The Uses of Art

“let every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others—some goodly strength or knowledge gained for yourselves; so, from day to day, and strength to strength, you shall build up indeed, by Art, by Thought, and by Just Will, an Ecclesia of [Europe], of which it shall not be said, “See what manner of stones are here,” but, “See what manner of men.”

– John Ruskin, lecture “the relation of art to ‘use’”, 1870


NSK, Trancentrala, Ljubljana, 1996

‘The Uses of Art – the legacy of 1848 and 1989’ is a five year European Funded project which sees a collaboration between existing members of L’Internationale Moderna Galerija (MG), Ljubljana, Slovenia,  Museum voor Hededaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA), Antwerp, Belgium,  Museu d’art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona, Spain, Van Abbemuseum (VAM), Eindhoven, Netherlands , Museo nacional centro de arte Reina Sofia, (MNCARS), Madrid, Spain, SALT, Istanbul, Turkey and partners who have expertise to help realize the project: Grizedale Arts (GA), Coniston, United Kingdom, John Byrne(JMU/LDAD), Liverpool, United Kingdom,  Koninklijke Akademie Schone Kunsten (KASK), Gent, Belgium, Universität Hildesheim (UH), Hildesheim, Germany.

‘The Uses of Art: The Legacies of 1848 and 1989’ Project saw L’internationale members collaborate with partner institutions to facilitate a range of exhibitions, shows, seminars, lectures, symposia and publications that sought to address the shifting and changing roles and functions of art institutions. By looking back to 1848 and 1989 the intention of the project was to reimagine and revision a role for art in the production of new forms of citizenship and participation. ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacy of 1848 and 1989’project itself was officially launched in Madrid, at the Reina Sofia in May 2013. As part of this project, a L’Internationale Online Platform has also been developed

John Byrne, Director of the Uses of Art Lab was manager and co-ordinator of the ‘Constituencies’ Research Strand of L’Internationale Project ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacy of 1848 and 1989’. This Research Strand research strand has to the publication of book ‘The Constituent Museum: Constellations of Knowledge, Politics and Mediation – A Generator of Social Change’ for publication in April 2018.


This publication is edited by John Byrne (Lead Editor/Liverpool John Moores University) in collaboration with Elinor Morgan (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough), November Paynter (SALT, Istanbul and Ankara), Aida Sánchez de Serdio (Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid), Adela Železnik (Moderna galerija, Ljubljana). The book draws on the accumulated knowledge and speculations of the many artists, curators, writers and institutions involved and includes a series of ‘Project Studies’ that evaluate a real world ‘toolkit’ for change.

The publication ‘‘The Constituent Museum: Constellations of Knowledge, Politics and Mediaiton – A Generator of Social Change’ was also developed through a series of seminars, conferences, exhibitions and publications that included an ‘Office of Useful Art’ at LJMU/Liverpool School of Art and Design (October/November 2015), A Glossary of Common KnowledgeConstituencies’ Seminar held at LJMU in March 2016 (curated by Zdenka Badovinac (MG+MSUM), John Byrne (Liverpool John Moores University), Bojana Piškur (MG+MSUM), and a ‘Constituencies’ Conference held in Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) in August 2016, which was coordinated by Elinor Morgan and John Byrne.

Overall, and after five years of work, collaboration and exchange, The Uses of Art: The Legacy of 1848 and 1989 resulted in 26 exhibitions, 35 conferences and seminars and 25 publications. Its main value however, lay in the connections it created through art within L’Internationale and its partners and, perhaps more importantly, among the over 1.6 million Europeans who participated in events, bought publications and who visited exhibitions, seminars and conferences.