ETI (Experimenting an Institutional Transformation) is a project that aims to experiment institutional transformations through art. It offers the possibility for three European institutions to transform themselves over a short period of time and to anticipate what an art institution can be in the 21st century. ETI is the first phase of a larger project which in a second phase will formulate a European consulting agency capable of supporting institutions wishing to engage in a transition to the 21st century. The project proposes to experiment with the institution’s capacity to transform itself through the integration of artistic diversity that is foreign to it, as these practices interact with sectors outside the traditional art sector. ETI implements artistic practices in institutions and analyses their impact in terms of audiences, economy, structuring and at the scientific level.
The European context
At the European level, there are national failures and a loss of confidence in both national and European institutions. This situation is the symptom of a divide between institutions and European social realities, preventing them from taking into account the growing diversity and complexity of contemporary society.
One of the causes of this divide is the difficulty of institutions treformulating themselves on the basis of existing models which, though despite having proven worth, are no longer suitable today.
On the other hand, they find themselves caught up in a logic that pushes toward profitability, faced with the need to delegate some of their activities to actors who do not always guarantee free and equal access to their services.
Part of society then finds itself excluded from systems of institutional representation which are organized around values which may be effective in creating communities but are completely separated from each other, thus becoming incapable of composing a common social fabric.
In the art sector, this is manifested at several levels in the relationship that contemporary art institutions have with artists and audiences:
- A feeling of loss of consideration
- A rupture in the inscription of the art institution into reality
- Aesthetic homogenization
- Social discrimination through art
- A commodification of the art sector
- An imbalance between the contributions of the private and public spheres
- A call for competition from art institutions
- Territorial isolation of the institution
Today the institution is not used to its full potential to serve society. It appears that its power to act collectively and bring about artistic transformations is contained in directives that are beyond its control or that it no longer controls.
In this context, other actors, foundations, or private collectors for example, become capable of legitimizing artistic practices as much as the institution, or even more.
The institution of art then appears as one more entity among others, which on some level are more functional. It is therefore necessary for the institution to find new ways of exchanging with these actors/sectors through a re-articulation of its inscription in reality, no longer following established models but rather modalities unknown that are currently unknown and remain to be explored outside of any sense of fatalism.
By focusing its gaze on itself and thus being unable to cover the diversity of existing practices, the institution has difficulty attending to major developments in the field of art and thereby excludes the associated audiences. The institution thus risks losing even more legitimacy if it does not rethink its relationship to art and the specific practices that evade it. This observation calls for a rethinking of the institution’s relationship to its audiences, leading us to reflect on new institutional forms that are able to respond to the challenges of artists and audiences.
The issues of the project
The issues for artists
The artist is situated as mediator between the institution, its public, and its external partners. In this sense his work is valued as a multi-sectoral actor.
On the contrary, ETI builds a better knowledge of institutional functioning for artists, which is part of a logic of professionalization. By gaining access to institutional decisions beyond one’s own artistic practice, the objective is to broaden one’s field of competence. The artist’s involvement in new interactions with the institution should endow him or her back with a role of critical capacity, transforming that very capacity in the process.
The nature of the project also promotes the artist’s awareness of the importance of one’s audience, considering it as potential working material.
As the project activities favor a pedagogical approach, they should at the same time strengthen their communication capacities at all levels of creation, production or organization.
The project also envisions an increase in the social role of the artist by bringing him/her out of his/her confinement or isolation through international networking and encounters with actors outside the art sector. This contact should encourage collaboration between artists and cultural operators in order to engage them with a European complexity that is not always apparent. ETI will also raise awareness of European cooperation and collaboration schemes among artists.
Challenges for cultural operators
For cultural operators, ETI’s interest lies in collaborating with other cultural operators from different countries whose work logic may be complementary.
Collaboration with artists will enable their creative capacity to be put at the service of everyone, and will develop other skills that they can use to invent new drivers of innovation in their work.
Collaboration with non-art sectors will improve possible exchanges with these sectors. This collaboration may also comprise a better analysis of socio-economic contexts in order to facilitate their integration into cultural action, for instance. This mastery as well as the working methods of the project encourage cultural operators to be a force of innovation in the transformation of art. This issue becomes a determining factor in a context (the cultural sector) where the reduction of financial means is becoming more and more widespread. It also becomes important to equalize the powers of actions between small and large structures, and between private and public.
The issues of the institution
The crucial challenge for the institution lies in its ability to transform itself to keep pace with a world which is constantly changing. Artistic practices are also constantly evolving, and institutions need to stay up to date to avoid being disconnected from the realities from which they obtain their legitimacy. If artists are considered experimental citizens, then they are able to follow these new developments.
ETI proposes to put the diversity of citizens, actors of the art world, and artists at the center of the institution in order to can society differently. ETI thus enables artists and experts involved to formulate new interactions with the institution’s organization and mode of programming. In this way, the project aims to move from a logic of democratization (diffusion of the same cultural object to the same group of spectators) to a logic of cultural democracy (objects of experimentation to which each person contributes his or her expertise).
Taking into account the proximity these different actors maintain with other practices and modes of interaction, ETI proposes to re-evaluate the loss of public interest and reduce the institutional rupture between art and society.
Involving the audience as a fully-fledged actor reaffirms art and its institution as effective sites to conceive of society in an intersectional way, from the top but also from the bottom.
What the project experiments
The artist operating through an experiential practice carries an ecosystem in which the practice develops: partners, collaborators and infrastructures are his means of production, dissemination and reception. This ecosystem is governed by other modalities of interaction than those dictating the institution of art, on the one hand because these interactions exist outside the institution of art and on the other hand because the nature of this practice calls into question the status of the public-spectator. Indeed, the nature of these practices no longer implies a focus on a single object but on activities that can be approached in multiple ways.
By integrating these practices into the institution, ETI proposes to experiment with a form of citizen expertise in which the artist acts as a mediator between his ecosystem and the institution. The implementation of these practices considerably changes the architecture of an art institution if it is applied to its entire structure. At the scale of the project, it enables a confrontation in the simultaneous context of two coexisting models: that of the traditional institution and that of the artist who mediates it.
Therefore, experimentation is not based on a strategy of replacing one model with another; it proposes to create a new institutional prototype based on the artist’s practice and ecosystem.
The varying relationships and emerging operating modes constitute many avenues for reformulating the institution. Institutional reformulation becomes a path to a new institution that can accommodate new practices and, through them, new audiences.
Integrating a diversity that is foreign to the institution also involves experimentating in collaboration with sectors outside the art sector. These collaborations are conditioned by the same ecosystem embodied by the artist and his practice. It is therefore a question of studying the various modes of organization specific to these sectors, from which the institution may develop.
ETI also proposes to experiment with the combination of different modes of organization or economic models — between the traditional institution and the artist’s partners outside the art sector.
In short, the project proposes to experiment with a new institutional form, through expertise that is mediated by the artist, towards sectors outside of art. This experimentation will enable the combination of traditional models with method of operation, economics, visibility and accessibility, thus opening up various avenues for developping audiences.
ETI’s impact is spread across several lines.
Impact on the present and future public.
In the short term, the project’s strategy aims to diversify the art public by crossing different institutional models. In the medium term, the project envisions an audience more interested in frequenting the institution by multiplying entry points. This multiplication instills in the audience an awareness of another artistic diversity. In the long term, the project seeks to develop audiences’ awareness potential actions on the institution due to the models of citizen expertise tested through experimentation. The project also hopes for a new relationship between art and institution, logically leading to an increase in institutional legitimacy.
Impact at the level of the institution’s current and future activities.
Through the diversification of the artistic formats, the project leads to a greater diversity of activity formats developed by the institution. An institution that is capable of integrating a diversity of formats will also be able to integrate a diverse audience. In the medium term, it is possible to open up the institution through innovation to economic and mediation models linked to the integration of new artistic practices. If the institution innovates on its public policy, this innovative liberation may serve as a precedent for the innovation of other spaces.
Impact on artists and artistic practices
In the short term: a better knowledge of institutional functioning for artists, as well as gaining confidence in institutions. In the medium term: a recognition and integration of artists and practices, and an openness to experimentation on the part of the institution. In the long term: a rebalancing of the relationship between artists and the institution, an incentive to diversify formats and artistic practices, an impact on the economy in art, economic alternatives to the single economic model (the art market), and an incentive to innovate the economic model of art. In the medium term: a rebalancing of financial support between the public and private spheres and a diversification of the actors in the art economy.
An impact on cultural policies and arts education.
In the short term: new material for arts education that promotes alternate openings for future European citizens, including the basic right to be different.
In the medium term: integrating emerging artistic practices into education can foster an open-mindedness in education through art, an impact on the these policies’ capacities to better record society and thus represent it.
In the long term: a decompartmentalization of pedagogical and political actions towards other societal issues, impacting institutions outside the art sector. And social diversity, increased attention from sectors outside the art sector, through an immediate consideration of society in all its diversity, contributing other models of institutional reformulation and social diversity more actively in society through art and a collaborative fluidity (outside patronage and art-art cooperation).
An innovative project
The majority of art institutions reproduce the same normative models of exhibiting artists whose art production is aimed at a spectator-type audience, through a logic of consumption of a cultural product.
In our case it is a question of demanding that partners present artists who have a different mode of production from that of the artwork, implying another modality of reception and behavior on the part of the audience, and thus another organization for the institution and its particular relationship to the outside world.
These practices are of different natures, such as: services (an artist who creates a cooperative for artists), working methods (an artist who changes the roles of the members of a jury to adopt a new point of view), ways of life (which consists in not producing), strategies (to involve a neighbourhood in a collective struggle), socio-economic or political devices (creating a national day around the kitchen), administrative or legal structures (an employment agency) or organizational methods (new training in companies).
The institution is thus experimenting with new ways of promoting these practices and artists, apart from the exhibition.
These new organizational models lead to new positions in artistic creation, which can be very different from those of the exhibition.
These new organizational models induce new positions in artistic creation, which can reexamine the notion of the author or the notion of the original — and thus of intellectual property, savings, collection and transmission of production and distribution methods.
In the experimentation of the project, the artist is no longer seen as the creator of a unique work with exclusive coded access but as a producer of skills and activities that produce meaning and can be mobilized or re-used, often without the artist’s presence or agreement.
These artistic practices are also reinventing their economic models by adapting them to sectors other than art (the service economy, business, industry, ecology, digital).
On the other hand, these artists have found in the economy a field of research and investigation by using the economy as a subject of work. In the dynamics of the project, all these alternative artist economies become tracks for innovating economic models of art institutions.
The economy being above all an intelligence of exchanges, all actors involved, including the audience, find themselves transformed in one way or another. The economy generated by the production of a service, for example, induces interactions different from those linked to the production of a work of art. By crossing these models, the project innovates through multiple economies, outside of those usually related to the art sector.
These points of innovation pass through inclusive logics based on other expertises which are no longer specific to and/or reduced to art. By putting art in contact with other sectors of activity, it borrows characteristics specific to these other sectors.Our project involves the constitution of a decision-making group comprised of this plurality and whose decision-making functions create real innovation in the mode of institutional governance.
Expected impact in terms of results
ETI produces three comprehensive analyses on three types of art institutions in Europe including :
- an analysis of the typology of its audience and the issues at stake,
- its political, financial and operational organization,
- its ability to integrate a third sector (to art),
- its relational model,
- its impact on artistic creation,
- its impact on the surrounding social and economic context,
- the structural effects on its modalities of integration,
- the effects on its methodologies of work and experimentation,
- the effects on the institution’s own activities.
The results will be evaluated by drawing up a transformation grid according to the following criteria.
- Capacity for partners to cooperate beyond their usual limits,
- Capacity for partners to integrate working methods that they have never experienced,
- Integration of associated artistic practices for partners,
- Open-mindedness as to how the partners perceive art,
- Ability for partners to change their own view of their art audiences,
- Acceptance of the idea that working with structures outside the art sector can be enriching and that this can have something to do with art,
- Awareness that an institution can function differently politically, economically, organizationally and operationally,
- Awareness that the institution itself can induce transformative actions while controlling risks and thus impact artistic creation and society,
- Impact on the institution’s programming.
- increase in the number of entries,
- diversification of audiences,
- notoriety of the institution through increased identity and singularity,
- visibility of its website in number of visits,
- visibility of its social network in number of likes.
Formats outside of the “artwork”
ETI is based on artistic practices existing outside products or works of art, particularly in the form of experience. These practices incorporate dynamics and values foreign to art and from which the institution can reformulate itself. The artist becomes a kind of mediator between the reality of the institution and the economic and social conditions in which he or she works.
The project will enable the institution to confront artistic practices that do not aspire toward the production of artworks. Based on artistic practices that since the 1990s have materialized in ways other than artworks (services, working methods, lifestyles, strategies, socio-economic or political devices, administrative or legal structures or organizational modes), the institution proposes a real alternative to the institutional dogmatism that dominates the sector. Indeed, over time, art institutions have become rigid to the point of breaking with the artistic realities that have been developing for decades.
These “outside of art” practices bring with them new modes of presentation that no longer go through the exhibition, new modes of organization that are horizontal, inclusive and decentralized, and new economic models outside the art market and quantitative performance appraisals. These practices bring with them new audiences, audiences that are naturally attached to the practices of their own ecosystem and thus are not customary or professionalized.
These paths, put at the service of the development of the public, then constitute many possible singularizations of the institution which, starting from its own context, escapes competition between institutions.
By focusing on practices that move from product-value to activity-value, we immensely broaden the possibility of seeing economies emerging freed from the art market, more in line with knowledge and more capable of developing the institution’s audiences.
By combining citizen expertise with the implementation of “outside of art” formats, ETI proposes to consider the art institution as an extra-sectoral actor that is capable of acting outside its area of registration through interaction with spaces, modes of organization, and structures outside art.
Our previous observation leads us to think that art is no longer a specific activity that is valid in itself, but an activity that extends to all spheres of society.
ETI considers the art institution a social yet also economic actor in its own right. This approach enables us to place the art institution in a wider dynamic by, for instance, bringing about collaboration between sectors that do not usually meet.
These collaborations are constituted as resources to develop across economies which allow the institution to rebalance support between the public and private spheres. As the institution opens up to other sectors and other economies, it multiplies the actors with whom it interacts as well as the methods of interaction, which are all channels for the developing its audiences.
The conditions for a new institution
What are the conditions for experimenting with a new form of institution?
– A collaboration between the selected artist and his/her external (non-art) partners within the institution, integrating them into the decision-making functions of the institution. The host institution, the selected artist, and his or her external partners form a group that determines the programming of the project within the institution in question. On the basis of this programming, all project partners can analyze the potential transformations of the institution.
– An artist who defines with his partner and the institution a territory of experimentation for his practice. If the group is composed around the host institution with its organizational, communicational and relational means, the territory of experimentation is not necessarily limited to the physical contours of the institution.
– A communication that goes beyond the art sector. The nature of the territory mentioned above requires, for the experimentation to be effective, going beyond the framework of the art sector in terms of communication.
If necessary, the the experimentation will be exclusively received by the traditional actors of the host institution.
– An institution that is open to forms of interaction other than exhibition in order to collaborate with the practice of the artist and his partners. It is not a question of experimentation as a form of outsourcing the institution’s initial activities.
– An experimentation that integrates the economic model and innovative capacities of the artist’s external partners. The collaboration between the members of the group is an extension of each one’s capacities. Thus, the skills of the artist’s external partners will determine the institution’s access to new territories in order to implement the programming developed. A pedagogical approach to the project in order to assimilate the complexity of the experimentation. Whether it is a question of programming developed at the group level or at the level of the work of all the partners, a pedagogical approach will be necessary in order to agree on the identity of the project. This favors methods that ensure the reciprocal adaptation of the content communicated and the individuals targeted. In this way, the future communication and dissemination strategy of the experimentation is ensured.
Who is the project for?
ETI is primarily aimed at project partners and actors, but the purpose and nature of the experiment may also be of interest to the following profiles:
- Coming from the art sector,
- Coming from sectors other than art,
- Whose financial situation requires reformulation beyond public-private dualism,
- Who seek to reconcile a local anchor with a European inscription,
- Wishing to broaden their audience and reformulate their mediation mechanisms,
- Wishing to experiment with a mode of enhanced citizenship that could serve as a model on a European scale
- Who are not accustomed or willing to attend art institutions because they are distant, unaccessible, or disinterested,
- Art audiences that are not found in the usual content,
- A future art audience.
- Whose practice is not compatible with the institution in its current form,
- Who wish to reformulate their practices for practical, philosophical, or economic reasons,
- Who wish to have a more active social role,
- Who wish to know more about institutional functioning,
- Who want to reach new audiences in new places,
- Who wish to open up to a completely new field of exploration,
- Who wish to consider the art public as material to work with,
- Who wish to act with institutions as full actors and thus increase their capacity to impact art and society.
- Wishing to reinvest in territories neglected by cultural institutions,
- Wishing to take part in new issues related to contemporary artistic practices,
- Wishing to reinvent their savings,
- Wishing to articulate themselves as best they can on the realities they are supposed to administer,
- Wishing to update their legitimacy.
Our observation leads us to believe that there is a reproduction of the typology of audiences by art institutions despite the fact that artistic practices and their audiences are changing, and consequently there is an incompatibility between the audiences and the content presented by institutions. In other words, in order to develop the audience, the contents should be developed in accordance.
ETI’s general strategy is to implement in art institutions, contents and artists different from what they are used to propose by pooling local specificities and issues on a European scale.
In short, it is about modifying the very nature of the participating art institution in a way that has not yet been exploited.
The partner institutions present artists and experiment with artistic practices that are currently unknown to them and might be considered incompatible with their operations.
It is key to remember that it is the institution that must adapt to the evolutions and mutations of art and not vice versa. These practices exist and are legitimate, even if they escape current institutional classifications.
These practices exist independently of the institutions, by choice or by necessity, and have thus created their own ecosystems and territories of diffusion, which do not include the usual publics of art, notably the publics of the institutions in question. Our central strategic axis consists in connecting art institutions with publics and actors of these practices that are completely beyond their reach. This strategy does not aim to institutionalize these practices but to compare their models.
It is therefore about exploring the interactions between these practices and institutions in order to bring about new models of accessibility to art and the institution, thereby developing new audiences.
By articulating these excluded practices, the partner institutions change during the period of experimentation. This is not a replacement strategy but a protocol for coexistence. This coexistence is one of the peculiarities of the art sector which should accept a multitude of sometimes contradictory truths. Another dimension of the strategy consists in articulating partners that do not come from the art sector. Indeed, the artists selected to participate in ETI are selected by the link they establish with partners outside the art world . These external partners have their own totally foreign audience, excluded from the art world. In our experimentation, we will try to find out if it is possible to include the diversity of this audience as a parameter in the enlargement of art audiences. The strategy pivots around essential point, that of the artist as mediator, which will in turn enable the institution to become an artist.