News — 5 Oct 2019

The 2020 edition of the Proposals for Municipal Art Acquisitions exhibition, organized by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, departs from a critical outlook on the museum collection. Seeking stories that are unseen, ignored, or deserve to be told more often, the Stedelijk Museum encourages artists and designers to send proposals that disseminate intangible, embodied, and personal forms of knowledge transfer to challenge prevailing knowledge power structures. A selection of artworks and design projects from this exhibition will be acquired for the museum collection.

Prevailing knowledge systems such as education curricula, public archives, and museum collections lead to selective inclusion of information classified as “valid” or “reliable” while other valuable forms of knowledge production are repeatedly excluded by organizations. These can include stories regarded as untraceable, controversial, or unreliable, such as intuitive knowledge, inherited wisdom, oral histories, and even childhood memories, gossip, and love songs. Such sources remain “unofficial” and are often left outside the structures that shape our collective knowledge. The risk of this segregation lies in the limited perspectives that “official” stories offer. There is a Dutch proverb, onbekend maakt onbemind, (“what is unknown is unloved”) which exemplifies how the creation of knowledge gaps affects what we cherish and foster in the future. This leads to an urgency to constantly question knowledge management in organizations such as museums, and what they elect to value and collect.

This exhibition particularly seeks artworks and design projects that can contribute to a critical perspective. Artists and designers are encouraged to submit projects that can challenge existing or conventional ways of knowing.

Questions Online application form:

What motivates you in the Municipal Acquisition Open Call (up to 150 words)?

I am intrigued by the way the word "knowledge" is used in your Open Call and how it is naturally linked to concepts such as knowledge formation, transfer, systems, and production. While I agree with your opinion on museum collections being traditional knowledge systems that may present one-sided stories and limited perspectives, it is problematic when only linked to the complex concept and definition of knowledge. Paradoxically, the democratization of knowledge can both broaden perspectives and create scope for alternative facts, suspicion, denial, and manipulation. This can lead to issues such as political correctness, self-censorship and ultimately, the destruction of knowledge that does not align with certain beliefs.

We would like you to propose a specific work in the context of this exhibition. This could be an existing work, a work in process or a work that you would like to realize. Your proposal should be no longer than 250 words. Please upload up to 4 items to illustrate your proposal.

To challenge the 'prevailing power structures of knowledge', I propose using Book XXXVI as a concept for the exhibition "Voorstellen tot Gemeentelijke Kunstaankopen 2020."

Book XXXVI, inspired by the idea of Albert Camus' refusal to reason the concrete, embodies the drama of intelligence but proves this only indirectly1. Book XXXVI is a computer virus, a script specifically designed to destroy all digital collection files (digital knowledge system) of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The script is stored on a USB memory stick. When connected to a computer with direct access to the museum's digital collection files, the virus will automatically spread through the Stedelijk Museum's intranet and start an irrevocable and irreversible destruction process.

Book XXXVI can be executed as part of the exhibition, or it can be exhibited as a USB memory stick securely stored in a display accompanied by a text explaining Book XXXVI and the damage it causes when released.

I believe that my proposal will be a valuable addition to the exhibition and relevant to its outcome. I look forward to discussing this further with you.

Jan van der Til

1Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, tr. Justin O'Brien (London: Penguin, 2000), p90.


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