late twentieth-century and contemporary art and culture and to explore experimental approaches to the presentation of these topics and their impact on our world. Since 1994, the Center for Curatorial Studies and its graduate program have provided one of the world’s most forward thinking teaching and learning environments for the research and practice of contemporary art and curatorship. Broadly interdisciplinary, CCS Bard encourages students, faculty and researchers to question the critical and political dimension of art, its mediation and its social significance. CCS Bard cultivates innovative thinking, radical research and new ways to challenge our understanding of the social and civic values of the visual arts. CCS Bard provides an intensive educational program alongside its public events, exhibitions, and publications, which collectively explore the critical potential of the institutions and practices of exhibition-making. It is uniquely positioned within the larger Center’s tripartite resources, which include the internationally renowned CCS Bard Library and Archives and the Hessel Museum of Art, with its rich permanent collection.

About The Valand Academy of Arts, University of Gothenburg

The Valand Academy of Arts at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, is a center for the development of the independent artist/ author/ film-maker/ photographer. We are especially interested in the agency of artists, and in artist-led cultures, across the space of contemporary art, cinema, literature, photographic, and curatorial practices. Based in the center of the beautiful port city of Gothenburg, the Academy is closely integrated into the city’s cultural life - including collaborations with Göteborgs Konsthall, Hasselblad Centre, Röda Sten, Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (GIBCA), Literature House, and many other public arts agencies. We are extensively networked internationally with partners all over the world and a history of providing courses in diverse geopolitical sites including collaborative courses in Europe, Russia, Central Asia and South East Asia. The academy's professors were the first in Sweden to introduce the doctorate through arts practices, and have been working with doctorate education for more than a decade. The Academy hosts a lively research community, including several prestigious nationally funded research projects in the areas of artist-led culture, social practice, queer cinema, contemporary poetry, and photographic archives/ imaging practices in environmental and climate science. The Academy is an active partner in the PARSE research platform, in EARN, SHARE; ELIA and several other international networks. The academy is characterized by small class sizes and highly competitive recruitment. The emphasis is on a peer educational environment. Our pedagogical approach is based on co-production: This means that knowledge and practice are developed within a community of learners and researchers comprising students and professors operating in an intense and sustained dialogue with each other. Our students come from different countries, cultural heritages and perspectives and we actively encourage cross-cultural dialogue. We are also concerned to ensure that our program reflects the diversity of perspective, politic and representation of the contemporary world. The student body is an active participant in the planning and development of the academy's education, research and collaboration with the wider world.

About Central Saint Martins

Central Saint Martins (part of the University of the Arts London) is one of the most prestigious art institutions in the world and both curatorial practice and exhibition studies are core to the work of the staff and to the teaching provision. The MRes Art: Exhibition Studies course is a postgraduate research program that approaches the history of contemporary art from the perspective of the exhibition form. Founded in 2011, MRes Art: Exhibition Studies is run in association with the editorial team for the Exhibition Histories project of Afterall, an influential research and publishing organization based at CSM. Students on the course are provided with rigorous teaching and a supportive environment in which to develop their own historical and theoretical research. BA & MA Culture, Criticism and Curation propose that ‘culture’—an intentionally broad and contested term—is a provocative starting point for practices of curating and critical writing. The courses teach students to think creatively and critically about different kinds of museums and curated spaces and what kinds of discursive systems they reflect. Teaching staff includes curators, cultural historians, art historians, writers, arts professionals, archivists, designers and filmmakers. High level research skills are taught alongside practical tools for organizing exhibitions and publishing critical writing. The BA was founded in 2004, the MA in 2013; both courses put students into collaborative, open-brief projects as is the practice of an art school education.

About Goldsmiths, University of London

Goldsmiths was founded by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in 1891, as a College for poor and working class men and women in South East London. In 1904, it became a College of the University of London, and since 1988 it has been a self-governing and degree granting University, though it remains a part of the University of London System. Goldsmiths Art Department is one of the leading art departments in Europe. It has been a part of the College from the beginning, and claims artists such as Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud and Bridget Riley among its alumni. However, it was under the leadership of Jon Thompson and Michael Craig Martin in the 1970s and 1980s that Goldsmiths reached prominence as a major center for Fine Art education and research. It was home to many of the YBAs who became hugely important to the burgeoning London art world in the 1990s, and since that time has been one of the main destinations for aspiring artists, curators and scholars of contemporary art in Europe. The Department has a lively and internationally recognized research culture of artists, curators and theorists, which is about to be enhanced by the building of a new gallery of contemporary art designed by the Turner Prize winning architectural collective Assemble.

About V-A-C Foundation

V-A-C Foundation is a not-for-profit, Moscow-based institution, committed to the international presentation, production, and development of Russian contemporary art – across a multitude of forms and within the framework of an invigorated and informed exhibition, educational, and publishing program. V-A-C's local exhibition projects strive to initiate collaboration between contemporary art and cultural sights, whereas international exhibitions are focused on the presentation of the Russian culture to the wider world. Educational projects, and the annual Moscow Curatorial Summer School in particular, create an opportunity to experience, engage with, and interrogate international cultural practices whilst developing an authentic and autonomous language. V-A-C press — a publishing program of V-A-C Foundation is focused on providing multidisciplinary character of contemporary culture by translating texts and books to Russian.  

About de Appel Curatorial Programme

De Appel arts centre is an international institute for contemporary art that holds a key position for the arts in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. With its Public Programme – which consists of exhibitions, performances, lectures and debates – de Appel arts centre introduces a broad public to the latest developments in contemporary art. Parallel to its Public Programme, de Appel arts centre is organizer and host of a professional development programme, which stimulates curators, mediators and gallerists to refine their expertise and gain experience.

Initiated in 1994, the Curatorial Programme of de Appel arts centre aims to offer young curators a condensed package of experiences and skills that can be seen as instruments to enhance the development of their professional career. It is one of the oldest curatorial programmes, but continues to adjust its curriculum to new circumstances in the curatorial field.

The Curatorial Programme is practice-based and structured along the principles of ‘learning by doing’ and ‘collective curating’. A select group of six participants partakes in a dense array of tutorials, workshops, excursions, a practice-related case-study, and encounters with artists, art professionals and cultural producers. They finalize their stay in Amsterdam with a collective curatorial endeavour, realizing an exhibition, festival, public programme or publication.

Many alumni of the programme now occupy important positions, among them Defne Ayas (director, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam), Nikita Yingqian Cai (curator, Guangdong Times Museum, China), Annie Fletcher (curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Adam Szymczyk (director, Documenta 14), and Tobias Berger (curator, Museum M+, Hong Kong).

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Pierre Collet, Imagine
Tel: +33 680 84 87 71

Mark Primoff, Director of Communications
Tel: +1 845.758.7412      

      CCS BARD CONTACT:                     
      Ramona Rosenberg, Director of External Affairs             
      Tel: +1 (845) 758-7574                      


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This event was last updated on 02-10-2016