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Van Abbemuseum announces Museum of Arte Util

The Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven presents Museum of Arte Util on view 7 December 2013–30 March 2014.

On 7 December the old building of the Van Abbemuseum will reopen as the Museum of Arte Útil, a place where art’s use value and social function will be put to the test. The Museum of Arte Útil is initiated by Tania Bruguera and developed with the Van Abbemuseum and constructLab. It is the latest phase of a project Bruguera began ten years ago and that included an academy in Havana; the Arte Útil lab at Queens Museum; and residencies at Immigrant Movement International, New York.

Arte Útil roughly translates into English as ‘useful art’ but it goes further suggesting art as a tool or device. The Museum of Arte Útil will present an archive of case studies spanning nearly two centuries. These case studies imagine, create and implement beneficial outcomes by producing tactics that change how we act in society. They are evidence of a broader change taking place today. Whether through self-organised groups, individual initiatives or the rise of user generated content people are developing new methods and social formations to deal with issues that were once the domain of the state. The Museum of Arte Útil will show how these initiatives are not isolated incidents, bur part of a global movement shaping our contemporary world.

From a museum to a Social Power Plant
How can we ‘use’ the museum? How can it become a civic institution for production and output? Through this project, the ambition is to transform the museum into a Social Power Plant, where spectators become users and collective, transformative energy can be generated for use in the world outside. The case studies provide the fuel for the Social Power Plant, the presentations are a toolkit for users to re-purpose tactics and methodologies to their own ends.

The central scenographic device is a large wooden circle that cuts through all the walls of the museum breaking through the white cube structure of the building and generating a dynamic circulation system. The visitor encounters spaces according to seven strategies that best describe Arte Útil: ‘Use it Yourself,’ ‘Institutional Re-purpose,’ ‘A-Legal,’ ‘Space Hijack,’ ‘Open Access,’ ‘Legislative Change,’ and ‘Reforming Capital.’ Each room features live projects alongside documentation of case studies internationally. A number of artists will work in the museum and the city over a sustained period of time, whilst many of the live projects relate directly to Eindhoven, through partnerships with local organisations. A full list of the artists and organisations involved in the Museum of Arte Útil is available on the Van Abbemuseum website.

Debate and contribute to Arte Útil
Arte Útil projects and case studies are constantly being created and therefore the ‘Association of Arte Útil’ will be open online where new examples can be submitted. In the museum, a programme of public discussions, workshops and presentations will tackle some of the central questions and problems raised by the term. Taking place in ‘The Room of Controversies’ they will include four main sessions: ‘Arte Útil, Gentrification and Misuse,’ ‘Arte Útil, Activism and Sincerity,’ ‘Arte Útil, Social Design and Instrumentalisation,’ ‘Arte Útil, 2.0 Culture and Disobedience.’ The central gallery, the ‘Archive room,’ will be an interactive core where users gain insights into different tactics happening throughout the world and where case studies can be suggested, assessed against the criteria, printed and added to the archive. For full details of the online archive and public programme, please visit the Museum of Arte Útil website.

A Lexicon for Usership
A lexicon of terms has been written by theorist Stephen Wright for the Museum of Arte Útil and will serve as a textual tool kit for users. The lexicon includes terms that Wright feels should be ‘retired’ alongside what he refers to as ‘emergent concepts’ and ‘modes of usership.’ Stephen Wright is a writer and professor at the European School of Visual Arts.

Free entry
Museum of Arte Útil users will not be charged a fee to enter the museum. They will be asked for a donation reflecting their appreciation of the new institution. Users must also be prepared to commit both time and energy.

Museum of Arte Útil team
Nick Aikens, Tania Bruguera, constructLab (with Alex Roemer, Bureau d’Études, Collective Works and others), Annette Eliëns, Charles Esche, Annie Fletcher, Gemma Medina Estupinan and Alessandra Saviotti.

For more information on the exhibitions you can visit