Exhibitions are places where things stand around in order to be viewed as people walk past. Once art objects are exhibited, they can at best change those who view them; they themselves can no longer be transformed. The works are taken from the private sphere into public space and, as artificially created media, they thrust themselves into the dialogue between artists, on the one hand, and between viewers, on the other. As soon as works of art become public, however, they speak above all for themselves and only in a limited way for their authors. Moreover, they are poor conversationalists: they are talkative, but they cannot listen. Or at least they cannot answer. By closing themselves off from dialogue, on the level of their reception things become conditions; namely, conditions of a lack of freedom, as Vilém Flusser made clear in his essay “Kunstausstellungen” [Art Exhibitions], which was probably written in 1971. Accordingly, he hoped that exhibitions with works of art would come to an end and be replaced by something else. Flusser describes what that might be in his essay “On the Role of Art in the Present Situation,” written in 1972 as part of the curatorial preparation for the twelfth São Paulo Biennial. According to his plan, exhibitions would become communication platforms and laboratories, and the interdisciplinary panel discussions that take place there would be open to exhibition visitors. In order for works of art to lose their elite status, there would first have to be a general consensus on the social function of art – and art exhibitions should take on that very task. Art and communication about art would thus coincide.
Original article by Marcel René Marburger