Self-organisation as Institution? was written during summer 2012 in the aftermath of editing the anthology Self-Organised (eds. Stine Hebert & Anne Szefer Karlsen, Open Editions/Hordaland Art Centre, 2013) and has been presented as lecture several times: Free School of Art Theory and Practice, Budapest, January 2013; Framework, Glasgow, July 2013; Universidad de la República Uruguay in collaboration with El Monitor Plástico and Fundación Unión, Montevideo, December 2014.
Thank you to Stine Hebert, Ingrid Birce Muftüoglü, Hallvard Moe and Arne Skaug Olsen for reading and commenting.

ENGLISH ONLY

Self-organisation as Institution?

I would like to discuss the term ‘self-organised’ with a particular focus on the processes in the art world. It follows a discussion coming from my individual experiences with what driving forces makes a non-institution transform into an institutional structure. I am curious to explore what wills create such a transition and to investigate what is at stake when this happens – intentionally and unintentionally.
Equally, the interest in creating a prism to look at self-organisation through, was triggered by observations of what happens when an institutional structure dismantle or caves in to instrumental demands made by politicians and funding bodies; be they individuals or organisations, or artists.
The reason for this discussion is a suspected out-dated notion of self-organisation. By questioning established perceptions and terminologies, ideas and ideals, I would like to re-orient the understanding of what self-organisation actually could mean within our contemporary art context.
If we distinguish (1) between an institution – as a singular, formal organisation structure – and the Institution – as in a larger cluster, or even systems of organisations, within the art world – the question at hand is whether the self-organised (within the contemporary art field) is about to become an Institution in and of itself?
If that were the case, it is interesting to try to see how this has happened and why, and to investigate what kind of Institution this might aspire to be.

Many questions present themselves when a shift of terminology is attempted. The changes that we lately have noticed within institutions and non-institutions have more often been attributed to large structures such as market forces, economic and ideological changes than to terminology and individuals, coming from diverse networks and broad backgrounds, affecting and changing the power balance.
It is important to point out that I do not want to position this discussion within, nor advocate for, the alternative scene that most often is associated with the term self-organisation. Rather I want to examine the tension and attraction, and sometimes even repulsion, between and within traditional institutional structures and non-institutional initiatives, investigating and expanding notions far beyond the ‘alternative’. And I hope to create a modest re-direction of the term self-organisation. A re-direction from self-organisation as it is widely understood today; perceived as social norms and conventions, or even rituals, more than the Institution that we might be able to catch a glimpse of.
Due to this attempted new understanding of the self-organised, I open up for discrepancy with what we (all) perceive as current understandings of the self-organised, I do not put forward a proposition to be for or against other ideas of self-organisation, nor to create a polemical space. Rather I want to explore diverse experiences through the voices of a range of institutional and non-institutional structures in the same context, the context I then would call the self-organised.

Self-organisation implies a certain dependent duality between the self, an individual, and an organised community within society. It does not imply a bifurcation of the institution and non-institution, as the common discussion of self-organisation might suggest. The question I would like to raise is what the relationship between the self and community is, in this case between the individual, the art system and society at large. This relation is governed by loyalty and common interest, more than formality and obligation.
An example of such a relationship could be found in the retrospective exhibition Trauma 1-11: Stories about the Free University in Copenhagen and the surrounding society in the last ten years at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark in the summer of 2011.(2) Created by Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobsen in collaboration with colleagues Emma Hedditch, Howard Slater and Anthony Davies, who all had strong links with the Copenhagen Free University (CFU), this was a poetic representation of the years 2001 to 2011 and how the experiences of their practice within the CFU and in society were mutually affecting each other. The exhibition was constructed as a 60 minutes sound walk through the museum’s spaces, where the audience encountered propaganda material, props and remnants from the CFU as well as new works. The script of the exhibition was read out loud through a voice over and was telling a story of how the establishing of the CFU in Heise and Jakobsen’s home had almost forced itself to happen, what the reasons were to dismantle it, and how they years after they closed it were informed by the Danish government that it became illegal by Danish law to create a structure like this carrying the name University. In the guide book to the exhibition they write: ‘In December 2010 the Copenhagen Free University received a letter from the Danish “Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation”, explaining that a new law had been passed protecting the term “university”. The Copenhagen Free University would thus now be illegal if its activities were resumed. Under the heading “Helge Sander [then Minister of Science] takes up the struggle against fake universities”, the possibilities of creating free, self-organised universities was precluded. The civil servants of the Ministry of Science explained over the phone that with the new laws they wanted to prevent ‘the students being disappointed”.’(3)
This exhibition provokes thoughts of self-organisation on many levels, and it particularly emphasises one of my assumptions: that the moment when an institution, or non-institution for that matter, decides not to cave into instrumentalised demands is (potentially) the moment when the self-organised crystalize and become visible.

The last twenty or so years have seen a blossoming discussion and development of the curatorial discourse resulting from the institutionalisation of the role of the curator, as well as segregating discussions on institutional and non-institutional structures. This tendency manifests itself widely and can be observed in books/publications dealing with only curatorial practice, only artist-run spaces, only kunsthalles, only biennials, only art education, only museums and of course the development of institutional critiques in all its facets through a plethora of essays and practices. My claim would however be that the boundaries between all of these sites and practices have increasingly been blurred and that discussions of all of these structures as well as of self-organisation, ought to be complex and diverse. The reasons to investigate self-organisation within the field of art are many, but a main drive has been a variety of observations and reflections in a landscape where art institutions have gone through self-doubt and psychotherapy, well helped by institutional critique in all its stages, and where the non-institutional art world is about to do the same through excessive production, dissemination, documentation and archiving, blogging and self-mythologising. The terminology belonging to what traditionally has been perceived an alternative art scene has been extended and broadened. The institutions have adopted and consumed the methods deduced by the changes on the alternative scene. At the same time the non-institutional structures, constituting the traditionally perceived 'alternative' scene, have adopted elements of institutional rhetorics, thus distancing themselves from solely being perceived as oppositional structures.
As I see it there has been a linear and oppositional view on the contexts where art is commissioned, produced and displayed. I think that these contexts need to be addressed as multifaceted, non-linear spaces, rather than an axis. I’d like to approach the discussion of self-organisation in a cross-disciplinary (4) way, without taking the curatorial as a starting point, nor enhancing particular institutional structures or critiques. There are more pressing issues to discuss in relation to independence, the space for creativity and the possibility to act in this world. And I would locate self-organisation parallel to both institutions and non-institutions.
Without a centralising power, the potentially emerging Institution of self-organisation is bound together by solidarity and interest by a broad collective of subjects. This field is created by looking for, and finding, those that you can collaborate with, those that you can create networks with, and exchange knowledge with and to discuss your interests with. In that process of looking there needs also to be a process of exclusion. Conflict and collaboration are thus two strong forces within self-organisation. The resulting activities and productions might or might not be in line with a surrounding landscape of institutions and governments, artistic standpoints and attitudes.
In the spring of 2010 I was closely observing the ten-year anniversary of Tate Modern in London, through the event No Soul for Sale – A festival of Independents(5). This turned out to be one of the possibly most contradicting ways of celebrating a museum institution, and one of the most contradictory sites to encounter so many non-institutions. Each of the 70 so-called independent initiatives that were invited was assigned a space in the Turbine Hall creating a chaotic fair like situation for one weekend, and it was far from an inclusive and hospitable condition for the public audience. The fact that the Museum hardly offered any financial or other support to the contributors to this event, and that the contributors accepted these terms of participation, shows how the current Institution of art, the art world, is sustained. The event was heavily influenced by and dependent on the authorities found within the single museum institution as well as the participating non-institutions deciding to take part.
Self-organisation is however not a question of authority, and does not need the validation of authorities. Observations tell me that the self-organised subject more often than not cross authorities, both within institutions as well as non-institutions. However, the lack of authority does not mean that there is a lack of power structures within the self-organised. Like everywhere else in society also the self-organised subjects of art experience and exercise powers and counter powers. According to sociologist Manuel Castells, Institutions are evoked by counter powers challenging existing powers, since whoever has power define the rules of the Institution. This constant production and re-production of Institutions creates a dynamic system, although from the perspective of the individual it might not seem to move. However the system does move through actions of individuals who build each others’ networks that in turn produce the structures that crystallise in Institutions that again shape human behaviour, constantly re-ignited and re-initiated by the actions of individuals mobilising, acting or simply believing.(6) Looking at the tendencies in the field of art, Castells’ thoughts by far confirm that self-organisation could be in the process of becoming an Institution, but for now maybe we must settle with that the self-organised so far constitutes itself more as a network, than an Institution.

The changes happening today within the organised institutional and non-institutional fields potentially provoking self-organised networks to form, are results of an important paradigm shift; one in which the canonising power of art institutions no longer carries sole and exclusive responsibility for disseminating art after its creation. One could argue that biennials, commercial markets, and the establishment of public funding bodies to support art, are the helpers of this paradigm shift starting (already) early in the last century and continuing today. Figures such as the independent curator have claimed authority over formats of presentation and the creation of possibilities for artistic production. Artists have changed the notion of a potential artwork drastically by creating more ephemeral and socially oriented works, also presenting other artists’ works as part of their own practice. Historical institutional structures are faced with the challenges of maintaining and fulfilling their original mandates in heavily market oriented societies, being perhaps forced to lean towards the entertainment business more than a social and educational project. Looking at art institutions’ roles historically, compared to today, they are no longer solely projects of legitimization, but also projects of open-ended investigation alongside non-institutions. However, this development has instigated new systems of both validation and commodification; new sets of authorities one might say. Thus the hegemony of any institution needs to be continuously obliterated from within by the subjects I would call self-organised, operating both within and outside of institutions.
At certain points in the processes of internal obliteration, there could be a need to distance oneself from current paradigms. In the case of self-organisation it could be to separate ones practice from a commercial or publicly funded market, create geographical or ideological seclusion, or even aesthetical redirections. This form of separatism should not be misunderstood as ‘alternative’ or oppositional to existing structures, but in addition to and as holding real power and integrity.(7)

Historians are in debt to both visible and invisible self-organised subjects and their wills, as they make it possible to somehow create chronologies, map driving forces and acknowledge conflicts and developments as a result.
In cultural critic Suely Rolnik’s essay Archive Mania(8) the politics of archiving is used as a method to discuss both political dimensions and artistic creation in authoritarian states. It is an essay that insists on the relevance of art as the exception to culture. This exception creates tensions that should not be resolved, tensions that help to create exactly this exception to culture at large. Similarly, the self-organised can be said to be the necessary exception within the art system.
Aiming to find ‘a final solution’ to the particular tensions that I have tried to discuss here, the tensions that I call self-organisation, will create a totalitarian situation and might lead to a regression into former institutional and non-institutional attitudes. One way that the two traditionally polarised fields of institutions and non-institution, art and its display structures, can create this productive tensions that I believe never must be resolved, is to evoke continuations and diversity rather than oppositions. Continuity can disclose itself as promises, and even as social contracts, while diversity is related to both awareness and responsibility. These notions are directly linked to the discussion of independence and in turn to self-organisation. Self-organisation might well be just the ‘continuations’ and ‘diversities’ that ensure that the space for art is not a totalitarian system. Because; to secure a future for something or for someone is very different from being in opposition to or to colonise the same something or someone.
Even though the art system is perceived as a free and independent sphere in society, I see more and more examples of self-organisation within this sphere being threatened. My fear would be that the self-organised subjects might be in the process of being painted into a corner where the productive tension that is so crucial to the art system is no longer possible to exercise, following a general homogenisation of the world.(9)

Artists have always organised themselves and their surroundings to be able to express themselves freely, and help their peers do the same. Through the last decades this has not only continued to be important to artists, but increasingly so also to curators, writers and institution directors. The responsibility that is taken on by the self-organised subjects that I here talk of is exactly that of up keeping diversity and continuation.
The specifics of self-organisation; with aesthetic, geographic, political and economic situations being taken into account, is impossible to categorise. However, I have noticed that within the art system similar answers arise to different questions, and similar questions lead to different answers. One such question for instance is how artistic freedom can be sheltered from instrumentalising politics, economics and even aesthetics. The answers to this are very different across the world. Similarly, an answer that seems to apply to a variety of questions is that it is important to display and discuss art in public. The most interesting investigation following this is why similar answers have resulted from different questions. In other words; what are the driving forces behind the fact that attitudes and kinships seems to manifest in similar ways many places in the world? The answer to this is far beyond a description of networks.
Self-organisation, as a stable and lasting power to be reckoned with in the art system, although neither material nor physical, could indeed indicate an emerging Institution.

----------

(1) Miller, Seumas, 'Social Institutions', The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2011/entries/social-institutions/ accessed June 21st 2012.
(2) ‘The Free University functioned as a space for research and knowledge exchange within an everyday environment. The activities consisted of workshops, film screenings, lectures, small exhibitions and publications, and took place in an apartment in the Nørrebro district, which was the artists' home as well. The institution was dedicated to the production of “critical consciousness and poetic language”, which was reflected in the wide range of activities that took place during the period 2001-2007.’ From the online press release. http://samtidskunst.dk/en/view/objekt/?tabel=udstillinger&id=263 accessed June 11, 2012.
This exhibition was part of The Archive; the Museum of Contemporary Art's exhibition platform, which focuses on ways of presenting different types of archives, as well as artists whose artistic work is based on archives.
(3) From the guide book to the exhibition Trauma 1-11: Stories about the Free University in Copenhagen and the surrounding society in the last ten years at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark, June 18th – September 11th 2011. Available to download from http://samtidskunst.dk/Billedarkiv/trauma/guideTrauma1-11UK.pdf accessed June 16th 2012.
(4) As opposed to ‘trans-disciplinary’.
(5) ‘NO SOUL FOR SALE is a festival of independents that brings together the most exciting not-for-profit centers, alternative institutions, artists’ collectives and underground enterprises from around the world. NO SOUL FOR SALE celebrates the people who contribute to the international art scene by inventing new strategies for the distribution of information and new modes of participation. Neither a fair nor an exhibition, NO SOUL FOR SALE is a convention of individuals and groups who have devoted their energies to keeping art alive.’ http://www.nosoulforsale.com - accessed June 13th 2012.
(6) These ideas can be found elaborated on in Manuel Castells’ work The Information Age: Economy, society, and culture (Vols. 1–3). Blackwell (1996–1998, revised 2010). A short introduction can be found in the paper A Network Theory of Power, in International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), 773–787
(7) Note that this separatism can also appear within institutional structures. As parasite programmes initiated by the very same subjects that inhabit the institution.
(8) No022: Suely Rolnik, Archive Mania/Archivmanie, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011
(9) ‘The process of globalization, especially as it manifests itself though increasing assimilation (homogenization) at the global level and dissimilation (heterogenization) within individual societies (including the increase of those whose choice of lifestyles differ from "traditional" ones) as well as purposeful promotion of western-style liberal democracy and market economy, raises the question not only of the universality (unidirectionality) of humankind's history, but also of the universality of values.’ from Towards a multipolar and diverse world?, Rein Müllerson. First published in Akadeemia 6/2012 (Estonian version); Eurozine (English version). Accessed June 21st, 2012.

Self-organisation as Institution? was written during summer 2012 in the aftermath of editing the anthology Self-Organised (eds. Stine Hebert & Anne Szefer Karlsen, Open Editions/Hordaland Art Centre, 2013) and has been presented as lecture several times: Free School of Art Theory and Practice, Budapest, January 2013; Framework, Glasgow, July 2013; Universidad de la República Uruguay in collaboration with El Monitor Plástico and Fundación Unión, Montevideo, December 2014.
Thank you to Stine Hebert, Ingrid Birce Muftüoglü, Hallvard Moe and Arne Skaug Olsen for reading and commenting.

ENGLISH ONLY

Self-organisation as Institution?

I would like to discuss the term ‘self-organised’ with a particular focus on the processes in the art world. It follows a discussion coming from my individual experiences with what driving forces makes a non-institution transform into an institutional structure. I am curious to explore what wills create such a transition and to investigate what is at stake when this happens – intentionally and unintentionally.
Equally, the interest in creating a prism to look at self-organisation through, was triggered by observations of what happens when an institutional structure dismantle or caves in to instrumental demands made by politicians and funding bodies; be they individuals or organisations, or artists.
The reason for this discussion is a suspected out-dated notion of self-organisation. By questioning established perceptions and terminologies, ideas and ideals, I would like to re-orient the understanding of what self-organisation actually could mean within our contemporary art context.
If we distinguish (1) between an institution – as a singular, formal organisation structure – and the Institution – as in a larger cluster, or even systems of organisations, within the art world – the question at hand is whether the self-organised (within the contemporary art field) is about to become an Institution in and of itself?
If that were the case, it is interesting to try to see how this has happened and why, and to investigate what kind of Institution this might aspire to be.

Many questions present themselves when a shift of terminology is attempted. The changes that we lately have noticed within institutions and non-institutions have more often been attributed to large structures such as market forces, economic and ideological changes than to terminology and individuals, coming from diverse networks and broad backgrounds, affecting and changing the power balance.
It is important to point out that I do not want to position this discussion within, nor advocate for, the alternative scene that most often is associated with the term self-organisation. Rather I want to examine the tension and attraction, and sometimes even repulsion, between and within traditional institutional structures and non-institutional initiatives, investigating and expanding notions far beyond the ‘alternative’. And I hope to create a modest re-direction of the term self-organisation. A re-direction from self-organisation as it is widely understood today; perceived as social norms and conventions, or even rituals, more than the Institution that we might be able to catch a glimpse of.
Due to this attempted new understanding of the self-organised, I open up for discrepancy with what we (all) perceive as current understandings of the self-organised, I do not put forward a proposition to be for or against other ideas of self-organisation, nor to create a polemical space. Rather I want to explore diverse experiences through the voices of a range of institutional and non-institutional structures in the same context, the context I then would call the self-organised.

Self-organisation implies a certain dependent duality between the self, an individual, and an organised community within society. It does not imply a bifurcation of the institution and non-institution, as the common discussion of self-organisation might suggest. The question I would like to raise is what the relationship between the self and community is, in this case between the individual, the art system and society at large. This relation is governed by loyalty and common interest, more than formality and obligation.
An example of such a relationship could be found in the retrospective exhibition Trauma 1-11: Stories about the Free University in Copenhagen and the surrounding society in the last ten years at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark in the summer of 2011.(2) Created by Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobsen in collaboration with colleagues Emma Hedditch, Howard Slater and Anthony Davies, who all had strong links with the Copenhagen Free University (CFU), this was a poetic representation of the years 2001 to 2011 and how the experiences of their practice within the CFU and in society were mutually affecting each other. The exhibition was constructed as a 60 minutes sound walk through the museum’s spaces, where the audience encountered propaganda material, props and remnants from the CFU as well as new works. The script of the exhibition was read out loud through a voice over and was telling a story of how the establishing of the CFU in Heise and Jakobsen’s home had almost forced itself to happen, what the reasons were to dismantle it, and how they years after they closed it were informed by the Danish government that it became illegal by Danish law to create a structure like this carrying the name University. In the guide book to the exhibition they write: ‘In December 2010 the Copenhagen Free University received a letter from the Danish “Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation”, explaining that a new law had been passed protecting the term “university”. The Copenhagen Free University would thus now be illegal if its activities were resumed. Under the heading “Helge Sander [then Minister of Science] takes up the struggle against fake universities”, the possibilities of creating free, self-organised universities was precluded. The civil servants of the Ministry of Science explained over the phone that with the new laws they wanted to prevent ‘the students being disappointed”.’(3)
This exhibition provokes thoughts of self-organisation on many levels, and it particularly emphasises one of my assumptions: that the moment when an institution, or non-institution for that matter, decides not to cave into instrumentalised demands is (potentially) the moment when the self-organised crystalize and become visible.

The last twenty or so years have seen a blossoming discussion and development of the curatorial discourse resulting from the institutionalisation of the role of the curator, as well as segregating discussions on institutional and non-institutional structures. This tendency manifests itself widely and can be observed in books/publications dealing with only curatorial practice, only artist-run spaces, only kunsthalles, only biennials, only art education, only museums and of course the development of institutional critiques in all its facets through a plethora of essays and practices. My claim would however be that the boundaries between all of these sites and practices have increasingly been blurred and that discussions of all of these structures as well as of self-organisation, ought to be complex and diverse. The reasons to investigate self-organisation within the field of art are many, but a main drive has been a variety of observations and reflections in a landscape where art institutions have gone through self-doubt and psychotherapy, well helped by institutional critique in all its stages, and where the non-institutional art world is about to do the same through excessive production, dissemination, documentation and archiving, blogging and self-mythologising. The terminology belonging to what traditionally has been perceived an alternative art scene has been extended and broadened. The institutions have adopted and consumed the methods deduced by the changes on the alternative scene. At the same time the non-institutional structures, constituting the traditionally perceived 'alternative' scene, have adopted elements of institutional rhetorics, thus distancing themselves from solely being perceived as oppositional structures.
As I see it there has been a linear and oppositional view on the contexts where art is commissioned, produced and displayed. I think that these contexts need to be addressed as multifaceted, non-linear spaces, rather than an axis. I’d like to approach the discussion of self-organisation in a cross-disciplinary (4) way, without taking the curatorial as a starting point, nor enhancing particular institutional structures or critiques. There are more pressing issues to discuss in relation to independence, the space for creativity and the possibility to act in this world. And I would locate self-organisation parallel to both institutions and non-institutions.
Without a centralising power, the potentially emerging Institution of self-organisation is bound together by solidarity and interest by a broad collective of subjects. This field is created by looking for, and finding, those that you can collaborate with, those that you can create networks with, and exchange knowledge with and to discuss your interests with. In that process of looking there needs also to be a process of exclusion. Conflict and collaboration are thus two strong forces within self-organisation. The resulting activities and productions might or might not be in line with a surrounding landscape of institutions and governments, artistic standpoints and attitudes.
In the spring of 2010 I was closely observing the ten-year anniversary of Tate Modern in London, through the event No Soul for Sale – A festival of Independents(5). This turned out to be one of the possibly most contradicting ways of celebrating a museum institution, and one of the most contradictory sites to encounter so many non-institutions. Each of the 70 so-called independent initiatives that were invited was assigned a space in the Turbine Hall creating a chaotic fair like situation for one weekend, and it was far from an inclusive and hospitable condition for the public audience. The fact that the Museum hardly offered any financial or other support to the contributors to this event, and that the contributors accepted these terms of participation, shows how the current Institution of art, the art world, is sustained. The event was heavily influenced by and dependent on the authorities found within the single museum institution as well as the participating non-institutions deciding to take part.
Self-organisation is however not a question of authority, and does not need the validation of authorities. Observations tell me that the self-organised subject more often than not cross authorities, both within institutions as well as non-institutions. However, the lack of authority does not mean that there is a lack of power structures within the self-organised. Like everywhere else in society also the self-organised subjects of art experience and exercise powers and counter powers. According to sociologist Manuel Castells, Institutions are evoked by counter powers challenging existing powers, since whoever has power define the rules of the Institution. This constant production and re-production of Institutions creates a dynamic system, although from the perspective of the individual it might not seem to move. However the system does move through actions of individuals who build each others’ networks that in turn produce the structures that crystallise in Institutions that again shape human behaviour, constantly re-ignited and re-initiated by the actions of individuals mobilising, acting or simply believing.(6) Looking at the tendencies in the field of art, Castells’ thoughts by far confirm that self-organisation could be in the process of becoming an Institution, but for now maybe we must settle with that the self-organised so far constitutes itself more as a network, than an Institution.

The changes happening today within the organised institutional and non-institutional fields potentially provoking self-organised networks to form, are results of an important paradigm shift; one in which the canonising power of art institutions no longer carries sole and exclusive responsibility for disseminating art after its creation. One could argue that biennials, commercial markets, and the establishment of public funding bodies to support art, are the helpers of this paradigm shift starting (already) early in the last century and continuing today. Figures such as the independent curator have claimed authority over formats of presentation and the creation of possibilities for artistic production. Artists have changed the notion of a potential artwork drastically by creating more ephemeral and socially oriented works, also presenting other artists’ works as part of their own practice. Historical institutional structures are faced with the challenges of maintaining and fulfilling their original mandates in heavily market oriented societies, being perhaps forced to lean towards the entertainment business more than a social and educational project. Looking at art institutions’ roles historically, compared to today, they are no longer solely projects of legitimization, but also projects of open-ended investigation alongside non-institutions. However, this development has instigated new systems of both validation and commodification; new sets of authorities one might say. Thus the hegemony of any institution needs to be continuously obliterated from within by the subjects I would call self-organised, operating both within and outside of institutions.
At certain points in the processes of internal obliteration, there could be a need to distance oneself from current paradigms. In the case of self-organisation it could be to separate ones practice from a commercial or publicly funded market, create geographical or ideological seclusion, or even aesthetical redirections. This form of separatism should not be misunderstood as ‘alternative’ or oppositional to existing structures, but in addition to and as holding real power and integrity.(7)

Historians are in debt to both visible and invisible self-organised subjects and their wills, as they make it possible to somehow create chronologies, map driving forces and acknowledge conflicts and developments as a result.
In cultural critic Suely Rolnik’s essay Archive Mania(8) the politics of archiving is used as a method to discuss both political dimensions and artistic creation in authoritarian states. It is an essay that insists on the relevance of art as the exception to culture. This exception creates tensions that should not be resolved, tensions that help to create exactly this exception to culture at large. Similarly, the self-organised can be said to be the necessary exception within the art system.
Aiming to find ‘a final solution’ to the particular tensions that I have tried to discuss here, the tensions that I call self-organisation, will create a totalitarian situation and might lead to a regression into former institutional and non-institutional attitudes. One way that the two traditionally polarised fields of institutions and non-institution, art and its display structures, can create this productive tensions that I believe never must be resolved, is to evoke continuations and diversity rather than oppositions. Continuity can disclose itself as promises, and even as social contracts, while diversity is related to both awareness and responsibility. These notions are directly linked to the discussion of independence and in turn to self-organisation. Self-organisation might well be just the ‘continuations’ and ‘diversities’ that ensure that the space for art is not a totalitarian system. Because; to secure a future for something or for someone is very different from being in opposition to or to colonise the same something or someone.
Even though the art system is perceived as a free and independent sphere in society, I see more and more examples of self-organisation within this sphere being threatened. My fear would be that the self-organised subjects might be in the process of being painted into a corner where the productive tension that is so crucial to the art system is no longer possible to exercise, following a general homogenisation of the world.(9)

Artists have always organised themselves and their surroundings to be able to express themselves freely, and help their peers do the same. Through the last decades this has not only continued to be important to artists, but increasingly so also to curators, writers and institution directors. The responsibility that is taken on by the self-organised subjects that I here talk of is exactly that of up keeping diversity and continuation.
The specifics of self-organisation; with aesthetic, geographic, political and economic situations being taken into account, is impossible to categorise. However, I have noticed that within the art system similar answers arise to different questions, and similar questions lead to different answers. One such question for instance is how artistic freedom can be sheltered from instrumentalising politics, economics and even aesthetics. The answers to this are very different across the world. Similarly, an answer that seems to apply to a variety of questions is that it is important to display and discuss art in public. The most interesting investigation following this is why similar answers have resulted from different questions. In other words; what are the driving forces behind the fact that attitudes and kinships seems to manifest in similar ways many places in the world? The answer to this is far beyond a description of networks.
Self-organisation, as a stable and lasting power to be reckoned with in the art system, although neither material nor physical, could indeed indicate an emerging Institution.

----------

(1) Miller, Seumas, 'Social Institutions', The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2011/entries/social-institutions/ accessed June 21st 2012.
(2) ‘The Free University functioned as a space for research and knowledge exchange within an everyday environment. The activities consisted of workshops, film screenings, lectures, small exhibitions and publications, and took place in an apartment in the Nørrebro district, which was the artists' home as well. The institution was dedicated to the production of “critical consciousness and poetic language”, which was reflected in the wide range of activities that took place during the period 2001-2007.’ From the online press release. http://samtidskunst.dk/en/view/objekt/?tabel=udstillinger&id=263 accessed June 11, 2012.
This exhibition was part of The Archive; the Museum of Contemporary Art's exhibition platform, which focuses on ways of presenting different types of archives, as well as artists whose artistic work is based on archives.
(3) From the guide book to the exhibition Trauma 1-11: Stories about the Free University in Copenhagen and the surrounding society in the last ten years at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde, Denmark, June 18th – September 11th 2011. Available to download from http://samtidskunst.dk/Billedarkiv/trauma/guideTrauma1-11UK.pdf accessed June 16th 2012.
(4) As opposed to ‘trans-disciplinary’.
(5) ‘NO SOUL FOR SALE is a festival of independents that brings together the most exciting not-for-profit centers, alternative institutions, artists’ collectives and underground enterprises from around the world. NO SOUL FOR SALE celebrates the people who contribute to the international art scene by inventing new strategies for the distribution of information and new modes of participation. Neither a fair nor an exhibition, NO SOUL FOR SALE is a convention of individuals and groups who have devoted their energies to keeping art alive.’ http://www.nosoulforsale.com - accessed June 13th 2012.
(6) These ideas can be found elaborated on in Manuel Castells’ work The Information Age: Economy, society, and culture (Vols. 1–3). Blackwell (1996–1998, revised 2010). A short introduction can be found in the paper A Network Theory of Power, in International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), 773–787
(7) Note that this separatism can also appear within institutional structures. As parasite programmes initiated by the very same subjects that inhabit the institution.
(8) No022: Suely Rolnik, Archive Mania/Archivmanie, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011
(9) ‘The process of globalization, especially as it manifests itself though increasing assimilation (homogenization) at the global level and dissimilation (heterogenization) within individual societies (including the increase of those whose choice of lifestyles differ from "traditional" ones) as well as purposeful promotion of western-style liberal democracy and market economy, raises the question not only of the universality (unidirectionality) of humankind's history, but also of the universality of values.’ from Towards a multipolar and diverse world?, Rein Müllerson. First published in Akadeemia 6/2012 (Estonian version); Eurozine (English version). Accessed June 21st, 2012.