University as Forum: Muntadas, John Rapko and Berkeley 2001

Recently I have been thinking about the Forum as a model for an exhibition – not only the Roman Forum, but also the Imperial Fora and even Domitian’s palace complex. What would it mean for an audience to encounter performative artworks in the way ancient Romans encountered speeches at the Rostra, ambassadors at the Graecostasis or made business deals and attended legal disputes within the colonnades of a basilica? What I am most intrigued by the idea is the way a space can be both open and mapped out for particular encounters, rather than enclosed and limited to only one specific action or event (i.e. the viewing of artworks).

One model for this idea of exhibition as forum is Muntadas’ Between the Frames: the Forum when it took place at Berkeley in 2001. In its earlier manifestations, including at the Wexner Center for the Arts here in Columbus in 1994, this work of video-interviews that map the main roles and players of the art world (galleries, critics, museums, docents, collectors, dealers, the media, artists), was shown withing a Panopticon structure – a circular structure of a series of rooms leading off of a central core.

However, when Muntadas invited the philosopher John Rapko to create a version of Between the Frames: the Forum at Berkeley University in 2001, the doctoral student of aesthetics scattered the rooms and their interviews across the Berkeley campus. Some were contained in libraries, others in museums and others in commercial spaces. If ever there was a model of the exhibition as forum akin to the Roman model, Rapko’s Berkeley version of Muntadas’ project was it. Here are some pictures of the map and installation from the publication that summarizes all the manifestations of Muntadas’ project:

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