2013 - 2015 Malina Suliman: “How far is the reach of the paternalistic art institution? How far and how long does it stretch into the artist’s personal life?”

Excerpt from Malina's 20 minute presentation for Do The Right Thing ! ~ DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2015.

Living Art Piece


Malina Suliman presented a performative reading of the “personal donation agreement” she presented to the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. This artwork took the form of a legal document, which Suliman employs to question the value of the life of a person, within a system of cultural value and institutional relationships. Her artwork enters a debate about the value of artwork, and the ‘added value’ of biography and background. She problematizes the practice of museum acquisitions by indirectly self-questioning her own role as an artist, and brings up questions of intellectual property and ownership, asking not only who owns the artwork, but also, who (if anyone) owns the artist. How far is the reach of the paternalistic art institution? How far and how long does it stretch into the artist’s personal life? By “capturing the moments” of a living person as a “living art piece”, she reveals a value which is not determined by economics but is rather based on emotions, history and relationships, specifically, the relationships between a museum and communities. This lecture-performance raised concerns having to do with privacy and personal freedoms under the shelter of an institution. Towards the end of the presentation, Suliman speculated about her future, as an artist and in regards to her relationship to the museum, which she has elaborated on in her “Living Art Piece” blog.

Maria Hlavajova remarked that this work demonstrates a return to the subject of art institutional infrastructure, and questions what would happen if this were not a donation but a real acquisition? She would like to see institutions reclaimed “for what we actually want to use them for.” Hlavajova referred to BAK and recent parallel projects including “Future Vocabularies / Future Collections” and mentioned that the New World Academy, “as an active (living) academy, has been acquired.”

Marina Vishmidt questioned the boundary between the contracting piece of the artist and the living artist, asking if there is some kind of split of the self. Vishmidt wondered out loud how the piece would be maintained if the artist remains outside of the museum and contributes fictional parts of herself. She mentioned the concept of living currency – where value is determined through experience, and recommended the book “Living Currency” by Pierre Klossowski.

Bassam el Baroni asked how this work functions at its core and was interested in ways that Suliman could take it forward. He reflected, “this work takes on the form of a conceptual piece but at its core it is a reinvention of a self portrait as a defunct mode that comes from modernism or pre-modernism (way of seeing the self/artist vis-à-vis the world)… The conceptual aspect is a necessary component which works almost as a cunning way to ingratiate or integrate oneself into a particular art environment.” If we consider different educational backgrounds, he asks, what is necessary for one to integrated into a particular educational format and where does the currency come from? Today this kind of agreement where the self is a kind of currency seemed to el Baroni “not so controversial” because we have already become used to the “technocratic administrative self.”

About Do The Right Thing !

Malina's website