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The Institute of Art and Architecture

The Mirror Instituion

A long term project for a new art institution along the 18° east longitude – from Cape Town in South Africa to Botkyrka in Sweden. The project will be developed in close collaboration with
Botkyrka konsthall and local organisations and individuals in the Cape Town region.

“At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the centre of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me.”

from The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges

We have become very good at maintaining existing institutions. Through increasingly efficient management strategies universities, governments, and museums have built up such a momentum that they appear to have transformed themselves into machines of Perpetuum mobile. As we know, such machines are only hypothetical; without the input of any kind of energy the laws of thermodynamics will ultimately lead to them to lose velocity, and they will eventually stop altogether. The energy of institutions is knowledge and as soon as they stop producing new knowledge and only manage existing knowledge they turn into zombie institutions. As the un-dead they stumble mindlessly forward, driven only by an inexplicable desire to consume.

So how do we create new kinds of institutions, institutions capable of producing knowledge? First we must realize that what drives institutions, what they really want, deep down, is to institutionalize whatever matter filters through them. They do this through being professional, static, essential and successful. They operate on commissions, performing a service to clearly stated aims – whether political or economical. They materialize themselves through re-producible and formal aesthetics.

So what we are looking for is an institution that will be described as hobbyesque, temporal, ephemeral and destructive. It operates through unsolicited work and insists on being disobedient – producing, rather than representing politics and economies. Through a series of unfolding situations and constant transformation this new institution is always in a state of becoming.

This project, the Mirror Institution, have taken the form of a model. What is interesting with a model is that it could be understood as a materialization of something to come, a representation of components and flows through a system and a framework, perhaps to understand the logic of a structure. This Institute is an attempt to construct a constant precursor – something that comes before something else. This strategy of ‘something that comes before something else also links this project with the on-going project to relocate and build a new Botkyrka konsthall in Fittja.

It occupies all places along the 18° east longitude. Like the Aleph in the short story by Jorge Luis Borges it exists simultaneously in Cape Town and Botkyrka. It is a mirror institution without a reflection.

The Mirror Institution is located in an exact replica of a disused waste station in central Fittja, Botkyrka, Sweden and was made by a local model maker in Sweden. The institution is about thirty-five centimetres high, but following the route of the migrating Barn Swallows, it stretches over ten thousand three hundred kilometres. Because of its rather convenient size it can easily travel and adapt to numerous contexts and situations. The institution knows no borders and accepts proposals from everywhere and everyone.

The institution was inaugurated in the township of Red Hill outside of Cape Town in 2015. The project is supported by IASPIS