CultureShutdown / Solidarity Day
On October 4, 2012, after 124 years of existence, the country’s National Museum closed down due to the government’s failure to secure legal status and adequate funding. Six other state-level institutions, including the National Art Gallery and the National and University Library are also about to become permanently inaccessible to public. The safety of precious artifacts and heritage are at stake. Responding to this crisis, I co-founded the platform CultureShutdown in January 2012, together with Maximilian Hartmuth and my colleagues from Austria, United States, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. CultureShutdown is an international civic platform that operates though a website connecting scholars, artists and cultural producers across the world in their attempts to find responses and solutions to the acute crisis of cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Today, CultureShutdown has grown into a global network, in which individuals contribute informally and on a voluntary basis. Our Facebook site has around 850 active followers, but our activities reach around 25,000 people. The media coverage of our press release 8,447 media deliveries, more than 40,000 online “impressions.”
Beyond activism and cultural campaigns, the platform produces multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary work, which represents an attempt to envision a better future for this war town society, and re-imagine, via a cultural dialogue, new modes of coexistence in the region. In February 2013, I conceived the global Day of Museum Solidarity – March 4, 2013, asking representatives of museums and galleries worldwide to express solidarity with the threatened Bosnian institutions by crossing out one work in their collection with a yellow barricade tape sent to them. With help of my colleagues from CultureShutdown, my public call went global, motivating over 390 cultural institutions from over 40 countries on 5 continents to participate in this campaign. The global solidarity action was produced with help of CultureShutdown members, and participation of universities, libraries, museums and art galleries, and international organizations CIMAM and ICOM. In summer 2013, I produced large scale banners with pictures documenting the acts of solidarity for the facades of the Bosnian threatened institutions. The campaign continues to take place in form of postcards and interdisciplinary workshops.
Museum Solidarity Day project goes beyond activism and political campaign. Cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina are keepers of the unique historical and cultural treasures that provide evidence of coexistence in the region. Preserving them is crucial for securing a sustainable peace. Artifacts kept in these institutions are an important component of the world’s cultural heritage. Preserving them is a matter of global relevance. the digital and real community that evolved throughout this project is now actively engaged in building a state also creating a discourse about the art of state though a bottom-up state-building process carried out via a a common project, which is to save and envision the country’s national or state-level cultural institutions. The national museum thereby stands for a vision of a joint Bosnia-Herzegovina, home to all ethno-national groups and their common history. Issues of nationalism aside, the key artistic contribution of this project is the envisioning and creating public good within a divided society via a cultural dialogue.
Azra Akšamija, with CULTURESHUTDOWN, Museum Solidarity Day, 2013
“Museum Solidarity” initiated, conceived and managed by: Azra Akšamija
Organization and production by members of the platform CULTURESHUTDOWN: Azra Akšamija, Selma Gičević, Maximilian Hartmuth, Asja Mandić, Jasmin Mujanović, Dietmar Offenhuber, Susan Pearce, Andras Riedlmayer, James Thomas Snyder, Jeff Spurr, Sonja Srdanović, and Mladen Vuković.
Financed by: Azra Akšamija (private), with the Director’s Grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT
Participants: 275 cultural institutions from 40 countries across the globe.
Support by: CIMAM, ICOM, ICOM Hrvatska, Društvo Povijesničara Umjetnosti Hrvatske, e-flux.
CULTURESHUTDOWN logo designed by: Jegan Vincent de Paul.
Many thanks to all individuals and institutions supporting this campaign, especially to Ljerka Dublić, Margarethe Makovec, Eva Meran and Zdenka Badovinac.