Interview Mirren Itturioz

Mirren Iturioz is a member of Arteleku, a public art centre under the auspices of the Culture Department of the Regional Government of Gipuzkoa. The centre initiates and promotes both theoretical and practical interdisciplinary ideas and is open to national and international artists, as well as to anybody interested in extending their knowledge about art and contemporary creation.

Kris Rutten: I have started a web log on (the) Museum and (New) Media, two terms that have very broad meanings. I specifically want to keep this broad. I want to talk about different museums and new media as an overall term for different kinds of technologies. For this blog I want to talk to people about their perspectives on museums as an institution of art and its relation with new media. The starting point of this web log is that at the end of the 90’s there was this discussion, either utopian or dystopian, about the museum in relation to these new technologies. The museum can’t be the same anymore, it will have to change totally. Others where saying the museum will have to change according to these new technologies. Or saying let the museum be the museum and the web be the web, they are totally different things…
There was a rather important discussion on the relationship between these two at first sight totally different phenomena. But now we are living in a time when this technology is ubiquitous, they are common, they are there, the museum is still there, new technologies are still there, so what has happened?
That’s a bit the context of these interviews I am doing, so I would like to have your view on this and afterwards a few words on Arteleku.…

Mirren Ituriozz: Arteleku is not a museum, it is really a centre of production. I think that production could be the best word to define the centre. It is working around contemporary culture in general so we have different subjects that we work with. With Catherine David for example, Contemporary Arab Representations, or now we are thinking about Copyleft around which we have organised a workshop that will be held next week.
So the relation we have with technology is more to make networks, and work with other people who are interested in the same issues as we are. We also use technology as a tool for making videos or making image projects. So these are two ways we use technology. And also this idea of network is the basis of our archive which is organised as a huge archive which contains or includes all material: text, images, and audio we produce in our programmes. So the website is for us a tool and for the people who are working in arteleku, for the staff it is also a tool for diffusion. We understand that this tool has to change the way we were working. We have chosen a format that is not centralized so people from different points and from different offices could log in, and send information to our website.

KR: So your site has changed the way you are working but as a public centre for art and public culture. Has it also changed the way that you position yourself against the museum? Meaning that one of the new characteristics of this e-culture we are living is that it has affected the boundaries between the institutions: the museum, the school, between education. They are becoming more fluid and there are increased overlaps in what the museum should do, the production house should do, what education is about… I don’t know how this has changed.

MI: I think that they should be, but I also think that the boundaries should be in some way clearer, in our context that is- the context that I know better. Museums try to continue as a space for spectacle in some way, so they are interested in networks if they can attract a different public or get this new kind of art into the collection of the museum. But I don’t agree with this idea. I think it’s an old idea of making a collection and I don’t like the idea to distinguish the productions instead of the technology that you have used. I think that you have to work in projects and then you have different technologies that you can use. So this is the way we are trying to work, it’s not easy but we are here…

KR: And do you see yourself as an institution entering into the museum? To work as a space of experiment and production inside the museum itself, or do you think that there is a difference between what you are doing and what other institutions do?

MI: Well the main activity of a museum is the exhibition, and we don’t have any exhibitions, so in this sense we don’t have any connection with the museum as an institution. Arteleku is more experimental and it works more in production. But this production could be exhibited or could be shown on a website or in a bar. We think it is the person who is in the project that decides where he or she wants to show this (particular) project. We think more in terms of the tools that we can offer for production. And the implementation of this technology is a public service, so it is free to come to Arteleku and work for two or three or four months.

KR: How do you use it as a tool? Do you for instance use wiki’s?

MI: We don’t really have wiki’s but we are thinking in the next two months to be able to offer a piece of server to different people who are interested in working on them. This is connected with our physical reality, because it is quite a big centre and we rent the studios at a very low price, so it is also our idea to rent the studios for free, and to rent the server for free, but the interested people have to present an interesting project…

KR: Do you think this might be an interesting way of collaborating with a museum’s website? Or that the museum acted more like an institution where people can come and produce some things on-line… That’s one of my interests as to how much a museum can change as an institution to offer these kind of activities on-line…

MI: Well, I said that they could change, but I am not sure because sometimes change needs a lot of time. Arteleku is more of an institution, so it is easier to promote new changes and to adapt to the new technologies because it is people who come and go and then come again, and it’s people from different backgrounds. So in this sense it is quite easy to move. The museums that are in the Basque country or Spain don’t like to have risks, but when you are experimenting you have faults and have to repeat again and you have to be very clear and you fail, it doesn’t matter, you have to should just start again. And maybe this is not so easy in the context of a museum.

KR: And as an institution you work with contemporary culture. Do you explicitly talk about culture in a more broader sense as in cultural activities concerning new technologies and not so much the question of ‘is it art or is it not art’…

MI: Well, we started as an art centre but now the art productions are larger so we are in this huge context, that sometimes is more politic, sometimes it’s more aesthetics, but we try to mix these two ideas of politics and aesthetics.

KR: I was in Berlin at the Transmedialle last winter, and there was this very exact discussion about media art and what it’s position was in relation to contemporary art or the art scene. There were different people there like Christiana Paul from the Whitney Museum in New York, and she said that we need to find some categories to talk about these forms of cultural practices with new media, but there was also someone saying ‘No, we can’t categorise, we have to keep these boundaries open so that new things can come in…’ And then there was a last comment of looking beyond the fact that it’s technology but looking at the social and cultural meaning it has.

MI: Frankly, I am not very interested in this discussion, as much as I am not interested in a question such as if I prefer paintings or sculptures. I think this is the same discussion, but sometimes you need to categorise to have a better communication with society, or to get a budget to do your work so…

KR: To come back to the public, you mentioned it is open to everyone with an interesting idea but what is an interesting idea? How do you deal with the public and the fact that you are public space- is it really open or do you try to look for certain people to come and try to experiment with them?

MI: No, it’s the individual that applies. We have different programmes so you go to one workshop or another, or you can ask for a studio, or just present your brochure or your work, and ask for a studio. It is quite open and people are coming from England, and Germany etc. It is a small village so it’s not like being in Barcelona or Madrid which might be more interesting. In this sense it is very open, I think it’s the only centre in Spain that is like this, in a very open way. So we have different programmes and the director chooses the people who are working in the way we are interested in, or we are interested in creative commons and there are people who are working in a group that they have called common sounds.

KR: But I am also very interested in your point of view in this discussion as a cultural worker working in culture and art and working with new technologies as a tool… Do you really think that a museum should change in some way to adapt more these new technologies? Not the fact that it is a new technology, but also the logics that are behind the critical thinking about these technologies for instance the creative commons or open source- Should the museum deal with these kinds of questions or is it just a space for the presentation of art as such?

MI: Well, I think it is a good idea to transform the museum into a space for discussion. I don’t think that art nowadays has to make objects or ideas or different things, it’s to make different kind of products, so I think in this sense it is time for the museum to change.

KR: Inevitably museums are also commercial institutions that need this money. How do you see this starting from the fact that you are busy with culture and criticism in art and the fact that there is also this commercial aspect coming up too…

MI: Well it is a difficult question, as I am not an expert (laughs), but we have a good example of this kind of commercialisation of the museums in the work of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I don’t agree with this kind of museum obviously, because they have public foundations but they work as a private enterprise. So you have to work in a different world when you have to open a shop or a gallery, but both are commercial. But if you are public, you have to introduce in your museum more critical issues and more discussion about current subjects.

KR: Just to round up or finalise, ideally for you a museum as an institution what should it really be at this moment in time, and in this kind of society we are in, or in the context that you are working in as an institution… How do you think that a museum should be able or might preferably be better or change in some sort of way?

MI: Well I think that the spaces have to be more hybrid, so they have to maybe lose a part of their identity and take different identities, so it could be interesting to build new hybrids and be more connected with the reality, also with the technology, that is surrounding the museum. Sometimes I feel that the museum is more like a castle, more than squares. I like more the idea of a square than of castles.

KR: Thank you very much.

Brussels – June 2005

Comments are closed.