Whereas art systems tend to close themselves off and construct themselves as a domain, a field with specific power, Art inventory is a project that pretends to open a path that would allow the debate about the role of art in daily life to be re-established. On one hand, the project reviews the wide variety of meanings and uses of the term “art” in social contexts and, on the other hand, it contemplates a system of mediation in order to socially disseminate cultural reflection as well as to, once again, open the debate about the paradigms and criteria of cultural institutions.
The first phase of the project was carried out in the city of Granollers (near Barcelona) between September and December, 2009. With the support of the art center Roca Umbert, Mireia C. Saladrigues asked one hundred local residents to have a conversation with her, in their homes, about what possessions of theirs they consider to be artistic.
There were those who, associating the artistic with things that should have a high economic value, did not let the artist into their homes. Others, however, agreed to open their doors, not only to their flats but also to the the most intimate topography of the art in their private spaces. In this environment, cultural inheritances and learned meanings come into contact and correspond with the unexpectedness of the particular experience: while some objects and images were identified as artistic due to formal assimilation – because they appeared to be like something that has been codified as art – in other instances, the uses that are attributed to the artistic prevailed when labeling an object as such – its singularity, its affective quality, its ability to evoke a particular memory, etc.
The artist then took an inventory of the different elements that each person identified throughout their conversation, delving into the particular histories and lives as well as the the meanings of ‘artistic’ that each person reconstructed based on their selection: well, once you have selected – and here we’ll use as an example some of the cases that were collected – a bowl for custard or a drawing of your two-year old daughter, what does art mean for you? What meaning could this term adopt in light of new signifiers that the conversation contributed?
While it may be true that today’s cultural dynamics mean that the power to call something artistic is reserved for a small percentage of people – artists, curators, critics, gallerists and few others – Art Inventory introduces the question of those who receive art, and their marginal legitimacy when it comes to establishing the artistic value of something that is used in daily life.
The project uses the cataloguing of cultural heritage as a resource: the artist classified the data from the interviews with the Granollers residents by using data sheets that mimic those found in museums. In connection with the exercise that was proposed, this resource maintains an important ironic note, which is relevant because it manifests the need to establish a link between the exploration that occurs with the different meanings of art and the dissemination of cultural reflection and the need to rethink, as well, the function of museums and cultural institutions. In this sense, given the project, can we imagine a museum that instead of shutting in and protecting artistic values is capable of basing their dynamic on the permanent debate about art practices? Can we imagine a museum that is open to social heterogeneity and a reflection on cultural definitions? Finally, up to what point can the path that has been cleared in Art Inventory lead us towards a new museology?
Curator of Art Lovers in Espai d’Arts Rocaumbert, Granollers