February 15, 2005 - Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti - The Utopian Display
February 15, 2005

The Utopian Display

The Utopian Display
Lectures on contemporary exhibition activity


by Marco Scotini and Maurizio Bortolotti

with Catherine David, Vasif Kortun, Hou Hanru, Jens Hoffmann and Roger M. Buergel

The Utopian Display is a lecture series, in its second edition, held at NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti di Milano from February to May 2005. The lectures, organised by Marco Scotini and Maurizio Bortolotti, seek to investigate contemporary exhibition models, focusing attention on the potential relationships between artistic and social spheres.

The value of such a discussion is based on the conviction that, in the last ten years, the artistic debate has developed through the production of exhibitions on a global scale. These expositions are also considerations of the idea of display, a deconstruction of roles and of exhibition contexts, creating models or alternative platforms to the traditional practice of exhibiting works of art.

The examination of exhibition models through which ideas of contemporary works of art are built and established is fundamental to the comprehension of current artistic debate. The question of “utopian display” can therefore have a provocative value, but also reveals the many facets of the problem and the different meanings that the production of exhibitions can have. Is an exhibition real or virtual? Or is it a conditional space?

The contemporary artistic panorama is affected by the increasing emergence of diverse cultures on the worldwide scene and the relationship with the increasing complexity of artistic work, presenting multiple levels of understanding, following differentiated paths. A possible approach to further understanding in the field of contemporary art is certainly determined by the acknowledgement of different curatorial approaches, which, for their part, try to define and converge understanding.

The title, The Utopian Display, seeks to be a focal point around which to extend discourse on contemporary artistic practice and, at the same time, question the numerous possible interpretations that the invited curators intend to give to their work. In this way, the definition of “utopian display” is intended as something that expresses the political ideas or the imagination and the liberation of the individual in an artistic sphere, or it can be interpreted as “ideal” exhibition that each curator has as a model, or something else altogether.

The title also intends to offer a point of reference for reflection on contemporary curatorial debate that does not separate theory from practice and goes right in the heart of this activity. As such, the series aims to provide some guiding principles to the understanding of contemporary discourse in the arts, which is affected by, and at the same time affects, the organisation of exhibitions.

The primary objective of this conference series is to attempt to trace a map of contemporary curatorial activity, with an enquiry into the current artistic landscape. We have therefore chosen the work of cartographers, through which we have sought to identify a series of curatorial directions. In the first series of conferences we identified at least three directions. All these converge and touch the definition of “utopian display”, assuming the following connotations: political, aesthetic, imaginary.
In “political”, utopia is a place of art in which to experiment with different forms of social relations.

Politically, utopia is a place of art in which one is experimenting with new ways of creating social relationships between people and their consequent political actions. In this “aesthetic”, utopia takes the ideal of works of art that pass through the personal sensitivity of the curator, and that find a point of reference and interaction in “sensitive perception” within context. In “imaginary”, utopia is a less focused field in which works of art meet imaginary thoughts that push contemporary society to transformation, becoming a strong source of meaning.

After the success of last year’s lecture series with the participation of Carlos Basualdo, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Pier Luigi Tazzi and Daniel Birnbaum, this year The Utopian Display sees the participation of Catherine David, Vasif Kortun, Hou Hanru, Jens Hoffmann and Roger M. Buergel, from February to May 2005.

The guests represent interesting and innovative figures in the current panorama and will be invited to reflect upon the changes happening in the international artistic scene over the last few years.

The conference series is also an educational support for the Department of Visual Arts at NABA.


Catherine David 16 February
Hou Hanru 23 March
Jens Hoffmann 13 April
Roger M. Buergel 4 May
Vasif Kortun 11 May
All the lectures will be held at NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Via Darwin 20, 20143 Milano, in the Magna Classroom – at 17.30pm.
The lectures are free and open to the public.

For further information:

Communication Office NABA – Simona Castagna
Via Darwin, 20 – 20143 Milano
Tel. 02 97372.286 – Fax 02 97372.280 – Email: simona.castagna@naba.it www.naba.it
Press Office NABA – Locomia – Chiara Ronzoni
Via San Damiano, 4 – 20122 Milano
Tel. 02 783807 – Fax 02 76005788 – Email: chiara@locomia.it
La NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano – is legally recognised by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MUIR) and issues the Bachelor of Arts Honours award in Visual Arts, design, Fashion and textile Design, graphic Design and Art direction, Media design and theatre Design.

Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti
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