Pedro Arantes (Federal University of São Paulo): Western fantasy and tropical nightmare: Architecture, New Museums and urban warfare in Rio 

The competitive management of contemporary metropolises promises a world of dreams through extreme architectural and urban forms, mega-events and large real estate projects – a civic mobilization of achievement or overcoming. In Rio de Janeiro – host of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics — with new Museums and Cultural Centers designed by ‘star architects’ framed by a paradisiacal backdrop, have renewed a tropical fantasy that has always titillated the Western colonial imagination. 

The huge harbor renovation, only partially completed, sought to gentrify a region adjacent to downtown, connecting it to real estate global financial flows directed to new business districts. In this city of the spectacle, the control of impoverished populations through cordons sanitaires, the removal or ‘pacification’ of favelas, or their management and high-tech surveillance by militaries, paramilitaries and private security companies, bring the Brazilian apartheid in line with 21st century standards for urban warfare. 

The ‘Riofication’ of global mega-cities is a trend that inextricably combines spectacle and control, new museums and the disappearance of social and racial memory, real estate and paramilitary extortion, global mega-events and regressive fundamentalism – a political and urban formula that transforms cities into a monstrous amalgam where contemporary capitalism are revealed.


Capital Culture: Museums, Cities, Cultural Power – Film Screening and Q&A

In this session Tom Butler, Paul Moody and Monica Degen will discuss the process and thinking behind producing a short experimental film that sums up some of the key themes that inform the symposium.


Gus Casely-Hayford (Director, V&A East): V&A East: reconsidering the museum and the collection

The new cultural landscape requires new kinds of institution, museums that can re-energize collections for new audiences and recalibrate themselves to the concerns, rhythms, and modes of production of our new age.  The V&A has an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a truly experiential storehouse of art and design and pair it with an experimental partnership-based gallery and exhibition platform, to create a campus for the imagination, to forge a space of account and reconciliation, a space within which we might acknowledge the complex and difficult histories that our collections represent, and negotiate relationships of equity, empathy and openness with cultures, communities, artists and makers of the world.


Yves Goldstein (Chef de Mission, Kanal Pompidou, Brussels): « from utopia to reality: how to build a museum of the XXI century in Brussels » 

This is the story of a city with an extremely dynamic and innovative artistic and cultural ecosystem but without a museum of contemporary art. How to tackle this huge paradox in the Capital of Europe? How to create the conditions to succeed on such a challenge ?


Hannah Ishmael (Archivist, Black Cultural Archives, London): On the Power of Monuments

Officially named the African People’s Historical Monument Foundation, the Black Cultural Archives stands as a monument to the histories of Black communities in London. Located on Windrush Square, in Brixton, its presence sits amongst a number of other public monuments and memorials. This presentation will examine the importance of monuments and memorialisation particularly the interaction between public and state memory.


Chrischené Julius (Head of the Collections, Research and Documentation Department, District 6 Museum, Cape Town): The evolution of a community museum: reflecting on the work of the District Six Museum, Cape Town. 

The District Six Museum was established as an independent community museum in 1994, the year of South Africa’s first democratic election. Its purpose was to honour the memories of a community who was forcibly removed, and whose neighbourhood was physically destroyed, under Apartheid. Its purpose also evolved out of an activist movement that fought for the community’s return to the site of District Six through a land restitution process. 

From its first iteration as a space of activism and memory, the Museum has come to be seen as an institution in Cape Town. As a keeper of District Six memory, it redefines what a traditional museum space can be by moving away from nostalgic remembrance and staid memorialisation as the basis for reclaiming history, and does so in the midst of an ongoing restitution process that is firmly located in present-day political struggles in the City of Cape Town. 

Moving between the space and politics of the city, the site of District Six and the field of museology, the Museum faces the constant question: what is its purpose and who does it now represent?


Julie’s Bycicle: Creative Climate Chat with Timespan

Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Chats are live conversations with leading thinkers in culture and climate on just transition, new economics for a regenerative economy, the net zero carbon challenge, and climate justice. 

Join us for a Creative Climate Chat with Sadie Young, Director of Timespan. Timespan is a cultural organisation in Helmsdale, a village in the very north east of the Scottish Highlands, with local, global and planetary ambitions to utilise culture for social change. We’ll be discussing how museums and galleries can uncover and contextualise local histories and how they can connect to wider movements to help enact radical social change. We’ll also be joined by Hilary Jennings, who will tell us more about Happy Museum and their new partnership with Julie’s Bicycle.


Professor Sophia Labadi (Professor, University of Kent): Museums, Immigrants and Social Justice

In recent years, museums have addressed core competencies that immigrants lack the most and have difficulties in acquiring, particularly language and employment skills. Yet, most of the programmes have been devised by museums under their own terms. Taking a different approach, my talk will discuss how museums have been used by undocumented immigrants to claim and obtain decent employment conditions. More specifically, I will discuss the unauthorised occupation of the National Museum on the History of Immigration in Paris (France) by more than 500 undocumented workers, from October 2010 to January 2011. These undocumented workers wanted to obtain their residence permits and decent employment conditions. 

This presentation will discuss why a museum was chosen, how activists organised their work, what were the official reaction of the museum staff, as well as the long-term legacy of this occupation both for the museum and the occupying immigrants.


Museum Detox: From Finding Safe Spaces in Hostile Environments, to Re-imagining Liberated Spaces

Join Museum Detox to consider different experiences within our hostile built environments and how we might reimagine these spaces as liberated places in the future.


Museum of HomelessnessMaking a Museum in the 21st Century – Three Provocations

This session will run over the lunch hour, with 3 provocations for the profession from the  Museum of Homelessness crew and plenty of space for a lively discussion. Presenter/facilitators include Matt & Jess Turtle, Paul Atherton and Benji Lain.

Beatrice Pembroke (Director of Culture, King’s College London): Imagination infrastructure: the role of museums in new civic futures

In this presentation I’ll be talking about the power of museums and cultural institutions to collectively imagine different futures and why this matters in this age of uncertainty. Looking at some recent examples, I’ll ask what structures and changes might be needed to support this.


Andrea Phillips (BALTIC Professor, Northumbria University): Redistribution 2021

Museums and other large cultural institutions in the UK, as elsewhere in the global North, despite the many intelligences at work within and around them, are structurally predicated upon three things: growth, hierarchies of knowledge and assumptions of value. In this short talk I will rehearse opposing directions and scales of these attributes – degrowth, dehierarchisation and devaluation – in order to map the processes necessary for the redistribution of cultural power.

The pandemic has begun to highlight how forms of sociality traditionally considered weak are essential: the welfare state, mutual aid, the use of space for collective purposes, extended forms of care, etc. If ‘build back better’ is the current mantra, how can museums, quite literally in the case of the Museum of London, rebuild in a form that redistributes, rather than privatises, its cultural capital.


Stephen Pritchard (independent academic): Watching Xanadu

A vision in a dream – a fragment. Walls imposed on nature by stately decree. Enclosed palace of pleasure which sees itself reflected in an unrestrained river. Empire. Human power. Nature’s power. Time unending. Time becomes a loop. The loop becomes a song about self-obsession and loss. This song of loss is part of who we are and what we humans do: we build to destroy – keeping little fragments, not to remember the loss we created but to retell its stories in palatable ways.

And we build our pleasure domes – our museums and galleries – our glass castles and concrete cathedrals of cultural power – in our own image, without thought or care for those already there: those whose stories and memories and own little losses are not worthy of our new faux-Brutalist pleasure domes. Our pleasure domes are for the emperors of our time – and for their followers (and for the emperors and followers of all the empires before and after) – for us, not them.

We build our walls to protect our vision in a dream – our intentionally fragmented histories and imagery safely preserved as formal, interpreted, collected floral displays behind walled gardens. New enclosures of not so old commons: commonly now council owned land, council homes, social housing – our land (at least nominally). And no matter how much “outreach” and “engagement” emanates from our pleasure domes, and no matter how much zeal our cultural missionaries and mercenaries apply, the new emperors do not want the weeds or the supposedly culturally bereft neo-barbarians inside.

No community centres, libraries, youth clubs, sports clubs, playing fields or parks for them. But there is, for example, a place in our pleasure domes for fragments of paraded “streets in the sky” – for robbed sections of Robin Hood Gardens council homes – for us.

But now is a time for everyday utopias, not just gilded pleasure domes.

This brief paper is about everyday life and the urgent need to re-enchant it. It is about understanding that we all have visions in dreams and that they do not always prophesise building pleasure domes or bastions to cultural power – to the emperors of soft power. The re-enchantment of our everyday lives is not about museums and galleries leading the way to some culturally rich promised land in which our pasts and presents are censored, sanitised, sugar-coated then mercilessly monetised. This is the path to disenfranchisement and disenchantment. Instead, our re-enchantment lies in putting people before place, people before power, cultural democracies ahead of bureaucracies, and in creating beautiful everyday utopias in which our pasts and presents can be shared and celebrated everywhere.


Cláudia Rose Ribeiro da Silva (Coordinator, Museu da Maré, Rio De Janeiro): MARÉ MUSEUM: Museology from the favela 

The Museum, created in 2006, was born from the struggles of many residents, and from cooperation between people and institutions from different places, which fostered diversity and the exchange of a multiplicity of knowledge, transforming the space into a cultural reference in the city of Rio. It is a space open to the actions of the local community, as well as social movements, collectives and people from other locations. 

The central axis of the projects we develop is the long term exhibition Os Tempos da Maré [The Times of Maré], which presents themes called ‘times’: (Time of Water, Time of Home, Time of Migration, Time of Work, etc). There are 12 themes chosen from the local reality, respecting the historical and affective pathways of Maré. But they are also archetypal themes, since they dialogue with different temporalities and various places.

Politically, we work to overcome stigmas in relation to the favelas. The Museum is a place of life and, therefore, of conflicts and dialogue. In this way, the Maré Museum was conceived as an instrument of social transformation, incorporating in its narrative the struggles of the favelas, where there is excitement by the idea of being represented through a museographic language, collectively built.


Amahra Spence (Director, MAIA): ‘Radical Imagination + Challenging Precedents’


Virtual Tour of the New Museum of London

Join the Museum of London’s new museum project team and architects Stanton Williams for a special ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the new Museum of London in West Smithfield, one of the largest cultural capital projects in Europe, currently under construction.


Claudia Zaldivar (Director, Museum of Solidarity Salvador Allende, Santiago): Museo de Solidaridad Salvador Allende: A museum permeated by its surroundings

This presentation explores the various relationships that the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende has generated since it moved to its neighbourhood of República in 2006, a central place in Santiago with various historical layers and great cultural diversity. 

Its strategy of entering into dialogue with the territory is based on co-creation and experimentation. These two concepts were central in the original conceptualisation of the museum in 1971 which created a unique model based on a collection based on donations from artists across the world who supported the social cause of the ex-president Salvador Allende. According to the Brazilian critic and first director of the museum, Mário Pedrosa, the MSSA needed to be progressive and experimental to produce a new space for experiences, in other words “a paralaboratory (paralaboratorio)” for both artists and the community. 

My talk will focus on the challenges inherent in trying to bring this initial conceptualisation to contemporary times by working horizontally (rather than hierarchically). I will discuss the tensions that occur over time in such a gradual and transdisciplinary curatorial process.