The Butterfly Effect: Laura Raicovich on Cultivating Cultural Infrastructure

Please join Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum for the inauguration of the new and evolving series The Butterfly Effect: Can Small Shifts in Museum Practice Generate Seismic Change Across our Societies? with a talk by writer and curator Laura Raicovich.

  • Time: 28 October, 2023 at 15:00–17:00
  • Location: Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum, Tromsø/Romssa
  • Address: Sjøgata 1, 9008 Tromsø
  • The event will take place in English
  • Watch a recording of the lecture here

Cultural institutions, and museums specifically, are being taken to task. Protestors have demanded that museums to divest from fossil fuels (Liberate Tate in the UK), that they renounce funding obtained through exploitation (artist Nan Goldin’s work against the Sackler family sponsorship of the Guggenheim), and that they move beyond performative statements of solidarity into the realm of concrete action. There is a growing and urgent expectation that museums and cultural institutions work for the interconnected matters of social, decolonial and ecological change.

In her book, Culture Strike, Laura Raicovich reveals how museums have cultivated an air of neutrality that is anything but neutral. She charts how they continue benefiting from a history of empire and colonialism and how that faux-neutrality hinders them from engaging with the pressing issues of the moment. Based on her rich experience she suggests and demonstrates ways museums can transform structurally to better serve their publics and better embody the lofty ideals they claim to represent.

In this inaugural talk she will discuss how cultural infrastructures are necessary for societal equity, and how the function and operations of such infrastructures are central to making change writ large. She will also talk about slowing down, and cultivating a diversity of forms of change-making and how they will be key to this broader transformation. She will discuss this as an outgrowth of the thinking from her book, Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest (Verso, 2022).

Laura Raicovich is a New York City-based writer and curator. Her recent book, Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest, was published in 2021 by Verso Books. She is also editor and curator of Protodispatch, a digital publication featuring artists’ takes on the local and global conditions that make their work necessary; she initiated the forum with Mari Spirito and Protocinema in 2022. With a collective of artists, musicians, and culture workers, Raicovich opened The Francis Kite Club, a bar/cultural/activist space in NYC’s East Village in 2023. Prior to these projects, Raicovich served as Director of the Queens Museum and Interim Director of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art; she was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Bellagio Center, and the Tremaine Curatorial Fellow for Journalism at Hyperallergic.


The Butterfly Effect: Can Small Shifts in Museum Practice Generate Seismic Change Across our Societies?

The series asks a simple question: Can small shifts in museum practice generate seismic change across our societies? That museums of today face profound challenges is without question; they are a symptom of the urgent and interconnected impact on our societies of the climate emergency, racial and sexual exploitation, wealth inequality, and technological innovation outpacing human comprehension. Yet museums have a role to play in activating solutions to these challenges.

In NNKM we recognize that museums are sites of ideology and thus repositories of vested interests; we acknowledge their foundations upon extractive and racialised mechanisms. And yet, we believe those armatures can be countered by positioning ourselves as parts of mutable structures in constant flux, that foster polyphonic voices and challenge received histories. We endeavour to work through situated practices, that understand their local-beingness as an indisputable part of the many interconnected worldviews that exist. Furthermore, we advocate for museums of intervention and criticality, museums that inform state policy rather than be harnessed by it. 

Consisting of conversations and keynote lectures, performances and workshops, as well as food-sharing and storytelling, the series upholds the collective nature of this communal endeavour. As a museum undergoing a process of regional decentralisation, some of our events will take place in NNKM Tromsø/Romssa, some in NNKM Bodø/Bådåddjo/Buvdda, some in the Svalbard Archipelago and some in co-creation with partners in Finnmark/Finnmárku

The Butterfly Effect convenes curators, artists, museum professionals, lawyers and activists whose thinking we admire, to consider radical museum and institutional models from the past, present and a speculative future. With this we hope to strengthen and celebrate a general understanding of the museum’s responsibility and potential in society. We also hope to nourish and accelerate our own internal commitment to, and implementation of, the repurposing of our resources to generate processes of transformation that are urgent and crucial to our planetary longevity.


First speaker: Laura Raicovich 

Future speakers:
Ama Josephine Budge, Léuli Eshrāghi, Anawana Haloba, Stefanie Hessler, Candice Hopkins, Melanie Keen, Kimberley Moulton, Manuela Moscoso, Ánde Somby, and more to be announced soon. 

Design: Blank Blank Studio

Photo: Michael Angelo

The Butterfly Effect is funded in part by generous contributions from the Norwegian General Consulate in New York.



Wednesday 11. October 2023