museum in progress

The history of the relationship between the twentieth century artists and the media remains to be written. However, an initial survey already reveals the story of a complicated relationship. Numerous works of modern artists have found a home within the space of media – this other new communication space of the 20th century alongside the new "medium" of the independent exhibition. At the same time modern artists were the first to recognize the importance of the media for society in this century. The history of modern art is therefore also rich in examples of important works conceived for the media, from El Lissitzky to Andy Warhol. On closer examination, however, it is surprisingly poor in actual sales of artists in the media. It seems to be a mutually fascinating connection which has been obstructed again and again and which resembles human affairs: one finally declares love to be impossible.

What is new in the work of "museum in progress" must be measured against the background of this long but complicated relationship between the artist and the media. This "museum without walls" is founded on the clear observation that a large number of leading artists, if not the majority, have, at least since the emergence of Concept Art at the end of the Sixties, thought in media concepts even though, for various reasons they have still sought out and used gallery and museum space – which has been the indispensable protective retreat for experimental art. The guiding idea of "museum in progress" is in some ways that this complicated relationship between the artist and the media can now be handled and approached in a completely new way as a result of this long but not really well-known "preparatory work" by artists. The best proof that this assumption is correct is the face that offer only four years of activity and relatively unfavourable location in Vienna "museum in progress" has a track record which ranks it among the most important experimental museum concepts of Modernism and Post-Modernism.

The new "multi-functional" cooperations with a daily newspaper ("Der Standard"), a political newsmagazine ("profil"), an important TV channel ("ORF 2", culture program "10 1/2") and the electronic communication media "Internet" mean that this experiment now promises a first run in a "large-scale test". In fact there is no precedent in the history of artistic Modernism that a mass-media as such open itself to artists of all levels as pure media, as a neutral space offering high exposure – although artists today think almost completely in media concepts even when they create works in the "classical" media of the fine arts. Concretely, and from a practical point of view, what seems to be more significant than the fact that mass-media will actually function as museum space. Is that the alternate succession of exhibitions which continually overlap and change from the fundamental basis of each modern and contemporary museum which cannot be imagined as absent. It is in fact a museum which does not merely show its collection like classical museum but acquires its idea of itself as a museum from its intervention in the aesthetic debate of its time.

In this sense, with the cooperation between the Austrian Federal Curator, Stella Rollig, and "museum in progress, a large-circulation daily newspaper, a weekly newsmagazine, a TV channel and the Internet have for the first time (also internationally) actually become the expression of a new concept of a museum which has stood out throughout the five years of "museum in progress" activities. The designation "museum" is in this case more than just a metaphor. With artistically very differently defined exhibitions at different appearing times media really have become a museum. While a regular artist interview program and a symposium act as an explanatory background to the multi-track exhibition activity.

The activities of museum in progress until now display a surprising, relaxed approach to the media and the complicated history of artists and the media. This freshness of approach in the first realization of a museum in the domain of the mass-media is also reflected on the part of the visitors to the exhibition who hold in their hands a continual museum space of an unpretentious kind. In this case the artists know – and it is not least this challenge which presents such a great attraction to them – that they will be competing on an equal footing with the political and social affairs of the day, with the sphere of information and also with the gossip, that they will (have to) operate in the midst of social reality and that they are no longer protected by a "white" exhibition space. This challenge to the artist makes this new kind of museum venture in specific areas of media space so exciting – not least for the visitors or readers who here experience a kind of anthology of new solutions to the enormous task- suddenly to be directly active as artists in the forum of social reality which the media represent today.

(Vienna 1994)