Simon Sheikh

[freelance curator and critic, Berlin]

Instituting the Institution

(Keynote, 22 Jan, 18.00 – 19.30)

Following the work of Cornelius Castoriadis, the institution and processes of institutionalization will be seen viewed in a broader sense as well as the narrower, concrete use of the term. Society will be seen as imaginary, but always instituted in specific ways of sociality, politics relations, linguistic codes and imaginaries of possibility and impossibility. Indeed, there can be no society without instituting, but can there be a society without concrete institutions, such as cultural institutions? Or does the withering away of this public sector indicate the disappearance of society? Conversely, the very act of instituting does not necessarily mean institutionalization, and it means that there is always the possibility of instituting differently, instigating another society with other social and political relations. Here, Gerald Raunig’s concept of ‘instituent practices’ will be invoked, as well as Dan Turrell’s ideas of an overground and an underground of artistic-institutional practice.


Simon Sheikh is a freelance curator and critic. He is a correspondent for Springerin, Vienna, and a columnist for e-flux Journal, New York. He is a researcher for the on-going Former West project, initiated by BAK in Utrecht, as well as undertaking doctoral studies at in Lund on the topic of exhibition-making and political imaginaries. He was Coordinator of the Critical Studies Program, Malmö Art Academy in Sweden, 2002-2009. He was director of Overgaden – Institute for Contemporary Art in Copenhagen, 1999-2002 and Curator at NIFCA, Helsinki, 2003-2004. Editor of the magazine Øjeblikket 1996-2000, and a member of the project group GLOBE 1993-2000.

Curatorial work includes exhibitions such as Exclusion, Consul, Århus, 1993, I Confess, Nikolaj – Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, 1995, Escape Attempts in Christiania, Copenhagen, 1996 (with GLOBE), Do-It-Yourself – Mappings and Instructions, Bricks+Kicks, Vienna, 1997, In My Room, Nordic Video, Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1998, Models of Resistance, Overgaden, Copenhagen 2000 (with GLOBE), Naust Øygarden, Bergen, Norway 2000, Circa Berlin, Nikolaj – Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, 2005, Capital (It Fails Us Now) at UKS, Oslo, 2005 and Kunstihoone, Tallinn, 2006, and Vectors of Possibility, BAK, Utrecht, 2010.

Recent publications include the anthologies We are all Normal (with Katya Sander), Black Dog Publishing, London 2001, Knut Åsdam (monograph), Fine Arts Unternehmen, Zug, 2004, In the Place of the Public Sphere?, b_books, Berlin, 2005 and Capital (It Fails Us Now), b_books, Berlin, 2006. A collection of his essays is forthcoming from b_books. His writings can also be found in such periodicals as Afterall, AnArchitectur, Open, Springerin and Texte zur Kunst. Lives in Berlin and Copenhagen.

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