What is the link between ecology and art? What role can museum institutions play in the face of the climate catastrophe? What does it mean, and is it sufficient, for a museum to be ‘sustainable’? In what ways has contemporary art thematised the ecological issue in recent years? Is it possible to mediate the conflict between climate activism and artistic heritage? And in the face of collapsing ecosystems, what is the meaning and importance of ‘conservation’, in art as in ecology?
AMACI – Associazione dei Musei d’Arte Contemporanea Italiani (Association of Italian Contemporary Art Museums), in collaboration with NERO, on the occasion of Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture 2023, has presented the second edition of the Museo Ventuno conference: Museums at the Ecological Turn, on 24 November in Bergamo.
The Association first staged Museo Ventuno in 2017, providing a space of analysis on the latest museum practices and the ongoing transformations in contemporary art museums. Technological revolutions, new geopolitical scenarios, as well as economic and environmental changes, present cultural institutions with a generational challenge to rewrite their role and revise their operating practices.
Museums at the Ecological Turn aims to address the relationship between ecology, art and museum institutions by inviting radical thinkers, artists, curators and representatives of climate activism.
Photos by Paolo Biava
Over recent years, the ecological discourse has taken on a profound resonance with artistic production and museum institutions. Contemporary art, due to its sensitivity to ecological issues and its ability to question the centrality of the conservation paradigm, is a fertile context for discussing the relationship between art and ecology, and exploring its many complexities.
This issue has emerged with a greater sense of dispute and urgency in the wake of climate activists’ recent interventions on artistic heritage. The choice of climate activists to act on and through art to convey their message opens up a number of theoretical questions yet to be addressed. Symbolically, theoretically and politically, ecology and art come together around a reflection on the intrinsic fragility of what we would like to preserve and save, also prompting us to question what we choose to value in the context of an ongoing climate catastrophe.
The conference has been structured around four conceptual nodes, with a dialogue between two thought and working proposals at a time, featuring both Italian and international guests in an open and transdisciplinary perspective.
The conference has been hosted in the Aula Magna of the University of Bergamo, Piazzale Sant'Agostino 2, only in attendance in Bergamo without live streaming. Speeches have been held in Italian and English, with the possibility of simultaneous translation. Admission was free with reservation on www.eventbrite.it. A publication edited by NERO will follow in spring 2024.
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Lorenzo Balbi, President of AMACI
Lorenzo Giusti, Director of GAMeC
Simona Bonaldi, Vice-President of the Fondazione della Comunità Bergamasca
Nadia Ghisalberti, Councillor for Culture of the Bergamo City Council
Sergio Cavalieri, Rector of the University of Bergamo
AMACI & NERO
Node #1: Ecology and Institutions: beyond sustainability
The concept of ‘sustainability’, often invoked as a response to the ecological crisis, represents a playoff between economic development, society and environment. This concept, on the other hand, runs the risk of underestimating the depth of the transformations that institutions – both museums and political and economic bodies – will have to go through in order to cope with climate change.
Bart van der Heide, Director of Museion
Amal Khalaf*, Curator and artist
Caterina Riva, Chair
11.45 am–12.05 pm
Node #2: Ecological discourse in contemporary art
Ecological thought, through research, literature and speculative fiction, has become the protagonist of contemporary art discourse. What is the value and what are the critical issues still open in this artistic reworking of ecological thinking? What is the political dimension of this engagement?
Emanuele Braga, Artist, philosopher and activist
Jamie Allinson, Member of Salvage
Laura Tripaldi, Chair
Introduction to the afternoon session
Node #3: Art, radical ecology and political action
The aim is to open a reflection on the relationship between activism and the art world starting from the actions of climate activists on artistic heritage. News events will be the starting point for a deeper reflection on the ability of cultural institutions to interface with the urgency of the climate emergency.
Leonardo Lovati and Fioretta Maldifassi, Members of Ultima Generazione
Stella Succi, Art historian
Laura Tripaldi, Chair
Node #4: ‘Living among the ruins’: a reflection on the paradigm of conservation
The paradigm of conservation, both ecological and artistic, is an area for reflection which is still very open. Recently, many theorists have reflected on new ecological approaches capable of questioning the concept of conservation.
Cal Flyn*, Writer and journalist
Isabelle Carbonell, Filmmaker and teacher
Caterina Riva, Chair
Caterina Riva and Laura Tripaldi
*The speech has taken place remotely