MUSA Museum Startgalerie Artothek, Vienna, Austria
The exhibition ba ≠ b+a explores the question of how a museum’s activities—its mechanisms, modes of operation, and logics—are reflected in the works in its collection. On the occasion of MUSA’s tenth anniversary, the museum’s program of exhibitions and publications takes a self-reflective turn, shedding light on the specific characteristics of Vienna’s municipal art collection, whose origins go back to the 1950s, and raising far-reaching questions concerning the museum as an institution. The assumption underlying the exhibition is that the objects in a museum’s collection are crucial to its character. They may seem to be innumerable separate pieces—but the museum is more than their mere juxtaposition. “That which is composed of something in such a way that the whole is a unity,” Aristotle writes, “is a unity not as an aggregate is a unity, but as a syllable is. The syllable is not the letters, nor is BA the same as B and A; nor is flesh fire and earth.”* It is only in the interweaving of the individual components, in their layering and inexhaustible potential constellations, that they engender the necessary density that lets us understand, and interact with, the museum as a living archive.
*Aristotle: Metaphysics. Translated by Hugh Tredennick. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1933, book VII (Z), 1041b, translation modified.