Ideový půdorys

Ideal and methodological ground plan of CENS

Marek Pokorný, former director of the Moravian Gallery in Brno

Motto: It is necessary to destroy faith in the museum so that we can build trust in the museum.


The project of a center which would devote methodological activities to new strategies of presentation and reception of visual and artistic culture in the museum context stems above all from the obvious absence of systematic research and the practical application of critical, self-reflective approaches to unconventionality, historical, social and communicative conditionality of the method of exhibiting artistic works, art-historical themes, and the production, circulation, and "consumption" of (artistic) images in the museum context. The basic definition of a museum, which includes the balance of its basic functions, namely the protection, exploration and presentation of cultural heritage [1], cannot in principle determine the form or content of concrete steps toward their fulfillment and respond to the subtler changes that occur in the relationship between the museum and society institutions, as well as to changes in the internal conditions and intentions of museum work. If, on a continuous basis (and with increased intensity), there are structural changes throughout society and, above all, the needs of an increasingly differentiated public, but also fundamental changes in the relationship between institutions and their users or the emergence of new paradigms of individual disciplines including art history, the sociology of knowledge, and the ever-increasing demand for orientation towards the education society, the museum (art) and its specialists have the duty to review:

1. The assumptions on which the presentation of cultural heritage is based, and     

2. What is conditioned by the reception of its outputs, thus co-operating with existing users' expectations as well as increasing their viewership and visitor competence.


As a historically established institution, the museum does not develop autonomously or natively, but through a strong connection with the historical, political, social, and ideological circumstances, which are not only a documentary but also a creator, accomplice or victim. In the writings of Pierre Bourdieu, the museum (art) is one of the major institutions of social reproduction [2].  In order to continually overcome its own shadow or possibly rise to defend the core values ​​of civilization, the museum must always try again to reflect upon its own mission, functions, specific outcomes, and interactions with users, meaning moving from the classic concept of a museum to a reflexive museum model. If we paraphrase the leading German sociologist Ulrich Beck, reflexivity is the use of the most important and life-long spirit of modernity (with its claim to universal validity), one output of which was also the formation of today's museum, modernity itself, and also its individual instrumental and institutional elements. Insecurity and uncertainty, or better ambiguity whose incompleteness of the reflexive approach to modernity (and museums) is the ongoing achievement of balance and correction of the needs and interests of different segments of contemporary society, while focusing on the sustainability of our current development [3]. For museums (art), this perspective is a major challenge because in general their practice tends toward opposing poles - to preserve past practice based on the needs and paradigms of classical modernity, or to adapt too easily to the immediate needs of users (and thus actually preserve and oblige themselves), or, on the contrary, to come up with radical, purely experimental solutions that, although they are based on sophisticated theoretical assumptions and expert analyses, cannot be appropriately accepted and built into the audience's experience. As a possible starting point for the development of museum practice, the reflexivity of modern social life seems to be a constant validation and transformation of social practices (including the presentation and reception of art and visual culture in the museum context) "in the light of new information on these practices themselves, information that fundamentally changes their character" [4].

The primary discourse of reflexivity for the intention to build and operate a methodical center devoted to the presentation and reception of art and visual culture in the museum context is the paradigmatic concept of the so-called "exhibitionary complex," attributed to Australian theorist and cultural historian Tony Bennett, who in the historical perspective contributed to the discussion of the nature of the museum as a modern institution, which can be freely translated as a "set of exhibition practices" or a "set of ways of exhibiting or presenting" [5]. Thanks to this concept, the museum can be perceived in relation to the other institutions that have emerged or have been radically transformed by the development of modern society from the late 18th to the late 19th century, not only in the context of forming the public as a specific way of organizing social and political life [6], but also with the emergence of nation states, the reformation of economic and social relations, the ways in which goods are produced and distributed, and values ​​accompanied by gradual democratization. Today's museum is a typical product of the formation of modern (western) society and its task is, among other things, to promote and maintain its values, which cannot exist without the incorporation of fundamental principles of reflexivity and criticality into its own activities [7]. The public but hidden structure of relations on which the museum is founded is analogous to modern institutions and important functional nodes providing social reproduction such as prisons, schools, hospitals, banking houses, public transport, department stores, and academies of science. Most of these institutions follow the dialectics of showing and hiding, the nature of which is not purely symbolic, but through which the distribution of power relations in society is regulated.

Strategies of preservation and transience, valuation and obsession, revealing and hiding, showing and "concealing" are the structural basis of the museum and, of course, the museum presentation [8]. Exhibitions and presentations are principally based on operations of inclusion and exclusion, co-optation, and elimination. Their justification is ultimately tied to those decisions that lie in the hands of the museum staff or curator, and which are based on a sense of responsibility towards the public or the founder/owner, the acceptance of the prevailing discourse, or the consensus within the relevant scientific discipline [9]. Such decisions are always of a power-related nature. If the presentation and the manner in which the museum comes into its practice matures, it creates a certain image (past or present, artistic era, theme, problem, or concrete work) that is neither neutral nor ideological, nor a social or political value, and not at all objective [10], and in our context completely neglects not only the question of the examination of its assumptions, reasons and actions, but even the consciousness that - unspoken, innate - is present in any act taking place within it. If we talk about the image created by the museum, which communicates mainly through exhibitions and exhibitions [11], we have to recall the basic characteristics of the image as something holistic and global that can be read (and interpreted) in distinct, alternating sequences. "It means that flexibility is essential for the image," writes Zdeněk Vašíček. "It is a technical means of achieving universality, which in this case is given as a multitude of interpretations. The rules of the application of this aleatoria (and it must have its rules) bear the most important messages of the image" [12]. And as a reflection on the rules for the constitution of a flexible image, in the case of a museum, its institutional, professional or technical use, the processes of preparation of exhibition projects, and the tools and methods of their realization will be at the heart of the activities of the methodological center. In the language of psychoanalysis we could even talk about a psychotherapeutic procedure reconstructing hidden motifs and a vehicle of methods of presenting art in a museum context. Without this "therapeutic" or "ideo-critical" aspect of work on the presentation of art and visual culture in the institutional framework of the museum today, it is not possible to adequately deal with cultural heritage while entering into a relationship with its diverse users properly. "The museum, as I understand it," says Alexander Horwath, "is also a space in which to be respected: respect for the collections, the artifacts stored and displayed, and the person who looks at them and is interested in them. Eventually, the museum's collection is not a random set of images, but an active and poetic process that should be as actively and poetically presented" [13].

The analysis of existing methodological centers operating at the institutions established by the Ministry of Culture shows that none of them is based on a critical reflection of the conditions, goals, and methods of presentation of artistic culture in the complicated context of differentiated needs of museum visitors and professional public, and does not result from the radically changed discourse of today's museology, sociology of art, new concepts of art history, and cultural and visual studies. Due to the progressive complicated transformation of whole societies, and thus also innate, yet not explicitly articulated, changes affecting the positions, functions and demands placed on the museum, the gradual establishment of new disciplines related to its activities (cultural studies, visual studies, critical theories, gender studies) [14], and an inspiring inter- or multi-disciplinary discussion in our country, museum institutions will have to respond to these fundamental changes in the concept of self and the content and goals of their work, as well as the meaning and form of the presentation. It is not a purely theoretical problem, but particularly an adequate understanding of the place of art and visual culture in society, what role it plays in people's lives today, and how society understands itself.

The methods and strategies of the presentation of art in the context of the museum as well as their reflection have undergone turbulent development over the last forty years, and today are at least as important (and publicly even more significant) as scientific methods, or in the ordinary sense of artworks of museums of artistic and historical art, aspects of the preparation of exhibition projects. From this development follows the orientation of the methodological center to reflect the mutual relations of the Museum of Art and History of Art (as an academic discipline) as two different institutions that cannot do without each other, but are not interchangeable [15]. The existing educational system cannot functionally link the competencies of art history graduates with different perspectives and methodologies of care and mediation of art and visual culture, while at the same time often reducing the museological issue to instrumental aspects. The implications of this system are in the practice of Czech art museums for society and most users below the boundary of distinction, but at the same time they create the conditions for questioning the relevance of the presentation outputs of museums without a demanding discussion about the definition of roles and common ground that will lead to a crisis and doubts about the real significance of forms of artistic culture mediation [16]. At the same time, the methodological center must focus on the communication and use of methods and knowledge of other related disciplines that deal with social and communicative aspects of art presentation, including history, anthropology, and ethnography, but also specifically Czech discipline such as scenography [17], and methodologically in the Czech context with very advanced film studios in Prague and Brno.

From the above, it should be clear that the new strategies for the presentation of art and visual culture in the museum context understand the formal and new technology-based way of exhibiting artwork and artistic or historical units and problems. Above all these strategies reflect a certain type of social practice using tools of cultural heritage specific to museums as a historically established, dynamic stability between the different interests, needs, methodologies and disciplines that find institutions time and again. Only in this sense can a museum (art) be a constitutive part of an open society. If we were to summarize, without too many burdensome terms, the intent to which the existence of the CENS should contribute, there is no choice but to return to Roland Barthes and hisMythologies, which concludes that "we drift unceasingly between the object and its demystifying, unable to capture its totality: if we penetrate the object, we will liberate it, but at the same time destroy it; and if we keep its weight, we will respect it, but at the same time we will restore to in its mystified form ... And yet that is what we must seek: a reconciliation of people and reality, description and explanation, object and knowledge" [18].



[1] Zákon o ochraně sbírek muzejní povahy 122/2000 Sb. ve znění pozdějších předpisů

[2] Viz Pierre Bourdieu, Alain Darabel: L´amour de l´art, Paris 1966; Pierre Bourdieu: Outline of a Sociological Theory of Art Perception. In: Pierre Bourdieu: The Field of Cultural Production, Cambridge-Oxford 1999, s. 215 - 237; Pierre Bourdieu: Teorie jednání, Praha 1998

[3] Viz Ulrich Beck, Scott Lash: Reflexive Modernization, Berlin 1994

[4] Anthony Giddens: Důsledky modernity, Praha 1998, s. 40

[5] Viz Tony Bennett: The Birth of the Museum. History, Theory, Politics, Oxon/ New York 1995. Slovenský překlad příslušné kapitoly je pod názvem Súbor výstavných praktík k dispozici ve sborníku Mária Orišková (ed.): Efekt múzea: predmety, praktiky, publikum. Antológia anglo-americkej kritickej teórie múzea, Bratislava 2006, s. 127-151

[6] Viz Jürgen Habermas: Strukturální přeměna veřejnosti, Praha 2000

[7] Tady se akcentem na radikální rozdíl mezi "předchůdci" muzea v renesanci a antice rozcházíme s tradicí české muzeologie reprezentovanou především kanonickými texty Z.Z. Stránského, a to proto, že na rozdíl od něj a Josefa Beneše, ale také na rozdíl od Waidacherovy téměř heideggeriánské muzeologické ontologie, klademe důraz na komunikativní, historický a sociální aspekt této instituce, nikoli na proces tezaurace.

[8] Viz například Susan A. Crane (ed.): Museums and Memory, Stanford 2000

[9] Různorodé aspekty jsou rozpracovány například v následujících publikacích. Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson, Sandy Narnie (ed.): Thinking about Exhibition, London 1996; Eilean Hooper-Greenhill: Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture, London/ New York, 2000; Julia Noordegraaf: Strategies of Display, Rotterdam 2004; Peter Noever (ed.): The Discursive Museum, Vienna 2001; David Carrier: Museum Scepticism. A History of the Display of Art in Public Galleries, Durham/ London 2006; Mária Orišková (ed.): Efekt múzea: predmety, praktiky, publikum, Bratislava 2006. Z historických prací věnovaných výstavě jako specifickému formátu setkávání se s uměním a uměleckým dílem zmiňme alespoň Francis Haskell: The Ephemeral Museum. Old Masters Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition, New Haven/ London 2000 a Bruce Altshuler (ed.): Solon to Biennial - Exhibition that Made Art History. Volume I: 1863-1959. London/ New York 2008.

[10] Vedle teoretických a historických analýz dosvědčují tento fakt i četná literární díla, z nichž uvádíme namátkou román německého spisovatele Siegfrieda Lenze Vlastivědné muzeum z roku 1978 (česky Odeon, 1980) předvádějící panorama individuálních i národních osudů zasažených druhou světovou válkou na příběhu budování a přebudování regionálního muzea, zničeného nakonec jeho vlastním tvůrcem.

[11] Ačkoli se to může zdát paradoxní, neboť výstava a expozice se před divákem rozvíjí v čase a prostoru, často v následných sekvencích, platí to zejména v jejich případě. "Obraz se skládá z řady postupně vnímaných dílčích obrazů," argumentuje Zdeněk Vašíček. Viz Zdeněk Vašíček: Obrazy (minulosti), Praha 1996, s. 53.

[12] Viz Zdeněk Vašíček, o.c. s. 53.

[13] Alexander Horwath: Muzeum versus trh. In: Iluminace 2005/3, s. 23

[14] Rozsáhlá zahraniční odborná literatura začíná být překládána do češtiny a řada absolventů uměnovědných oborů se tímto směrem orientuje, aniž by se až na výjimky dotkli praktické problematiky muzejní prezentace. O zvýšeném zájmu o vizuální studia svědčí jednak některé původní práce jako například Marta Filipová, Matthew Rampley (eds.): Možnosti vizuálních studií, Brno 2008; Petra Hanáková (ed.): Výzva perspektivy. Obraz a jeho divák od malby quattrocenta k filmu a zpět, Praha 2008; Petra Trnková: Technický obraz na malířských štaflích, Brno 2008; Marie Rakušanová: Bytosti odnikud, Praha 2008 (stejnojmenná výstava v Galerii hlavního města Prahy a v Moravské galerii v Brně v letech 2008 až 2009); Jiří Pátek: Příjemné závislosti, Brno 2009 (stejnojmenná výstava v Moravské galerii v Brně), ale také překlad standardní příručky přední představitelky britských kulturálních studií Angely McRobie: Aktuální témata kulturálních studií, Praha 2006.

[15] Viz Charles W. Haxthausen (ed.): The Two Art Histories. The Museum and the University. Williamstown, 1999

[16] Od doby, kdy si Josef Beneš stýskal nad absencí specifického přístupu k muzejní prezentaci (a výchově, jak zněl dobový úzus) a zaměňováním vědecké specializace s adekvátním výstavním uplatněním sbírek, se mnoho nezměnilo. Viz např. Josef Beneš: Muzejní prezentace, Praha 1981, s. 13-14.

[17] Viz například Miroslav Vojtěchovský, Jaroslav Vostrý: Obraz a příběh. Scéničnost ve výtvarném a dramatickém umění. Praha 2008; Radovan Lipus: Scénologie Ostravy, Praha 2006; Josef Valenta: Scénologie krajiny, Praha 2008; Disk. Časopis pro studium dramatického umění. Vydává Výzkumný ústav dramatické a scénické tvorby Divadelní fakulty AMU v Praze.

[18] Roland Barthes: Mytologie, Praha 2004, s. 157