Conference: The Politics & Poetics of Exhibiting

  • Date
    Thursday 23. February
  • Time
    Kl. 09:00 - 17:00
  • Place
    The Concert Hall
  • Price
    DKK 250-600

Aarhus University and Louisiana welcome you to a two-day exchange (23 & 24 February 2023) of research, dialogue, and debate. The conference 'The Politics and Poetics of Exhibiting: Proposing New Institutional Models Through Exhibitions' seeks to explore and discuss the role and possibilities of exhibition practices in a museum landscape, where understandings of the art museum as a public institution are rapidly changing. Keynote speakers include Nora Sternfeld, Yvette Mutumba, James Voorhies, and Kirsten Astrup & Maria Bordorff.

Two-day conference on 23 & 24 February 2023.


In recent years, international public movements such as #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, decolonization actions and global climate protests has put the art museum as a public institution under increased scrutiny, a critical attention which calls for introspection. A concrete, recent example that the museal (self-)understanding is changing can for example be observed in the approval of a new museum definition at the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in August 2022, which departs from the previous definition in fundamental ways, stressing the importance of diversity, sustainability, and an ethically informed museum practice.

Since the 1960s art museums have increasingly been met with critique of the schism between their self-image as public, democratic institutions and the gendered, classed, and colonial power structures that have also permeated these institutions. However, it is relatively new that art museums themselves have started to use their cultural authority to challenge and renegotiate their own hegemonic structures. Here, the exhibition functions as one of the central arenas where the critique and discussion of the art museum as a public institution takes place.

One of the central focus points of the conference under the headline The Politics and Poetics of Exhibiting: Proposing New Institutional Models Through Exhibitions is the role of exhibitions in transforming or revising the institution from within: Is it enough to exhibit critique or must the criticism also result in changed infrastructures and museum practices? If the museum’s collection is what distinguishes the art museum from other cultural institutions such as galleries, biennales, exhibition centers and so on, how can the “permanence” of museums and their collections be put in dialogue with the “urgency” of contemporary political and social issues? How do exhibitions respond to shifts in museal self-understandings, and are new approaches to exhibition-making relevant?

The conference seeks to explore the role and relevance of exhibitions as concrete, spatial arguments that lend themselves to deliberating new ideas about how the art museum could work as a public institution today.

8 meme posters

In response to the conference, the artist Cem A. has created eight fictional exhibition posters, Theory is My Friend, that temporarily replace existing posters in the Louisiana Café. Cem A. is known for running the meme account @freeze_magazine on Instagram, which explores topics such as survival and alienation in the art world through a humorous and ironic lens. With these 8 posters, the artist has adapted internet memes to the Louisiana’s visual aesthetic. Through this approach, the posters become a site-specific intervention that reflects on the role of memes both as a form of art and institutional critique.

Explore more @freeze_magazine



Registration and coffee

Poul Erik Tøjner
Director, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark

Pernille Lystlund Matzen
PhD fellow, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk / Aarhus University, Denmark


Keynote: Museums as Spectral Infrastructures
Nora Sternfeld
Professor, HFBK, University of Fine Arts, Hamburg, Germany

Chair: Julie Lejsgaard Christensen
Classical archaeologist, curator and PhD fellow at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark

Exhibition Case Studies: Working with Exhibitions of Colonial History in Art Museums

  • Curating in the Grey Zone: Negotiating the Heritage of Paul Gauguin
    Anna Kærsgaard Gregersen
    Curator, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • A Museum of Guilt and Shame? Introducing Colonial Histories in the Art Museum
    Dorthe Aagesen
    Chief curator and senior researcher at SMK, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen
  • Call Me by My Name! An Exhibition About Identity and Diversity
    Mohamed Abdi
    Educator, debater and independent writer, Oslo, Norway
    Lars Toft-Eriksen
    Head of programming, MUNCH, Oslo, Norway

Chair: Johanne Løgstrup
Curator, educator and writer, Copenhagen, Denmark

Lunch in the Boat House


Roundtable Discussion: Emergent Institutional Models

  • Awa Konaté
    Founder and curator, Culture Art Society (CAS), Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Ida Bencke & Dea Antonsen
    Founders and curators, Laboratory of Aesthetics and Ecology, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Emily Fahlén
    Founder and curator, Mint, Stockholm, Sweden

Chair: Trine Friis Sørensen
Postdoc fellow at Kunsthal Aarhus and Aarhus University, Denmark

Coffee and cake

Keynote: #MuseumsAreNotNeutral
Yvette Mutumba
Managing director, Contemporary And (C&), and curator-at-large, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands

Chair: Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen
Postdoc fellow at SMK, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, and Aarhus University, Denmark


Registration and coffee


Keynote: Postsensualism: Changing Aesthetics of the Curatorial
James Voorhies
Curator of The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, USA

Chair: Jacob Lund
Associate professor of aesthetics and culture at Aarhus University, Denmark

11.15–12.30 Presentations and Session Conversation

  • Apparatuses of Autonomy: Notes on Democratization and the Art Exhibition in the Age of Reproduction
    Kim West
    Critic, researcher and editor, based in Stockholm, Sweden
  • After Institutions
    Karen Archey
    Curator of contemporary art, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Being Persons in a World of Objects
    Lucia Pietroiusti
    Curator and strategic advisor for ecology, Serpentine Galleries, London, UK

Chair: Jacob Lund
Associate professor of aesthetics and culture at Aarhus University, Denmark

Lunch in the Boat House

Situating Memes in Physical Contexts
Cem A (@freeze_magazine)


Museum Directors Roundtable Discussion: A Changing Museum Landscape

  • Frances Morris
    Director, Tate Modern, London, UK
  • Zdenka Badovinac
    Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb (MSU), Croatia
  • Ann Demeester
    Director, Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland
  • Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath
    Directors, Hamburger Bahnhof, National Gallery of Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

Chair: Louise Steiwer
Art critic and curator

Coffee and cake

Keynote: Art Museums and Public Service
Astrup & Bordorff
Artist duo, Copenhagen, Denmark

Chair: Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen
Postdoc fellow at SMK, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen, and Aarhus University, Denmark

Closing remarks

Guided tour of Louisiana

Yvette Mutumba (DE)

Yvette Mutumba. Foto: C&

Co-founder and artistic and managing director of Contemporary And (C&), a global platform comprising several projects and publications including C& Magazine. She is also curator-at-large at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands, and a lecturer at the Institute of Art in Context at the University of Arts, Berlin, Germany. She was previously part of the curatorial team of the 10th Berlin Biennale (2018), and curator at the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2012–2016). She holds a PhD from Birkbeck, University of London, UK, and together with Julia Grosse (DE), she was awarded the internationally renowned European Cultural Manager of the Year in 2020.

Kirsten Astrup (DK) & Maria Bordorff (DK)

Maria Bordorff & Kirsten Astrup. Foto: Sara Galbiati.

Work in the field of film, music, theatre and performance and have often dealt with the Danish welfare society in their film cabarets. They have had solo shows at SMK, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen; MUNCH, Oslo, Norway; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark, among other institutions. This spring at Revolver Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, they present a new play about the Nordic care crisis and climate change.

Nora Sternfeld (DE)

Nora Sternfeld. Foto: Sandra Kosel.

Curator and professor of art education at the HFBK, University of Fine Arts, Hamburg, Germany. She was previously documenta professor at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, Germany (2018–2022). Before that, she was professor of curating and mediating art at Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland (2012–2018). She is currently co-director of the master’s programme for exhibition theory and practice: educating/curating/managing (/ecm), University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria. She is also in the core team of the network schnittpunkt. ausstellungstheorie & praxis, Vienna, Austria. She is co-founder of trafo.K, an office for art, education and critical knowledge production, Vienna, Austria, and she is a member of the research platform freethought. She publishes on contemporary art, educational theory, exhibitions, politics of history and anti-racism.

James Voorhies (US)

James Voorhies.

Curator and historian of modern and contemporary art who applies a holistic approach to curating – something akin to seeing both the exhibition and the art institution as compositions. He is curator of The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, USA, where he is responsible for working with the collection and contemporary artists to curate exhibitions and commissioned projects that strengthen the museum’s engagement with audiences in the region and internationally. Voorhies has published several books including Postsensual Aesthetics: On the Logic of the Curatorial (2023) and Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968 (2017). He is based in Miami and New York City and holds a PhD in modern and contemporary art history from the Ohio State University, USA.

Pernille Lystlund Matzen, PhD fellow, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art / Aarhus University
Mathias Ussing Seeberg, Curator and Head of research, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

The conference is generously supported by the New Carlsberg Foundation.

The conference is part of the current research project Whose ‘Bildung’? Renegotiating modern art museums through exhibition practices. Learn more on the project.