Contemporary art curating news and views

Report from Manufacturing Exhibitions (2)

Posted by Mikhel Proulx • Wednesday, April 18. 2012 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Manufacturing Exhibitions (2), Max and Iris Stern International Symposium 6, MARCH 30, 2012 TO MARCH 31, 2012 Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

This year’s incarnation of the annual Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Max and Iris Stern International Symposium aimed to reflect on leading issues from the last two decades of curatorial practice. For conference organizer and MAC curator François LeTourneux (and demonstrably for several of the presenters), dominant in this premise is the blurring between curating and art-making, and the adoption of historical perspectives in both practices since the 1990s. This “historiographic turn”, LeTourneux posited, has resulted largely from the archival systems and access to information made possible after the internet, and has been accompanied by the development of a self-reflexive and performative curatorial praxis. Upon this scaffold, leading contemporary curators were invited to explore the nexus between their own practices and these widespread trends.

Keynote presenter and curatorial firebrand Jens Hoffmann offered a précis of his forthcoming book “Show Time” (the title of which exposes his theatrical past). The project examines “fifty key exhibitions from the past twenty years” – a typology ranging from events for historical and site-specific reflection, to platforms for transnational exchange – each case was a group show. This canon of exhibitions evidently serves to highlight a “self-reflexive impulse” arising from the prevalent tendency in recent curatorial practice to actively consider the history of exhibition-making itself.

In thinking and talking about curatorial history, though, curators risk “creating dangerously insular meta-production” – a hazard Hoffmann attempts here to sidestep. Against a backdrop of globalization and alongside a spurt of globalized art practices, exhibitions since 1990 have become “vehicles for social, cultural and political expression... on the part of curators”. This ability to reflect on cultural contexts, Hoffmann suggested, arises from curatorial self-reflexivity: a facility for curators to look and act externally, derived from a kind of inward-looking. “Curating”, we were told, “has become a more creative medium” – at least in the form of group exhibitions – a claim that routine solo-show curator Kitty Scott was quick to challenge: “the group show has become the medium for the curator over the past two decades”, Hoffmann retorted in the question period.

The following day packed in ten presenters who shared a concern for historical outlooks in curation.

Montreal local, independent curator Vincent Bonin focused on the telling time-lag between the productions of contemporary art exhibitions, and subsequent publications, theorisations and retrospectives. For Bonin, this is evidenced most grippingly in the challenges posed by (or impossibility of) restaging work of post-studio artists like Michael Asher or Lawrence Weiner. Less the restaging of original artwork, exhibitions of such practices instead may endeavor to recapture an appreciation of the historical context of their original production.

Barbara Clausen, too, acknowledged the curator’s alchemical-like ability to rejuvenate practices brought alive from archived documents and artefacts, as she herself accomplished with Sarah Pierce’s 2010 performance FUTURE EXHIBITIONS, for which Allan Kaprow’s 1963 Push and Pull serves as both source material and mise-en-scène. Here, the staging of shows, the protocols and taxonomies of archives, and the practices of the curator become fodder for artistic production. With this, Clausen remarked on the shared affinity between curation and performance – the staging of a show and focus on the audience paramount to both methodologies.
Clausen further stressed the role of process-based modes of production, and the appropriation of previous exhibition models into display production. She reminded us that while the revival of the past used to happen over three full generations, it is now already a part of much production of contemporary performative practices (the work of Sharon Hayes is exemplary in this regard).

Extending her own invitation to address the colloquy, Kitty Scott invited Reesa Greenberg (distinguished scholar and Scott’s one-time professor in a late-1980s Montréal) to discuss her influential (and now sixteen-year-old) publication Talking About Exhibitions (Routledge). Scott posed ten questions for Greenberg, ranging from the practical aspects and working conditions of collaboration, to the feminist and theoretical challenges of the project, to its possible relations to contemporary curatorial and academic practices.
Greenberg opted for Scott to Skype her co-editors of the publication, Sandy Nairne and Bruce Ferguson, of which the crowd at the symposium was treated to a glitchy, unrehearsed recording. Greenberg’s own presentation that followed stressed the efficacy of collaboration as a productive modality, and remarked on the deep integration of theory and criticism into curation since the late ‘80s. Her pioneering work in curatorial discourse, she suggested modestly, represents an outdated model within contemporary networked-culture, and she further posited the possibility of reifying the project on the web.

Hou Hanru provocatively opened his talk with the remark that the French Commissaire means both curator and police. Hanru charted the increase in the major exhibition of ‘non-Western artists’ in the ‘West’ alongside influence of non-Western biennials that challenge dominant curatorial structures (offering the Havana and Istanbul Biennials as exemplary models). This is, Hanru argued, not just a prevalent recognition of new geographic horizons, but a means to rethink Western exhibition models. He posited a political turning point in which the biennial becomes an alternative cultural site – alternative to the banal, market-driven vision of art fair and museum paradigms. His is a call to engage specifically in public and participatory programs, for which his own 10th Istanbul Biennial (2007) may serve as example for such curatorial innovation. Its public and context-specific agenda included Dream House, (a show that never closed its doors to the public) and Nightcomers, a three-month endeavour that saw video projections reach peripheral neighborhoods of Istanbul. Hanru further advocated for sustainable social engagement (versus the punch-and-run tendency of biennials), as is the case with Rem Koolhaas’ Time Museum of Guangdong – the architecture of which is woven into residential condominiums in the neighborhood of Huangbian.

Florence Derieux, in line with Hoffmann, charted an historical turn in which the exhibition as its own subject is taken up in the now-normative role of the curator-as-author. This “exhibition-making as an artform in its own right”, Derieux offered, was aroused by Documenta 5 and more generally by Harold Szeemann’s evolution of the practice in the late ‘50s and ‘60s.
In sharing the same space of cultural production, though, artists and curators become intertwined in a relationship coloured by competition. Here, the category of the professional curator is inherently in conflict with that of the artist. Such conflation of artistic and curatorial roles may very well elicit innovative exhibition models, but clearly risks undermining the value of artists.

“Why must everything be so clean? Why must the white-cube persist?”, implored Dieter Roelstraete. His presentation, a call for “Retour au désordre”, proffered the virtuous capacities of risk, adventure, danger, experimentation, and transgression in exhibition-making. Rehashing his recently-published essay ‘In Defense of Making a Mess’ (orig. Unordnung, bitte in Monopol Magazin), Roelstraete pleaded for disorder in exhibitions – “to become messy again”. He decried a widespread lack of risk-taking in contemporary art, and at the same time conjured various traditions in art history that rely on risk. “Art’s partial roots are in refuse”: this is, Roelstraete affirmed, one reason why we’ll miss Mike Kelley so much. Now, instead of risk, we have the memory of risk – a restaging of it that assumes risk-taking is a thing of the past. “The past is easier to keep clean and tidy than the present”, he reminds us. Under this shadow, and conceivably in the light of an archive-fetishistic and commodity-driven market, much of contemporary art proscribes sterile curatorial practices akin to the privatized risk-management of art fairs. “Well-ordered shows”, Roelstraete asserted, “are easy” and “taking risks is, well, risky”.

‘it is uncertain what is mediating and what is being mediated’
In the concluding presentation of the symposium, art-historian Lars Bang Larsen and artist Søren Andreasen performed their Four Micro-Lectures on Mediation. Evidently borne from coffeehouse-conversations on dark Copenhagen afternoons, this sometimes-cryptic diatribe contemplated roles of the mediator in four social strata: Economy, Sound Production, the Culture Industry, and Curation:

1. Economy
In which mediation is a principle of commodity exchange, and the mediator professes a marked licence to enter the marketplace, to regulate and speculate, and thus to create a ‘super-market’.

2. Culture Industry
In which the mediator may be writ large in leading portrayals of lawyers by Hollywood men, traversing the fields of entertainment, economy and law (this insight was coupled with an automated slideshow of George Clooney and Matthew McConaughey). Here, the performative role of the middleman levels differences for others on his own professional terms. He is useful, though as Bang Larsen reminds us, “usefulness is a characteristic of the idiot”.

3. Sound Production
In which Phil Spector’s invention of the synthetic echo reverberation delimits access to the source of things. This focus on the membrane of mediation calls into question the role of the mediator in asking: “what happens to the echo when it is deliberately produced?”

And finally,
4. Curating
Wherein mediating is exposed as relativizing, and the mediator’s role is seen as the authoritative creation of new communities via the commoditization of cultural artefacts (à la Adorno). They offered: “when curators are no longer custodians of eternity, they must reflect on their own institution’s legitimacy”.

Collectively, the muster of curatorial notables shared concerns for historiographic sensitivity and the necessity for self-reflexivity. Such concerns were writ large in propositions by each participant: in the curatorial naval-gazing espoused with pied-piper-like certitude by Hoffmann, and, divergently, in the cautionary evocations of moments when artistic agency is assumed by curatorial authorities (by Derieux, Bonin and the Danish duo). The speakers offered compelling instances of past artworks and practices mitigated and reified in Lazarus-like display forms, as in Clausen‘s historical contextualization projects, and Scott’s active, participatory methodology. Progressive imperatives were pressed in Hanru’s models for new forms of cultural engagement, and in Roelstraete’s charismatic plea for experimentation and mess.

Manufacturing Exhibitions (2) fully engaged with, as Hoffmann warned against in his opening, “talking about talking about ourselves.” Called into question were the working modes of (and between) the curator-as-artist and the curator-as-manager. The symposium served to concretize contemporary curatorial practice in light of historical precedents, and to position its discourse in time for next year’s conference theme – abstraction.

Image of Img Søren Andreasen and Lars Bang Larsen by Mark Lanctôt.

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Opportunity: Curating.info Internships

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, April 17. 2012 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities

The application date for this opportunity has passed.

Curating.info is seeking energetic and inspiring people to take part in creating content as well as contributing to the exciting future directions the site may take.

Curating.info is one of the web's top destinations providing information and career support for curators of contemporary art. The site is respected and recognised, with excellent site statistics as well as thousands of fans on Facebook (and some fan mail!).

Ideal candidates for internships are passionate about curating and contemporary art, are great writers, and are very at home using word processing applications and blogging platforms. Bonus points if you use Facebook and Twitter. You'll work directly for me, Michelle Kasprzak, founder of Curating.info, and in collaboration with other interns based around the world. These positions are unpaid.

In return for your valuable time, I can offer you: an insider’s view into producing a popular website with international appeal; relevant and constructive feedback on your writing; credit where credit is due and glowing recommendations where these are warranted; a look at all the jobs and opportunities before anyone else; and collaborative brainstorming around the future of the site. The team is a nice group and you'll forge warm and lasting connections by being part of it. There are many more benefits which I simply cannot conceive of until I meet you, as only then I'll know how we can best work together.

Duties include:
-Using provided tools to retrieve and edit information for posting
-Research and brainstorming
-Administration and data entry
-Liaising with partners and collaborators
-Writing and editing texts (some for publication, some not)
-Collecting and digitally manipulating images
-Managing social media channels
-Overall support

-Strong commitment to and knowledge of contemporary art
-Commitment of six months (minimum), approximately 5-10 hours per week (though this is very flexible and may vary a lot)
-Excellent knowledge of word processing programs, blogging platforms, social media platforms. Some knowledge of image editing software is preferable.
-Ideal candidates are likely to be individuals who are in Masters-level curatorial studies or art history programmes, or are emerging curators. Writers, journalists, and wordsmiths of all kind are also welcome. Critical thinkers of all stripes are preferred.
-Your English language skills are of the highest level; those who can combine fluent and fluid English with advanced skills in second and third languages are strongly preferred.

-You do not have to be based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which is where I am based. Each intern completes all work remotely, with most feedback taking place over email, our internal low-volume mailing list, and meetings taking place over Skype. (This un-requirement of a shared city means that a rock-solid internet connection becomes a requirement.)

To apply:
Send a CV, cover letter, and one short writing sample as attachments in .doc format to michelle -at- curating.info before midnight on May 8, 2012, with a subject line of "Internship". Only candidates who are selected for further conversations over virtual beers on Skype will be contacted.

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Opportunity - Paid internships in Curatorial Development and Critical Discourse, Collective/New Work Scotland

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, April 11. 2012 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities

The application date for this opportunity has passed.


Collective and New Work Scotland Programme are changing this year.

Collective is moving from our long-term home in Cockburn Street to The City Observatory on Calton Hill in 2013. Our new location will have a dedicated, year-round space to support the development of new work by the next generation of practitioners based in Scotland.

New to this year's New Work Scotland Programme is the offer of two distinct opportunities:

• Five practitioners will produce significant visual art commissions and participate in a structured course of critical discourse.
• Two new, unique 6-month internships in Curatorial Development and Critical Discourse with a stipend, research budget and agreed outcomes.

This year NWSP offers all selected practitioners and interns: a two day retreat at Hospitalfield, Arbroath, with invited guests; the chance to undertake a residency at Studio Voltaire, London; participation in a series of monthly discussions and regular mentoring sessions. Collective is also continuing its collaboration with Tramway to provide a further opportunity for practitioners to be part of the Tramway programme.

The theme for this year's application is The Plural Association. All applicants are asked to respond to this – in whatever way.

Eligibility is for practitioners (artists) and interns, based in Scotland who are not represented by a gallery and are either:
• In their final year (undergraduate or postgraduate).
• Graduated and up to six years out of college/university.
• Practitioners who have not had a major opportunity in Scotland in the last four years.
• Writers who have not had a major publishing opportunity.

Selectors: Jesse Jones (artist), Fiona Jardine (artist, writer and curator) and Rob Tufnell (curator and Director of Rob Tufnell Gallery). Chaired by Collective’s Director, Kate Gray.

For more information and application forms: http://www.collectivegallery.net/nwsp.html

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Opportunity: Young Curators, New Ideas IV Open Call for Curatorial Proposals

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, April 7. 2012 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities

The application date for this opportunity has passed.

Young Curators, New Ideas IV Open Call for Curatorial Proposals

mr. & mrs. amani olu, in conjunction with Meulensteen, are accepting curatorial proposals for Young Curators, New Ideas IV, opening at the gallery on June 7, 2012. Below is a brief about the exhibition along with submission guidelines. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact amani olu at sir -at- mrandmrsolu.com or visit mrandmrsolu.com.

Young Curators, New Ideas
Young Curators, New Ideas IV is an experimental group exhibition that broadly examines the intersection between curatorial practice and modes of artistic production. YCNI seeks to provide a venue for emerging curators to develop their practice, experiment with ideas, form relationships with artists and expand their presence within the contemporary art community. In the past, YCNI has supported projects by Karen Archey, Jon Feinstein, Laurel Ptak, Jose Ruiz, James Shaeffer, Lumi Tan and Cleopatra's, to name a few.

Submission Guidelines

Deadline: Friday, April 27, 2012, 6PM, PST
Notification: Tuesday, May 1, 2012

For consideration, please send the following to sir -at- mrandmrsolu.com.

+ One-page curatorial proposal limited to no more than three artists
+ Curatorial CV
+ 250-word or less bio for each artist
+ Five images for each artist

Image Submission
+ Submit each image as a low-resolution, 72dpi, .jpg
+ Resize each image to 600 pixels in width (not in height or length)
+ Rename each image with the proposed artist’s name (ex. john_doe1.jpg, john_doe2.jpg, john_doe3.jpg, etc.)

Please do not send high-resolution images (300dpi), CMYK or TIFF files.

Submission Organization
A correct submission includes:
+ One-page exhibition proposal
+ Curatorial CV
+ One document with artists’ bios
+ Images (If you are proposing more than one artist, then organize each artist’s set of images in a respective folder)

Create zip file of the above contents, rename the file with your name and send as an attachment to sir -at- mrandmrsolu.com.

Additional Details
+ Each curator will receive a small stipend, and transportation, installation and administrative support
+ Curators from all geographic locales are encouraged to apply
+ Be ambitious: Meulensteen is a 7,000 square foot space located on the ground floor in Chelsea, NYC
+ Each proposal should be theoretical, based on +/- 150 square feet of available space. No two spaces will be the same. All work will need to be packed and available for pick-up in the Greater NYC area by June 1st, and install will occur June 4th – 6th.

amani olu (b. 1980) is an independent curator, writer, essayist and co-founder and executive director of Humble Arts Foundation, a New York based 501c3 committed to supporting and promoting new art photography. He is producer, designer and co-curator of The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Vol. 2, published by Humble. In addition to his work as a non-profit arts director, he also organizes the annual Young Curators, New Ideas exhibition. olu’s 2012 curatorial projects include: Young Curators, New Ideas IV at Meulensteen; Welcome to Tomorrow, Syracuse University's MFA Thesis Exhibition at Dumbo Arts Center; Small Worksat Magenta Foundation's Flash Forward Festival in Boston and The Invisible Line, a solo presentation by artist Ellen Jong at Allegra LaViola. His projects have been reviewed and featured in publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, ARTnews, Time Out NY, Code, and AM New York, as well as online at Art in America, Bomblog, Cool Hunting, Daily Serving and Flavorwire. olu recently penned the catalog essay for Welcome to Tomorrow, Syracuse University's 2012 MFA Thesis Exhibition and for Herald, Rashaad Newsome's debut exhibition at Marlborough Chelsea. His writing includes interviews with William Eggleston and Gottfried Helnwein, and profiles on K8 Hardy, Elad Lassry, Rashaad Newsome and David Benjamin Sherry. He lives and works in New York and is a proud member of New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA).

Meulensteen is a contemporary art gallery representing several conceptually rigorous emerging and established artists. Formerly known as Max Protetch, in the fall of 2009 the gallery was acquired by Edwin Meulensteen, under whose leadership the gallery continues to push conceptual and geographic boundaries in exhibition programming. Following an extensive renovation of its three exhibition spaces, the gallery reopened in September of 2010 as Meulensteen. Recent exhibitions include Italian artist Andrea Galvani’s first New York City solo exhibition entitled A Few Invisible Sculptures; Ann Pibal’s DRMN’ featuring a catalogue essay by Robert Storr; Oliver Herring’s Areas for Action, an ambitious month-long series of performances; and In a Perfect World..., a group exhibition curated by James Elaine showcasing a new generation of Chinese artists.

For additional information, please contact amani olu at sir -at- mrandmrsolu.com.
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Special Announcement: 2012 Curating.info Fellow: Emma Brasó

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, April 2. 2012 • Category: Pick 'N Mix

We are delighted to announce The 2012 Curating.info Fellow: Emma Brasó.

Following a call for submissions last autumn, applicants to the inaugural Curating.info Fellowship submitted statements on urgent issues facing curators today. Selection was made on the basis of this statement as well as their demonstrated fresh thinking for what the role of the curator could be today. Applications were judged by Francis McKee, Director of CCA Glasgow; Sally Tallant, Artistic Director and CEO, Liverpool Biennial; and Michelle Kasprzak, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Curating.info.

Emma will begin her Fellowship at CCA Glasgow this April. Francis McKee, Director of CCA comments: "We look forward to welcoming Emma to Glasgow later this spring and to the material outcome of her development time at CCA next year. The Curating.info partnership is an important part of CCA'€™s commitment to the development of arts practitioners throughout their careers, and to curatorial development for the future."

Emma's bio:
Emma Brasó (Madrid, 1983) holds a BA in History and Theory of Art from Autonomous University of Madrid, and an MA in Modern Art: Curatorial Studies from Columbia University (New York).
During the last ten years, Emma has worked in the art world in a variety of positions. In 2004/05 she was Assistant to the Co-Director of the 51st Venice Biennal. From 2008 to 2010, she held the position of Advisor at the Fine Arts Department of the Spanish Ministry of Culture, in charge of the coordination of the Departments'€™ contemporary art activities and initiatives.
In the meantime, Emma has also carried out an independent career as critic for both Spanish national and international media, and as curator of several concept-oriented exhibitions for a variety of not-for-profits, Festivals and Foundations in the US and Spain. In 2010, she was selected to participate in the Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course. Currently, she is correspondent in Madrid for Flash Art International and will be curating a cycle of three exhibitions on art and empathy for the Youth Art Space of the city in 2012.

Emma's statement:
As an emerging curator who has had the opportunity to organise exhibitions in both public and private institutions, the question I am always asking myself is whether the work I am doing is meaningful beyond the art world. If we agree that contemporary art can help to improve people'€™s living conditions then, as curators, we must accept the challenge of proving this. When conceiving and developing an art show or other type of project, we should seriously consider how our work contributes to maintain the influential position of art and artists in society without compromising the theoretical and aesthetic relevance of the message. In my opinion, this is the most pressing issue facing working curators today.

In times of crisis like the ones we are going through, art and culture run the risk of being relegated to a subsidiary role when they should, quite the contrary, become central elements in the necessary negotiation to overcome the situation. If curators, who have given themselves the mission of guarding the validity of art, are not able to demonstrate its indispensability in moments like this, we should not be surprised to see how contemporary art keeps suffering cuts in funding and public interest in favour of other more immediately productive areas. It is not a matter of indicating how the cultural industries are an important economic sector that creates jobs and therefore shouldn'€™t be underrated, but to demonstrate that the ideas of living artists can be instrumental in the generation of a new set of values. A crisis is necessarily followed by a period of change, and it is our obligation to make sure art plays an essential part in that transition.

To do so, curators must assume the position of mediators between the artist and the public. If we want art and culture to count, we can'€™t reject the challenge of engaging new audiences, and of combating the public'€™s disinterest, boredom, incomprehension, or even anger. At the same time, we must be continually asking ourselves how to keep our loyalty to the artist's purpose or to the work'€™s own intentionality without scaring the uninitiated away. Plus, curators should avoid treating contemporary art exhibitions as spectacles while they deal with making the information included in an art piece interesting to the public. The curator'€™s position between the interests of the artist and those of the general public is a delicate one that should never be overlooked in the process of exhibition-making.

However, at times I have felt that curators avoid this topic or leave it in the hands of the education departments. Somehow, and despite the educational turn in curating, it is as if talking about their responsibility towards untrained audiences is unworthy of their expertise. Of course, contemporary art is a very sophisticated area of knowledge and one that needs continuous up-to-date and intellectual effort on the side of the experts. In spite of that, I will insist that to make art count in the broader picture curators must confront the challenge of making their work purposeful outside as well as within the professional sector. In times of crisis and change, when old values seem to be in need of replacement, curators must find the way to make each and every one of their projects an important piece in the reset of the societal puzzle.