AiR Agonism

AiR Agonism

Hyunjin Kim from Seoul, South Korea, has been the first guest of the Van Abbemuseums research and curator-in-residence programme. Under this new initiative, younger international curators are invited to work in the museum for a period of between half a year and two years, developing projects using the collection and exhibition spaces. Trans Artists asked mrs. Kim about her motives and her experience as curator-in-residence.

For your presentation 'The Undeclared Crowd' you were inspired by Chantal Mouffe's idea of 'agonism'. Does the metaphor of agonism also apply to the experience of being a curator-in-residence?

Well, yes, the host and the guest somehow become 'friendly enemies'. There are many challenges both for the insider - the host - as for the outsider - the curator-in-residence. They give and take, they challenge their own life and working environments. And I think we must try and hope to be able to produce a positive and productive tension for the potential development of the institutions as well as the individuals. We have to learn from each other, understand each other.

Did it work out that positive for you, at the Van Abbe?

I can't be sure that my stay at the Van Abbemuseum was successful enough in terms of all that I've just mentioned. However at least I learned a lot. And I 'm convinced that because of my stay people working at the museum are getting to realize how much effort it takes to strive for real integration, to have a hospitality from our hearts. For me, all these experiences are related to developing insight in what happens in contemporary society and how we can speak about integration and hospitality within and through art.

In what way has the opportunity to stay for a long time in residence at the Van Abbe influenced your own practice as curator?

For several years I worked as an institutional curator in Artsonje Center in Seoul. Since the Van Abbemuseum has a bigger scale, it was good to experience the difference in institutional systems, especially collection systems and the way of working with them. And since this research curatorship has started from the new director Charles Esche's ambition, I could also see how institutional agenda's can be challenged by new visions and practices. I could observe how this can be made into a success and how the museum tries to create from below. This all has given me a much deeper understanding of institutional art practice.

Do you think that in the future every museum or art institute will offer a residency opportunity?

Well, museums and art institutions at least should try to move into this direction, definitely. These institutions for the most part are stable organisations, therefore they also tend to lose their experimental spirit. People working in these institutions end up being more concerned about the persistency of their properties, collections, and systems rather than about change and challenge.

So there is a task lying ahead of curators-in-residence?

Curators and artists from outside should continuously interrupt with these ongoing realities, from different perspectives. And again, pars pro toto, this has been the impact of immigrants in society in general: there may be some unsuccessful moments during their intervention in the ongoing social reality, but thanks to immigrants societies stay dynamic. This is exactly what this 'friendly enemies' situation is about: you "share a common symbolic space but also want to organise this common symbolic space in a different way".