Michelle Kasprzak's views on contemporary art curating

Answers: Results of the Netherlands Media Art Institute's survey

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Wednesday, October 27. 2010 • Category: Questions & Conversations

Thanks to everyone who was able to assist the Netherlands Media Art Institute by responding to their survey targeted at curators, which I posted here. The NIMk received 172 responses, and have collated the results into a report that you can download in PDF format at the Culture Vortex website.
I encourage you to browse the whole report, but thought I'd point out findings that I think are interesting:
- only 20% of the respondents use online video sites (Vimeo, YouTube) to scout for new work.
- 67% of respondents listed UbuWeb as one of their most visited websites, however, suggesting that curators appreciate a resource that is already heavily curated.
- there is no interest in a printed catalogue of NIMk's works for distribution, but heavy interest in being able to save selections in NIMk's online catalogue.
- several needs were identified, including access to full-length works online, access to non-Western work, and access to performance work.
Get the whole report here.

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Opportunity: Signal & Noise festival, call for curatorial submissions

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, December 6. 2009 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities

Curator Submission Guidelines
Download the application form here.

Submission Deadline | January 15 2010

Festival Dates | May 27, 28, 29 2010

A/ All text materials must be submitted in digital and print copy.

B/ Please label the front of your envelope with the media/discipline of work in your program

C/ All preview DVD’s should be formatted in Region 0 or NTSC

D/ All video work must screen in NTSC

E/ There is no entry fee. Signal & Noise is a non-competitive festival. Artist and Curator fees are paid in accordance with IMAA or CARFAC fee schedules. Artists are responsible for all material, installation and travel expenses. Signal & Noise has select audiovisual equipment available for presentation. Letters of invitation are available for accepted artists seeking funding.

F/ Signal & Noise is predominantly a time-based festival. Time and space for setup, tech rehearsal and installation is minimal. Please consider these elements of your curatorial proposal upon applying.

G/ All submissions made to Signal & Noise 2010 will be juried. Submission to Signal & Noise does not ensure participation in the festival. Jury notes will not be made available. We cannot return submissions.

Please send submissions to:
Signal & Noise 2010
C/O VIVO Media Arts Centre
1965 Main Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5T 3C1
Tel: +1 604 872 8337 ext. 3
2010 -at-
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Opportunity: Videographe call for submissions

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, November 10. 2009 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
Call for Submissions

Vidéographe: 2010-2011 Programming

Deadline: Monday January 11, 2010 – 17h

Vidéographe invites Canadian and Quebec artists, curators, art centres and galleries to submit proposals for video art programs and media arts exhibitions.

Since its founding in 1998, the programming sector of Vidéographe has been devoted to promoting and exhibiting video art in its various forms and through its relationships with other artistic disciplines. Six activities per year are organized in different venues and in partnership with other cultural organizations.

Projects selected by a committee of peers will be presented in Vidéographe's annual programming. Proposals that provoke thought on the language of video and its modes of representation, encourage debate, and promote exchanges between different media arts practices are encouraged.

Note that Vidéographe pays fees to curators and to artists for screenings and exhibitions.

You can obtain the detailed description of this call by contacting Katherine Jerkovic at espace -at-, or by calling 1 514 866 4720.
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Pick 'N Mix - April 2009

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, April 4. 2009 • Category: Pick 'N Mix
Where did March go? It's time already for April's Pick 'N Mix:

- To start, I'd like to point you in the direction of this great (and growing) online resource: Curators in Context. Arising from a series of events held in Canada in 2004 and 2005, this resource has transcripts, audio, and video of talks by curators on a wide range of topics. There is a lot to uncover here. As a small taste, I'll just drop in a quote that I quite liked from the abstract for Ivan Jurakic's talk, Navigating the Curator-as-Artist Divide: "The difficulty lies in this complex synthesis of practice and theory, which must not only be applied to the increasingly fragmented means of production, presentation and dissemination of contemporary art, but also respectful of the creative autonomy and expectations of the artist. The 'job' of curating becomes a sophisticated form of intellectual gameplay, which posits the curator in a position sometimes parallel to that of conceptual artist." The site also features a wiki (user-editable web page) that has a list of definitions that could be helpful, and that will also presumably grow.

- A two-part interview with Okwui Enwezor at BaseNow has some complex answers to straightforward questions. Responding to the question of how Enwezor views the role of the curator, he says (in part) "But a curator can't simply be the advocate or booster or supporter of one type of art or another without a sustainable intellectual and cultural argument [...] the one role I do not subscribe to is the curator playing the role of the supreme judge of what is correct. I loathe the idea of the curator as judge of taste. To me there is no critical judgment in tastemaking, only a perverse form of prejudice emerges from taste."

- On a final note, I am now caring for and will be distributing some sourdough starter, as part of the Cultural_Capital project by Kate Southworth and Patrick Simons. "Drawing parallels between the use of bacteria and culture in traditional breadmaking and the self-organising and generative condition of network art, Cultural_Capital is a transformational artwork in which a sour-dough starter is created and grown in the gallery; cared for by the curators." The creators of the project further note that the work "is conceived as a touring artwork that accumulates bacteria and cultural capital from every venue in which it is installed." I am obliged, as a participating curator in the project, to take care of the starter for at least a week, and then pass a portion of the starter on to another curator. So far, so good... it's day two and despite adding (gasp!) white flour, I think the culture is thriving!

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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 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
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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.

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Job: City Without Walls

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, September 12. 2006 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
City Without Walls, (cWOW), New Jersey's oldest alternative art space, is seeking a curator for its third annual 1800Frames exhibit, which features recently produced, independent, non-commercial one-minute videos.

SCHEDULE. Show dates for 1800 Frames are December 7, 2006 - January 11, 2007. Curator selection and a call for work will be posted by mid-September. The curator's final selection of approximately 40 works and completion of a brief catalogue essay are due by late October.

CURATORIAL PROCESS. The curator is free to select any artist of their choosing. The curator is not required to select cWOW members, and selected artists are not required to become members. However, curators must review all member entries, and are encouraged to ask artists to join. This process ensures high-quality, independent selection, while also building our membership base, which provides crucial support for programming such as the 1800Frames exhibition.

EXHIBITION DETAILS. cWOW's gallery in downtown Newark is a state-of-the-art facility with over 1,600 square feet of exhibition space, including a main gallery, a project room, 9-foot screen, several flat-screen TVs, and other video projection equipment. Videos may also be made accessible through our website ( and will be available as a tax-deductible premium compilation disc to support cWOW.

CONTACT. William Ortega, Gallery Director, City Without Walls, 6 Crawford
Street, Newark, NJ 07102-2412, tel 973.622.1188, fax 973.622.2941, [email protected],
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Final Month of Transmedia :29:59

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Sunday, July 9. 2006
Transmedia :29:59, the year-long programme of time-based art shown on a video billboard in Dundas Square in Toronto, is drawing to a close this month. It's been a fascinating and somewhat turbulent year. The year of programming on the board started off really nicely with a terrific launch event, where myself and Pierluigi Vecchi (VJ Fluid) VJ'd live to the billboard, and DJ Cyan and naw provided the live sonic scapes. It was really empowering and also technically fascinating (to see what worked and didn't work) sending images live to the board.

Curating for urban screens is a many-headed beast, though the inherent challenges only make the triumphs more sweet. Imagine asking artists to create very short pieces with no audio that must essentially be PG-rated and you can imagine how difficult it might be to both produce and find effective work for the board. And so, after the launch, the hard work began. Michael Alstad (the co-curator) and I are really proud of the choices we made, and strove to choose pieces for each month that connected, though they would never be presented one after another. What mattered to us was choosing videos from month to month that linked thematically or aesthetically, and that the overall programming on the board made sense.

As I mentioned earlier, the year wasn't without its turbulent moments, and from time to time we had to make some difficult choices. Clear Channel owns and operates the board that we have been using over the course of the year. Their requirements for content control were somewhat more stringent than our own, and more than once we had content returned to us with a directive to either change or replace the content. We had a choice to either work within their more strict guidelines or protest, and, in all likelihood, prematurely dissolve the contract with Clear Channel.

Dissolving the contract would have been a cowardly move. As with any other public presentation of creative work, many negotiations take place, and sometimes compromises have to be made. There are no free zones. It is very easy to paint the corporation as the "bad guy" in this and other cases, when in fact, artists are well acquainted with compromise and negotiation when it comes to presentation of their work, and deal with many requests made by curators, dealers, collectors, et cetera. Our situation was no different, where first of all the work has to appeal to us, the curators, and then secondly, the work must not in any way contravene Clear Channel's goals. It is that simple. Of course, sometimes Michael and I as curators try to push the envelope. The artists we have curated have handled requests for changes or new works with much intelligence, grace, and humour, which are all hallmarks of a truly creative spirit. In the end, we are offering a very unique venue to artists, we are proud of the programming we have shown, and we couldn't have done it without Clear Channel's generous assistance.

With all that said, and the year drawing to a close, I look forward to doing more curatorial work in this area and think that there is much to be discussed and learned from curating in this realm. For our final month, we're presenting two works that I'm really excited about. On the 28th minute of every hour, Collin Zipp's "Niverville, MB 08.04" is a gorgeous manipulated landscape. Collin physically defaces the videotape to produce unique effects that culminate in completely new landscapes. On the 59th minute of every hour, we present John Greyson's "14.3 seconds". During the 2003 war, U.S. planes bombed the Iraqi Film Archive. 14.3 seconds of celluloid were salvaged from the wreckage. If you slow them down by 23.8%, they last a minute. This poignant piece is not to be missed.

If you live in Toronto, check out the pieces in their natural habitat, on the pedestrian level billboard at Yonge-Dundas Square on the 29th and 59th minutes of the hour. If you don't, check out the pieces on the Transmedia :29:59 website.
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