INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM | Museal Episodes, Ljubljana
06 November 2019 — 07 November 2019

Museal Episodes, Ljubljana

International symposium



6 and 7 November 2019, Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, auditorium


This November, Moderna galerija in Ljubljana and Slovenian Book Agency are organizing a symposium Art and Its Institutions in the Fight against Populism; it will be attended by museum directors, curators and other agents in the field of modern and contemporary art.


The Slovenian Book Agency initiated an idea for international symposium as one of its activities in the frame of preparations of the Slovenia-Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair planned for 2022.


The symposium will take as its points of departure the results of the three-year long project Museal Episodes, run by the Goethe Institute from Săo Paulo and involving the exchange of ideas between various agents in the field of contemporary art and its institutions from all around the globe. The Museal Episodes discussions were organized on several continents in order to give them specific contextual frameworks. The common thread to all of them was the South, seen as more than just a geopolitical dimension – some members of the Museal Episodes would describe it even as a state of mind. We might add that the South is the experience of everyone working outside the hyper-regulated and hyper-professionalized North, which continues to be the site of the economic and cultural centers of power.


The Ljubljana symposium will attempt to develop the Museal Episodes topics further, especially through the vantage point of the current conditions we live under in Europe and globally and that we talk about in increasingly dramatic terms. The word fascism seems to be on everyone’s lips these days, to the point where some authors warn against its overuse. But even if some find fascism an exaggeration when describing the current global situation, they agree that populism is right on the mark. There is consensus on that. Populism is the spirit of our time and the common denominator in virtually all of the problematics we are grappling with. Populism, in particular right-wing populism, invokes everything that is ours: an ethnically pure people that can only be represented by populists; only what is ours can also be moral, so we must take a stand against foreigners telling us what to do, such as the EU or those who endanger our sense of security and our values. Populists ostensibly oppose also corrupt elites, using this as an excuse to restrict the work of democratic institutions, the independency of the justice system, and the freedom of the media. Populists do not like contemporary art since it is too international and too open to various genders, races and classes. Populists do not like critical thought that is analytical and does not merely try to mislead.


In countries that used to be behind the Iron Curtain, populism is taking particularly frightening forms: old symbols are again being used, and ideas of pure national cultures are being favored. Populism responds to the disappointment of the formerly socialist nations that have made the transition to capitalism, which they saw as a promise of democracy and prosperity. People who lived in relative isolation under socialism and wanted desperately to leave their countries are now the first to put up barbed wire on their borders; people who lived in secular and, at least declaratively, equal societies are now increasingly turning to religion, male chauvinism and homophobia. This is not only the case in Eastern Europe; the whole world seems to be governed by increasingly autocratic rulers, with versions of Trump sprouting up everywhere. The optimists among us, however, believe that the social and political revolutions of the 20th century cannot have been in vain and that the values of democracy are too firmly ingrained in us to be lost. And when it comes to raising awareness of all that has already been achieved, contemporary art and its institutions seem to have a special role to play.


In light of the current situation dominated by right-wing and left-wing populisms, our symposium will address a number of questions organized under a keynote talk and two panel discussions:


The first will address the questions of populism and national culture in relation to art institutions that were founded as national institutions. What does the descriptor national museum mean today, and who does such a museum represent and who does it belong to? Our societies are more and more ethnically mixed, and also our national institutions do more than just work locally, establishing relations with diverse agents all over the world. Seeing that there are more art exhibitions, biennials, art fairs, international collaborations in culture, and international networks today than ever before, the question arises of what kind of power this represents and who wields it. On the one hand we are caught in the global art system and its instrumentality, while on the other globalization also provides us with the opportunity and tools for the distribution of different ideas and perhaps also for organizing a revolt against the growing power of populism on the global level.


The second will focus on the capacity of contemporary art to unmask the language of populism. To a great extent, populism operates with national or ideological symbols and words that are taken from the past and hold the promise of a better life for those who belong to “right” culture, nation or religion… Paradoxically, populism and contemporary art are both critical of the current social situation, and both often operate against elites. Contemporary art has become synonymous with socially critical art, which seems to be tamed on the go by the existing art system. Even more, critique has become an instrument of populism – so how can critique be distinguished from “critique” then?



Zdenka Badovinac, Director of the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana; Ekaterina Degot, Director and chief curator of steirischer herbst, Graz; Iris Dressler, director of Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart; Övül Ö. Durmusoglu, curator and writer living between Berlin and Istanbul, Marina Fokidis, Artistic Director of Kunsthalle Athena in Athens; Anna-Catharina Gebbers, curator in the Hamburger Bahnhof / Nationalgalerie /Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; Matthias Mühling; Director of Lenbachhaus Munich; Blaž Peršin, Director of Museum and galleries of Ljubljana, Philippe Pirotte, Director of Städelschule and Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (participation via skype); Luiza Proença, writer, editor and curator based in São Paulo, Brazil; Marcelo Rezende, Director of the Archive of 20th-Century Avant-Garde Art at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Jelena Vesić, independent curator, writer, editor and lecturer, based in Belgrade.

Keynote speaker: Rastko Močnik, sociologist, Ljubljana

Moderators: Jela Krečič, writer and Holger Volland, Vice-president of Frankfurter Buchmesse




Wednesday, 6 November 2019

15:00 - 15:10 welcome by the organizers: Zdenka Badovinac, Blaž Peršin, Uwe Reissig, Renata Zamida

15:10 -15:50 Rastko Močnik, keynote talk

16:00 - 19:00 1st panel: Populism and national culture in relation to art institutions that were founded as national institutions.

16:00 - 17:30 presentations by Zdenka BadovinacAnna-Catharina GebbersPhilippe Pirotte, Luiza Proença, Marcelo Rezende, Jelena Vesić

17:30 - 17:45 break

17:45 - 19:00 discussion moderated by Jela Krečič


Thursday, 7 November 2019

10:00 - 13:00 2nd panel: Capacity of contemporary art to unmask the language of populism.

10:00 - 11:30 presentations by Ekaterina Degot, Iris Dressler, Övül Ö. Durmusoglu, Marina Fokidis, Mathias MühlingBlaž Peršin

11:30 - 11:45 break

11:45 - 13:00 discussion moderated by Holger Volland




















Zdenka Badovinac is a curator and writer, who has served since 1993 as Director of the Moderna galerija and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana. Curated numerous exhibitions presenting both Slovenian and international artists. She initiated the first collection of Eastern European art, Moderna galerija’s 2000+ Arteast Collection. She has been systematically dealing with the processes of redefining history and with the questions of different avant-garde traditions of contemporary art, first with the exhibition Body and the East – From the 1960s to the Present, staged in 1998 at Moderna galerija, Ljubljana. She was the Slovenian Commissioner at the Venice Biennale (1993–1997, 2005, 2017) and Austrian Commissioner at the São Paulo Biennial (2002). From 2011-2013 Zdenka Badovinac was president of CIMAM.


Ekaterina Degot is an art historian, researcher, and curator focusing on aesthetic and sociopolitical issues in Russia and Eastern Europe from the 19th century to the post-Soviet era. She began her five-year tenure as Director and Chief Curator of steirischer herbst in 2018. From 2014 to 2017 Degot was Artistic Director of the Academy of the Arts of the World in Cologne. Among other shows, she curated the 1st Ural Industrial Biennial in Yekaterinburg (2010, with Cosmin Costinas and David Riff) and headed the first Bergen Assembly with Riff (2013). Degot lives in Graz.


Iris Dressler studied art history, philosophy, and literature in Marburg and Bochum. Together with Hans D. Christ she co-founded the Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMVK), Dortmund in 1996, and has served as its director since 2004. Furthermore she was curator of media arts at the Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund from 2002 to 2004. In 2003 she initiated the research project and conference 404 Object Not Found. Was bleibt von der Medienkunst?. Since 2005 she has been the Director of the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart together with Hans D. Christ. Recently she has curated exhibitions Subversive Praktiken (2009), Postcapital. Archive 1989-2001 (2008); NOH Suntag. States of Emergency (2008); Stan Douglas. Past Imperfect. Werke 1986-2007 (2007); Borremans, Bryce, Perjovschi. Zeichnungen (2006); Muntadas. Protokolle (2006); On Difference (2005–2006).


Övül O. Durmusoglu is a curator and writer. She is the director/curator of YAMA screen in Istanbul, co-head of Solar Fantastic, a research and publication project between Mexico and Turkey, and in general works on the performativity of artistic processes and methodologies in contemporary art alongside the issues of collective memory, amnesia and conception of cultural and political hegemonies. In the past, she acted as curator of the festival Sofia Contemporary 2013 titled “Near, Closer, Together: Exercises for a Common Ground.” She organized different programs and events as a Goethe Institute fellow at Maybe Education and Public Programs for dOCUMENTA (13), curated What’s The Riddle, Pi Artworks London; In Search of Radical Incomplete #3: Black Hole Hunters, Kunstverein Langenhagen; Future Queer, the 20th year anniversary exhibition for Kaos GL association in Istanbul, and in 2016 worked as a curatorial advisor and public program curator for Gulsun Karamustafa’s monograph at Hamburger Bahnhof.


Marina Fokidis is a curator and writer based in Athens/Greece. She is the founding and artistic director of Kunsthalle Athena and the founding and editorial director of South As a State of Mind, a bi-annual art and culture publication (since 2012). She was the head of the artistic office in Athens , and a curatorial advisor of the documenta 14. She was one of the curators of the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennial, the commissioner and the curator of the Greek Pavilion at the 51rst Venice Biennial and one of the curators of the 1rst Tirana Biennial, and curated other several exhibitions in various Greek and international institutions. She has been the on the jury of many important art prizes, including the Furla Award, Bes Revelaco /Serralves Museum award, Deste Prize, Videobrasil 2017, and the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2019 Fokidis writes for several major art publications and she is a member of the editorial board of Flash Art Magazine.


Anna-Catharina Gebbers is a curator of the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, where she is responsible for international media and performance art, having staged exhibitions by Anne Imhof (Forever Rage, 2015, and Angst II, 2016) and Julian Rosefeldt (Manifesto, 2016), as well as group exhibitions like moving is in every direction. Environments – Installations – Narrative Spaces (2017), and upcoming Magical Soup: Media Art from the Collections of the Nationalgalerie and Beyond (April 2020).

An essential part of her curatorial practice are international collaborative projects like the exhibition chapter Making Paradise. Places of Longing from Paul Gauguin to Tita Salina (in collaboration with Grace Samboh and Enin Supriyanto) for Hello World. Revising a Collection (2018), Micro Era. Cao Fei, Fang Di, Lu Yang, Zhang Peili (with co-curators Victor Wang, Yang Beichen, and curatorial advisor Pi Li, a Nationalgalerie exhibition at Kulturforum Berlin, 2019), as well as Embodied Histories – Entangled Communities (curated with Gridthiya Gaweewong, Grace Samboh, and June Yap, MAIIAM, Chiang Mai, Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta, National Gallery Singapore, and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, 2019-2021).

As a freelance curator she has recently developed Deep Sounding - Histories as Multiple Narratives (curated with Melanie Roumiguière, daadgalerie, Berlin, 2019). Previous exhibitions include Christoph Schlingensief’s retrospective (curated with Klaus Biesenbach and Susanne Pfeffer, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and MoMA PS1, New York, 2013–14) as well as exhibitions with artists like Kader Attia, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Thomas Schütte, Heji Shin, Santiago Sierra, Milica Tomić. Gebbers also runs the interdisciplinary project space Bibliothekswohnung in Berlin and is editor at polar – Politik, Theorie, Alltag.


Jela Krečič Žižek is a philosopher, writer and lecturer. In her theoretical work she focuses on contemporary art, aesthetics, film, and TV. One of her last projects was a collection of political articles The Final Countdown: Europe, Refugees and the Left. She has published two novels. She is currently engaged as a lecturer at the University of Ljubljana.


Rastko Močnik taught at the University of Ljubljana, and is now teaching at the Faculty of Media and Communication at Singidunum University, Belgrade. He is co-chair of the International Board of Directors of the Institute for Critical Social Studies, Sofia and Plovdiv. He is also a member of the international advisory boards of the journals Eszmélet (Budapest) and Sociologicheski problemi (Sofia) as well as a member of the editorial board of Založba /*cf. in Ljubljana. Močnik is Doctor Honoris Causa at the Plovdiv University “Paisii Hilendarski”. His works focus on the theory of ideological practices and the field of historical materialism.


Matthias Mühling majored in art history, theater-, film-, and television studies, and political science at the University of Bochum. In 1999/2000 he received a grant from the international graduate school “Representation–Rhetoric–Knowledge” at the European University of Frankfurt/Oder. In 2001 he was a visiting fellow in the Poetics and Theory Program at New York University. From 2003 to 2005 he worked as an assistant curator at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, where he curated The Self on Stage—Self Portraits since 1945 and Samuel Beckett and the Visual Arts. As an author and curator he has realized many publications and organized major retrospectives and exhibitions of art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Among them were exhibitions by Monica Bonvicini, Angela Bulloch, Tom Burr, Pablo Bronstein, Willie Doherty, Marcel Duchamp, Cerith Wyn Evans, Maria Lassnig, Kraftwerk, Sarah Morris, Marcel Odenbach, Florine Stettheimer, and Gabriele Münter, as well as group exhibitions of video art, young Munich artists, labor conditions, or the De Stijl movement.


Blaž Peršin has served as director of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana since 2009. Between 2003 and 2006 he was Head of the Culture Department in the Municipality of Ljubljana. He has worked on the implementation and production of numerous exhibitions in Slovenia and abroad (Alan Hranitelj, City Icons, Roberto Capucci, Robert Ballen, Tim Etchels, Water, Russian icons etc.). He also participated in the execution of various performative art festivals (Exodos, Mladi levi, etc.). He was commissioner for the Slovenian Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale in 2013, and at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010. He is a member and director of the executive board of the Indigo Festival. He has lectured at various international conferences and round tables on heritage and art, as well as on urban culture and cultural policy.


Philippe Pirotte is an art historian and curator. He is the Dean of the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste - Städelschule and Director of Portikus, both in Frankfurt am Main (till 31 March 2020), and serves as Adjunct Senior Curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. He is the editor of several books and has authored essays and contributions to catalogues on modern and contemporary art. He was a member of the curatorial team of the Jakarta Biennale (2017), curated the 2016 edition of La Biennale de Montréal, the group show Arus Balik. From Below the Wind to Above the Wind and Back Again for the Center of Contemporary Art at the Nanyang Technological University Singapore (2019), and will curate the Samdani Art Award exhibition for the 2020 Dhaka Art Summit. He is a recipient of an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts fellowship to conduct research for an exhibition dealing with the artistic developments correlating with the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung.


Luiza Proença is a contemporary art writer, editor and curator based in São Paulo, Brazil. She is the former curator of mediation and public programs of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, where she co-organized numerous projects such as the exhibitions Art from Brazil in the 20th Century (2015), Histories of Madness: Drawings from Juquery (2015), Playgrounds (2016), and Avenida Paulista (2017); the international seminars Politics of Mediation (2015 and 2016), Histories of Sexuality (2016 and 2017), and Histories of Slavery (2016); and the book Concrete and Crystal: MASP's Collection on Lina Bo Bardi's Easels (2015). Together with a team of educators, activists, artists, and critical thinkers, she curated a series of programs that sought to connect the museum with different cultural practitioners and social movements, and to break down hierarchies between ways of doing, languages, and knowledge.


Marcelo Rezende is a researcher, critic and exhibition maker. He has served as director of the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia (2012–2015), artistic director of the 3rd Bahia Biennial (2014), and was part of the curatorial group of the 28th São Paulo Biennial (2008). He is the author of the novel Arno Schmidt (2005), and is associate curator of the Museu do Mato (Scrubland Museum) in Bahia and co-director of the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA) in Dresden, Germany. He curated the exhibition Kaffee aus Helvecia at the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich in 2017, and participated in the Museal Episode program through the Goethe-Institut/ Kulturstiftung des Bundes from 2015 to 2017.


Jelena Vesić is an independent curator, writer, editor, lecturer, and member of editorial boards of Red Thread (Istanbul) and Art Margins (MIT press). She is active in the fields of publishing, research and exhibition practices that intertwine political theory and contemporary art.

Her most recent exhibitions are Story on Copy (Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart) and We are Family (with Nataša Ilić, WHW) presented in Pawilion, Poznan, part of Vesić has also curated Lecture Performance (MoCA, Belgrade and the Kölnischer Kunstverein, with Anja Dorn and Kathrin Jentjens) as well as the collective exhibition project Political Practices of (post-) Yugoslav Art, which critically examined art historical concepts and narratives on Yugoslav art after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Her recent book, On Neutrality (with Vladimir Jerić Vlidi and Rachel O’Reilly) is part of the Non-Aligned Modernity edition.


Holger Volland serves as Vice President and member of the executive board of Frankfurter Buchmesse. He is responsible for international business development and sales and heads the book fair’s office in Beijing. He is also founder of an annual think tank event for technology in culture: THE ARTS+. As an author he publishes about digital change in culture and the creative industries. His latest book The Creative Power of Machines (Beltz, 2018) explores the cultural aspects of artificial intelligence.

Prior to joining the book fair, Holger served as head of marketing and communications with the German Booksellers and Publishers Association and head of brand communications at MetaDesign AG. Before, he led Leipziger & Partner as Managing Director, a digital marketing and communications consultancy which he founded in Berlin. He has held positions in media such as journalism, radio, television and online development and design and curated numerous exhibitions in Buenos Aires and Berlin.

Holger studied information science at Freie Universität Berlin. He led the launch of the New Economy Business School as its founding director and also enjoyed a tenure as lecturer at Hochschule Wismar and Mediacampus Frankfurt.



The symposium is organized by the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana in collaboration with: