After an ambitious and successful first year of initiating and archiving digital collaborations, Intermission Museum of Art (IMA) is pleased to partner with Stand4 Gallery and Community Art Center in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY, to mount a physical manifestation of the archive. IMA’s archived volume i exhibitions from June 2020 through June 2021 will be included, featuring collaborations from: Jodi Hays + Ayanah Moor | Lindiwe Matshikiza + Flora Parrott | Lynn Silverman + Jason Sloan | Mira Dayal + Marina Kassianidou | Lauren K. Alleyne + Matthew Fischer | Mike Cloud + Nyeema Morgan | Aurora de Armendi + Jessica del Vecchio | Kate Casanova + Sarah Faye McPherson | Jaimini Patel + Carli Toliver | Ana Čavić + Sally Morfill | Rose van Mierlo + John Ros.

This exhibition represents a new collaboration between Stand4 Gallery and IMA whereby hosting the digital archive, Stand4 Gallery becomes IMA and vice versa. This symbiotic relationship enhances each counterpart while implementing an additional layer of collaboration. As a fictional museum and performative project, IMA challenges the status quo on the social role of museums by engaging with its fictional structures of operation. It explores the tangible effects fictionality has in the social and economic world and suggests alternative models of exhibiting while sparking meaningful conversations. Its online form enables IMA to exist in several places at once and reach multiple audiences. It is neither real nor unreal, but can be read as a critical text. Its second form is performative: IMA is both artwork and museum. It can only exist through the hospitality of others.

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Saturday, October 2nd, 11AM-12PM

Stand4 Gallery Founder and Artistic Director, Jeannine Bardo, will host IMA Founding Directors and Curators, Rose van Mierlo and John Ros, via Zoom for a discussion about IMA, collaborations and institutional critique.


the institution is ubiquitous

by John Ros, August 2021

During a recent job interview a search committee member from a prestigious mid-western school asked me why someone so critical of the institution wished to join it. In order to gain more time my interview-fatigued brain replied, “That’s a good question.” But in reality, it was a good question and maybe something I took for granted inasmuch as I was not prepared with a ready response. After a moment’s pause I answered directly: in my view, as citizens it is our duty to be critical of our local and national governments. It is our duty as caring and passionate faculty to be critical of the very institutions we work for. Is that not what, in part, recent DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) institutional challenges have been about?

I think they were satisfied with my answer but I was not offered the position.

Much like “community engagement” of the aughts and “global mindedness” of the teens, DEI has become the academic buzzword to fulfill obligation and seem in tune with the zeitgeist. Unfortunately, many are complying with these social demands through mere optic campaigns. Can we ever really shift our thinking if we do not confront the overarching, systemic effects of our country’s history as settler colonialist, where genocide and slavery set the tone for wealth advancement and class division? Or, for that matter, how capitalism’s reliance on reaping resources and workers to this day still infects our national (and global) consciousness in regards to how we value prof it over people? Systemic violence penetrates so deeply that well-meaning attempts often become quickly co-opted and any real benefit becomes muted and ineffectual.

Though the work ahead is difficult, many are stepping up to expose not just the ubiquity and insistence of the institution as a means to an end, but also the more elusive effects and connections systemic violence has on us all. Enter: the institutionally critical artist. Kestler Messan explains it this way:

In my observations of time and its repetition, I’ve discovered a world at war — one in which tactics of control are deployed by institutions of abuse, such as The Church, The School, The Prison, and The Cell Tower. These institutions have imagined the sleep we get, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the words we speak, the rooms we enter, the pictures we take, the stories we tell, and what we look and feel like in them. The institution is ubiquitous. There remains no place, relationship, or object that is neutral.01

Our artistic ancestral roots and artist siblings provide support. The Guerrilla Girls and Fred Wilson are two examples of folx taking the reins and leading the way. The Guerrilla Girls work so hard to expose discrepancies throughout many institutions of cultural capital. Since 1985 they have been exposing systemic violence throughout art, film, culture and politics through varied interventions, advertisements, posters and projects. One of their most infamous poster projects asks if “women need to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”02 These acts of opposition create voice. They demark. They create bookends of thought so that we may better understand and recognize systemic violence where it hides in plain sight. These moments often fall through the cracks waiting to be taken up by the next act of disobedience against the institution.

In 1992, Fred Wilson created the intervention, Mining the Museum, 1992-93, at the Maryland Historical Society. Objects throughout the collection were presented in ways to disrupt the white, upper-class narrative, pulling out objects from storage to draw attention to local histories of traditionally marginalized, BIPOC folx. Of this work Wilson stated, “I like the notion of surprise, especially in a museum setting in which you don’t expect surprise.” Surprise comes in forms of action and reaction, but also as objects reflect moments uncovered, awareness inescapable. In working intimately with the objects housed at the Historical Society as well as its staff, Wilson collaborated, creating in-between moments of mystery, anxiety and fracture. Almost 30 years ago this project exposed legacies of violence, exclusion and selective story-telling. This seminal work reminds us how much more work is yet to be done.03

In March 2020, Rose Van Miero and I started a conversation around building a new space for critical thought and discussion among artists. Creating a platform, for and by artists, that would allow for the development of new ideas and further discussions on what we do best as creatives — ask questions and find answers that ultimately lead to new questions. The time was ripe for artists, as it seemed we needed a new moment to ask ourselves diff icult questions while maintaining a critical tone on the institutional ways of thinking, especially within and throughout the artwork.

The world was entering a new chapter. The WHO officially declared a new pandemic on 11 March 2020.04 The global response, especially that of the world’s richest nations, was relatively slow, especially amid what would become the final year of the forty-fifth president’s hobbling administration.05 Defiance, neglect and dismissiveness was finally buttressed by Operation Warp Speed, however the administration’s dismissiveness continued, a different type of contagion that has spread far and wide, sowing confusion and ignorance against the global effort to eradicate the newest viral threat.06

Conversations with Rose quickly turned to what we wanted this thing to become. What would prop it up as far as a standard, or mantra. Perhaps instinctually, we both landed in a space that felt correct and yet quite difficult to fully discern. Using past ideas around institutional critique, as well as a preference to process over product, we mulled over words to outline the following:

[The] name references the question as open space…gaps in the pavement, performance interludes, tv-commercials, coffee breaks and silent pauses; all moments of unpoliced disruption that are typically un-institutional. at its core, ima therefore proposes the museum as a site of uncertainty; a building without walls; a non-hierarchical collection of interdisciplinary narratives and voices; both a guest and a host; and an exercise in cross-pollination.07

This in-betweenness — intermissions or breaks or sighs — these collaborative moments of pause and realization are what most interest me. Magical moments of reprieve that set off countless next steps inside and outside the studio. These moments of process may show us the way to co-opt institutional systems of government, finance, education and tech, including the non-prof it industrial complex. Power comes from the ground up. We must maintain that swell if we hope to have any effect on institutional systems meant to isolate and divide — conquer and subdue. Creative process can lead the way.

[01] Messan, Kester. “About.” Kester Messan, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021
[02] Guerrilla Girls. “Projects/Posters.” Guerrilla Girls, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021
[03] Houston, Kerr. “How Mining the Museum Changed the Art World.” BmoreArt, 03 May. 2017, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021
[04] WHO. “Timeline: Who’s Covid-19 Response.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization,!. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021
[05] Peischel, Will, and Jessica Washington. “Here Are 17 Ways the Trump Administration Bungled ITS Coronavirus Response.” Mother Jones, 3 Mar. 2020, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021
[06] DOD. “Coronavirus: DOD Response.” US Department of Defense, US Department of Defense, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021
[07] van Mierlo, Rose, and John Ros. “About.” Intermission Museum of Art | IMA, 3 Feb. 2021, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021

a museum of (un)real things

by Rosanna van Mierlo, August 2021

in the months leading up to launching ima i had been doing research on the relationship between feminist art, fictioning and subversive activism. this was “pre-covid”. our ability to be alarmed struggled to extend to any crisis happening in the unfamiliar “over there”. we still existed comfortably in the collaborative fantasy that we could have globalism economically, but not socially, or—god forbid—corporally.

at the time, i was interested in how fictioning could be a tool for resistance, for tracing and drawing modes of escape, theoretically but also practically. i wasn’t interested in aesthetics, formalism, or the surface of things. instead, i wanted to think about fictioning as a kind of wayfinding into the future, or strategy for becoming in times of crisis. i wanted to extend the term to investigate not just art-practice, but also its institutional contexts. ima was a way to put theory into practice; both museum and art project, real and fake, it asked a question simply by being there. what makes a museum? what does it allow for and what does it negate? what is its relation to power and crisis? and how does it deploy fictioning as a means of self-justification, as well as erasure?

originally conceived in the middle ages as a public construct of legal inviolability,
fictioning evolved through literature and performance to what we now commonly think of as “fiction”: a story or character that is written or performed. however, fictioning exists much more broadly, making itself felt in almost every aspect of our world: socially, politically, sexually, artistically. fictioning brought us money, the economic market, instagram, wire transactions, legislation, fake news, gender, the list goes on…

the problem then becomes how to describe something so all-present. at the time of this writing, i still speak about fictioning with discomfort. it is a term i find myself, more often than not, wrestling to control. fictioning as practice is a slippery slope. at other times, i find some footing, finally getting comfortable with its specificity. the problem is not that
fictions are untrue; the challenge, instead, is their undeniable realness in our lives. as such, fictions are not merely personas, or even stories, they are mechanisms, formulas, and tricks. they burrow small side-steps to dominant narratives, outlining loopholes to the unknown like teasing a thread on an old woolen sweater. before you know it, the whole damn sleeve comes apart and you keep getting it caught on things.

fictions are similarly activated by desire, curiosity, and an openness to getting caught unexpectedly. the question that delineates a fiction is not traceable by asking “what is it”, but rather by asking “how does it operate”? fictioning is part of the social contract. fictions are rules, agreements, or legal and monetary constructs we have collectively signed up for. even though we, on some level, know fiction’s abstract unrealness for what it is, we have faith in the real, measurable outcome of the processes they allow for.

against this rather precarious framework it becomes interesting to look at institutions, as they are drawing their basis for existence from being, first and foremost, something that is “in operation”. a business out of operation is defunct. similarly, museums run on the premise of operation, turning art into visitor numbers, capital, or engagement figures. at its core, the idea of the museum is, of course, ridiculous. it is nothing more than an architectural construct, cemented by a web of fictions; contracts outlining its value and status.

both meschac gaba’s museum of contemporary afrikan art and ian allan paul’s guantanamo bay museum of art and history have valuably explored the fictionality that underwrites the museum as a concept, while at the same time using fictioning as a suggestion for a better future. by absolving locality, architecture and other physical denominators, they operate solely on the fictions that give the museum life. working within that fictionality alone, they are able to expose those same operations as absurd, politically failing or economically undesirable. fictioning becomes the only mode for political agency left to us. this is the operative methodology that drives ima forward, into unknown terrain. ima is not a thing, not a “what”, but a fictional tool for institutional questioning. it is an operative non-entity that tries to open up a space for unexpected conversations.