Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Pick 'N Mix - July 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Thursday, July 2. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Welcome to July's Pick 'N Mix!

- This report on a curatorial summit at the Banff Centre for the Arts appears to have slipped past my radar when it first came out, but thankfully Leah Sandals (the author of the report) mentioned it again recently. Trade Secrets: Swapping Curatorial Confidences was a summit held in late 2008 with eminent curators in the field, including Matthew Higgs, Mark Mayer, Richard Flood, Sabine Breitwieser and many more. At one point in the report, Sandals quotes Barbican curator Francesco Manacorda, saying he was "very frightened about many curatorial projects having as an audience colleagues only. [...] very often in curating, people disregard one of the two final clients of the curator—the public or the artist" -- a concern I agree with and touched on in my "For What and For Whom?" essay.

- If you're keen to participate in debates and discussions, LabforCulture is producing three online discussions that are sure to provide stimulating platforms for exchange. "Converging Pathways to New Knowledge" promises to unpick some juicy topics on knowledge sharing in the cultural domain through live online debates taking place on the 7th, 8th, and 13th of July. While you're browsing their site, if you are also a cultural blogger, why not add yourself to their growing map?

- Jerry Saltz describes "the curator problem" in a recent article. The "problem" as he sees it is illustrated in the exhibitions curated by Birnbaum at the Venice Biennale, which in Saltz's words are "full of the reflexive conceptualism that artists everywhere now produce because other artists everywhere produce it (and because curators curate it). Almost all of this art comments on art, institutions or modernism. Basically, curators seem to love video, text, explanations, things that are "about" something, art that references Warhol or Prince, or that makes sense; they seem to hate painting, things that don’t make sense or that involve overt materiality, physicality, color or strangeness." This call for further risk-taking by Saltz is consistent with his other campaigns and appeals to curators. There is a long but fascinating account of his encounter with Ann Temkin, Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA available online which also presses for diversification and risk-taking: "MoMA desperately needs this to play with its collection. [...] Beuys, Nauman, and Hesse are all bona fide top-dogs; the A-list as art history. I love them all but curators have to take more chances and not just default to the same artists. Other artists were working at extremely high levels in the late 1960s." I admire Saltz's integrity -- not only is he consistent in his arguments, but I think it's a rare art critic that would go out with a high-ranking curator for the sole purpose of having a serious collegial debate -- and Temkin is to be commended too, for taking Saltz up on his invitation.

- On a personal note, I'm quite busy converting my Master's thesis on the voice, performance and technology into a book. Despite that, plus my regular job, plus a bit of summer holiday too, I hope to soon post some (long-overdue, and sitting at 99% completion) interviews and book reviews. Stay tuned!

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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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