Contemporary art curating news and views from Michelle Kasprzak and team

IKT Congress Report 2011

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, July 10. 2011 • Category: Musings

IKT, the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art, held its annual congress in Luxembourg, Metz, and Dudelange from 28 April - 1 May 2011.

It was a special Congress, as it was Enrico Lunghi's final one as President of the IKT. Enrico is highly regarded, his managerial competence keeping IKT as an organisation on an even keel, and his personal warmth and generosity making each IKT member feel genuinely welcomed at each Congress. It therefore seemed fitting that Enrico hosted this Congress at home (he's current Director of Mudam, and former Director of Casino Luxembourg), where he was able to reveal the cultural gems of Luxembourg and region to us. The congress participants visited Mudam, Casino Luxembourg, Carré Rotondes, Fondation de l'Architecture et de l'Ingénierie, FRAC Lorraine, Faux Movement, Centre Pompidou Metz, Centre d’art Nei Liicht, and the Centre National de l'Audiovisuel.

The Congress kicked off in beautiful Luxembourg with the traditional introductions, or Members' Forum as it is officially known. These introductions are quite something: it takes up nearly the entire morning, but every attendee (about 150 curators or so) stands up and introduces themselves briefly to the room. It is a deceptively simple thing, but it really helps to cement the names and faces of your colleagues in your mind, as well as allowing people to quickly reveal a little something of their personality (even in just two minutes, there's time for jokes, name-dropping, charming references, etc). After this Members' Forum, the Congress launched right into exhibition tours for the afternoon in Luxembourg, before swiftly moving on to Metz for more exhibitions. A very full day culminated in a behind-the-scenes tour of Centre Pompidou Metz. The highlight was definitely taking the world's nicest and smoothest freight elevator up to the top floor where artist Daniel Buren was waiting for us. He kindly chatted with us about the exhibition he was installing for several minutes before we went to the Town Hall of Metz for a welcome from the Mayor and a buffet dinner. Here's a short clip about Buren's show (in French):

On Saturday we were in charming Dudelange. The discussion panel was entitled "What is the good of Mediation in contemporary art?" for this year, and was introduced by Maria Lind, featuring presentations from Jorge Munguia Matute, Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, and Sally Tallant. Their presentations absolutely raised the problems of mediation, though they proposed some solutions too: notably, Pérez-Barreiro's example of the deep integration of audience development and education into the Mercosul Biennale that he curated (read a great interview with him in this PDF here). Jorge Munguia Matute cited several inspirational examples of creating public dialogue, such as with the Pase Usted project in Mexico City, and Sally Tallant took us under the bonnet of the Centre for Possible Studies, part of Serpentine Gallery's engagement with the communities living around Edgware Road in London.

At FRAC Lorraine

The annual General Assembly also took place in Dudelange, and it was a little more exciting than usual, with plenty of discussion around the choice of venue for next year's Congress (Tel Aviv, Israel), new members being elected to the Board, and of course, the election of the new President: Friedemann Malsch, Director of the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein. The fact that the Presidency of IKT passed from one tiny country (Luxembourg) to an even tinier one (Liechtenstein) was pointed out by Enrico Lunghi, to laughter from the assembly. The evening's party at Casino Luxembourg was also wonderful and memorable, taking place in the cavernous, damp stone basement of the building and with enough delicious Crémant de Luxembourg to fuel us well into the evening.

A true highlight was the tour of private corporate collections that took place for those who decided to stay until Sunday. Enrico really worked some magic to get these collections open to us not only on a Sunday, but a Sunday on a holiday weekend! We toured the Deutsche Bank Luxembourg, Arendt & Medernach, and the European Investment Bank. It was a well-balanced combo: wealthy international bank, medium-sized legal business, and the largest multilateral lending institution in the world. At the European Investment Bank, it was interesting to hear of their plans to ship some of their collection to Greece for an exhibition. We were told they almost never send works out in this way, but that holding a small exhibition in Greece was a kind of expression of solidarity with Greeks in their difficult financial time.

At Deutsche Bank

As always, it was a great opportunity to meet and interact with curators from all over the world. I'm already looking forward to next year in Tel Aviv.

Photos by Elke Krasny

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IKT 2009 Congress Report

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, July 25. 2009 • Category: Musings

IKT, the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art, held its annual congress in Helsinki and Tallinn from 23-26 April 2009.

IKT members from all over the world congregated in Helsinki and Tallinn for four days of intense activity. The congress participants visited Kiasma, the Ateneum, EMMA, Helsinki City Art Museum, Forum Box, the Cable Factory, FRAME, KUMU, and many more venues that were part of an optional gallery crawl on the first evening. The initial period of the Congress was spent in the beautiful Finnish capital, and was punctuated by a conference on the subject of "belonging and un-belonging". The Congress also travelled to Tallinn, taking in the Ars Fennica Award exhibition at KUMU, enjoying a lunch and continuation of the conference with presentations and a screening of "Monolith" by Kristina Norman (who represented Estonia at the Venice Biennale this year). After wrapping up with the annual General Assembly back in Helsinki at Kiasma, optional post-Congress activities began, composed of studio tours themed around media art, photography, and painting.

The conference programme featured papers from T.J. Demos, Kati Kivinen, Solvita Krese, Suzana Milevska, and Kristina Norman. The theme of "belonging and un-belonging" took many twists and turns: political, aesthetic, comical, academic. Perhaps the strongest response was generated in reaction to Kristina Norman's video, "Monolith", which depicted the relocation, by the Estonian government, of the statue of the Bronze Soldier from a very central location in Tallinn to a military cemetery a few kilometers away (which IKT members visited during our time in Tallinn!). The statue, which is a political firebrand, and its relocation caused passionate reactions in both the Estonian community and the local Russian community. Norman's work portrayed the situation with some humour (one sequence depicted the statue hurtling through outer space) and with distance: both the Estonians and the Russians were portrayed "equally badly" (paraphrasing here) in the quasi-documentary. This tension over this statue and what it represents meshed well with Solvita Krese's discussion of public art and monuments, highlighting the power of symbols in the public realm and their placement. The question then, of these symbols and their placement, and the work of artists and curators to create and situate these symbols, creates more questions in one's mind than answers, but proved to be an excellent frame for discussions around a subject as expansive as "belonging and un-belonging".

Aside from seeing a lot of interesting artwork, taking part in debates, and meeting new colleagues, there were several special moments. A very interesting whistlestop tour through several artists' studios at the Cable Factory culminated in a lovely dinner, lots of prosecco, and performances. I love Helsinki as a city, and savoured many personal moments, such as picking up a pastry at the Hakaniemi Market, trying to follow along with Finnish karaoke taking place at a local bar, and enjoying a dish of vorschmack at Cella with new and old friends. Of course it wouldn't be a logistically challenging trip involving hundreds of people without a surreal moment or two when difficulties arise. For example, a bit of confusion as some members were attempting to purchase tickets for the ferry to Tallinn was devolving into complete chaos until IKT Board Member Maria Lind magically appeared, gently commandeered the situation, and whisked us off to an quieter ferry terminal where departing ferries were miraculously quicker and cheaper. We had some lemons, and Maria made us some lemonade!

At the General Assembly, the board presented the financial situation of the past year and some discussions were had around future Congress locations, as well as requirements for members and the evolution of the IKT website. The IKT archive project is still ongoing (notably, a PhD student who is doing her dissertation on the history of IKT has been able to assist in this effort) and the board will continue to develop the archive into a real resource for the members and other researchers.

All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet and interact with curators from around the globe, and the IKT membership looks forward to Athens next year, and Luxembourg and Metz the following year.

You can view my photos from the Congress here.

I attended this Congress because of the generous assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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IKT 2008 Congress Report

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, August 3. 2008 • Category: Musings

IKT, the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art, held its annual congress in Montreal from 22-26 May 2008.

More than 130 members attended this year's IKT Congress, the first Congress ever to be held outside Europe. The days were very full, and included visits to major museums and galleries including the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montreal (MACM), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Dazibao, Galerie UQAM, Oboro, Vox, Galerie Clark, Fonderie Darling, and the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery. In each case, the director and/or curator of the institution was present to give us a personal introduction and tour. The mix of institutions provided a great overview of both the diversity of provision for artists and of the available exhibition spaces for curators in Montreal: artist-run centres, museums, studios, commercial galleries, university-affiliated galleries. The Congress also travelled to Quebec City, taking in the Manif d'Art, Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec, and production centres housed at Méduse. Optional post-Congress activities included short visits to Ottawa and Toronto.

The event was hosted by Parachute, and Chantal Pontbriand and her team ensured that every detail of the visit was perfectly planned. Coaches were arranged to transport the delegates from place to place (which ensured we kept to our packed schedule), refreshments were delicious and abundant, and questions or requests were handled expertly. The hosts thoughtfully included a customized coach tour of the city that covered significant sites in Montreal such as the Expo '67 ruins on Ile Sainte-Hélène, the Habitat buildings, Mont-Royal, and more. When the tour stopped briefly near the summit of Mont-Royal, several curators took the opportunity to get an ice cream and enjoy the view, which was one of many lovely moments.

The timing of our visit was excellent, as it coincided with the inaugural Quebec Trienniale at the Musée d'Art Contemporain (which was a key feature on the schedule), and curators who could find a scant few minutes spare in the action-packed itinerary could also zip up to the Mile-End for the Ateliers Portes Ouvertes (APO) event. Timing was also perfect to sample some of the fruits of the labours of IKT candidates and members. The Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery was hosting Vincent Bonin's exhibition about artists as cultural workers entitled Documentary Protocols II, and also Conceptual Filiations, curated by Michèle Thériault. Louise Déry curated Phenomena at Galerie UQAM, and Marc Lanctôt was part of the team behind the Quebec Triennale at MACM. It was enormously satisfying to see and support the hard work of one's colleagues during the Congress.

Interaction between local artists and the visiting curators was incorporated as an integral part of the Congress. A magnificent evening meal at the Fonderie Darling evolved into a lovely party, and also provided ample opportunity for the IKT members and guests to visit the artists who work at the Fonderie in their studios. As well, curators were able to request meetings with local artists, which were arranged by the Parachute team. These intimate meetings, which consisted of a handful of curators and the artist, were a terrific way for the Congress attendees to delve a little deeper and learn more about specific artists that piqued their interest.

A conference on art and economy was led by Mirjam Westen and included contributions from Jo-Anne Kane, Nina Montmann and Louise Neri. This short conference addressed some of the salient issues involved in the intersection of the fine art world and commercial concerns. A heated question and answer period followed, and the presentations sparked conversations throughout the rest of the Congress.

At the General Assembly, the board presented the financial situation of the past year and decisions were made regarding future Congress locations. It was decided that Congress will be hosted in 2010 by Athens, and in 2011 by Luxembourg and Metz. At last year's Congress, it decided that the 2009 Congress will be held in Helsinki and Tallinn. The board also issued a general request to assist in gathering documentation and information about the early years of the IKT association with a view to creating an IKT archive. The board intends to develop the archive into a significant resource and research tool, documenting nearly forty years of history.

The hospitality and collegiality on offer at the 2008 IKT Congress was truly exemplar, and everyone very much looks forward to Helsinki and Tallinn in 2009. If you have materials to contribute to the IKT archive, particularly of the early years of the association, please get in touch with IKT through the "contact" page on their website.

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