This text analyses the relationship between institutionalism, context and cultural criticism. Its main objective is to identify how universalism has permeated the different waves of Institutional Critique, conditioning the subversive potential conferred to creative practices and locating radical, alternative institutionalism within the narrow geo-cultural landscape of mainstream biennials. Taking as point of departure Cildo Meireles's participatory public intervention in documenta 11, I consider how representational concerns are privileged vis-a-vis visual practices related to coloniality and difference. From that position, the article argues that only by challenging the assumed universality of the debates on cultural institutionalism will we be able to stress the relevance of critique in addressing cultural policies and non-representational practices. This implies confronting the troublesome relationship between Institutional Critique and modernity from a 'geographically-informed' position capable of recognising institutionalism as a heterogeneous body of practices that are being globally transformed.