Thursday, April 4, 2019, 7 pm
Nostalgia for a Future – On the Polychronic Concept of the Contemporary

Lecture by Nina Möntmann (professor for art theory, University of Cologne, curator and writer)

In German

The contemporary has become a key concept within the cultural field. It is related to the complexity of a globalized temporality in which different local realities and developments take place in the same historical present. In art, the conditions of this globalized temporality are addressed and questioned. The strategy of actualization takes over a central function here. It conceives of historical components as incomplete processes and associates them with the concept of a futurity that is yet to be shaped.

Museums exhibiting current works of art are no longer called museums of modern art but – increasingly since the early 1990s – museums of contemporary art, which wants to imply a future-oriented actuality. The term “modern” no longer seems to be effective when it comes to referring to the present, to actuality. Modernity is now understood as a term for an era that represents a vertical, target-oriented movement of progress, for renewal, for the detachment from history, for the avant-garde and abstraction. The contemporary, on the other hand, is undefined, open, there is no master narrative which everyone can agree on. Contemporary art encompasses all media and directions. There are no longer any particular styles of art, the boundaries are blurring.

This process raises many questions: how do we periodize the present? Is it even possible to maintain the distinction between modernity and the present in a global context? And, with a view to exhibition practices, how is a changed relationship to history and an awareness of new geographies in art translated into curatorial approaches? And how can this bring about an idea of futurity? These questions shed new light on how art is presented, contextualized, and mediated, as well as on the important role and responsibility of exhibitions in the configuration of the contemporary moment.


Nina Möntmann is an art historian, professor of art theory at the University of Cologne, curator and author. From 2007 to 2017, she was professor at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and, from 2003 to 2006, curator at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in Helsinki. Selected exhibitions:
Måns Wrange: Magic Bureaucracy, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm, 2017; Fluidity, Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2016 (with Bettina Steinbrügge and Vanessa Joan Müller); Harun Farocki: Ein neues Produkt, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 2012; The Jerusalem Show: Jerusalem Syndrome, 2009; Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia, Venice Biennale, 2007. She organized numerous symposia, including Curating NoThing. Notions of Dematerialization in the Exhibition Context, The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, 2017; Beyond Cynicism: Political Forms of Opposition, Protest and Provocation in Art, 2012, and New Communities, 2008, both at Moderna Museet in Stockholm; We, Ourselves, and Us, The Power Plant, Toronto, 2009. Publications include: Kunst als Sozialer Raum (Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2002/2017), Agencies of Art (OK books, 2018, together with Jonatan Habib Engqvist), furthermore as editor: Schöne neue Arbeit / Brave New Work. A Reader on Harun Farocki’s Film ‘A New Product’ (Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2014); Scandalous. A Reader on Art & Ethics (Sternberg Press, 2013) and Art and Its Institutions (Black Dog Publishing, 2006).


Free admission