Contemporary art curating news and views from Michelle Kasprzak and team

REVIEW: Every Curator’s Handbook

Posted by Sofia Landström • Tuesday, April 16. 2013 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Review: Every Curator's Handbook -'s_Handbook.pdf
by Sofia Landström

This compendium offers hands-on professional insights wherein different authors from different points of view share experiences from their professional careers as curators. The reader gets a specific and detailed overview of what a curator’s work might look like beyond theory.

“Every Curator’s Handbook” deals with multiple curatorial issues from collaborations to funding. With first-hand experiences and reflections from past projects, both emerging and established curators narrate the text in an accessible and educational way. It’s notable that the aim of this project is to create a resource that deals with the practical questions within the typical curatorial career, and takes a step back from the usual theoretical issues which are always present in the background of any art-related field. This compendium welcomes emerging voices that expands from the Western point of view to Armenia, Latvia, and Ukraine in addition to the participants from Europe and North America.

This seventy-page publication contains twenty short articles which deal with specific experiences or projects. One of the first articles, written by Haizea Barcenilla discusses how every curatorial project (even if it’s not considered collaborative) is an actual collaboration between the involved participants, from artist to institution. In this text, “The Difficult but Enriching Paths of Collaborative Practice”, she relates hands-on experiences from collaborations that worked out well and those that didn't. Her point of view is that curatorial work today is becoming more and more collaborative. Barcenilla argues that the profession is becoming more open for dialogue, and the possibility of producing something enriching increases dramatically as collaborative work increases. With this text, Barcenilla sets a particular tone for the rest of the compendium: she, as well as the other authors, focuses on curatorial work as a profession and a field rather than explaining what defines a curator or who a curator is.

Overall, in this compilation, the authors all articulate how hard it is to define what a curator is and what the right path is to become one -- there seems to be no right or wrong answer. In the article “In Conversation with Curator Richard Julin” by Anne Klontz, she speaks with the renowned curator Richard Julin, who recounts a traditional story on how to become a curator. Julin explains how he worked as a freelancer in the field of contemporary design in Stockholm and worked his way up in the hierarchy, a common way to get in to the profession. His career story, by describing the conventional way of becoming a curator,opens it up for other articles in the compendium to describe more unconventional ways.

Indeed, what makes this handbook intriguing are the various career choices described in the articles, everything from Richard Julin’s quite traditional career path to more progressive ones. Hilary Jack and Paul Harfleet’s article is one which describes a more progressive and challenging way of how they became noted in the curatorial field. They set up their own artist led space called Apartment in Manchester after they finished their Master's course in Art in 2003. Apartment was a spontaneous initiative, run from a bedroom on the sixth floor. They describe how their urge to set up something provocative and startling made Apartment a well-attended institution on the cultural map, and made them into curators. Even though Jack and Harfleet never considered themselves to be curators, they soon found curating to be a major part of their CVs when the Apartment project closed down in 2009. Since then they have taken part in commissioned curatorial projects, thanks to their previous work in the Manchester apartment -- something they never foresaw when they started in 2003. Essentially their innovative ideas and eagerness to start something made them into curators.

Ultimately, the best reason to read this book is because it tells stories like Jack & Harfleet's, putting curatorial work into a practical context. “Every Curator’s Handbook” does not aim to be a theoretical or research based book., This is a field in constant evolution, and this book provides a wide range of ideas within curatorial practice and creates a bridge between old and new ways of working.

On the whole “Every Curator’s Handbook” gives readers an insider view of international curatorial practice from East to West, and it gives the reader a wider understanding of the many directions in curating. One flaw is that the texts are often quite short, which does not leave enough space to provide answers to the many questions the reader might face. There are many good examples of exhibitions and projects that are hands-on in this book, showing potential for providing many valuable insights for anyone interested in curating, but the texts often only scratch on the surface. What this publication clearly demonstrates is that there are many ways to be a curator today (another reason why it would be impossible to cover everything 70 pages). It might not be a fully comprehensive handbook then, but as a book providing many interesting narratives and examples of real work in the field, it’s perfect.

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REVIEW: Rethinking Curating: Art After New Media

Posted by Katerina Gkoutziouli • Sunday, February 10. 2013 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook. Rethinking Curating: Art After New Media. Cambridge, MA, London, England: The MIT Press, 2010.

by Katerina Gkoutziouli

“Rethinking Curating. Art After New Media” by Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook has been a much-awaited book for those working in the field of new media and curating. In 2000, the authors launched CRUMB [Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss], an ongoing online resource and mailing list for curating new media art, which operates as a place for research, networking and discussions on the subject. This book is a consequence of all those years of research and work in the field by the authors, coupled with the input from the CRUMB community.

Acknowledging the fact that new media art is a contested term on its own, the authors make clear from the very beginning that they seek to define new media art as a ‘set of behaviours’. Thus, they prefer to call it “Art after New Media”. Besides, their primary focus is on the behaviours/characteristics of the artworks and then later on the various media used for production, distribution and presentation. By doing so, they address the possibilities of discussing new media art in the broadest context of contemporary art as seen through previous moments in art history and through a strong illustration and analysis of projects, exhibitions and practitioners’ views on the subject. As Steve Dietz puts it in the introduction “it's not a book about new media, it is a book about art; it’s not a book about curating new media, it's about rethinking curating” [p. xiv].

The first part of the book is concerned with putting new media art in context by illuminating its characteristics and by reviewing the convergence points between older and newer art forms and methods. To understand what new media art is and how it behaves, one first needs to relate it to a broad set of theories and histories that not only respond to an art context but also to technological histories and other cultural forms. This book is not about the debate between Turing Land vs Duchamp Land as Lev Manovich has put it, but it is about finding and looking at the correlations between these two lands.

The concept of ‘The Art Formerly Known as “New Media”’, challenges the very notion of the new, almost provocatively questioning curators who are seduced by the novelty and not by the context that the artwork seeks to generate. Can new media art be interpreted by its behaviors and be explored through computability, connectivity and interactivity?

Having these characteristics in mind, the authors seek to unfold the particularities of two main issues for art, namely space and time. They discuss the analogy between the dematerialization of the artwork in the 60s and 70s (something that was then framed under the terms “conceptual art” and “systems based art”) and the immateriality of today’s art within networks and virtual spaces. The art space itself has extended and so has curatorial practice. Which brings us to the question of what the role of the curator is in a distributed networking condition? And how have the variable manifestations of space redefined curatorial decisions? The authors set out to explore not only how significant the space is for art but also how art can be transmitted and communicated in different contexts. “When the work is immaterial – framed and understood only through participation in the system itself- then the network of its distribution is highlighted”. [p.60]

On the other hand, space and material, of course, do exist in new media but we can trace the differences, for example, between real-time projects, the immateriality of code and algorithm on a computer screen and virtual reality projects. It becomes apparent then that the challenge for curators remains in bridging the gap between virtual and physical spaces.

In new media art, it is difficult to differentiate between time and space, as both seem to converge in the behaviours of the media such as liveness, connectivity and computability. The distinction between “real-time”, “time-based” and “live” is useful in order to comprehend the concept of time. For example, the concept of real-time is different in video art from other forms of new media art. As the writers put it: “Real-time for video means instant feedback…while… real-time for computers concerns instantaneity of processing and manipulation of data” [p.97]. Curators need to constantly reinvent methods in order to respond to the needs of an artwork and correspond to the ways that the institution, the audience and the exhibition itself interpret time.

The authors move on to an investigation of participative systems taking into consideration the interactive, participative and collaborative behaviours of new media art and they ask the question “Who is involved in the systems, and how?” [p.111] An analysis of new media art projects, such as Rafael Lozano Hemmer’s “Body Movies, Relational Architecture No.6” (2001) and Harrell Fletcher’s and Miranda July’s “Learning to love you More” (2002-) leads the discussion to the varying dynamics triggered by the use of different media. Participation is a tricky behaviour, as it might be prompted by the art, the media used, the institution, the gallery, the curator and most importantly by the audience. However, there are still various factors at play that keep redefining the levels of participation, a fact that turns curatorial activity itself into a hybrid practice.

The second part of the book looks into the practice of curating in terms of contexts, practices and processes. Starting with an account of the different working realities of a curator, such as working in a museum, working on both a freelance basis, and as part of an institution, the authors consider the varying ‘responsibilities’ of a curator. The work of a curator usually aims at creating a structure or a process. However, especially when it comes to new media, curating can be identified as having several experimental modes and exhibition models, which the authors seek to unravel in the following chapters.

The analysis that they put forward highlights not only the theoretical aspects of curating but also challenges the ways that curators and institutions work. They look at how new media art is perceived in terms of interpretation by the institution and the audience when it comes to the method of display. Providing an extensive list of examples, ranging from online platforms such as Tate Media and exhibitions such as 010101 at SFMOMA (2001), the authors discuss the challenges of new media when it is archived and presented online as interpretation material and when it is accompanied by interpretive material in physical spaces. The ways that new media art enters the museum are examined, as it is often through educational departments. Questions regarding audience reception and interpretation of new media art are also explored relating to themes of curatorial practice, such as how you build an audience for such practices and who your audience is when it comes to curating in online spaces.

Looking at theoretical issues (such as how a curator’s decision might be influenced by the art museum) as well as at practical issues (such as the technology required for a new media exhibition along with marketing, sponsorship, archiving and collecting) the authors explore the ways that new media art behaves in such contexts. The call for curators to acquire a crossover approach on the subject in order to incorporate this type of work in a museum framework is increasingly becoming urgent.

For this reason, other modes of curating are explored in the book, such as the festival, publishing, the public space and the lab among others. With well-documented case studies such as New Media Scotland, the V2_ Lab, Rotterdam, and independent art projects like Kate Rich’s “Feral Trade”, the authors attempt to investigate the experiments and the boundaries between art, research and technology. These strategies lead to questions such as how different audiences perceive art and how the curator operates within hybrid art contexts.

Furthermore, collaboration cannot be absent when we talk about new media art and it is a subject discussed in relation to other ways of curating, outside of the institutional context. In this light, artist-run organizations and alternative spaces that focus on working methods of learning and sharing serve as examples to highlight the collective processes undertaken between artists, curators and audience. Exploring the interplay between roles that range from ‘the artist as curator’, ‘the audience as curator’ to ‘no curator at all’, the authors seek to address the particularities of new media art, including interconnectedness and networking, that allow for these experimental structures.

Given the fact that new media art tends to commonly be described or categorized by its medium, this book sheds new light on the various approaches a curator might take, as well as on the methodologies of historicizing and creating contexts for such work to be explored, analyzed and reviewed.

Ultimately, the best reason to read this book is because it puts new media art in context. It serves as an insightful compilation of projects, exhibitions, and theories on new media that might have otherwise gone uncontextualized. “Rethinking Curating” does not aim to serve as a media-specific book since new media art is an unstable field in constant evolution, but as a curatorial handbook that provides a comprehensive analysis of curatorial practice while creating a semantic bridge between older and newer art forms.

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Report from Taipei Biennial 2012

Posted by Charu Maithani • Monday, January 7. 2013 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction
Taipei Biennial 2012 09.29.2012 – 01.13.2013

With more than forty artists, the 2012 Taipei Biennial is one of the most successful in its fourteen-year history. During my interaction with the art community in Taipei, many artists and curators appreciated curator Anselm Franke for a commendable job, while admitting that they had not expected this level of understanding of the Taiwanese context from a European curator. Spread over three floors of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and a nearby paper mill, including archival images, documentary footage and many vitrines, the viewing of the biennial requires deep intellectual engagement.

Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction: Taipei Biennial 2012, is Franke’s take on the role of fiction in historical narrative. Evoking the fierce, ancient Chinese monster Taowu, who has the ability to look at both the future and the past, Franke has intelligently situated the biennial in the present while looking at the past and predicting the future. Not to mistake time as a linear progression, various works in the biennial present various histories – fiction, facts and fictious facts – that together illustrate the present while giving different, future possibilities. The theme of multiple histories, stories, narratives, media and vocabularies is echoed in the visual identity of the biennial as well. Implying contradictions through constant, shape-shifting expression, the typeface , created by Zak Group, represents the movement of the Taowu monster.

Franke’s use of fiction denotes the compositional elements of the modern world: economy, culture and beliefs. Fiction is not only the stories on which our histories are based, but the realities by which we recognise modern life. Franke’s interest in linking fiction with historical narrative exposes the deep relation they share with violence. Colonial accounts, anthropological studies and political events presented in the biennial show the inherent place of violence in history. Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi’s Triptych of the 20th Century is a five-channel video installation that shows consequences of war. The stunning visuals of one of the earliest brain surgeries is juxtaposed with nervous disorders as psychological effects of war; USA’s post-war consumerism is put alongside visuals of starvation due to war. They are projected on large screens that overwhelm the viewer with history. Harun Farocki’s Parallel draws our interest to changing imagery with technological progress. This two-channel video installation shows computer graphics and animation parallel to cinematic and photographic images. The videos show that in a matter of thirty years computer imagery has leaped to simulate reality including the creation of social dynamics as seen in computer games. Investigating this ongoing theme around control and manipulation through digital media, the work looks at the hyper-real future while considering the possible violent destruction of cinematographic images.

Chao-Tang Chang’s images in Time of No Shadows mirror the history of Taiwan. Photographs taken between 1959 and 2004 give the feeling of a detached nation much less aware of its history as it moves faster into the future. The images, as described in the biennial brochure, “capture … the sceneography of an historical experience” depicting layers of Taiwan’s history. Continuing this interrogation of history, artist Chia-Wei Hsu redraws the history of a tiny temple on a small island off the coast of Matsu in his work Marshal Tie Jia. The temple was relocated to a larger island when Chinese military leader Chiang Kai-Shek retreated to Taiwan. The video shows an old man singing a tale of World War II in the temple. As the camera zooms out, one realises that the man is singing in front of a green-screen (chroma key) while the temple is a reconstruction that was inserted only in the post-production. Revising history, Chia-Wei dupes the viewer of the visual triumph of seeing the Qing dynasty temple. Re-created by the artist, the temple is nothing more than a fictionalised account of what the temple might have looked like.

London-based artist John Akomfrah’s The Unfinished Conversation sets to illustrate multiple narratives around cultural theorist Stuart Hall. The three-channel video installation juxtaposes various speeches, conversations, photographs and interviews of Hall as a child and student activist, with images from Europe during 1950s and 60s. This gripping work brings alive the spectres of race and ethnicity through Hall’s personal journey. As history flashes on the screen to give us the understanding of the ever-changing relation between subjects and history, one can’t help but wonder what makes up our history and how much of it is our own. Another attempt at visualising history has been done by Chieh-Jen Chen in his film Happiness Building I. Shot in the actual setting in Taipei where a residential complex is being torn down to make way for a commercial building, Chieh-Jen refers directly to a collective experience of history. The film is beautifully shot and is based on short stories written by authors of the Taiwanese generation born in 1980s, who reflect on the instability of their anxious lives. Each frame of the film depicts pieces of each person’s story with very slow, controlled camera movements tracking from one end of the frame to the other, reflecting the craving for ‘happiness’ in each of their lives.

Calcutta Served as a basis for British Expansion in the East by Joachim Koester researches the opium trade between the British East India Company and China. Texts and two photographs illustrate the omitted history of opium-trade that has made many families a fortune in Calcutta, and many people opium addicts in China. The photographs refer to the monumental colonial past that is unearthed in this contemplative piece.

A selection of six mini museums, each organized by different curators, has given a range of perspectives to the larger theme of the biennial. The Museum of Crossings is devoted to the crossings of borders; The Museum of Gourd is about different uses and meanings of the gourd since ancient times; The Museum of the Infrastructural Unconscious unpacks the form of different contemporary polities; The Museum of Rhythm investigates rhythm-analysis as a potential knowledge field; The Museum of the Monster that is History looks at the violence on which modern states and social orders are based; The Museum of Ante-Memorials asks questions about the function of a memorial and its relation to the past and future. Summing up the Asian context by borrowing European history, Anselm Franke has aptly placed the current global turmoil in a different light. Immersed in the uncertainties of the world, the artworks call for a re-negotiation of common narratives, relations and histories. Just like the Taowu, Franke shows that a “de-monstering” of history is required for better understanding in the making of a future. With artists’ works from all over the world, Franke has created the largest edition of Taipei Biennial which will be a challenge for the next.

- Charu Maithani

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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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Review: Raising Frankenstein: Curatorial Education and its Discontents

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, March 19. 2012 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Raising Frankenstein: Curatorial Education and Its Discontents: Reviewed by Antonia Blocker

The issue of self-reflexivity is one that looms large in relation to curatorial education and the curatorial practices that emerge from it. How does one challenge curatorial practice without making one’s practice about curating? Can a history of curating be formulated in order to form the basis of teaching? Crucially, can curating be taught and how should it be taught? And perhaps most importantly, are these questions significant to anybody, beyond those who are part of (having studied or taught on) curatorial courses? Published on the heels of the 2008 conference Trade Secrets: Education/Collection/History, held at the Banff Centre, Raising Frankenstein: Curatorial Education and its Discontents wisely side steps this final question. Kitty Scott pitches the book as a ‘handbook for curating students’ in her introduction; although she then goes on to suggest that Raising Frankenstein offers a ‘set of cogent questions and analyses for […] students to practitioners’. By this one might assume she means curators, but perhaps she is referring to practitioners of curatorial education, which in this instance would be more apropos. Yet ultimately, Raising Frankenstein seems to fall between the cracks of its intended audience, failing to provide the pragmatics of a handbook, while not venturing far enough from the subject of curatorial education to serve useful to those unrelated to its pedagogy.

The six short essays range from ‘The Top Ten’ by Barbara Fischer, which provides an outline of a syllabus of sorts – a brief exhibition history that would be standard to any curatorial course – to a relatively informal and unfocused panel discussion. On the whole, the tone of the essays is reflective and vaguely idealistic. Teresa Gleadowe argues, ‘[curatorial courses] have to aspire to remain flexible in content and not […] settle into a fixed notion of their professional competences’, setting an example for far-reaching statements with no practical recourse. Considering that Gleadowe was paramount to establishing the Royal College of Art’s precedential yet highly institutionalised programme, she is in a prime position to make such an assertion. Undoubtedly it is true, yet how should such flexibility be achieved? The more successful of the essays is arguably Francesco Manacorda’s ‘Who’s Afraid of the Ideal Public?’, precisely because it focuses more succinctly on specific grievances with curatorial education and isolates some surmountable problems, such as ensuring curatorial students consider their public and instilling the importance of continued conversations with artists, colleagues and others. Nevertheless, these points are embedded in a somewhat convoluted first person narrative.

Perhaps a more useful publication would be one that more directly and honestly serves as a handbook, that is, one that poses pragmatic suggestions, similar to Manacorda’s, for establishing a professional practice. Although Raising Frankenstein implies that curatorial education is inherently problematic and needs to change and evolve constantly, ultimately it does not address the insinuated subtext – the institutional art world can no longer accommodate for the increased number of institutionally educated curators. Year after year, these courses launch a plethora of critically engaged, but often under-experienced curators into an oversaturated professional market. Realistically, what curatorial students need is not more theoretical discourse around the subject of their education. Rather what they are lacking is a roadmap to working in the current climate, in the hiatus between what curatorial education was twenty years ago and what it will be once it has adjusted, which may ultimately be totally unrecognisable. Of course, in order for this necessary transformation to take place, there needs to be continuing conversations and discussions between those who teach and those who learn. However, when these are, at this point, so far from reaching a solution, I am unsure whether the best place for them is a dedicated publication.

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Review: Esse arts + opinions: Be Nice to Your Curator

Posted by Katerina Gkoutziouli • Thursday, February 23. 2012 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Esse arts + opinions Magazine: Be Nice to Your Curator, No 72 - Curators - Spring/Summer 2011

Contributions by curators Sylvette Babin, Sophia Krzys Acord, Paul Ardenne, Jean-Philippe Uzel, Louise Déry, Nathalie Desmet, Michèle Thériault, Marie-Eve Beaupré.

Last year’s spring/summer issue of ESSE magazine was entirely devoted to curatorial practice. What does it mean to be a curator nowadays? How does curatorial practice evolve in different settings and structures? How valid are the criticisms against the role of the curator? Esse’s issue Be Nice to Your Curator presents an array of insightful essays written by curators and prompts the reader to reflect upon the enduring role of the curator. However, since curatorial practice is not confined to exhibitions, for this special issue Marie-Eve Beaupré has been invited to intervene through comments you can find in red ink between the texts. Besides the linguistic ambiguities that the word “curator” might pose across different languages, for example, curator in English, commissaire in French, the role of the curator seems to appeal to a larger set of criticisms and speculations.

Sophia Krzys Acord in her text “Guest Curating in the museum: Lost in Translation?” explores the risks of guest curating highlighting the different ends of museum curatorial practice versus independent curating. Acord unravels the limitations of such collaboration, which might lead to conventional outcomes with respect to audience engagement and the art itself. Looking at curating from a sociological perspective, Acord investigates the process of the production of knowledge within institutional settings and in relation to independent curating.

Paul Ardenne in his text “Curating Exhibitions: An Evolving and Ambiguous Function” takes a more radical stance on curators by exposing the levels of credibility of popular star-curators, who have more or less shaped a debatable but a rock-hard landscape to act in. Seeking to map the crisis experienced in curating nowadays, Ardenne further elaborates on the current institutional imperative for curated shows by artists and provides a critique for what makes a great exhibition in a chaotic art system led by dynamics other than of the art itself.

Jean-Philippe Uzel’s “The Author-Curator and His Critics” starts off with the well-known and persistent criticism against curators for having replaced the artists. Through an interesting history of curatorial criticism, from Daniel Buren in the sixties to Paul Ardenne and artist Anton Vidokle in 2010, Uzel draws a coherent parallel between the criticisms of contemporary art itself and the practice of curating.

Louise Déry elaborates on the concept of the “love exposed” curator in a more romantic fashion analysing diligently the responsibilities of the curator in her text “Curator, Your Love’s on Display”. Déry discusses the tensions and conflicts among institutions, curators and collectors seeking to reflect on the quality of the artistic practice as well as the significance of communicating art through exhibitions that foreground knowledge and thought.

Nathalie Desmet in her “Institutional Recognition and New Curatorial Practices” explores the strategies used by institutions and curators with the purpose of constructing a new self for institutions. Desmet reports on the concept of the “New Institutionalism” and discusses its problematics by identifying the new trends in both institutional and curatorial practices and by providing critical examples.

Last but not least, Michèle Thériault’s “The ephemeral as an agent of reflexive inquiry” examines the potential of the ephemeral in the production of critical and reflective environments. Thériault reviews her curatorial practice within an academic setting, that of the university art gallery and presents three case studies where the ephemeral allows for experimental shifts in the role of artists, curators and institutions.

On the whole Be Nice to Your Curator gives readers an insider view of international curatorial practice and reconsiders the status of the curator today. There are many examples of exhibitions with supportive visual material of artworks and methods of display that are valuable for anyone interested in curating.

The magazine is available in both French and English. You can get a sneak preview here and you can purchase it here

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Review: Journal of Visual Art Practice: Anti-Humanist Curating

Posted by Sophie Williamson • Tuesday, July 12. 2011 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Guest editor, Mathew Poole
Contributions by Amanda Beech, Roger M. Buergel, Bridget Crone, Andrew Hunt, Jaspar Joseph Lester, Matthew Poole, Paul O'Neill and Mick Wilson

Open to submission from those involved in education at postgraduate and doctorate level within visual arts, The Journal of Visual Art Practice provides a platform for issues to be discussed in a public sphere and has established a reputation for supporting and disseminating in-depth scholarly, developmental, applied and pedagogical research within the visual arts.

Although the journal encompasses both the theoretical and the practical and encourages debates that are relevant across visual art disciplines, Volume 9 No. 2 is the first to focus specifically on curating. This special issue has been guest edited by Matthew Poole, Programme Director of The Centre for Curatorial Studies at The University of Essex. He presents an introduction to his research project on the topic of anti-Humanist curating and has invited seven distinguished contributors to discuss their own take on the subject.

Underlying Poole’s project is an exploration of the limitations and problems of Liberal Humanist ideology and politics in relation to curatorial practices. He highlights that curatorial practices and discourses are largely dominated by Liberal Humanist ethics: institutions emphasise the ‘social value’ of contemporary art, and so therefore the curator is put in the position of having to realise these ‘socially beneficial’ goals. In the opening essay, Matthew Poole introduces these ideas and suggests that they may be explored and expanded to consider how curatorial practice can continue to have a political role, whilst avoiding becoming a pawn in a Neo-Liberal Post-Fordist Capitalist political agenda.

Contributions by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Maria Lind and Jens Hoffman, originally slated to be part of this issue, didn’t materialise for the final publication, however the journal still has an impressive breadth of focused arguments and debates. The collection of essays build up a strong body of research and thought that reflects the conversations each of the contributing curators have had with Poole and binds all their specialist areas of interest together.

The first three essays - by Buergel, Crone and Beech - each approach the issue of the image and how it is implicated through curatorial practice from different standpoints, and collectively build a persuasive case as to how curatorial practice regularly undermines art work as well as suggesting ways in which this can be avoided.
In the first contribution, Roger M. Buergel discuses ambiguous affiliations between the known and the unknowable in the work of Alejandra Reira and its display, and, in its ability to evoke the subjectivity of history, suggests her work as a case study for anti-humanist exhibition-making.

Bridget Crone further develops this investigation into ambiguity and the image, in her essay ‘The Image; Disaffect in the theatre of representation’. She explores the possibility of the image without a dependency upon a relationship with a human subject or viewer, using the examples of The Otolith Group, Hito Steyerl, Rabih Mroué, Gail Pickering and Tom Nicholson, and subsequently offers a model of curating where structure and methodology are the focus rather than the binding of affective processes usually used to experience the image.

The third essay, written by Amanda Beech, brings together the previous two contributions by exploring curatorial style specifically, proposing further questions about scepticism and doubt that regularly underlies critical curatorial practices today and the subsequent political implications.

Andrew Hunt compares his own experience of curating in locations on the periphery to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guartttari’s book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature in order to suggest how ‘minor curating’ could counteract the hegemonic curatorial practice. He argues that an ethical approach to exhibition making that involves affirmative modes of critical humour and humility will encourage critical effectiveness in curatorial practice, as well as help avoid curatorial narcissism and tensions between utopian, social and political thoughts on display.

Jasper Joseph-Lester, taking a looser, but nevertheless poignant, approach to the subject matter, discusses the ‘curation’ of public space, in his essay ‘Non-relational regimes of urban modernisation’. Through an exploration of urban planning proposals for Coventry in the 1940s and again in 2008, he argues that gaining the support of ‘the public’ is imperative for urban development, yet a real socially-engaged dialogue is false; instead urban planning simply embodies a political construct. The inclusion of this essay jolts us into considering the entire curatorial debate in the context of wider political hegemony.

The final essay in the publication, ‘Curatorial counter-rhetorics and the educational turn’ by Mick Wilson and Paul O’Neill, gives an overview of the changing relationships that curators have had towards educational discourse, provoked by ‘moral panics’ throughout Europe and the US since the 1960. Wilson and O'Neill insightfully explore how this ‘educational turn’ has impacted on the programming and rhetoric used by both art and educational institutions, reinforced by a culture of reputational economy, and attempts to counter-act this with experimental educational structures.

Whilst the journal is not widely available, this issue is definitely worth trying to get your hands on. Poole has instigated a thorough discussion of what is an increasingly relevant topic in current curatorial practice throughout Europe and North America as more and more publicly funded institutions have to fight to prove their public benefit. Poole’s essay and dialogue with the contributors is only an introduction to a much larger research project which we will no doubt expect more from in future.

The journal can be bought from:,id=131/view,page=1/

Preceeding the Journal of Visual Art Practice’s invitation to Matthew Poole as guest editor, two related seminars were held where the issues were thrashed out. They are definitely worth a listen:

Seminar #1:
Held at Goldsmiths College in July 2010, before the publication, Poole introduces his research and writer and critic, Robert Garnett presents his paper, ‘Humour, Deleuze, and the possibility of a Curation of Humour’, followed by a discussion with the audience.

Seminar #2:
The second seminar was held at Whitechapel Gallery, in conjunction with the launch of the publication with Roger M. Buergel, Bridget Crone, Anselm Franke, and Matthew Poole in discussion:

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Review: What Makes A Great Exhibition?

Posted by Sophie Williamson • Tuesday, May 24. 2011 • Category: Reviews & Resources

What Makes A Great Exhibition?

Edited by Paula Marincola, Director of the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI).

Essays by Glenn Adamson, Paola Antonelli, Carlos Basualdo, Iwona Blazwick, Lynne Cooke, Thelma Golden, Mary Jane Jacob, Jeffrey Kipnis, Paula Marincola, Detlef Mertins, Mark Nash, Ralph Rugoff, Ingrid Schaffner and Robert Storr.

Supposedly we don’t judge a book by its cover, and with this publication we should give its title the same respect. The Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative has continually challenged arts professionals to devise exhibitions of high artistic merit by posing them with this deceptively simple sounding question: What makes a great exhibition?

The dialogue surrounding exhibitions is invariably based on theme and content. Having recently evaluated MA curating courses, I was surprised to find that syllabi too usually focus on the conceptual development of exhibitions rather than the practical tools of creating them.

Seeking to provoke this reflection beyond their direct constituency, Marincola poses this question of ‘what makes a great exhibition’ to fourteen highly distinguished curators and leading professionals in the field in an attempt to uncover the instinctive considerations and processes that they have developed through experience. Marincola also seeks to illustrate how curatorial objectives collide with the reality of practicalities in exhibition making. Refreshingly, the editor realizes that as contemporary art exhibitions attract larger and more diverse audiences this is a debate that should be readily accessible. The book therefore allows a rare behind the scenes look at exhibition making for a readership that reaches beyond curating professionals.

Each contributor responds to the question from different perspectives and experiences. Ranging from past Documenta curators and Venice Biennale commissioners, to directors of some of the world’s most prestigious museums and influential galleries, the contributors have been responsible for an impressive canon of important exhibitions. Each of these exhibitions has been individually evaluated through official texts, publications, and events, as well as through the press and media. In this anthology however, Marincola asks the contributors to think about common denominators shared in the successes - or indeed failures - of these projects, how they are produced, and their concepts formed.

Marincola has outlined the expanded complexities of the publication title question in a series of leading sub questions. These relate to all elements of exhibition development and realisation, such as marrying exhibition concept with artist's intentions; placing of works in relation to each other as well as the architectural framework; formal presentation and supporting text; catalogue and legacy; and the varying roles of and relationships between curator, institution and artist within these processes of decision making.

Outlined on the cover, Marincola reveals an expanded list of questions that she had posed to the contributors. Printed also on an inserted bookmark, the reader is prompted to continually refer back to these points of interest. Despite the authority of the essays, this transparency in the guiding questions of the publication allows the reader to participate in the dialogue and encourages us to create our own responses.

The breadth of the subject matter creates a dilemma for those attempting responses; the contributors’ styles vary considerably. Some answer in theory only, without relating to examples. This could run the risk of vague statements, sounding more like an instruction manual, the ‘how-to’ of curating. However, for example, Robert Storr's thoroughness hits the nail on the head with each of his poignant statements, referring to issues that those working in the industry are all too familiar with. He highlights the curator's pivotal role in balancing the pressures from artists, institutions, gallerists, and so on, as well as practical limitations of budget, space and those things outside of our control, whilst staying true to the original curatorial concept of the exhibition.

Others use media-specific examples to illustrate their answers. Mark Nash's exploration of the difficulties of curating film and video (as opposed to programming), is in balanced contrast to Glenn Adamson’s discussion on craft, and Ingrid Schaffner composes an inspiringly in-depth investigation into the experiential impact of wall text and labeling.

Architectural space is an underlying issue throughout the anthology of essays. This is extended to place and locality as Iwona Blazwick reflects on a century of exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery in London.

Balancing the influences of conflicting interests is another issue that surfaces throughout. Ralph Rugoff’s debate on group shows is particularly thought-provoking; posing the question of whether a group show of bad art can only be a bad show and whether it is possible to make a great show with only great art works. Carlos Basualdo’s criticism of the lack of critical context to influential biennials and megashows holds an interesting dialogue with Thelma Golden’s essay on the politics of ethnically specific exhibitions.

For me, the key highlights were the moments when the authors directly encapsulate their answer to the question - for example, Mark Nash's poetic summary that 'the notion of a series of emotional and intellectual encounters that are montaged to form an organised, thematic sequence is at the heart of every great exhibition and every great experience of an exhibition'.

The breadth of the publication title allows for practical as well as emotive and personal responses. The contributors’ texts are interesting insights into how they individually view their role in the creation of an exhibition, and act as introductions to much larger discussions. The further debate that it promises to lead to is enticing; no doubt Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative will continue to thrash out these questions that underpin exhibition-making in future publications and events. I look forward to following their developments.

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Review: A Brief History of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, December 27. 2010 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Hans Ulrich Obrist, renowned art world figure who hangs out at the top of the ArtReview Power 100 (which is indicative of something, no matter what one thinks of that list) released a book of interviews with eleven pioneer curators entitled A Brief History of Curating. Despite his status as super-curator, whilst reading this book the larger-than-life personality named on the front cover will fade into the background, as Obrist wields a light touch throughout.

The interview format is a tricky one to master. I attempted to include interviews as a key feature of (see my interviews with Karen Gaskill and Alissa Firth-Eagland), but I put the series on permanent hiatus precisely because the format is demanding on both the interviewer and the interviewee. Interviewers are susceptible to overt attempts to appear clever with unnecessarily ornate questions (one envisions a desperate goose trying to lay a golden egg) and interviewees can veer on the side of over-cautiousness in their responses.

Obrist takes the interview format and works it well. He name drops, but rarely does the reader get the sense that he's doing it gratuitously. Obrist sometimes refers to other interviews that he's included in this book when posing questions, which cleverly develops links between the otherwise discrete stories for the reader. His questions are mostly brief and keep the focus off of him and where it belongs, which is on his subjects. He takes a difficult form that looks easy, and makes it look really easy.

Readers will be appreciative that he is so expert at orchestrating these conversations, because the subjects are truly fascinating. The curators interviewed in the book mostly began their careers in the 60s and 70s, and some of them are now deceased. The book intentionally focuses on this time period, which is not far behind us at all, but feels like a different planet compared to the contemporary art world today: Pontus Hulten describes bringing a "Mondrian to the gallery in a taxicab"; Jean Leering recounts jumping from studying architecture and doing military service to becoming Director of the Van Abbemuseum. While some of those stories are extraordinary and highlight difference, other interviews show that little is changed as well, for good and for ill: Walter Zanini describes how it is "normal" for museum officials to work collaboratively with artists, something that happens routinely today; and Lucy Lippard described protests at MoMA over "neglect of women artists" (among other things), a situation which definitely persists. One cannot help but read the situations described by the curators in the book and speculate on how these same situations might be handled today, and this is fine: it helps us understand what the past was like, get to grips with what our situation is like now, and imagine what ideal amalgam of past and present attitudes we might hope to forge for the future.

This book is definitely for those embedded in the art world. There are too many key exhibitions and historical moments and figures mentioned by both Obrist and his interviewees to make the book accessible to a wider public. That said, in a time of "for Dummies" manuals on one end and highly academic texts on the other, it's wonderful to have a book that is simply an informative and easygoing read, with the interviews so smoothly woven together, and yet still for a specialised audience.

More info and to buy: A Brief History of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist

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Review: New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, edited by Christiane Paul

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, December 25. 2010 • Category: Reviews & Resources

New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art is a collection of essays edited by Christiane Paul (curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art), addressing several topics of concern to new media art curators. The twelve essays cover the full range of territory that curators will encounter, from understanding how artists use the medium to considering how to preserve works far into the future.

Paul's introduction to the book is a solid briefing for curators interested in new media art but who haven't ventured far into this area yet, and it also usefully summarises the many issues in the field for veteran new media curators. Though each essay is generous with concrete examples, a case studies section is also included. The case studies provide intense and practical examinations of detail which also serve to bolster the points made in the essays.

The book focuses on addressing the proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to new media and museums, which could be glibly summed up as "why don't museums get it?". As the introduction explains and several essays reiterate, museums are in the business of presentation, interpretation, and conservation, and the very nature of new media art makes those three actions difficult. In Jon Ippolito's essay "Death by Wall Label", he says "Like a shark, a new media artwork must keep moving to survive". Museums in their current configuration are clearly a little more at ease with a stationary shark (in the natural history wing, stuffed; or in the contemporary art wing, preserved nicely in formaldehyde, perhaps?) rather than the restless shark-like character of new media. There is no "set it and forget it" if you are in the business of presenting this kind of work.

So what can be done? Several of the contributors offer concrete ways of addressing the gap. Sarah Cook proposes some metaphors for curatorial thinking around these exhibitions: exhibition as software programme/data flow; exhibition as trade show; and exhibition as broadcast. Metaphor and analogy is a tool used throughout, by multiple contributors: Sara Diamond also uses the metaphor of flows in her essay; Caitlin Jones and Carol Stringari use the analogy of removing old, darkened varnish from a nineteenth-century painting when considering the challenges in conserving media works. The heavy use of metaphor and analogy, and making direct links to traditional conservation as Jones and Stringari do with their painting example, will surely make the issues seem less alien to those who are relative newcomers to the presentation and conservation of new media.

Overall this book is an excellent reference and insight into new media from leading thinkers such as Sarah Cook, Jon Ippolito, Charlie Gere, Sara Diamond, and Christiane Paul herself.

More info and to order: New Media in the White Cube and Beyond: Curatorial Models for Digital Art

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Resources: On Art Blogging in Europe

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Thursday, April 9. 2009 • Category: Reviews & Resources

Recently I was interviewed by Annette Wolfsberger for LabforCulture, about this blog and my conception of art blogging in Europe. It's the beginning of a new series on cultural blogging. They ask: "Who blogs? What are they blogging about? Which audiences and communities are being engaged? What are the language-specific issues and the economic models? And how sustainable are they?"

Perhaps it's a bit 'meta', but I thought it worthwhile to point out this interview about on the excellent culture portal LabforCulture, which is just the start of a series, and I will note that there is another great interview as part of the launch of this effort with Claire Welsby of InterventTech.

Happy reading!
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More podcasts

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, November 22. 2008 • Category: Reviews & Resources

The San Francisco Art Institute has a podcast series entitled "Dialogues". Two podcasts in this series may interest readers: one featuring Laura Hoptman, and another featuring Carlos Basualdo.

Laura Hoptman curated the 2004 Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh and Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at the Museum of Modern Art, Queens. In her talk, Hoptman discusses her interest in artwork that explores big questions: those of life, death, and the meaning of the universe. Carlos Basualdo is the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and an Adjunct Professor at the IUAV University in Venice, Italy. He was a co-founder (with Hans Ulrich Obrist) of the Union of the Imaginary, an online forum for the discussion of issues pertaining to curatorial practice. These podcasts are long and feature lengthy introductions, so better to listen to these when you have a bit of time.

Veteran podcasters Bad at Sports teamed up with Side Street Projects to present a 10-part podcast series entitled "What Do Curators Want?" that covers best professional practices for contemporary visual artists. While the podcasts are definitely aimed at artists (and give some terrific concrete tips to artists), the messages about professional practices are often applicable both ways. Far from theoretical talks, these short, practical discussions might be useful to curators too. Of particular interest may be hearing how the featured curators in these podcasts discuss perennial issues such as artistic quality and different types of exhibitions and exhibition venues. Compare their views to yours!

Frieze Foundation (the good folks who bring us the Frieze Art Fair, Frieze Magazine, and other goodies) also have a great podcast series. One of their recent podcasts, Cultural Cartography: Does Art Travel? is a discussion chaired by Philippe Vergne (new director of the DIA Art Foundation in NYC, former Chief Curator and Deputy Director, Walker Art Center) focusing on whether art can really speak across borders. What happens when the local becomes global? Vergne, in his introduction, questions whether we are really taking advantage of international connections and jokes that this podcast could have alternatively been titled "Pasta or chicken?", echoing that familiar refrain on long haul flights. It's a strong panel and well worth downloading.

Happy listening!
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New publication: On Curating

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, June 4. 2008 • Category: Reviews & Resources is an independent international web-journal focusing on questions around curatorial practise and theory.

For the inaugural issue, the editors asked thirty-one curators a series of questions around what topics in curating they would most like to see discussed, about key resources online, and about exhibitions and peers that have influenced them.

"We have written to professionals, whose position in curating, in the arts and in theory we think most interesting and challenging in contemporary discussion. We invited a broad selection of art-world figures, curators we find critical, artist-curators and other interesting people from our direct networks." is published by Dorothee Richter. The concept was developed by Dorothee Richter in cooperation with Maren Brauner, Johanna Franco Bernet, Barnaby Drabble, Irene Grillo, Petra Haider, Damian Jurt, Christoph Kern, Wolf Schmelter, Thomas Zacharias. Supported by Postgraduate Program in Curating, Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS), Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK).
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Podcast roundup

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, March 8. 2008 • Category: Reviews & Resources

I listen to a lot of podcasts, mostly while I am walking around the city. I have come across some real gems in a number of subject areas, and thought I would share a few of the recent ones I've listened to that are relevant to curators with you.

Bad at Sports with Hou Hanru:
Hou Hanru is currently the Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the San Francisco Art Institute, and he is also a renowned curator who has curated numerous major international shows. Starting at approximately the 10 minute mark, the interview with Hou Hanru begins with a discussion of his education and how he came to be a curator. Other topics discussed include how self-organisation is a hallmark of both his career and of contemporary times, the relationship between artist and curator, and the "voice" of the curator.

Yale University with Robert Storr: (apologies for the indirect link -- scroll down the page to access the podcast with Storr)
Robert Storr is interviewed about his latest appointment, as Dean of the School of Art at Yale University. He discusses how his work as a curator and critic impacts his thinking in his current role. There are many pearls of wisdom in this podcast, one of my favourites being this statement: "...a career is not how many shows you have on your resume, it is what happens between one work of art and the next." Here Storr is referring to an artist's career, but I think the sentiment also applies to curators.

Bad at Sports with Stephanie Smith:
In this podcast, Stephanie Smith, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum in Chicago, speaks eloquently about the works in the current exhibition on at the Smart, Adaptation. The podcast focuses quite intently on the exhibition itself, rather than Smith's practice as a curator generally. However, it is a very intelligent and interesting discussion of the work, and the conversation does touch on Smith's curatorial intentions, and on how she had to consider the way the work was presented in the Museum.

blogTO with Jacob Korczynski:
At around the 21 minute mark, curator Jacob Korczynski talks about his experiences in the Curatorial Incubator programme at Vtape, a centre for artist's video in Toronto. Jacob talks about how he researched and selected the video artists he selected for his programme.

More of these to come as I get through my playlists. Happy listening!
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Reviews: Ideas podcast

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, February 6. 2007 • Category: Reviews & Resources

[In these upcoming reviews, I'll be highlighting books, podcasts, exhibitions, periodicals, and other items that I think are of particular interest to curators and those concerned with curatorial issues.]

Ideas is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's premier radio programme of contemporary thought. Their podcast highlights the best of the Ideas programmes. You can subscribe to the RSS feed for their podcast here. Their latest podcast release is a fascinating lecture by cultural critic Adam Gopnik entitled: To Sit or to Talk?.

Adam Gopnik discusses the future of museums by pondering a question that he recently asked his kids: Do you prefer theatres, where you can sit? Or museums, where you can talk? Gopnik was delivering the 2006 Eva Holtby Lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum.

His lecture discusses the evolution of musuems, from (as he puts it, in his very alliterative way) the mausoleum, to the machine, to the metaphor/mall. The lecture is an easy listen, and the evolution he speaks of is well delineated. My only contention with what he says is that it is all a little too neat, too pat. He is keen to isolate the museum into these stages of development, but it is clear that all three stages he speaks of still exist and share the same environment within which to survive. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on his lecture.
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