Man Bites Dog (or, Artist Chooses Curator)Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, December 13. 2006 • Category: Musings
When a curator simply chooses an artist, that isn't news. (Just as a dog biting a man would not be news, either.) But when a man bites a dog, or an artist chooses a curator, we've got more of a story. (Background on the journalistic expression "Man bites dog").
I'm using "Man bites dog" in jest, of course, but it was a phrase that immediately struck me that whilst reading an article by Dana Gilerman I found at Haaretz.com.
Suzanne Landau, a senior curator at the Israel Museum, will curate the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in June 2007. A Culture Ministry committee selected artist Yehudit Sasportas six months ago to represent Israel at the event; Sasportas, in turn, chose Landau to curate the exhibit.
An unusual move, I would say. Landau seems to think so as well:
"I have a problem with this method, in which a random group sits and selects an artist," says Landau. "It seems abnormal to me. I think this group could have irrelevant interests, and there have already been cases in the past that proved this. I have also mentioned this more than once to Idit Amichai, the coordinator of the Culture Ministry committee."
What would you suggest instead?
"That the committee choose a curator, as is the practice in other countries and as was done here in the past."
The reasoning for this inversion of process is provided a bit later on, but is glossed over:
There were also ethical problems in the past with regard to the selection of curators. "Then perhaps the problem is that Israel is a small country and there is nothing that can be done about that."
The ethical problems that would blight a selection process for a curator would also no doubt cause problems when selecting an artist. I don't have the knowledge of the art scene in Israel that would allow me to comment on this specific case with special insight. However, I think that the reasoning behind why the process ended up being a "man bites dog/artist chooses curator" situation is quite interesting. Suzanne makes a fair point in her response, but even the largest countries break down into very small art scenes, usually defined by city boundaries, but also sometimes subdivided even further. "Ethical problems" could mar a selection process in a scene of any size. The question is, how do we handle these problems, and is the solution to invert the process entirely?