Museum Solidarity Lobby [MSL]
Museum Solidarity Lobby [MSL] is a system that creates empathy with threatened heritage worldwide, while critically reflecting on the role and relevance of the museum for civil society today. The system is open to public participation and operates though spatial, activist and discursive forms of lobbying. MSL grew out of the acute crisis of chief cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which are shutting down due to economic and political crisis. In a divided society that is still recovering from the ethnic cleansing and the systematic destruction of cultural heritage during the 1990s war, museums represent a contested sphere — they are in crisis precisely because they preserve the collective memory and the material evidence of coexistence in the region that nationalist extremists seek to erase. MSL links the crisis in the Balkans to other places across the world, seeking to uncover potential new roles and modalities for museums in response to contemporary and future threats to heritage. Notwithstanding the museum’s inherent power structures and instrumentality in colonialist and nationalist projects, the MSL facilitates participatory programs advocating the museum as the catalyst for public good.
MSL consists of physical installations, activist interventions, and discursive reflections. The physical installation of the MSL takes a hybrid form: it is both a barricade and a display system that can be assembled in different places in site-specific ways. Exterior installations include barricade elements that are obstructing access the host institutions’ entrance, while emitting sound. The interior installations take form of a temporary museum lobby assembled of recycled museum shipping crates. Each shipping box can be transformed into modular furniture. One module in this system is the so-called ‘sound chair’ featuring interviews with various experts about the politics of cultural memory and dynamics of heritage in different contexts. Another module in this system features the work of CultureShutdown, an independent civic platform that I co-initiated seeking solutions to the museological and cultural crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Visitors are invited to become ‘lobbyists’ by filling out ‘Museum Solidarity Day’ protest postcards.
Museum Solidarity Lobby, 2013
Mixed-media: shipping crates, sound, textile, postcards, postcard rack, barricade tape.
Credits: Project conceived and produced by: Azra Akšamija. Conceptual contributions and production support by Zdenka Badovinac, Janeil Engelstad, Dietmar Offenhuber, and Sonja Srdanović. Shipping boxes produced by Zachary Herrmann and Brad Willis, with help of Seth Cimarron Avecilla, Matt Kushan, and Luisel Zayas. Wolk Gallery installation photos: Judith M. Daniels / Courtesy of the MIT Museum 2013. MSUM+ Ljubljana and Dallas Holocaust Museum photos: Azra Akšamija, 2013.