tIME nATION aRT '
previously published in ANY
If the museum is a tomb then its concern with death is equally a concern with life - thus with survival. Here, with life and death, time is introduced. And yet with the museum this may not be the only way in which time is present. With a Museum of Modern Art, time already intrudes into the designation Modern. What marks out the place of the Modern will already have been an intervention within time where other periods come to be pre-modern or at the least other than modern. While these two senses of time necessitate clarification, what is retained as a question is the possibility that with architecure and more specifically with the architecure of any museum of modern art, time may be present within the architecure itself, such that time would form part of the building's structuration. It will be essential to return to these three senses of time. Their particularity as well as their relation will need to be worked out.
With a Museum of Modern Art, and as a fundamental part of its internal divisions there will have to be the recognition of genres and nations. They bring with them differing senses of propriety. Moreover they emphasise the fact that the institutionalisation of art cannot be easily divorced from the national question. Part of the strategy guiding the Museum may be that the nation may have found expression through its art. And yet what must always be questioned is the identity within the nation: What is national identity? Whose identity does the nation's name identify? Moreover, for art to work in this way - no matter how putative the connection becomes in the end - it has to be taken as expressive and thus as readily symbolic. Here, symbols and expression would not just be linked to a process whereby meaning comes to be attributed to the internal workings of the object, but that the object can hold a relation to the soul of the nation itself. This set up would have to pertain no matter how troubled that soul may have become.
Within the Museum art work comes to act out a series of determinations which while they identify the work of the institution cannot encompass the totality of the object. Allowing for this division is not simply to argue that art escapes the totalizing force of its own institutionalisation, but that the nature of the object itself is what allows for the impossibility of art work's eduction to cultural icon. The capacity of the object to lend itself to a plurality of interpretations - and here interpretation can involve curatorial practice as much as critical investigation - is an integral part of its existence as an object. The housed object will always hold itself apart from the possibility of any absolute and final incorporation into the Museum even while it forms a part of the Museum's own collection. The question here is how would the disruptive potential of art work come to be housed. The problem of housing it will be the problem of locating that which resists - necessarily - the finality of any location. Time, nation and art combine therefore in yielding the architectural terrain. The site on which the architecure has to be present is no longer defined in terms that are simply geographical. Or rather the geography in question has shifted away from the ground such that these other determinations have to be built into to any concern with the Museum. In each case a decision has to be made. Time must be made specific. A decision must be taken concerning the presence of the nation - this nation as well as other nations. And finally art must be arrested such that its positioning within the built occurs either in terms of an enduring finality effacing the insistence of the infinite, or the infinite must be acknowledged such that art's setting, be it within the institution - as well as outside of it - will be traversed by an insistent encounter with the infinite.
The possibility of the arbitrary cannot be precluded. Identifying the modern as beginning at a certain date or with a certain set of concerns is inevitable. The question that arises in having to work with this inevitability will concern how its presence is to be understood. If it is viewed as a contingent, though in the end necessary decision, then it eschews the attribution of a founding finality. It opens itself up as a site of negotiation. And yet there is the other possibility. Beginning the modern with either a date or period could be taken as fixed. Chronology being the apposite measure of time's movement becomes naturalised such that it is taken to be time itself. The forgetting of this founding set up has important consequences. What remains overlooked within it is the movement by which the process of naturalisation leads to a norm whose determination is taken to be absolute. These times begin to stage the differing possibilities for the Museum.
The importance of the museum within the cultural life of any nation cannot be avoided in any consideration of the place and thus the architecture of a Museum of Modern Art. The Museum when it houses the nation's collection will have a double responsibility. On the one hand it will hold, by housing, the history of modernity within the realm of the visual arts. And yet on the other hand what has marked the advent of modernity and its inexorable continuity is a gradual attrition of the unity of the nation and the singularity of national culture. The opening up of culture - its insistent pluralisation - begins to force a reconsideration of the museum's responsibility to a national culture. A further consequence of the opening of a national culture is that affinities that were denied between what were taken to be discreet nation states now become possible within different groups within diverse national cultures. The museum's responsibility to the latter is its responsibility to the reality of the diaspora or more precisely the diasporisation of the national culture.
What is it that art brings to the Museum? What is it that has to housed? The importance of these questions is that it shifts the terms in which the relationship is usually posed. Instead of assuming that art can automatically be housed - an assumption that has to rely upon forcing neutrality on the interpretive potential of art work - what will have to be taken up is the question of what it is that is housed? Answers to the question will oscillate between the feint of neutrality on the one hand, and the incorporation of that which yields to the infinite by yielding it, on the other. Architecure's stand within this increasingly complex set of relations will continue to be driven by the nature of the differences between an enforcing continuity that takes the determinations of time, the unity of the national culture, and the housing art work as given. And a set up in which art's relation to the museum, the unity of national culture and the singularity of historical time are all called into question. The latter possibility should lead neither to nostalgia nor lament, but to the affirmation of a founding complexity that is shown to be at work within the nation, within time and within the workful nature of art work. With this affirmation there emerges the necessity for another architectural possibility. Moreover this possibility only emerges once the question of the nation, the role of time and art work are retained but with that shift in which the determination given to them by the work of tradition are held in abeyance. Here what is repeated occurs within an opening given by the practice of experimentation. Art, time and nation are repositioned by a repetition maintaining a form of singularity.
Allowing for an arbitrary designation that holds temporal divisions open, has to be more than a utopian aspiration. It cannot haunt the building as a hope without any possibility of structural actualisation. Freedom, here, will not be a desire to loosen restrictive fetters. Freedom is not a large empty space that can be filled in many ways. Both of these formulations of freedom wrongly identify what is involved in the continuity of any opening. Maintaining an opening is to recognise that with any decision - any curatorial decision - room for manoeuvre comes to be closed down. What the building has to afford is the possibility that the continuity of completion must be always discontinuous with the life of the building. The interplay between continuity and discontinuity holds to the possibility of the open while maintaining the imperative of closures. The building becomes a site that strains against, and with, the twofold insistence of the complete and the incomplete; the continuous and the discontinuous. Time, now, rather than being informed by a naturalisation of sequential time, or the putative freedom of an empty space and thus neutral time, will come to be identified as fundamental to the building's structuration once a spatio-temporal complexity is introduced as a founding constraint; henceforth the economy of the building will have to sustain the temporal complexity of incomplete completion.
The diasporisation of the national culture does not mean that culture has become diverse and merely multi-cultural. It is rather that connections, affinities or solidarity can no longer be delimited by the presence national boundaries. Once this point is conceded then the possibility of maintaining the Museum as that which presents the national collection will have been checked by the process of diasporisation. While there still will be art produced within the confines of the nation state the extent to which it is possible to address that art in terms of its automatically forming part of a national collection will no longer be straightforward. Given that the link between the Museum and national culture will have been rendered problematic by the development of modernity, the question that emerges will concern how this break up of the nation and subsequent grouping and regrouping outside and within it, are to be given an architectural presence. This will be architecture's question.
The pressure exercised by art means that it will always have resisted the attempt to give it either a symbolic or expressive link to a national culture. While resisting such a reduction art works by granting this possibility while at the same time refusing its generality. Rather than viewing art as semantically ambivalent what is actually involved is the recognition that once art work is expressed in terms of having its own economy in which its realisation is the continuity of its own becoming - hence the reformulation of the object as the becoming-object - art will itself be located within an always incomplete completion. Here art has taken over another setting. It is, of course, the setting that emerges once the museum is allowed a complex temporality that appears as having a determining effect within its own self-realisation. Moreover it will be positioned with equal force within the discontinuous continuity of connections occurring with the diasporisation of culture. Having this set up brings art, the nation and time into a demanding constellation. What has been given are the site conditions for a Museum of Modern Art once the particularity of each component is allowed to play a determining role in how the others are understood. What is demanding emerges once the interplay is thought beyond the sway of the process of normalisation and naturalisation. It is only by ignoring the question of time, failing to take up the relationship between architecure, time and culture, and finally by resisting the possibility that the presence of art as a given may no longer be assumed, that the museum, even a Museum of Modern Art, becomes no more than a tomb in which what survives is already dead. Life cannot be mere survival. It must be the continuous realisation of that which emerges once there is an affirmation of the complexity of time, the insistent diaspora and the relationship between the finite and the infinite that marks out the art work as the becoming-object. There is an imperative; it is simply - house that!