Curating.info

Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - March 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, March 1. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
In like a lion, out like a lamb... welcome to March's Pick 'N Mix, a real mixed bag of treats this month:

- First of all, a postscript of sorts to last month's Pick 'N Mix, the "credit crunch edition": You've all surely read it by now, but in case you haven't, Holland Cotter's article, "The Boom Is Over! Long Live the Art!" in the New York Times is well worth a read. Complementing some of Francis McKee's comments that I quoted in last month's edition, Cotter writes: "Anyone with memories of recessions in the early 1970s and late ’80s knows that we’ve been here before, though not exactly here. There are reasons to think that the present crisis is of a different magnitude: broader and deeper, a global black hole. Yet the same memories will lend a hopeful spin to that thought: as has been true before, a financial scouring can only be good for American art, which during the present decade has become a diminished thing." Also, over at New Curator, there's an article on creative use of "slack spaces", which are some of the thousands of retail shops that have been vacated due to the credit crunch and not rented. As Pete at New Curator writes: "What better way to encourage economic stimulus than making sure commercial properties don’t fall into ruin and improving the image of the surrounding area?"

- I'm contemplating writing a whole article about "guest" curators and freelance curators, and their place in the market. Until then, maybe you can just read what I'm reading: an article on the American Association of Museums website called "The Stranger Among Us: Managing the Guest Curator Relationship", and an article by Sharon Heal entitled "Be My Guest" in the February issue of Museums Journal (sorry, the article isn't online! See if you can sneak a peek at Museums Journal at your local library or museum), the upshot of which is that it's a good idea to bring in outside experts in particular areas (for example, a milliner for a hat show) to curate temporary or permanent exhibitions.

- There's a good interview with the ever-interesting curator Nato Thompson at art:21. Favourite quote: "As much as the onslaught of cultural production over the last fifty years has radically altered capital’s relationship to aesthetics, it has also made us much more aware that knowledge has a form, and that there are a myriad of forms for the delivery of information and the production of knowledge. Basically, knowledge is a performance, whether it is the stage of the classroom, or the aesthetics of a typeface in a book, to the performance in a street, to a multi-channel video projection." A satisfying statement to unpick, which led me to ponder how curators perform knowledge.

- A brief article about the internationalism of the curatorial profession in the Japan Times: "Why Curators Stay at Home". To sum up, it asks why more Japanese curators are not "super curators", zooming around the globe, and the article comes up with the rather predictable answer that in order to be international, one must rack up a few air miles and be willing to exchange. Worth a read for the interview snippets with Fumio Nanjo, though.

- A fascinating piece entitled Whither Curatorial studies? is available on Artworld Salon. This piece rightly interrogates the existence of curatorial degree programmes and what they hope to accomplish and equip their students to do. "Undoubtedly the role of curator has been squeezed too narrowly between administration and dealmaking; but the travesty may be that curatorial studies programs fail to acknowledge this when they recruit students and collect their often sizeable tuitions. Shouldn't we then ask what sort of training curatorial programs are giving their students?" Of course, similar questions could be directed at so many fine art degree programmes and humanities programmes as well -- scores of artists leave art school without even knowing if their work fits into a commercial market or not, and if it does, what to do with that information. However, this essay at Artworld Salon is right to focus on curatorial studies, a field of study that, due the competitive jobs marketplace and varying contexts within which curators can work, demands much of those designing the curriculum.

- ...and, this just in: Nat Muller has reviewed the recent symposium at the Witte de With, "The Curators". A taste: "the curator as the new rock star, the self-proclaimed priests and priestesses of the art scene, the critics’ darlings or foes, the curator as genius, the curator as fascist, the curator as the icon we love to hate, or adore. It’s a lot of pressure…expectations were high."

P.S. Don't forget -- some of these articles don't stay online forever. If you want to refer to them in future, develop your own archiving system or use Evernote.
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Pick 'N Mix - February 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, January 21. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to February's Pick 'N Mix: the credit crunch special!

- They say the financial trends that impact the art world are about six months behind larger global financial trends. Perhaps there's a grain of truth to that, given the doom and gloom in the headlines recently, including a 20% reduction in staff at the LA MoCA and the Rose Museum's (apparent) imminent closure.

- Significant job security worries aside for a moment, what could this mean for curators? Mark Spiegler, Art Basel co-director believes that "...with less money flowing around, gallerists may conclude that if there are no sure sales, they might as well do something interesting and significant. In the past, certain types of art were sure to sell, and if you took a risk, you were leaving money on the table." Glasgow-based curator Francis McKee concurs with this sentiment, explaining in this longer segment on BBC Scotland the largely positive impact that the last major recession had on the London and Glasgow art scenes: "the recession will actually help us in some ways".

- And of course, in these tough financial times, it's never a bad idea for the state to intervene: In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has canceled a cut to culture funding and he instead increased the budget by €100 million, established a new cultural council, and implemented a policy enabling free entrance to museums for visitors under twenty-five years of age. Bravo!

- Last but not least, while we may have to stretch budgets a bit further for practical things, Ben Davis argues we should not allow ourselves to enter an intellectual recession as he discusses a current crisis in art criticism: "For if a neoliberal boom has been the context for the "crisis of criticism" debate heretofore, the current, stomach-turning collapse represents the implosion of that economic model. [...] Mainstream ideas about what makes sense for society are in flux. Shouldn’t criticism be too?"
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Pick 'N Mix - January 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, January 4. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to January's Pick 'N Mix. I hope all readers had a great holiday and have big plans for 2009!

- Whether you have big plans for 2009 or not, here are some possible dates for your calendar: March 5-7, 2009. The excellent Witte de With contemporary art centre in Rotterdam is holding a symposium entitled "The Curators". It sounds terrific, especially the way they have balanced the programme of speakers. From their promotional text: "The practice of curating is a much discussed topic within the art world, but is often neglected by the media and thus remains largely invisible to the broader public. With our selection of speakers, we aim to put a wide range of faces to the often elusive and contested title of curator. Invited guests include freelancers, artist/curators and others fulfilling hybrid roles, curators working inside and outside of art institutions, those responsible for major international art events and those working on an intentionally local scale." For more info, check out the Witte de With's website.

- This recent interview with Ami Barak, the curator of ArtFocus 5, is especially relevant given the major news headlines of the moment on the escalating violence between Israel and Palestine. The article states: "When one is curating a large art exhibition in Jerusalem [...] One must deal with the conflicts this city generates for those working in it." Later, the curator says: "All the Palestinians we had invited didn't want to come - those from the territories and those with Israeli citizenships. They told us that they didn't wish to participate in an exhibition being held in 2008, Israel's 60th anniversary, and also because the exhibition was being held in Jerusalem. [...] I'm not criticizing them. They fear being a victim of manipulation and that they would be used for propaganda and demagogy, I can understand that." This is a fascinating interview that highlights the political role of the curator in a very candid way.

- The deadline for the De Appel curatorial programme in Amsterdam is fast approaching - January 31!

- A fascinating discussion about artist/curator ethics has been developing on the CRUMB mailing list. The debate covers the perennial topic of ethics around artists who also work as curators (and vice versa), and the methods of selection for exhibitions that are employed by such hybrid workers. You can read the thread online, although I highly recommend subscribing and also checking out CRUMB's work online!
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Pick 'N Mix - December 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, December 6. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to December's Pick 'N Mix!

- First off, a project by Vienna-based curator Miriam Kathrein. Kathrein has been developing her artist vs curator/curator vs artist project since 2007, and the latest iteration of this project is being featured on trickhouse.org. The project is a vehicle for debate and visualisation that examines "...the relationship and shifting roles of artists and curators in contemporary art and the resulting consequences in art production." The latest work in this project is a collaboration with graphic designer Alva Unger, wherein three artist/curator pairs responded to selected texts that focus on notions of "expertise, authority, authorship, collaboration, intermediary, curator as artist, roles and competition". Six gorgeous posters have been designed which are free to download and print. The starting points for responses were quotes from texts by Jan Verwoert, Dave Beech & Mark Hutchinson, and Soren Andreasen & Lars Bang Larsen. The respondents were Borjana Ventzislavova, Jason Lazarus, and Clemens Leuschner (artists), and Michelle Kasprzak, Emmanuel Lambion, and Joseph del Pesco (curators).

- I've been watching a lot of video interviews with curators lately and thought I'd share some favourites with you. Sarah Cook, Newcastle-based curator and co-founder of CRUMB, discusses curating new media art and her most recent role as Curatorial Fellow at Eyebeam in New York in a video on DanceTech. Several clips are available at the Victoria & Albert's website, including interviews with the curators of Between Past & Future: New Photography and Video from China. JoAnne Northrup, Senior Curator at the San Jose Museum of Art, discusses their exhibition Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon on YouTube. Hans Ulrich Obrist, who needs no introduction, delivered an eight-part lecture to the European Graduate School, and these lectures are available on YouTube. Jens Hoffman gave an interesting lecture on the nature of curatorial practice, which is available on fora.tv.
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Pick 'N Mix - November 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, November 4. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to November's Pick 'N Mix.
- First off, a roundup of relevant Facebook pages that have come to my attention. I know a fine few folk who have issues with Facebook and are not members of the service, but I do have to say for the record that I think it is one of many great web 2.0 tools to network and stay informed about what's happening culturally. More and more organisations are using Facebook to either make exclusive offers or communicate messages to their Facebook fans first. One of the many reasons for this is that I think organisations and groups appreciate the way that Facebook allows them to see more and know more about who is interested in their activity. Each person who is a "fan" of yours on Facebook is a real live person that validates what you are doing and is following your message. You can't say the same for the list of IP addresses in your organisation's website statistics log. Anyways, here are a few that caught my eye:
Blood (Contemporary Art Society) (New on Facebook)
MoMA (Exclusive offers for Facebook fans)
Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum (Lots of helpful links)
Walker Art Center (Lots of photos and video)
...and of course, Curating.info!

Add more suggestions of Facebook pages and groups in the comments!

- ...and now for a charming anecdote. I was at a wonderful event during the Frieze Art Fair in London. Organised by the Contemporary Art Society and Castlefield Gallery, the event was a sort of artist-collector-curator "speed dating", that also featured the work of artist Feng-Ru Lee, who was busy making dumplings to share with the crowd (and putting Castlefield Gallery Director Kwong Lee to work in their makeshift kitchen, too!). It was a great use of the "speed dating" principle applied to the cultural realm, and these quick and focused introductions felt very apropos after whizzing through the hustle and bustle of the art fairs. One of the people I met that night, Lotte Juul Petersen, told me that she is the new Artists and Programmes Curator at Wysing Arts, and in our conversation I discovered that she found out about the job here first, at Curating.info! To say that this little piece of information made my night would be an understatement. Congratulations on your new job, Lotte!

- I have to apologise for this month's Pick 'N Mix being a little light on content, but you'll forgive me: This Friday an exhibition I've been working on launches in London, which means a lot of last-minute things (not to mention, the ink is barely dry on the curatorial essay...). For more information on the show, Schematic: New Media Art from Canada, please visit the project website (link corrected on 12/11/08! Apologies!) or the gallery's website. As for more meaty content for this blog, once the Schematic exhibition is up and running I intend to finish off and post a book review and some podcast reviews, so stay tuned!
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Pick 'N Mix - October 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, October 5. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to October's Pick 'N Mix. First off, a couple of housekeeping items. You may have noticed the arrival of the "Culture Pundit Ad Network" box to the right. I would like this site to support itself a little, yet I am unwilling to inflict garish and irrelevant ads upon my readers. The logical solution was to apply to become part of the Culture Pundit network, which delivers relevant ads to terrific arts publishers such as VVORK, Bad At Sports, Rhizome, and Art Fag City. Happily, they accepted my application and I will now be running their ads here. If you like Curating.info, give the ad a click every once in a while!

Another housekeeping item is about the links that I provide to newspapers and periodicals. I often see items that I like on news sites and link to them, only to go back a few months later and find that the item I linked to has become completely inaccessible. Usually what happens is that the item becomes available only to paying subscribers for that particular news service. To address this, recently I started using an archiving tool called Evernote. While I haven't been using it long enough to really know how well it actually works (or if there is a way for me to export or save the data that I have collected should I choose to leave their service), it does appear to do the trick of archiving whole web pages with one click. So I'd like to strongly recommend that if you find a link to something you are interested in here, especially on websites operated by newspapers and magazines, try using Evernote or some other tool to make a permanent archive for yourself.

...and now, onto this month's Pick 'N Mix items:

- I recently contributed an essay, "For What and For Whom?" to the CUREDITING issue of online journal Vague Terrain, which was guest edited by CONT3XT.NET. The theme of the issue aims to create "... a "screenshot" of actual tendencies within curatorial and editorial models: artistic creation and the processes of its re-formulation within different presentational contexts are brought together under the label CUREDITING, a hybrid between the two concepts of "curating" and "editing"." I chose to take the rise of online group curating as the point of departure for reflections about intentions behind curatorial and editorial tasks, and the misrepresentations that occur due to the use and abuse of the term "curator".

- On a similar note, Anna Somers Cocks unpicks a few misconceptions and myths about what curators do (you will want to "Evernote" or otherwise archive this link!). "Misconception number one: that curators have a narrow range of knowledge. The reality is that a good curator has breadth as well as depth."

- Interviews, interviews, interviews! Eyebeam Curatorial Fellow Sarah Cook is interviewed by Ceci Moss, and Director at Carnegie Mellon University's Miller Gallery Astria Suparak is interviewed by Lauren Cornell on Rhizome. NowPublic is featuring a video interview with Gavin Wade about Eastside Projects, a new artist-run space in Birmingham, UK. Last but not least, Artkrush editor Paul Laster interviews Christopher Phillips, senior curator at New York's International Center of Photography, about the Chinese art scene.

- I recently came upon the website for Curators in Context, which "...aims to be an open, fully interactive, bilingual and collaborative web space for national and international visual art curators." We can look forward to a digital and audio archive launching sometime this year. In the meantime, however, there is a great essay entitled "Speaking Through Silence" by Jan Allen, Curator at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, ON, Canada available for download (link opens PDF file). Allen says: "In laying out some of the "unspoken" dynamics underpinning curatorial practice, I raise questions about the degree to which conditions support the presentation of new forms of art and identify tensions inherent in the institutional curator’s role, including the seldom broached zone of personal and professional motivation." This essay brings us full-circle in a way by raising the question of motivation, which is highlighted in the "For What and For Whom?" essay that I mentioned first of all. Happy reading!
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Pick 'N Mix - September 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, August 31. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the September edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of curating-related things:

- Map Magazine is a terrific Scottish magazine on contemporary art, and by subscribing to their RSS feed I have discovered a couple of brief notes of interest to curators posted to its website recently: a story and a few quotes from two Spanish curators, Javier Marroquí and David Arlandis, who developed an exhibition during the Edinburgh Art Festival, and another short piece from Daniel Birnbaum, discussing curating 2 Turin Triennial and the 53rd Venice Bienniale.

- Speaking of magazines, one has the feeling that a service like Mygazines won't last long, given its function: it's a massive unofficial repository of magazines, including some pretty major titles. Of course I first browsed the Art and Culture section, which I am sorry to tell you is quite thin. However, pop terms like "curator" into the search box, and see what hidden gems come up from deep within the pages of magazines that don't specialise in art (and chuckle at some of the silly things that come up, too).

- Of special attention to French speakers: a new curatorial association has begun in France. Check out CEA!

- And a quick note for UK residents that once again, the deadline for the Crafts Council Spark Plug Curator awards is approaching fast - get your applications in by September 26.

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Pick 'N Mix - August 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, August 5. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the August edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of curating-related things:

- I've finished writing a short report on the IKT (the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art) Congress that was held in Montreal in May. Have a read!

- This interview with João Ribas by Ceci Moss on Rhizome is a good read. Quote: "Curatorial practice, to me, is about mediating such frames in the end--different contexts, different readings, different publics."

- "Curator crowds" are all the rage it seems, I've blogged about them briefly before, and they keep cropping up. Recently the Brooklyn Museum of Art produced Click, a photography exhibit that was curated collaboratively by anyone who wanted to take part. Via Art Fag City, I took note of a link to an interview with Jennifer Blessing, curator of photography at the Guggenheim, who offers her thoughts on this phenomenon of "curator crowds". The interview is excellent food for thought.

- Just a reminder to my readers that I really enjoy getting your emails (seems most folks are too shy to comment publicly!). Keep them coming, and any suggestions you might have about what I have on offer here are much appreciated. So send me a note, and then turn off your computer and enjoy the rest of the summer!


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Pick 'N Mix - July 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Thursday, July 3. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the July edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of things that caught my eye over the course of the previous month. Check it out:

- A new Curating.info Conversations e-book has been released! Download it now.

This edition of Curating.info Conversations is with Karen Gaskill, the Director and Curator of Interval, and a Researcher at the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) in Liverpool. She is also currently completing her practice-based PhD in Digital Media and Social Practice at the Digital Research Unit, The University of Huddersfield. The interview with Karen covered topics ranging from getting outside of the white cube to the expanding role of the audience.

- I recently discovered a blog called "Sideshows", written by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy. Recently Ms Chong Cuy has been publishing some really interesting interviews with young curators in China and Hong Kong. Recent examples include an interview with Kate Fowle, International Curator at the Ullens Centre in Beijing, wherein the notion of what "international" practice is today is discussed, and the second interview in the series is with Zoe Butt, Director of International Programs at Long March Project in Beijing, China. Well worth a read!

- Ms Chong Cuy, author of Sideshows, asked Kate Fowle to elaborate a bit more on the meaning of her title of "International Curator". Similarly, in this article we find founding film curator of University of California San Diego's ArtPower!, Rebecca Webb, discussing the difficulty of a title like "Film Curator". "A lot of people – when I'm here, anyway – say, 'Oh, do you work in a library or something?'" Ms Webb says. As curators, we all know titles have power and meaning, and this is usually why it is important professionally to seek appropriate credit for the work you have done. These specialist titles that were created for Ms Fowle and Ms Webb are meant to indicate an area of expertise, however, it is clear that it remains confusing for some people (sometimes because they don't understand what curators do in the first place, other times because the notion behind the specialism is so new?). Nomenclature is no small thing. I'll simply wonder aloud here: what can be done to indicate specialisation without inducing confusion?

- CultureGrrl (among other outlets) reported on the "leave" taken by Curator and Deputy Director David Franklin of the National Galleries of Canada. For me, this news story raised several ethical questions. Among all of the very obvious questions around the obligations of the gallery to its employees and to its public, the next issue that arose for me was of Mr Franklin's privacy. Curator at the National Galleries of Canada is a prominent position, to be sure, but did Mr Franklin ever imagine that his decision to take extended leave (or to effectively leave his post) would be fodder for the national and international press? I'm not sure that he did. Whatever his reasons, he isn't appealing to the press to make a case against his employer -- yet -- so perhaps he should be left alone, and we should presume his colleagues are capable of continuing his work, until we hear a statement from Mr Franklin himself. Or do any readers here think otherwise?
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Pick 'N Mix - June 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, June 1. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the June edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of things that caught my eye over the course of the previous month. It's a real jumble of stuff this month! Check it out:

- Firstly, this recent article in LA Weekly talks about MOCA’s Paul Schimmel and the concept of "curatorial ecstasy". Schimmel recounts a moment wherein he reflects on a mentor moving him "...very quickly from the idea of art museums being places that just maintained a history to the museum as a place where you define culture at the moment [...] It was a very activist, engaged approach, stemming from a belief that to begin to define what later will be understood as the history of your particular moment is one of the richest aspects of being a curator."

- I've just noticed that the Icebox in Philadelphia, USA takes curatorial proposals. It's also one of many curatorial proposals wherein it specifically requests that the curator be present for the installation. What it actually says is this: "Curators may not include their own work in the project/exhibition proposal and are expected to be involved in and on-site during the installation process." This statement leads me to two questions: (1) Have artist/curators not got the message yet that including their own work is beyond tacky?, and (2) Do curators feel they do not need to be involved and engaged in the installation process (possibly one of the most interesting moments in the manifestation of your curatorial concept, except in a few (obvious) cases)? I admire the Icebox folk for laying it on the line, but I have to say that confronting what should be clear points like these makes one wonder about that black, white, and grey area called ethics.

- Again on the notion of ethics, but with a different approach, I was intrigued by this post about intangible digital cultural heritage on iCommons: Sarah Kansa and her husband Eric Kansa head The Alexandria Archive Institute, an institution in digital open access for world cultural heritage. Sarah Kansa writes:

"There is no lack of digital content out there. Each community, institution or individual creating and sharing it needs to also take responsibility for preserving it. Currently, content isolated in silos stands the least chance of survival because of its inaccessibility and the lack of portability and re-usability of content. An open access (and open licensing and open standards) approach will go a long way towards preserving our digital cultural heritage in perpetuity, albeit a few years at a time."

Curators who are in the position of making or breaking accessibility to intangible cultural heritage surely feel this pressure. Are institutions supporting moves towards openness, or do curators have to take the lonely path of advocating this alone?

- I had a wonderful time at the IKT Congress in Montreal, and shortly will be posting a report on the Congress here, so keep your RSS readers and browsers poised at attention!
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Pick 'N Mix - May 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, May 3. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the May edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of things that caught my eye over the course of the previous month. There are just two quick items this month, as a sort of "compare and contrast" exercise:

- In one of my web trawls, I found this lesson plan for teaching children what a curator does. I thought it was interesting to take a look at because despite high level discussions about the role of the curator, what emerges in more reductive definitions (for example, something that a child could understand in one short lesson) highlights what may or may not be a conventionally agreed aspect of the role. In this case I noted that beyond the obvious step of selecting work, the lesson plan includes a section on writing didactic texts for the student's imaginary audience, explaining their curatorial choices.

- Then over at Time Out New York, a timeline indicates some of the key tasks that the curators of the most recent Whitney Biennial performed. It obviously doesn't indicate all of the tasks that the curators completed, but unlike our lesson plan for kids, it doesn't mention writing, and meeting with artists and negotiating the media are highlighted.

These two short items provide glimpses into how the role of the curator and the key tasks within that role are presented and described to others, which might make us ask ourselves: What do I emphasise when I talk about curating a project to someone else, and what does that indicate about my favourite/least favourite aspects of the role?
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Pick 'N Mix - April 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, April 1. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Here's the April '08 edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of little news items in the realm of curating.

- The Whitney Biennial is generating the usual column inches. Of interest in the coverage of the Biennial is the ongoing commentary about the curators themselves, and their intentions. Jerry Saltz's recent column discusses the significance of their age: "I was thrilled that the Whitney was prepared to give itself over to young curators. [...] no sooner had Huldisch and Momin been named than Whitney director Adam Weinberg pulled back the reins, announcing that the two would be "overseen" by the museum’s chief curator, Donna De Salvo, and that they'd "work with" three older "advisers," Thelma Golden, Bill Horrigan and Linda Norden." A piece entitled "The Facebook Biennial" in NY Magazine, offers a detail-rich portrait of the two curators, from the ways their careers unfolded (apparently, Momin's highly planned, Huldisch's not as as much) to the technology in the room: "Momin pulls out an iPhone, Huldisch a battered Motorola".

- In a recent post on Tara Hunt's blog, she talks about the example of how the now-ubiquitous Post-It note came into being. (Stay with me, here.) Tara writes about the three personalities that were responsible for the Post-It note's success: the Creator, Catalyst, and Champion.
"...the Creator, Spencer Silver, had come up with the glue that makes the Post-It note work almost a decade before the Catalyst, Arthur Fry, found a use for the glue (keeping his church choir sheets staying put). But even then, it didn't even make it past corporate scrutiny until they found Champions: the people who were able to take the idea and sell it to others. [...] Creators are the inventors, the coders, the people who come up with a crazy idea. Quite often, though, they aren't able to connect that crazy idea with a real life issue to be solved. That's the Catalyst's job. Catalysts are really awesome at understanding real life applications of wacky ideas. They are connectors. But Catalysts aren't always good at marketing their ideas nor can they replicate themselves, so they need Champions (many of them) to take that awesome application of the wacky invention and spread the word. The three types of people behind innovation are necessary to make ideas come alive and spread."
And so, in the cultural domain, are curators catalysts or champions? A bit of both? Are they also sometimes the creator? I found this example to be an interesting way to think about the ways that the role of the curator can shift and requires a wide range of skills and roles to be played.

- And now, for a little light bedtime reading... A recent paper by London-based think-tank Demos about cultural learning provides food for thought. "In the context of recent government announcements about cultural education, Demos today challenged cultural professionals and educationalists to provide a new and coherent direction for creative learning and for encouraging creativity through culture. Culture and Learning: Towards a New Agenda, a consultation paper written by John Holden, is published today to invite debate and responses." Demos is a very interesting think tank, I recommend you browse their full collection of cultural papers at their website.
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Pick 'N Mix - March 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, March 1. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
First of the month again... even with an extra day, February seemed short! Here's the March '08 edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of little news items in the realm of curating.

  • A fascinating article on the state of museums and galleries in China on ARTnews notes that a concern in the face of explosive growth "...has been the absence of training programs for museum professionals in China, a country where the term "curator" did not exist ten years ago. Even now, there is only one program in curatorial studies, run by the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, which is graduating its first class this year. "In China, we didn't have degrees such as arts management or curatorial studies, so most of the museum directors were originally artists," says Fan Di'an, who like many directors in China got his position through political appointment." The artist/curator model is well-established, particularly in North America, and so the reaction to a similar model emerging (albeit under quite different circumstances) is one to keep an eye on.

  • If new media, Internet art and networked art are your thing, there's lots of good reading at this page at the BAM website, with several downloadable documents detailing conversations and interviews with curators, artists and directors by Karen Annemie Verschooren. The interview with Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney, is particularly fascinating and candid in its description of the early days of exhibiting new media artwork in a prominent museum.

  • Thomas Krens is leaving the Guggenheim, and this act has sparked a lot of reflection on his years at the helm. Charlie Finch on artnet.com characterizes the influence of Krens on curatorial practice as "...turning everything into an art that was at once contemporary and exchangeable in ever increasing increments of value." It's a very critical standpoint that also claims that "...the land of Krens evoked the carnival and the circus. Whether showing Spanish painting gems, Aztec war toys, garments or bikes, Krens' vision included the kitchen sink, the golden bidet and everything in between." From that statement out of the USA, let's jump (gently) across the pond for a moment. The new Director of the National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, made a statement saying that as far as he was concerned, the era of the big, sexy blockbuster is over, and Guardian writer Jonathan Jones discusses how the blockbuster itself is not to blame, but that one should blame "sloppy curating - curating that is addicted to short cuts, allergic to the years of research and negotiations it takes to put on a really good exhibition." Food for thought.

  • Finally, the New York Times reports that "nine months after taking over, Jeffrey Weiss has resigned as director of the Dia Art Foundation, saying he had realized he was not cut out for the job." Mr Weiss says: "It took me too far away from curatorial and scholarly work [...] I had an idea that being director of Dia would be different because it is such a small place. [...] My hope is to return to curatorial and scholarly work, but right now I'm taking a breath." It'll be interesting to see both who Dia hires next and what Mr Weiss does next, and serves as a point of reflection on where a curatorial career can be said to "terminate" -- does a curator need to stay in jobs expressly about curating, and leave museum/gallery direction to those with deeper interests in business/administration?
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Pick 'N Mix - February 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Monday, February 4. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to February's Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of interesting tidbits that have captured my attention recently.
  • I found this post about the "Video Vortex: Curating Online Video" symposium in Amsterdam really interesting, especially towards the end where there is this quotation: "...there was a short panel discussion about the role of the curator. [...] Hierarchies are changing and curators have to respond to those things. From the audience comes the remark that curators were the middle person between the artist and his audience. This position is threatened due to 2.0. Maybe it's a solution to look at the curator's role to help to rate and analyze the work. This would make a shift instead of being an audience seeker he would become an intellectual."

  • "Who gets to tell the story?" is a great question that Rebecca Durkin asks on the Burke Museum blog. Ms Durkin expresses concern about photographs of Native Americans taken by a white person who "felt he was documenting a "vanishing" race" being displayed simultaneously alongside an exhibition of Native American artifacts and taped interviews. Ms Durkin says: "I'm excited to see the shows open this weekend and compare the stories the two shows are telling. Will This Place Called Home serve as a test of sorts for the authenticity of the images in Peoples of the Plateau? And how will the historic photos in Peoples of the Plateau inform the context with which we look at the cultural materials in This Place Called Home?" In this case, it seems that the Burke Museum is valiantly attempting to let more than one story be told at the same time, giving the viewing public some space to reach their own conclusions.

  • There are some very critical and challenging statements being made in a text "Terminal Souvenirs: What is wrong with curatorial practise today" by Maia Damianovic, a critic and independent curator based in New York. The whole text is excellent reading, but I thought I'd excerpt some quotations that were very resonant for me.
    Too often, we can discern in current practice the insidious an implacable macula of conservative constraint trying to disguise itself behind critical, ideological and political posturing. Our theories and our practices, for the most part, simply do not match, Over and over again, we are confronted by didactic, pedagogic and formulaic curatorial mechanisms that glamorize a gamut of dull, dry or safe conceptual choices. Are the mechanisms surrounding curating so elaborately enshrined that we are confronted with a symptom of overwhelming conservatism, of being stuck in the pursuit of easy prescriptions, but also perks and rewards? In any case, curating today opens to a whole field of different investments, that seamlessly slip into the arena of politics, power and finances at the mercy of all their jumbled forces. But, politics and ideology can also become packaged commodities.
    Why are we so complicit? A transformation of curating and exhibiting today could amount to an ethical and political change of destination. A change of destination that would eschew comfort, self-gratification and success, and open itself to insecurity and anxiety; moving from protected to vulnerable contexts. lt could also move from pragmatics to poetics.
    A little confusion and chaos would work wonders. Why not swim against the current a little more; against the large survey show, 'against curating as a formula of success by default. Perhaps the curating and exhibiting of art today should be anxious, insecure practices.

    (via)
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Pick 'N Mix - January 2008

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, January 1. 2008 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Happy new year! I hope your holiday was a good and restful one. I was so rested I nearly didn't get this out in time... but here it is - the latest Pick 'N Mix!

  • "Top ten" and other summary lists were thick on the ground as 2007 closed out. A few of my favourites in the art realm are New York Magazine's 2007 Culture Awards, the Guardian's Top Ten list (including a few turkeys and special awards), 2007's highlights according to the New York Times, and the top 100 cultural highlights of the year, selected by the CBC. Also, a last minute addition - check out curator Hans Ulrich Obrist's answer to the question "What have you changed your mind about?" at edge.org.

  • MC2 is a really smart project by two very interesting curators. Mark Coetzee (Miami) and Mark Clintberg (Montreal) use SMS messages to exchange information and formulate a text around art exhibitions that they saw together. Crediting writing to "MC", their shared initials, they produce probing texts on contemporary art that also question notions of authorship. The final texts are then distributed via the web on their project website.

  • I don't want to give you the impression that I am obsessed by curators producing projects in hotels, but... I couldn't resist mentioning a recent "curating contest" that took place in L'hôtel La Louisiane in Paris. Fourteen curators were each randomly assigned one room in the hotel, given a month to ponder the concept and the space, and then given ten days to mount an exhibition in that room. You can see the full list of participants and more details at the website of the gallerist who devised the contest, Olivier Robert.

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