Museion: ten years as a temple to the muses

Letizia Ragaglia, director of the museum in Bolzano, looks back over her first 10 years, explaining how it has become a reference point to contemporary art.

Museion 10 anni: intervista a Letizia Ragaglia

On 24 May 2008 the new Museion was inaugurated in Bolzano. An enormous showcase, a building designed by the Berlin architectural studio KSV Krüger Schuberth Vandreike. A few months after it opened, Letizia Ragaglia became the director, remaining, as of today, one of the longest-serving museum directors. Over a period of 10 years, from the centre of Bolzano, the monumental transparent volume has become a beacon, a reference point among Italian museums dedicated to contemporary art. How did this come about?

Ten uninterrupted years, from “Peripheral vision and collective body” to “Somatechnics”. How has the exhibition “corpus” of Museion changed? 
Letizia Ragaglia:More than change, I would say it is a question of development of perspective, of a common vision among those who have served over the years as directors of Museion. Even from a subjective point of view, Museion has always stood out for its programme, experimental, never of a blockbusternature. What has characterised Museion is expressed well in Somatechnics, maintaining a route which has been set by the various exhibitions organised during the history of the institution. Similar themes have, in fact, already been examined in a very particular manner by artists such as, for example, Danh Vo, Lili Reynaud Dewar and Invernomuto, and in the exhibition on photographic works from the Museion collection. This is why I am particularly happy that the tenth anniversary is being “celebrated” with Somatechnics.

Museion has always focused on female artists with a central role in European contemporary art. Why? 
The female element needs to be read in the context of a path that has been set out over these years, or rather the genre of sculpture in the wider sense, a language with a more complex approach than two dimensional surfaces, pictures, which has evolved in a more radical manner than any other 20th century media. Within this path I have, in cases of equal merit, favoured women. Certain names come to mind who have made their mark in recent art history, and for who we have organised solo shows, often their first in Italy, such as Isa Genzken and Rosemarie Trockel, or artists from later generations, such as Rossella Biscotti, Monica Bonvicini, Ceal Floyer Tatiana Trouvé, as well as the others you have mentioned. Having said this, other figures form part of a more strictly feminist current, such as the solo exhibitions by VALIE EXPORT and Lili Reynaud Dewar. 

What characteristics have characterised your ideas, and your work, in these 10 years? 
I have taken cues from the projects by Simone Frangi: one of my references is the non-systematic archipelagic idea put forward by Édouard Glissant in contrast to the systematic and “continental” way of thinking. Looking at the Museion’s projects, they all find a common reference in the preceptive and sensory estrangements and shifts created by Cerith Wyn Evans and Tatiana Trouvé, in the mental short-circuits set off by Ceal Floyer, in the attempts by Pawel Althamer to take us beyond the limited perspective of an individual Id, and travel – metaphorically – through time and space, or in the paradoxical re-appropriation of space and objects by Klara Lidén. These are just a few of the examples which make Museion a venue which represents an idea which is more intuitive than rational, which leads to poetic and imaginary visions.

Beyond transparency and impressionableness, what are the characteristics of your venue that impress and surprise you every time?
It is not an architecture which is easy to work in, but once you get to know it, you learn to take advantage of its strengths. I cannot deny that the choice of exhibiting the plastic arts is also in some small part due to the architectural characteristics of the venue, which lends itself to the exhibiting of sculptural works. The transparency of the building stimulates dialogue with the urban context and the landscape, many artists have taken advantage of this element. One who comes to mind is Cerith Wyn Evans, who, with the large illuminated installation “E=C=L=I=P=S=E”, related, in a majestic and poetic manner, with the museum’s transparent facade and therefore with the city’s landscape. Another is Ceal Floyer, who “framed” the view over that landscape with the workBlick, 2014 (view), sticking minuscule self-adhesive photo corners, like those found in any photo album, to the corners of every pane in the Museion’s glass facade. The list of examples could go on with Judith Hopf, Korakrit Arunanondchai and many others. 

What wish would you make, beyond that which has taken place up to now, to accompany the Museion for the next 10 years?
In recent years we have been working in particular on a group of young people, with various projects and with membership - this month, May, sees the opening of enrolments for the “Young Friends” section of the Museion. The same spirit lies behind the slogan for the 10 years: a Museion which is “ON”, active, pulsating, fluid, which is nourished and revitalised with renewed energy. Furthermore, I hope to see a continuation in the attention to diverse audiences and languages, also through communication. We have put a lot of energy into our online presence, developing a very high level of professionalism and user-involvement. 

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