Today’s networked society offers us many wondrous possibilities of information, communication, mobility, and flexibility. But it also has a latent side-effect: it makes the world ‘flat’. Time-honoured hierarchies, traditions, elites and canons are subject to eroding movements that have a tendency to always gravitate towards mediocrity. A rhizome is not a root, so it can hardly take root. In such a flattened, ‘horizontal’ world, art institutions are finding it hard to survive. After all, institutions traditionally represent ‘verticality': historic profundity, tradition, values, dignity, and certainty.

The democratization of art suggests that anyone can have an opinion about the quality of a work of art; and the popularization of democracy assures that the same value is attached to all statements about society. Neoliberalism, flowing freely through the veins of a global network, uses evidence- based policy, audits, modulation, and neo-management to guarantee the dominance of only one hierarchy: that of numbers, capital, quantities, which effectively makes every quality relative.

In Institutional Attitudes various authors explore the future identity of institutions in general and art institutions in particular. Will they be able to create profundity and height again? Is this desirable? And if so, what would these new vertical ways look like? Or is it better to develop horizontal strategies in order to react more advantageously to the flat world? These are the questions this book addresses, by looking at some of the values that are attributed to art institutes but are in danger of being lost in the current context, inlcuding: criticism, participation, responsibility and historical awareness.

‘When flatness rules, we all feel the need to stand up to get some air. It is exactly this breathing space that Institutional Attitudes hopes to create.’

Institutional Attitudes is available at Witte de With (and at our new online shop), and via the distributors listed below.