Views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - July 2007

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, July 1. 2007 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to the July edition of Pick 'N Mix, my monthly annotated list of bite-sized items that have caught my eye recently.

  • If you aren't already on the CC mailing list, perhaps you should join. "[CC] "circulating contexts--curating media/net/art" is a slightly moderated mailing list as part of a series of experimental long-term research projects hosted by the Vienna-based organisation CONT3XT.NET. From June 1st to August 31st, 2007 five common topics will be the starting point for discussions around current tendencies in the curation of (New) Media and Internet Art. Excerpts of the contributions to the mailinglist will be published in a catalogue, presented in October 2007." Recently, there was an interesting discussion on notions of how curatorial models might be democratised and how the term "curator" may be being stretched to its limit. Sign up to the list by going to the list info web page.

  • Blogumenta, unlike the art-world behemoth that is Documenta, is an un-curated, open exhibition space within Facebook, the online networking site that is taking the 18-29 demographic (and beyond) by storm. It raises questions about what the response to the "grand tour" could and should be - should the pendulum swing to the other extreme, in which no one claims a curatorial credit?

  • A new website in Canada aims to offer ways for emerging curators and administrators to connect with each other. The Emerging Arts Professional network has articles, interviews, and a podcast that touch upon a wide range of topics relevant to individuals in the field. The most recent interview, with Luminato festival director Janice Price, provides many quotable gems, including: "If we can’t have fun doing this, we should all go home."

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Curated by "Anonymous"

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Friday, October 27. 2006 • Category: Musings
Tom Moody brings two examples of the phenomenon of anonymity to our attention in a recent blog post.

Tom first discusses a recent example of the Schirn Kunsthalle's "Anonymous" show, wherein the artists and the curator are anonymous. This example is not as interesting for me as it could be, since at the end of the show the identities of the artists and the curator will be revealed. Rather anti-climactic, since after the show, will it have the same impact? I suppose it depends on the work, as always.

Tom cites an earlier example of the same concept:
Harlem's Triple Candie gallery also did an "anonymous" series in 2004 and 2005, consisting of two shows by artists whose identities won't be revealed (ever, according to co-gallerist Peter Nesbett.) The curatorial intent was essentially the same--"reaction to pernicious branding of artists in the contemporary art world"--although Triple Candie framed it more thoughtfully as an issue of "how biography informs interpretation." The shows weren't obscure: one was reviewed by Ken Johnson in the New York Times and the gallerists mentioned them in an interview they gave in Flash Art interview in this summer.

Escaping how "biography informs interpretation" is one thing, but it then leaves one wondering about the flipside of this problem - where is the accountability? Nothing creates accountability like putting your name to something.

The problem is actually bigger and harder to unpick than that simple set of diametric opposites I just proposed. For example, it is sometimes the case that curators at large institutions are simply part of staff and their name isn't necessarily attached to each piece of collateral that is released pertaining to a particular exhibition. In that case, it might be a bit harder to find the information, but usually with a bit of digging one can make an educated guess which person on staff it was.

Curatorial collectives pose a similar ambiguity - the information is there, but it remains slightly obscured who did what, who exactly chose a particular artist, etc. I've participated in a number of co-curatorial situations where the internal methods we used were not explained to prospective artists in the shows, and perhaps that lack of transparency chafed. I'm not sure.

I think that the bottom line for me is that as I study these examples, I'm finding that I like a transparent approach more and more. There is something very appealing about being able to put a face, name, and background to decisions. Biography does inform interpretation, perhaps, but isn't context such as biography an essential part of the puzzle? Or, as Sally McKay noted in the comments on Tom's post, it is important "to follow the development of one indvidual's practice as an evolving project". I think that a long-term narrative in one's practice is something to strive for, and that potential narrative is undercut by anonymity and obfuscation of roles.