You could hardly fail to hear the discussions in the museum’s corridor

Ultimately, it is only a question of temperament whether you call this a full-blown argument or a difference of opinions. There is no argument about the facts, certainly – although in the meantime, neither side is very happy about the publicity; the museum no doubt even less so than Scott M. MacLeod, our second to last bidder.

But what was it all about when an assistant curator at the museum and the bidder documented their mutual lack of understanding for the constraints and needs of the other side? One fact is that MacLeod did not want to shut the double doors to the exhibition room, which have only really been opened for photographs and alterations up until now. MacLeod, a “preparator” at the SF MOMA and a professional artist, wanted publicity for his intervention. He saw the room as part of the overall exhibition and wanted to move it visually closer to the other exhibits. He attacked the PWC team in Berlin and chafed against the regulations and restrictions of the museum, which is a major institution with routines and conventions aimed at smoothing the course of day-to-day professional life, and is – ironically – also MacLeod’s employer.

The assistant curator refused to comply with MacLeod’s special wishes. Declaredly unhappy about the continuing misappropriation of the MOMA’s curatorial staff for participative services, she demanded adherence to regular procedures. In MacLeod’s view, she coolly informed the winner of the auction that the public would surely manage to find its own perspective. Perhaps this was not the exact dialogue. Our webcams don’t convey dialogues, nor do they allow us to share any heated debates about the precise limits of a museum’s participation. The whole exhibition project is called the Art of Participation. But what actually is the role of art in all this participation? And when is the point when participation becomes painful for a museum, to which even small participatory steps must seem like a disturbance of its peaceful running, since even interactive museum art is directed towards preservation?

It is difficult to say who is right, even though we can’t help feeling certain sympathy for this defiant bidder. MacLeod is testing the system. Sometimes, he does so in an aggressive way, when he attacks us, for example. He is concerned about his work and lays claim to all the conservational care that he begins to resent when the museum refuses to open the door to Pandora’s Box. But his questions are well thought out. He suspects us of bigotry because of our part-time participation, and this cannot merely be swept aside. His intuitive sense that all our rules hamper aesthetic freedom cannot be dismissed out of hand. Scott, you express your doubts in interaction! We can say little about that, and we have no mandate for peace missions. But for a moment, we did think it was funny. It’s funny that there is no occasion for argument with all these other participatory artworks. But we already asked ourselves that in 2001 – and founded the PWC for experimental purposes.