THIRTY ONE POSITIONS ON CURATING
All curatorial practices should discuss / question their position within the actual art system. They should not hide their ideological backgrounds, but openly analyse them. Specific relations between the artist, curator, public and institution are a very important and sensitive topic – especially power relations, that usually stay hidden.
Curating is a specialism (still not even a discipline outside the centres, where it mostly takes place) with very uneven developments. Thus, that which seems an urgent necessity in some places, like the need for creating academic spaces for its development (which is the case for Venezuela and the rest of Latin America), in other places seems excess to requirement. As I exercise my curatorial practice from the margins, the future development of curating as a discipline is a crucial subject for me. In my country, as in almost all of Latin America, we face the total absence of an academic scope that offers the possibility of education in this area above fourth grade, not to talk about professional training. Such an education, ideally oriented to stimulate investigation on a theoretical level or at the very least specialized studies (logistic, tactical and technical), is needed to create the minimum of consensus on the existence of curating as a practice. Why is it that in Latin America the only existing consensus curating is the one that precedes it, from its validation in the centres? Yes, as García Canclini says, in the evolution of the protagonist subjects of the museums (understood is the museum as the cornerstone of the spreading of art), the last link is the curator. So, if the curators presence is so determining, from where comes the resistance to think of it as a field or discipline? Consequently, it would be necessary to ask ourselves: Is this a productive resistance?
If the accent here is on “openly” and “discussed”, one might automatically think of certain restraints like the politics of economy (including the so called attention economy) and the whole question of marketing (not only the so called “art market”). We see a lot of really boring, conventional shows and whole exhibition programs that are marketed as if they were pure innovation and inspiration – not only by the institutions and their curators, but also by the press. This fact as such is not really a problem, even if you think about all the money and energy that went in these projects and not into others: First of all, there are obviously enough people (including the sponsors as well as a public) who obviously want to see exactly these kind of shows – and I’d even concede that many of these are in their own way well done. And then there are always enough really fascinating and inspiring projects in case you are really looking for them. But as a matter of fact this situation is not usually discussed at all, at least not “openly”. Perhaps one main reason for this is that everybody knows the underlying structures all too well. And of course even the best curatorial study programs won’t help us to get rid of them. Personally (and closely related to my own practice) I am far more interested in questions like these: How to make invisible/non-material “things” visible without forcing them into mere representation? How to deal with heterogeneous formats of ideas within one bigger framework, in order to create some kind of communication or at least some productive tension between them? How to create interfaces for people that invite them to actively relate to something – perhaps a set of ideas – offered to them?Thus, I would love to see questions like these discussed more intensely. Yet I might like to add: In the end, when it comes to curating I consider far more important what is done than what is discussed.
I don’t want to see any topics on curating more openly discussed. I don’t see the point in talking about curating as curating. Because curating should be discussing art not itself, curating. Not curating curating.
I have four topics I would like to see more openly discussed: 1. Creative curating: what happens when the curator is a collaborative partner in the creative process of creating and defining the works? In which ways can the contemporary curator be viewed as a coach? 2. Creating web exhibitions: if more and more virtual and digital exhibtion spaces emerge in the future, what does that demand from the curator? From the artists? From the viewers?3. The artist is the curator is the artist: many curators today are artists and vice versa. It gives an insight into both roles and this knowledge is important to understanding the different steps of building up an exhibition or creating an art piece. When and how can the myth of that these two roles needs to be separated be killed? 4. Why are there so few educations focusing on curating?
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ART AS CURATING ≠ CURATING AS ART
Jens Hoffmann & Julieta Aranda
Jens Hoffmann: I am entering this conversation from the position of the curator—a curator who has often been accused of taking a very authorial and creative position in the creation of exhibitions. I am emphasizing words like “author” and “creation” on purpose to express my place in this conversation, and my overall standpoint in the realization of exhibitions. I am not an art historian—the traditional background of a curator—nor did I study curating. Rather, I consider myself an exhibition-maker in the tradition of Harald Szeemann and Hans Ulrich Obrist, both of whom have had to deal with similar critiques in regard to their creative approaches when organizing exhibitions. The group show is our medium, but none of us has ever done anything to a work of art that was not appropriate or forced artists into a context they did not want to participate in. Criticism usually comes from the outside—never from the artists we collaborate with—and skepticism is particularly strong in the United States. I recently had a conversation with a young writer and curator who said he did not want to be progressive in his work as a curator but focus his energy on curating large-scale monographic shows of established artists. I thought that was very telling about the role of the curator in an institutional setting. I see my own trajectory, which grows out of Szeemann’s practice, as forming temporary alliances with artists to produce grand narratives that are bigger than the sum of their parts: exhibitions with an epic dimension, if you will, which reconnect to my formative years as a theater director. My points of reference are Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht and filmmakers of postwar France and Italy. Jean-Pierre Melville and Michelangelo Antonioni are especially important influences in their authorial approach to filmmaking. In the field of contemporary curating, I think that Okwui Enwezor is the most gifted, but I am also a big fan of the curatorial work of Ydessa Hendeles. She has been a big influence on me, perhaps more so than any of the other people mentioned here. Her way of making exhibitions is certainly on the border of artmaking. What I like about her is that she brings very personal elements to her exhibitions—emotional, almost romantic—and she is very interested in the staging of her shows. She is the best installer of exhibitions that I know. Her shows are more than perfect, if you ask me.
Julieta Aranda: Since you entered this conversation as a curator, I should state my position too and say that I am entering it as an artist. Yet, I am an artist that has often been mistaken for a curator, since I frequently create participatory projects. In the beginning, it was quite frustrating to constantly encounter skepticism for my work, but over time I came to realize that there is a place in which the lines between what constitutes artistic practice and what constitutes curatorial practice can be blurred. I would like to use this conversation to try to define this blurred space—this intersection—and how it can be productive on both sides of the blur. I am very curious as to how you understand the relationship between artist/curator—the important differences and the place in which these roles are perhaps even complementary.
J Hoffmann: What you say is interesting, as there is a history of what you describe as a “blurred space” of intersection. Just think about people like Seth Siegelaub, for example, or more recently Matthew Higgs—an artist as much as a curator. Then there are artists who curated exhibitions, at times even run art spaces. This “blurred space” has a long history. I have learned a lot from watching artists curate. Most recently, I invited Paul McCarthy to curate a show at the Wattis Institute in San Francisco, where I am now the director. It was a terrific experience: seeing him select the pieces, seeing him install work in very different ways as compared to a curator. Artists have a different approach to curating—one that is less conformist and often more creative and unpredictable. There have been fantastic shows curated by artists that I always mention as some of my favorite exhibitions: The Play of the Unmentionable (curated by Joseph Kosuth), Americana (Group Material), Mining the Museum (Fred Wilson) or before that, in the late 1950s, This is Tomorrow (Independent Group) and many more. All of them influenced me enormously, probably more than exhibitions curated by what we would call “proper” curators. I have always considered myself a proper curator, though even that has been disputed at times. People have said I am so creative that my work really borders on artmaking, but these kinds of comments miss the point as they overlook what my work actually says about curatorial practice. Someone who is important for me here is Liam Gillick, with whom I’ve had fantastic discussions about exhibition-making and the roles of artists and curators. I remember him saying once that he thought that it was curators who changed art in the 1990s, not so much artists. I am not sure if that is right—he probably went a bit too far—but it was an interesting point to consider and speaks to the importance of curators in the field of art today.
J Aranda: Sometimes I wonder if there is really a need to keep roles so strictly separated or if curating is an entrenched practice merely because of tradition. I would be very curious to know what you consider to be the difference between artist-curated shows and curator-curated shows. In my case, I think more and more about the possibility of an extremely flexible approach in which it would be possible to articulate polysemic positions that can be either artworks or exhibitions. Somehow the idea of exploring the intersecting space between both practices seems more interesting to me than it is to delineate the boundaries of each. A good example is Obrist’s DO IT exhibitions, which I find incredibly successful as artworks.
J Hoffmann: I think you have a point there in regard to the separation of curating and artmaking. It has a lot to do with tradition, habit and the historical development of art and museums. Do not forget that until recently, curators were mostly art historians. The majority of curators today still are art historians, but you also have a new kind of curator that follows the model of someone like Szeemann, for example, and works very closely with artists. I think Obrist played a big role in this development as well, and you already mentioned DO IT, one of the most interesting shows in recent history in terms of its innovative qualities. I am not sure, however, if it would be innovative with regard to the history of art. That is why I would always vote for a separation of these practices—artmaking and curating. Curating is not really an artistic practice. At best, it can be called a creative practice. Also, most of the time, the boundaries between these practices are being crossed more by artists than curators. I have not found one curator yet that considers her or himself an artist. If they do, they cease to be curators. Perhaps all of this will not matter much in the future, but one needs a different set of skills to make shows than to make art. Artists I’ve worked with are always surprised about the amount of work they have to do as a curator, apart from the selection of artworks. All the administrational elements are really shocking to them!
J Aranda: Something that is odd to me is to see how the crossing of boundaries changes modes of working for both artists and curators. Of course, there is a long tradition of curators coming from art history, and the same long tradition of rational, well-thought-out survey exhibitions to illustrate art-historical topics. It is very good to see that linear mode interrupted by a more intuitive approach to curatorial practice, which complicates the relationships between works or that articulates a point altogether different from what could be said by historical analysis. However, I also notice that there have been more and more artists that are making use of investigative methodologies common to an art historical approach. This can be interesting ground for productive confusion, and thus it makes me wonder why you think that the moment a curator might consider him/herself as an artist, they would not be a curator.
J Hoffmann: Of course artists have heavily influenced curators, not only through the work that they make when they curate but, more often, simply through their own artwork. Look at how much influence the practice of institutional critique and conceptual art have had on curators over the last forty years. It is interesting that you would call new ideas in the field of curating more “intuitive.” I disagree with that, but I think what you mean is that they can be, perhaps, more personal. It is difficult to generalize. People still tend to look at new forms of exhibition-making as one movement—as one overall idea—even though the efforts of most curators that fall into this category can be quite different in their methodology and, in many cases, do not even relate to one another. But to answer your question, if a curator considers his or her work to be art, then he or she is not a curator anymore simply because exhibition-making, as I understand it, is not an artistic practice. It is still about some form of scholarship, even if it is very creative and personalized. But you are right in that it is becoming harder and harder to define.
J Aranda: I think I should clarify. When I say “intuitive,” I don’t mean misinformed, but I also don’t mean strictly personal. What I find fascinating about the curatorial approach that we are discussing is that it is not following the logic of art history as we know it but is also not using work to serve a personal logic. In some way, it seems to be structured around relations of complicity, where all the parts involved remain active as the statement is articulated. That doesn’t talk to me only about exhibition-making but also about artmaking and about how these two things are becoming inextricably tied at a certain level.
J Hoffmann: Yes, I understood that you did not mean “misinformed,” but I would be careful with the use of the word “intuitive” in the context of curating. I think what you mean is nonacademic—idea-based. Looking at my own work, I think I am intuitive to some degree but perhaps less when it comes to making an exhibition and more when it comes to an initial response to artworks that I analyze intellectually. I understand your ideas of the blurring of these boundaries, and they make a lot of sense; it is just a very particular discourse that I am personally not so fond of. In some funny way, I sometimes think I am a conservative curator: I like objects, I like to work in gallery spaces, I like all the details associated with exhibitions. The things I fundamentally reject are common forms of exhibitions and the categorization of exhibition genres, and that alone calls everything into question.
J Aranda: The way in which you describe your relationship to curating is often with regard to the group-show format. I am curious as to how you see the one-to-one relationship between a curator and an artist. For example, I know that you often work with Tino Sehgal. How does your process change in such a case, if at all?
J Hoffmann: I think that the group show is the exhibition format in which curators can be the most creative. Here she or he can bring in their vision in regard to artists, artworks, themes, etc., and tie all the elements together following one larger concept. I have looked extensively at this particular exhibition format and worked—especially in earlier exhibitions—on conceptualizing the process of making an exhibition. Today, my exhibitions continue to contain a self-reflexive element, but that is only one of many concerns. I am much more interested in the idea of staging exhibitions as an overall creative and artistic environment that the audience can immerse themselves in on a number of levels. When a curator is working with an artist on a solo exhibition, the one-to-one relationship is always different and entirely dependent upon who one works with. But usually, when working on a solo show—and I have to say that all the ones I have done are not survey exhibitions but project-based solo exhibitions—I try to look very carefully at the artist’s work and then try to find a format for the exhibition that is based on a particular element of the artist’s practice. It is a long process, and it is one of the most interesting things for me: the challenge of how to find the most adequate form of exhibition for a particular type of work. Artmaking has changed so radically over the last century; yet, we still use display strategies—exhibition formats that have been with us even longer. I am trying to challenge this by looking at the artwork, by talking to the artist, in order to find the best possible format for a solo presentation. But now we are talking too much about exhibition-making from the curator’s point of view. Tell me more about your thoughts in this respect. How do you start thinking about curating an exhibition, for example? How is that related to your work as an artist? Are there very strong connections, or is it more of a fluid form of exchange between the two?
J Aranda: I understand your affinity for the group show. The format is interesting to me as an artist because it allows one to see how work functions in a certain context. Why I ask about your role when working one-on-one with an artist is because I used to think about curators in the classical, art-historical sense—as the keepers of the record—those in charge of making sense of the world around them, much like the function of one in charge of continuity in filmmaking. However, when I think about what I call “intuitive” curators, things shift. When I mentioned before relations of complicity, it is because I have come to realize that this becomes a very strong and important component of the working process—at least in my case—much more so than the directives and guidelines of art history.
As to your questions, I don’t think I have ever curated an exhibition. What happens is that some of the projects that I have worked on with Anton Vidokle tend to be confused with curated exhibitions. I believe this is because we were using a participatory model so that the content would come from people that were complicit with a certain idea, while we could focus on the structure. These projects are completely related to our preoccupation with the notion of circulation and its aesthetic potential. In the case of our video rental store, this became the idea of making a structure that would complicate the terms of access and display of film and video work, while trying to lay the groundwork for the creation of an open archive. And in the case of Pawnshop, we tried to focus on the moment in which value is generated within the processes of exchange and circulation of artwork. Obviously, we were relying greatly on the participation of all the people that have taken part in these projects, but I really don’t consider this approach curatorial, nor do I consider these projects to be curated exhibitions. I would be open to say that they sit in a gray zone of confusion where disciplines intersect, and maybe this is why I am interested in talking to you about this in detail.
J Hoffmann: I would not consider the video rental project or Pawnshop an exhibition or an artwork. The first was a platform for the dissemination of works by other artists for which you invited many curators to select videos; the second was a structure that would offer artists an opportunity to expose and circulate their work within the particular circumstances of a pawnshop, where pieces were reduced to their commodity value. You do not ever say that these were artworks or exhibitions. You always refer to them as projects.
J Aranda: In the case of the video rental project, the work does function as a platform. To me this doesn’t take anything away from the understanding of it as an artwork, as I believe that the status of what is and what is not an artwork is not related to formal qualities. As you know, there are many other artists that are working with archival models and exploring the restructuring of certain situations by way of other works. I think that at this point, we can say that an artwork can take the form of a structure, especially in the case of this work, which was chiefly concerned with the aesthetic potential of circulation more than with its own content. With Pawnshop, again the idea was not to offer visibility to other artists but to explore the structure within which value is constructed, which needed the participation of others in order to function. I think that it is possible to make work that contains work by other artists but is independent in meaning from the work that comprises it. I understand that it can be tricky to analyze such projects, but I also think that this model of production makes things interesting. Maybe this is why I am now more interested in complicating the boundaries between disciplines—not because I am interested in becoming a curator or because I think that curators should define their role in a more or less ambiguous way—but because I think that the potential of this constantly shifting ground is turning the field that we share into something incredibly interesting, far more interesting than anything else going on right now.
J Hoffmann: I understand exactly where you are coming from, and it makes perfect sense. I am intrigued by your desire to create the new and to form alternative ideas of all of these practices. I see that what you do is a clear continuation of works that I would also connect to some artists involved with so-called relational aesthetics, but expanding the idea of outside participation and widening the idea of an exhibition as an artistic medium. It is interesting to me that I needed you to elaborate on it further in order to be able to fully understand your intentions. I am not sure if the overall idea was really apparent to everyone who followed these projects. I have also always thought of The Next Documenta Should be Curated by an Artist as an exhibition and not so much as a book, and I think that was also not clear to many people. For me, curating is always about widening the understanding and formats of exhibitions and never so much about doing the same for art. That is the artist’s job!
Tratto da: Art Lies, Issue 59
CURATORS IN THE FIELD OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Beatrice von Bismarck
Since the 1990s the profession of the curator has enjoyed a level of attention previously unknown. Beginning with the historical landmark of the figure of Harald Szeemann, a star cult developed around curators that, as a number of lectures and publications of recent years suggest, has banished artists and art critiques to a lower rank in the field. This intense engagement with the professional profile, with the tasks and demands of curatorial praxis, is thus in no small measure due to a conflict of hierarchization that has almost necessarily emerged within the field. The artist and initiator Susan Hiller opened the multiyear lecture series The Producers: Contemporary Curators in Conversation in Newcastle by asserting that the curator has replaced art critics and artists today: a statement that was subsequently taken up, discussed, and, with various results, denied by the speakers. If one examines the arguments that have been advanced in the tribunals on the status of the curator, it is striking that the embattled front by no means describes a clear line but is rather characterized by interruptions, abrupt turns, and spatializations. For while curators on one side are enthusiastically granted an extraordinary status ‘on par with the artist’, which is seen as progress in the advancement of the field, on the other side this very similarity with the artist’s role has triggered vehement criticism and hostility. The relevant perspective shifts in accent, here on the definition of the work done, there on the process of organizing a public sphere or on adapting to consumer behavior once again, can transform from praise of a prominent subject position for the curator to condemnation as presumptuous and improper. What is on trial is not just the redistribution of social privileges that would go along with a rise in the professional image of the freelance curator but also, quite fundamentally, the nature and efficiency of participation in the processes of constituting meaning.
Perhaps more than any other profession in the field of art, curatorial praxis is defined by its production of connections. The acts of collecting or assembling, ordering, presenting, and communicating, the basic tasks of the curatorial profession, relate to artifacts from a wide variety of sources, among which they then establish connections.
The possibilities for such connections are manifold and, once the objects have been removed from their original contexts, can also be constructed anew. As exhibited objects, the materials assembled are ‘in action’: that is, they obtain changing and dynamic meanings in the course of the process of being related to one another. Ideally, these connections result from formal and aesthetic features or from content, but they also relate to the corresponding cultural, political, social, and economic contexts that attach to the exhibited objects their historicity.
In 1998 Zygmunt Bauman located the curator’s position “on the front line of a big battle for meaning under the conditions of uncertainty, and the absence of a single, universally accepted authority.” To put it simply, he was hoping to find the roots of a semantic production based in processes of connection in the postmodern transformations in the field of art. Against the backdrop of such antithetical assessments of the role today, one also hears in Bauman’s formulation the two essential conflicting poles between which the current, more highly differentiated debate has evolved. On the one hand, there is the positive assessment that the figure of the curator represents the hope for finding footing again in the jungle of meanings that has resulted from the loss of clarity and binding norms.
On the other, there are reservations about giving the installation a new position of authority that lays claim to special powers to interpret the processes of connection. If we choose not to view the current ‘curator hype’ and star cult as simply a side effect of the enormous growth in exhibition activity as part of today’s event culture but also admit it has critical modes of action and effect, then the relationship between these two antithetical assessments of the phenomena becomes more significant. When trying to put curatorial practice in perspective, which is necessary if it is to have a critical potential, this relationship proves to be an essential aspect, which can for its part be made useful as an element of a critical praxis. Hence the remarks that follow will be devoted to it. They are based on the assumption that a specific variety of criticality isappropriate to curatorial practice, given its procedure of creating connections.
Art’s claim to autonomy is one of the main points of reference for the reservations raised about the role of the curator today. The art sociologist Paul Kaiser observes along these lines: “The success of curators as social figures in recent years derives from the old dilemma of art in the (post-)modern age, i.e. the need for art to assert its supposed autonomy in a market heavily regulated by economic factors.” In comparison to earlier decades, he identifies the specific nature of the present situation as the fact that the other authorities that have previously responded to art’s need for commentary “newspaper criticism, academic study, educated patronage (…)” have “largely ceased to be parallel sources of creative production (…)” in our “fun, consensus and aspirin society.” The commentaries on the figure of the curator mentioned above reflect this assessment of a crisis. Even if they disagree on what triggered the crisis, art theory, art criticism and even art itself have all been held responsible, they all share the view that the genesis of the curator position can be attributed to the inadequacies of other positions in the field of art. Kaiser’s formulation makes this judgment concrete and at the same time once again puts the curator in the service of art as ‘marketing manager’, ‘artistic intellectual’, or ‘amateur trend scout’. The basis for the discussion is a development in the field of art that began in the 1960s with the rapid growth of activity, increased differentiation within the art field, and the associated rise of new professions, including both the freelance curator and the increasingly specialized curator associated with an institution. Ever since curators have been sharing the tasks involved in communicating art with scholars in various disciplines, gallery owners, critics, and teachers. The ‘dealer-critic system’ that Cynthia White and Harrison White identified in their groundbreaking 1965 study of the development of art institutions in France in the nineteenth century as the structure of the art field in the modern era had added a whole series of new players. Enhancing the status of the freelance curator to the extent that is done in the current discourse means an essential shift and concentration of the power to constitute meaning that had previously been distributed more equally among various authorities for communicating such meaning. The trend was encouraged by the deprofessionalisation that began at the same time in the 1960s as these processes of increased differentiation in the filed and have clearly accelerated again in the 1990s, in a kind of countermovement to efforts at professionalisation institutionalized in courses and schools. In these trends, two fundamental developments of art reveal their consequences for the roles and tasks in the field of art: increasing conceptualization, on the one hand, and a focus on context, on the other. Artist’s encroachments on tasks and roles that had been assigned to other players in the field of art were closely connected to this concentration on the discourse of art. Because these other players in turn exchanged and appropriated various activities and positions among themselves, since not only artists but also critics and curators can write, create exhibitions, teach, and sell art, because aspects of both harmonization and indistinguishability emerge in these mutual transfers, it is also possible for professionals who do not explicitly think of themselves as artists to participate in the elevated social status of the ‘artist’.
The debate over power and status appears to become especially heated around the profession of the freelance curator, who is thus not tied to an institution. The basis for this is the social status associated with communicating art, which is part of the various professional disciplines in the field of art. Institutions that mediate between art and the public, be they museums and collections in private or public hands, exhibition houses, commercial galleries, magazines, publishing houses, universities, or art colleges are authorities that consecrate and legitimize. In their dependence on their objective relations and positions in the field, they participate in the process of evaluating art as art. The players active in them and for them, curators, gallery owners, critics, publishers, teachers, and theoreticians, carry out these processes. For its part, the effectiveness of these players develops in dependence on their position in the field, in their relationships of powers relative to other players and the institutions.
to be continued on
THE PRODUCTION OF THE PUBLIC. EXPERIENCES FROM MUMBAI
Prasad Shetty & Rupali Gupte
The idea of public is central to urban planning. Most decisions in planning processes are taken in the name of the public. Public infrastructure, public spaces, public amenities, and so forth, are commonly used terms in the planners’ vocabulary. Public here is agreed as all people or everybody. There is an entirety promised in the idea of the public, which is understood to be a clear entity. As any ambiguity or complications in the idea of public would destabilize planning, conceptual discussions on this subject are taboo for the discipline. Hence there is a conceptual closure of the idea, where the public explicitly means a definite entity. The messy urban conditions of Mumbai provide a clear illustration of how opening up the idea of public would destabilize planning processes.
For instance, in the design of streets, a certain width is considered to accommodate pedestrians and vehicles. However, a street in the city of Mumbai is often used and claimed in multiple ways – by hawkers erecting their stalls, by shops extending their boundaries, by new shops opening, and so forth. Slowly, the street converts itself into a shopping place (fig. 1). Being unable to accommodate the new activities, the street becomes congested and becomes an instance of the failure of the plan. While making the plan, the planner assumes the street to be a public space (infrastructure) – to be used by all people – but only for walking and driving. The planner further assumes the public to be pedestrians and car drivers who have no claims over the road, but use it to pass through. The planner can only handle such clearly defined and closed ideas of the public (without claims) for designing the street. Any attempt at a conceptual opening-up of the idea would make the situation unmanageable for the planner. Closer material examination of how streets are worked out as public spaces would clarify the difficulties arising from handling the conceptual opening up.
ONCURATING.org ISSUE 11 - Public Issues
POLITICS OF INSTALLATION
The field of art is today frequently equated with the art market, and the artwork is primarily identified as a commodity. That art functions in the context of the art market, and every work of art is a commodity, is beyond doubt; yet art is also made and exhibited for those who do not want to be art collectors, and it is in fact these people who constitute the majority of the art public. The typical exhibition visitor rarely views the work on display as a commodity. At the same time, the number of large-scale exhibitions—biennales, triennales, documentas, manifestas—is constantly growing. In spite of the vast amounts of money and energy invested in these exhibitions, they do not exist primarily for art buyers, but for the public—for an anonymous visitor who will perhaps never buy an artwork. Likewise, art fairs, while ostensibly existing to serve art buyers, are now increasingly transformed into public events, attracting a population with little interest in buying art, or without the financial ability to do so. The art system is thus on its way to becoming part of the very mass culture that it has for so long sought to observe and analyze from a distance. Art is becoming a part of mass culture, not as a source of individual works to be traded on the art market, but as an exhibition practice, combined with architecture, design, and fashion—just as it was envisaged by the pioneering minds of the avant-garde, by the artists of the Bauhaus, the Vkhutemas, and others as early as the 1920s. Thus, contemporary art can be understood primarily as an exhibition practice. This means, among other things, that it is becoming increasingly difficult today to differentiate between two main figures of the contemporary art world: the artist and the curator.
to be continued on
THE POLITICAL POTENTIAL OF CURATORIAL PRACTISE
Gerd Elise Mørland and
Heidi Bale Amundsen
Can curating make a change? And if so: how? As a result of the expanding market for contemporary art, the upsurge of biennials, art fairs and large group exhibitions, and the construction of numerous new museums for contemporary art during the 1990s, the role of the curator has undergone profound changes. From being a marginal character working within the confines of the museum, the curator has come to inhabit a freer and more centralized position within the artworld at large. Correspondingly, the critical focus has turned from the individual artworks to the overarching structure of the exhibition. As there has been a displacement of power from the artist and the curator, critics are now considering the exhibition an utterance in its own right. This has given the curator the means to agitate, speak and to be listened to. As a consequence, within the last few years we have seen an increasing number of curators utilizing their newfound power for political purposes, aiming to change societal structures. Certainly, political exhibitions can hardly be considered a new phenomenon. What we find new
though, is the way of expressing these political concerns. Prior to the institutionalizing of the curator’s role and the shaping of it as we see it today, the political was often expressed through the exhibitions’ content. But as the role of the curator changed, the curatorial methods
changed with it. This implicated what we consider a radically new way of working politically as a curator. While politics had normally been expressed through the exhibitions‘ content and thematic, curators could now activate art‘s political potentialthrough curatorial form and structure as well.
ONCURATING.org ISSUE 04
to be continued on
LA FORMAZIONE CURATORIALE IN ITALIA, UNA STORIA RECENTE
Maria Garzia e Frida Carazzato
In Italia le scuole per la formazione curatoriale sono nate da poco più di un decennio, nello stesso periodo la figura del curatore è diventata oggetto di dibattito al fine di definirne la pratica. Corsi di specializzazione e corsi post-laurea promossi sia nell’ambito della didattica universitaria che da enti e fondazioni private, hanno posto l’accento su una professione relativamente recente di cui evidentemente si comincia ad avvertire il bisogno di teorizzarne la pratica. La mancanza di una definizione univoca di tale professione e dall’altro lato la molteplicità di competenze che la caratterizzano, sono alla base della questione sulla sua “formazione”. Avendo partecipato ad un programma di formazione in pratiche curatoriali all’estero (l’Ecole du Magasin di Grenoble), una situazione di per sé favorevole e stimolante per un’analisi a distanza, abbiamo ritenuto interessante proporre una ricerca sull’attuale situazione italiana, valutandola alla luce di un confronto con la scena internazionale. Trattandosi di un argomento su cui il dibattito é in progress, ci è sembrato opportuno chiamare direttamente in causa i curatori italiani, attivi sia in campo nazionale che internazionale, invitandoli a riflettere sulla questione ponendo loro alcune domande. Quest’ultime sono qui di seguito pubblicate e le relative risposte figurano articolate in una sintesi composta anche dalle citazioni di alcuni contributi, in parte riportati per sottolineare o contraddire alcuni punti di vista.