Institute for Concept-Work 2019

The seashore is the frontier between Neptune and the Earth. Always fought for by rival Gods, it is the most macabre space of trade, and the most unrelenting. It is there that we find that which has been rejected by the sea and that the earth knows not how to retain: the enigmatic debris, the hideous parts of shattered boats as black as coal as if the salt water had burned them, the spoiled carcasses polished by the waves, seaweed torn by storms from the protean shores, deflated monsters in cold dying colours, all those things that are delivered to the fate of the waves, the vile treasures of the sea… (Paul Valéry, Eupalinos or the Architect, 1921)

With a playful pun on the name Kunst-Werke, the Institute for Concept-Work opens up a new dimension within this institution. Neither a studio nor a laboratory, neither an educational event nor a series of lectures, it develops ideational prototypes and ambiguous objects shaped from shared inquiry and experiments in mobile thought. Analytic pressure is exerted on the enigmatic debris of modernism’s meridians in art and academia, activating critical stimuli and recursive form-finding exercises. The Institute for Concept-Work highlights both urgent and emergent phenomena in today’s worlds that are only partially explainable or understood according to twentieth century interpretations.

The Institute for Concept-Work sits within the existing spaces of Kunst-Werke testing the limits of collaborative and architectonic practices. While it requires a room of its own for regular meetings, it can also insert itself within and around the space of current exhibitions. Its style of inquiry is conceptual, visually stimulated, sensorial, and inter-determinate. It is neither theory-driven, purely discursive nor illustrational. The Institute promotes a willingness to gather minds and things together by bringing them into experiential proximity. These include people, objects, media, equipment, experiences, observations, and affects. The intention is not to produce twelve-tone anthropology or fauvist sociology, but to see how far conceptual, visual and sensorial thinking can generate new transformational conduits between fields of study, aesthetic practices and urban cultures in the 21st century.

Key to the Institute’s activities is the inclusion of private collectors in Berlin, but equally artists and cultural historians with personal collections. They are invited to participate in the workings and development of the Institute by providing its members with special access to their reservoirs of artworks and archives. Engagement with this dispersed and valuable “Schaulager” in Berlin promotes interpretations that in their intimate slant do not correspond readily to existing academic canons.

Moreover, the Institute for Concept-Work needs to provide that which Berlin does not have to date. That missing link is the institutional mobilization of the growing number of Berlin-based international artists, intellectuals, scientists, and historians from all over the world whose practice and research is not accommodated within Berlin’s universities or museums. In this manner, the Institute directly enhances the public and private initiatives already housed and promoted in Kunst-Werke. It also seeks to unblock the current impasse that greatly defines relations between artists, curators, critics, collectors and publics, remediating and reconfiguring an infrastructure beyond the existing and standardized formats of art events.

The Institute of Concept-Work is built around a nucleus of 8-10 members from different fields of study. Activities at Kunst-Werke mutate between regular internal meetings of the core members and a public Debating Chamber formed around a larger group of participants. The overall structure of the group of trusted interlocutors (members) is to be developed with care and a form of rotating membership may be considered. As far as possible, members and associates should be gleaned from the community of scholars and artists who either live in, or pass through, Berlin.

In its initial iteration, members may include:
Four to five practicing artists
An anthropologist specialized in colonial infrastructure
A musician and composer who transgresses art forms
An image theorist and historian of visual thinking
An architect who morphs the specificity of place with critical histories
A lawyer ready to build new juridical parameters
An economist with a flexible, socially conscious and risk-driven mind
A coder to write algorithms and explore forms of digital life associated with the Institute’s activities
An editor/publisher working in different media and languages

The Institute for Concept-Work runs over 3 years. In its first year, members prepare the structure of this emergent venue, giving public lectures that are personalized, vulnerable and speculative. As with a political Debating Chamber, the configuration of seating affects the democratic intellect of the discussion but is ultimately nothing more than a grouping of chairs. Alongside experiments in mediation, the Institute develops different libraries in various media, based on the insight into, and subsequent concept-work initiated through the members’ access to private collections. At the end of Year 1, there is a more expansive public presentation of the modus operandi of the Institute with the option of interventions taking place in sites outside Kunst-Werke, connected perhaps to the actual locations of the collectors.

Year 2 includes a tailored call to international post-doctoral students and researchers, and the implementation of new phase of concept-work using the array of hermeneutic tools both interpersonal, material, algorithmic and ideational that have been tested out in Year 1. The economic and organisational questions raised by this enlarged group of associates will be the subject of the first year’s deliberations.

In Year 3, the articulation of a common object will be explored through the various methodologies established at the Institute, culminating in a mise-en-scène at the end of that year. This scenario will incorporate the unfinished associations, both curatorial, scientific and artistic that have led to the final presentation, thereby displaying the subjective, labyrinthine routes and errors that concept-work produces.

Clémentine Deliss, June 27, 2019