This dissertation traces the history of a diagram. The diagram shows four circles of gradually diminishing sizes, lodged one inside the other, like the layers of a circular or spherical body. For a group of artists, curators, architects, and activists centered around Moderna Museet in Stockholm between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, the diagram represented a new type of museum: a museological Information Center modeled on the computer, operating as a site for radically democratic social experiments. The four layers stood for different functions: information capture, processing, interface, storage; or, put differently: social spaces and media resources, workshop floors, exhibition facilities, collection.
Through close readings of a series of exhibitions and institutional projects in Sweden, the US, and France, this dissertation follows the development of this diagram: its prehistory and formulation, its different implementations, and its direct and indirect effects. It studies Moderna Museet’s original, unrealized project for Kulturhuset in Stockholm, according to which the museum should project its dynamic energies across the city center, serving as a “catalyst for the active forces in society”. It discusses the museum’s confrontation with digital technologies in the late 1960s, through pioneering museological organizations such as the Museum Computer Network in New York. It analyzes the exhibition formats developed in correspondence with the notion of the museum as a “vast experimental laboratory” and a “broadcasting station”: the exhibition as critical information pattern, as tele-commune. And it studies the diagram’s afterlife as one of the models informing the Centre Pompidou in Paris, during that project’s early phases.
The Exhibitionary Complex reads these endeavors and visions as attempts to devise a critical understanding of the exhibitionary apparatus in relation to new information environments and media systems. It sheds light on a largely forgotten aspect of the exhibitionary, museological, and cultural history of the late twentieth century, in Sweden and internationally. But it also seeks to establish new models for grasping the exhibition’s singularity and potentials as a cultural and media technological form, in relation to the emergence of new information networks, as they exert increasing control over social, cultural, and political existence.