Research Threads

Commissioned texts, visual essays and conversations on questions of power, resistance and the critical potential of art

What would real democracy look, feel and act like today? In recent years, social movements throughout the world have been spurred by an urge for new forms of democratic representation. Yet, whilst such a crescendo of voices revealed a widespread impulse for greater democratic freedoms, for the most part their failure to articulate specific demands or speak with one voice have heeded little tangible results. In many contexts, the backlash has seen a retrenchment of executive power and deepening social exclusion.

Concurrently, popular support for European politics wanes, primarily due to its perceived over bureaucratised, un-democratic framework, with disappointment in the global left on one side and the rise of fascism on the other. It is a claim that threatens to unravel the entire European project with the demand for a return to nationally-accountable and locally-visible democratic representatives. For many, the idea of internationalism, federalism and real democracy are incompatible bedfellows. Yet despite such a ground swell of public protest and resentment towards perceived democratic deficits, new forms of representation are yet to be found.

Museums often appear on the outer shell of representative democracy, both tied to and able to buck against the systems that support them. What historical precedents might we turn to –or reject– in search for the real democracy? How might we understand the role of culture and its institutions within a democratic project? How could art's production, mediation and dissemination be democratised and what effects would that have on its institutions and organisations? Would such a move force us to rethink art's role in society?