Home is to be understood: An empirical study of contemporary arts practice

Mie Buhl, Siv Werner Hansen

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapport/konference proceedingBidrag til bog/antologiForskningpeer review


This contribution will discuss the role of contemporary art museums in meeting the current challenges of migration in Europe. Connecting new art institutional practices and pedagogies with concepts of refuge (Flucht) and home (Heimat), this paper – based on a three-month fieldwork conducted at the Contemporary Museum of Art (MFSK) in Roskilde, Denmark – addresses a contemporary community arts project called Art in Exile, which launched early 2016.

The project Art in Exile was developed as a democratic and multicultural co-creation platform at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and involved artists with refugee status (mainly from Syria), a group of local volunteers, and members of the museum staff. The project derived from the annual theme “ON THE MOVE” and culminated in an art exhibition and event on June 4th 2016. Up until then the museum had invited the artists to create artworks for the exhibition, while including the volunteers in the process, facilitating the meeting of those who are at home and those who are on the run. In this sense, the MFSK situates themselves as a social-political activist; a contemporary institution dealing with contemporary societal issues.

The migrant and refugee situation in Denmark is, as in many other countries at the moment, complex. On the one hand laws and regulations are concurrently tightened concerning residency permits, boarder control, and possession of belongings. On the other hand a nationwide humanitarian (non-political) network of citizens who have come together with the single purpose of helping migrants in whichever way they can – calling themselves “Venligboerne” [friendly neighbours] – has developed outside the system, counting approx. 70.000 people involved across the country.

This paper looks into how MFSK as a contemporary art institution engages with the current societal issue of migration by instigating a co-creation experiment, which aims to convert the museum’s vision (defined by values such as ‘community’, ‘participation’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘change’) into practice. In particular, we address how the museum creates a space for exploring the feeling of “home”. We wish to uncover the institutional and social challenges associated with the undertaking of a democratic project such as Art in Exile, where shared control and ownership over content is intended to follow from an equal collaboration across cultures, languages and social backgrounds.

We discuss the extent to which institutional intentions succeed in participating in contemporary humanitarian and political challenges through art curating. What are the institutional implications of democratizing the process of arts and curatorial practices? What are the artistic implications of engaging with themes of refuge, home and exile? What are the implications of volunteering in such project?
The paper’s discussions are framed by the theories of gallery education (Bishop, 2006; Mörsch, 2009), co-creation in museums (Simon, 2010), community arts (Kester, 2013), and draws on fieldwork and visual ethnography (Pink, 2013; Rose, 2012) from the process of initiating and planning of the project and including visual material from the launch of the exhibition.

Bishop, C. (2006). The Social turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents, Artforum http://newsgrist.typepad.com/files/clarie-bishop-the-social-turn-collaboration-and-its-discontents-in-2006-artforum.pdf
Kester, G.H. (2013). Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. Berkeley: University of California
Mörsch, C. (2009). At a Crossroads of Four Discourses. dokumenta 12 Gallery Education in between Affirmation, Reproduction, Deconstruction, and Transformation. In dokumenta 12 education II. Between Critical Practice and Visitor Service (pp. 9-31).
Pink, S. (2013). Doing Visual Ethnography, Los Angeles: Sage publications
Rose, G. (2012). Visual Methodologies. An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials, London: Sage
Simon, N (2010). The Participatory Museum, Santa Cruz, California: Museum 2.0

TitelFlucht und Heimat : Sondierungen der pädagogische Anthropologie
RedaktørerBirgit Althans, Nika Daryan, Gabriele Sorgo, Jörg Zirfas
Antal sider11
UdgivelsesstedWeinheim Basel
ForlagJuventa Verlag
Publikationsdato1 jan. 2019
ISBN (Trykt)978-3-7799-3680-0
StatusUdgivet - 1 jan. 2019
BegivenhedDeutsche Gesellschaft fur Erziehungswissenschaft, Kommision Paedagogische Anthropologie - Leuphana Universitaet Luneburg, Luneburg, Tyskland
Varighed: 6 okt. 20168 okt. 2016


KonferenceDeutsche Gesellschaft fur Erziehungswissenschaft, Kommision Paedagogische Anthropologie
LokationLeuphana Universitaet Luneburg