March 14, 2013 in Introduction

Hi! I’m Milena, a former curator, writer, and researcher concerned with socially and politically motivated artistic practices, audience experience, and integrated cultural policy. My research explored the neoliberalisation of culture and self-organization as a means of resistance. I am no longer active in this field because I grew weary of/disappointed in the many ethical conflicts impossible to avoid in the professional art world. And, since I increasingly felt that my participation constituted passive acceptance of these realities, I decided to stop compromising my values by stopping altogether. In other words, I’ve come to the conclusion that anti-capitalist curating isn’t resistance enough. I don’t think I’ll write on the reasons for my withdrawal in more detail any time soon, but I’m modifying this outdated biography until I decide whether to maintain or close this website.

Over the years, I worked with various organizations including Video Pool Media Arts Centre (Winnipeg), ((( send+receive ))): a festival of sound (Winnipeg), SMART Project Space (Amsterdam), and the Ottawa Art Gallery, among others. I served as Acting Director of the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 in 2008/2009, and I decided to discontinue work initiated at Konstfack University College of Art, Craft, and Design in Stockholm in 2011. I was a co-organizer of a production and presentation space in Winnipeg called Atomic Centre that was closed for a number of reasons, including directly/indirectly contributing to the gentrification of its surrounding area.

I hold a Master of Museum Studies from the University of Toronto and I was a member of the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art (IKT). I have received generous support from organizations including the Canada Council for the Arts, the Winnipeg and Manitoba Arts Councils, the Consulate General of France in Toronto, the Henry Moore Foundation, and the International Association of Art Critics (Armenia). I remain grateful for the opportunities offered by these organizations — I learned more about  systems of power than I ever imagined, and will re-apply this knowledge in other ways.

In addition to commissioned critical responses, I have written for Akimblog, Border Crossings, Muse, and LaPinta (Barcelona). I was a regional contributing editor to Fuse… may it rest in peace or — better yet– in radical fury. I truly hope another generation of artists will take up the torch, re-inventing as needed.

Recent exhibitions include The Pinky Show: Class Treason Stories (excerpts) (University of Winnipeg, 2009; Toronto Free Gallery, 2010), three online exhibitions for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad: Competition, Corporatization, and Consumerism (2009/2010), Showing Up, Speaking Out (aceartinc., Winnipeg, 2010), and Washed Out (apexart Franchise, Stockholm, 2011). A Total Spectacle opened at Atomic Centre on May 17, 2013. It was a pretty awesome experience, and constitutes a reasonable goodbye to this practice.

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I attempted to produce exhibitions that were transparent, collaborative, and demonstrate equal consideration for the ideas and objectives of artists, and the ideas and experiences of audiences. I believed in embracing diversity and cross-cultural exchange, and in producing exhibitions that underscored the importance of contemporary art to everyday life as an invaluable means for reflection, research, critique, and empowerment. I still do, its just that this sociopolitical climate demands that much tougher work be done, and I hope we can all rise to the occasion.

I sought to facilitate relationships between artists and new audiences because I envisioned art galleries as spaces where community building and dialogue could take place among numerous other engagements but — more than ever — I think the Pink Show was right… most institutions are made and maintained by the powerful as tributes to themselves. And frankly, even smaller centres have become so caught up in self-institutionalization that they spend so much time protecting themselves and generating funds to cover their overhead requirements that they’ve lost their way as potential co-leaders in the fight to dismantle inequality. Isn’t that why they started, after all?  To disrupt elitist, bougie social and economic networks?  I still believe public space is ours to use collectively, and that art can and should happen anywhere… more of that please.

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What does Shintai | Zweck mean, anyway?

When I launched this website in 2000, I had a difficult time thinking of a domain name. I found using my given name terribly uninteresting, and anything including the words “art” or “projects” seemed too obvious. I tried to think of single words that captured what drew me to contemporary art, but nothing seemed suitable so I started searching online for ideas. Shintai is Japanese for “essence” or “new style”, and zweck is German for “purpose”. Combined, I felt those words signaled my interest in artwork as a contribution to dialogue about society here and now.

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I’ve deleted the email address associated with this account.