Workshop and Graduate Seminar

In the weekend of 26 to 28 October 2012 we, four current master students from the Reinwardt Academy, participated in the “Workshop and Graduate Seminar The Poetics, Politics, and Methods of Participative Culture” in Hildesheim, Germany. The workshop was organised by the University of Oslo (Dept. of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages), the University of Hildesheim (Institut für Media, Theater und Populäre Kultur) and the Reinwardt Academy. The participants were master students and phd students from the three institutions. The seminar took place on the great estate Domane Marienburg where the Institut für Medien, Theater und Populäre Kultur resides.

On Friday evening we started with a keynote from Klas Grinell (Museum of World Cultures, Gotenburg). His presentation was titled Visiting the Public Sphere? Power, Agendas and Agency. An interesting and inspiring kick-of for this weekend. Afterwards we had dinner together on the estate. We decided to have an early night to be ready for two days of discussions.

On the Saturday we had 3 lectures: Prof. Saphinaz Amal Naguib (University of Oslo) and Annelise Bothner-By (Academy of Arts Oslo) on the politics of participation, Followed by Stefan Krankenhagen and Mathias Mertens (University of Hildesheim) on the poetics and finally Léontine Meijer-van Mensch (Reinwardt Academy Amsterdam) on the methods of participation. As preparation we received some texts beforehand that we should read. During the presentations links to these texts were made and afterwards we had time to reflect, question and discuss what was presented.

Some general thoughts and feelings from the discussions: What to do with this buzz word participation. Is participation only a passing trend or it is a necessity for the museums in the fast changing societies of today? Nowadays you see a lot of ad-hoc participation projects without a well thought idea behind it. This approach is dangerous, as dialogue takes time. Sustainability of participation. Another thing that is important here is transparency. Is participation bringing us closer to social cohesion or is it just a commercial tool? Should participation be a mandatory approach for museums or a free choice of individual museum?
What should be the role of the museum professional? Are we the creators of the communication or we are “liaison officers”? Or we should be both depending on the institution and the stage of the participation process?

What do we mean by participation? It can be interpreted in many different ways and it can be used in different ways. This also depends on what type of museum you are, what your (political) agenda is, your organisation, your stakeholders etc.

Is participation in museums a hollow phrase?

On the Sunday the student groups were divided to have discussions in smaller groups on the topic. Afterwards a short summary of this was presented to the organisers. Even though the discussions on participations were not new to us it was a very interesting weekend. It was great to share ideas and experiences with other students from abroad. It gave us an opportunity to rethink our ideas of participation and to one more time re-examine the practices we encountered during our internships.

Statement of the weekend: If you are not confused you are fucked* ( quote from Mika Hannula- psd Political Sciences Finland)

Ricci Hessling
Maria Jaukovic
Moa Johansson
Danielle Kuijten


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