Course / Workshop

Why Look Back? Contemporary Art & Institutional Memory

24 Nov 2023 11am-5pm

Nottingham Contemporary
Nottingham NG1 2GB


We invite participants for a workshop exploring the practice, potential and value of working with the histories, archives, and memories of contemporary art institutions. 

An ‘institutional memory’ formed by archives, recollections, and wider collective knowledge has particular importance for art institutions whose longevity, identity, value and stake in history is not secured by a permanent collection. Across Britain, non-collecting institutions including 198; Arnolfini; Bluecoat;Chisenhale; CCA; Ikon and Modern Art Oxford have engaged with their pasts to recover marginalised histories, commission new work, confront connections to regimes of power and violence, engage publics, generate new institutional narratives, and reflect on their present day practices. ­­­­

Why Look Back? will allow collective consideration of innovations, limitations and further debates that arise through practices of reflection, retrospection, and re-activation. By bringing together participants working within art institutions and those engaging with institutional memory through research and curatorial, educational and artistic practices, it aims to foster a diverse network that is collectively invested in exploring the value of institutional memory through longer-term work. Questions we are interested in addressing include: 

To what extent has engagement with institutional memory both broadened our understanding of histories of contemporary art and revealed the historical conditions under which creative practices and public art institutions are valued? 
How has institutional memory formed a basis for artistic and curatorial innovation, education, public engagement and organisational development within organisations of diverse size and scope? 
How do shifting social, political, economic, and public policy circumstances influence the ability and demand to care for and engage with institutional memory?
Should memory practices become a more consistent and sustainable area of work, especially within non-collecting contemporary art institutions?
How could greater attention to institutional memory contribute to the sustainability of arts organisations and support a diverse, representative, equitable and inclusive arts sector?

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