(DE)GROWTH OF THE 21ST CENTURY
The 2017 Verbier Art Summit was organised in partnership with Beatrix Ruf and her curatorial team at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It included influential keynote speakers, such as the architect Rem Koolhaas, the artist Tino Sehgal, HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, Professor Benjamin Bratton (Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego) and philosopher Cissie Fu (Emily Carr University, Vancouver).
The theme of the Summit was curated has been chosen by Beatrix Ruf and was based on her personal experiences with the transformations of institutes she has worked for and their corresponding increase in scale. It addressed issues that every museum is faced with, struggles with, reflects on how to address, and considers in a self-critical way. The Summit was structured around the following set of questions:
• What does ‘Size Matters!’ mean in your field at this moment?
• What helps you think about expansion?
• What is the future of growth in your field?
• What is the function of institutions in the future?
Rather than aiming for conclusions, speakers and participants explored such questions from their own experiences, research, professional practices and institutional contexts. The conclusion of the 2017 Summit is well described by artist Robert Smithson: “Size determines an object, but scale determines art.” Rather than size, it seems that scale is the more powerful concept and experience given its flexible and relational properties. Technological possibilities return us to André Malraux’s Le Musée imaginaire, or museum without walls whose scale and indeed size can offer a museum as city, but so too one that operates with and on the scale of the world and word. The art it might disseminate through technological images, but also images of new technologies, will both lend form to new sentiments and generate new feeling.
Benjamin H. Bratton
Benjamin H. Bratton’s work spans Philosophy, Art, Design and Computer Science. He is Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego. He founded the school’s new Speculative Design undergraduate major. He is also a Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School; Visiting Faculty at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture); and, from 2016-18, he was Program Director at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow.
Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau
HRH Prince Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau advises companies on their digital innovation strategies. Since 2017 the Dutch Government appointed him as Special Envoy of StartupDelta, with the ambition to make the Netherlands the best place to start, build, grow, and scale up innovative businesses. In 2019, TechLeap.NL was launched as the successor of StartupDelta, a major collective effort to bolster the growth and standing of Dutch scale-ups. Constantijn has a background in government, management consulting and policy research and advice, at the European Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Booz Allen & Hamilton and the RAND Corporation. He was employed as Chief of Staff of Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of the Digital Agenda for Europe. He went on to establish his own advisory business and initiated the country’s biggest ever startup event ‘StartupFest Europe’, reaching over 36.000 people at 30+ events in 16 locations. He holds board and advisory positions at many cultural organisations, including the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development.
Rem Koolhaas founded OMA in 1975 together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp. He graduated from the Architectural Association in London and in 1978 published Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. In 1995, his book S,M,L,XL summarised the work of OMA in “a novel about architecture”. He heads the work of both OMA and AMO, the research branch of OMA, operating in areas beyond the realm of architecture such as media, politics, renewable energy and fashion. Rem is a professor at Harvard University where he conducts the Project on the City. In 2014, he was the director of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, entitled Fundamentals. He curated Countryside: The Future (2020), an exhibition about the non-urban areas around the globe that opened in February 2020 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and closed on 15 February 2021.
Dr. Cissie Fu
Dr. Cissie Fu is Dean of the Faculty of Culture + Community at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and Co-Founder of the Political Arts Initiative, which invites 21st-century imag-e-nations of the political through digital technology and the creative and performing arts. After an AB in Government and Philosophy at Harvard University, Cissie explored public interest law in Washington DC before moving to the University of Oxford for an MSt in Women’s Studies, an MSc in Political Research and Methodology, and a DPhil in Politics and International Relations. She lectured at Oxford and University College London prior to serving as Senior Tutor and Director of Studies at Leiden University College in Leiden University’s Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs in The Hague. Having returned to Canada, she continues to be a regular guest curator and performer at art institutions in and out of Europe.
Christopher Kulendran Thomas
Christopher Kulendran Thomas is an artist who works through the processes by which art produces reality. Christopher’s work has been included in the 11th Gwangju Biennale (2016), the 9th Berlin Biennale (2016), Bread and Roses, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2016), Co-Workers: Network As Artist, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2015) and Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making, Tate Liverpool (2013). His other exhibitions include shows at Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin and Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm.
Paul Spies graduated in Art History and Archeology at the University of Amsterdam. In 1987 he founded D’arts, an art-historical consultancy and organisational bureau, that produced many museum concepts, exhibitions, publications, marketing and communication campaigns, television programmes etc. In 2009 he was appointed director of the Amsterdam (Historical) Museum. Since then, he has lead the renovation of the presentations and organisation of these museums. Also, he started several partnerships with other heritage museums in Amsterdam. He was Director of the Amsterdam City Museum and since 2016 Director of the Stadtmuseum Berlin and chief curator of the Federal State of Berlin at the Humboldt Forum.
Tobias Madison’s artistic practice resists simple categorisations, but at its core is the fundamental question of self-determination. His work shows a continued interest in drama, technology, and an almost inhuman sense of self-sufficiency. He has had institutional solo exhibitions at the Swiss Institute in New York City (2010) curated by Gianni Jetzer, the Kunstverein Munich, many group exhibitions, a solo at the Kunsthalle Zürich, NO; NO; H E P, a Frieze commission in 2014. In April 2015, Madison returned to Kunsthalle Zurich to play in Theater der Überforderung ('Theatre of Excess'), a month-long performance with daily open rehearsals directed by Barbara Weber, which “precipitated” in five premieres. Tobias teaches the Master program at HEAD-Genève and contributes regularly as a critic to magazines such as Texte zur Kunst, Frieze, May and Flash Art.
Dave Beech is a member of the art collective Freee, writer and Professor of Art at Valand Academy, Gothenburg. His book Art and Value, published by Brill 2015, was shortlisted for the Deutscher Memorial Prize. His work has been exhibited at the Istanbul Biennial and the Liverpool Biennial. He is a regular contributor to Art Monthly, co-authored the book The Philistine Controversy, Verso (2002) with John Roberts, edited the MIT/Whitechapel book Beauty (2009), and is a founding co-editor of Art and the Public Sphere journal.
Tino Sehgal, who originally studied political economics and dance, crossed over to the visual arts in 2000. He achieved international renown for his groundbreaking, experimental work presented at the Venice Biennale, the Documenta in Kassel, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and Tate Modern in London. The Stedelijk has worked with him from the outset of his career, presenting his work in 2004 and 2006, and the museum acquired his first work in 2005. For Tino, an artwork consists of a live encounter between artwork and viewer. He does not make objects; he creates ‘situations’ within the museum space, in which interpreters enact choreographed actions and occasionally converse with visitors. These encounters offer the visitor a wholly unique experience of live artwork.