Contemporary art curating news and views from Michelle Kasprzak and team

Job: Curator of Education + Collections, Lewis Glucksman Gallery

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, October 21. 2008 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
Curator of Education + Collections
Lewis Glucksman Gallery

Job Description:

The Lewis Glucksman Gallery is a cultural and educational institution that promotes the research, creation
and exploration of the visual arts. Located at University College Cork, the Glucksman is a landmark
building that includes display spaces, lecture facilities, a riverside restaurant and gallery shop. The
Glucksman was named 2005 Best Public Building in Ireland by the RIAI. The building is a RIBA award
winner and was short-listed for the Stirling Prize in 2005.

As an internationally significant art space, the Glucksman links the educational mission of the University to
the cultural life of the region. The Glucksman's artistic policy is to explore all aspects of visual culture and
present a range of innovative and intellectually stimulating displays. The gallery’s exhibition and education
programmes foster scholarship in a new environment placing particular emphasis on the unique role of
visual media in communicating knowledge. Central to this is the creation of discursive relationships
between academic disciplines and art practice. This is reflected in a wide range of exhibitions that span
various media and historical periods with an emphasis on international contemporary art.

Following the appointment of Nora Hickey as Director of the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray, the Glucksman
seeks to employ a Curator of Education & Collections. As a member of the senior management team, the
Curator of Education & Collections will work closely with the Director to strategically develop the University
Art Collection and deepen public engagement with the visual arts.

Specifically, the Curator of Collections, Research & Education will:

• Devise strategies to promote the understanding and exploration of the Glucksman’s artistic
• Seek financial support for the gallery’s education programmes.
• Initiate public programmes in the visual arts for UCC staff, students and the wider
community including lectures, art classes, workshops, and exhibition-related events.
• Devise and deliver educational support and materials on gallery displays for schools, group
visits and individual visitors.
• Develop and co-ordinate the current schools programme.
• Facilitate and encourage researchers to use the resources of the gallery.
• Develop outreach programmes for specific communities that relate to exhibition themes and
the University Art Collection.
• Oversee the student and public internship programme.
• Ensure that UCC’s existing collection of art work is managed and presented to professional
standards, and work towards accreditation for the Glucksman on the Museum Standards
Programme of Ireland.

Candidates will require the following knowledge and experience

• A thorough knowledge of current art issues and trends in visual arts practice.
• Experience in co-ordinating education and outreach projects.
• The ability to write and edit lucid texts.
• A clear understanding of the principles of collections management.
• The experience and intellectual ability to create connections with and beyond the visual
arts and to promote the enjoyment and study of visual culture.
• A passion for communicating art to a wide public.
• Excellent interpersonal and organisational abilities.
• A university degree and proven experience in arts administration is desirable

Applications to consist of CV, relevant supporting material and a covering letter outlining suitability for the
position. Please provide contact details for two referees.
The salary will be €35,000 - 40,000 per annum depending on the successful candidate’s qualifications and

Applications should be submitted by 10 November 2008 to the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, University
College Cork, Ireland, marked CURATOR OF EDUCATION + COLLECTIONS.

Consult for further information on the Lewis Glucksman Gallery.

Informal enquiries by email only to Fiona Kearney, Director, Lewis Glucksman Gallery at: f.kearney -at-

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Opportunity: apexart - The Franchise

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Tuesday, October 21. 2008 • Category: Jobs & Opportunities
apexart - The Franchise
Resolving another boundary between art and business

apexart wants to come to you. Any city, any town, anywhere in the world. apexart is franchising a one-time exhibition opportunity where apexart will come to your city and appoint you the director of your own temporary non-profit exhibition space. For a four-week exhibition in May, 2009, and in the months preceding, you will be the director and/or curator and/or staff of your own institution with a budget, a salary, and complete control.

apexart will provide up to $10,000 USD in funding and the guidance to make your curated exhibition happen. In addition, prior to your show, apexart will arrange to bring you to NYC for three days, all expenses paid, to visit apexart and meet the staff.

Submit up to a 250-word statement on why apexart should come to you. You may use your 250-word count in anyway you think best. You can emphasize the idea, the execution or the content. Decide on your own the best way to sway the judges. Applications will be accepted until midnight December 1, 2008 EST, from anyone, anywhere in the world. The results will be made public on or before January 10, 2009.

More information here.

Submit your application here.

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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, 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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For What and For Whom?

Posted by Michelle Kasprzak • Saturday, October 4. 2008 • Category: Musings

Increasingly open ways of participating in the selection and display of content are blossoming. Harnessing the ubiquity of internet access, the Brooklyn Museum are able to produce Click!, a "crowd-curated" photography exhibition. Weblogs, like FFFFOUND!, allow invited internet users to select pictures worthy of scrutiny from the tonnage of imagery available on the web. Taking the semi-randomness of allowing web users to filter content as a model, the Kemper Museum in Kansas City recently permitted museum visitors to choose items from the collection to be displayed in an exhibition entitled "Putting the U in Curator".

In each of these situations, the word curating is used to describe actions taken by members of the public who would not normally self-define as curators. This situation is similar to the one described by Clay Shirky in his recent book, Here Comes Everybody, about the definition of a journalist: "So long as publishing was expensive, journalists were rare." (p. 71) So long as there were relatively few museums and galleries, art curators were rare. On the surface, it appears that this rarity is eroding, not because of an explosion in curatorial jobs and projects, but because there is an explosion in the way the term is being used. "Curating" is increasingly being used to describe an expanding body of activity in terms of new platforms and materials, but remains focused on the act of the curator as editor or selector. This movement towards the application of the term curator to bloggers choosing images for their blogs, and to museum visitors who are invited to move a painting from the vault to the gallery wall, and to the person who votes on images in a web browser, expands the notion of a curator at the same time that it contracts it.

There are two distinct types of activity happening in this expanded area of definition. One is a singular act of temporary deputisation as a curator. This type of singular activity fits with the example of the Kemper Museum show, where one random museum visitor was selected to choose one piece from the collection, and then this same activity was repeated with a different museum visitor, until the walls were full. The other type of activity is a crowd-generated model, wherein group choices are tallied and a final result evolves from popularity of particular items, as in the Brooklyn Museum example. Both of these cases highlight the selection and editing processes that are part of a curatorial role.

Language is living and the meaning of words and expressions evolve over time and with use. There is no doubt that there is value to opening up and demystifying the editing and selection processes most typically known to be domain of the art curator. If this strategy is properly applied, it is possible to encourage anyone who is interested to develop a deeper aesthetic sense, to feel more closely linked to culture and heritage institutions, and to develop stronger ideas of what culture means to them. But if this is how the common use of the word curator is evolving, what is lost?

To speak very broadly, when looking at any collection of items, one can ask: "For what and for whom?" Why select, edit, and group things together? Collections and curated exhibitions are about creating links, developing narratives, and composing responses to perennial questions and ideas. These collections and groupings are then presented in ways so that they will effectively reach audiences. Often erroneously perceived as the skulduggery of the marketer, it is the work of curators and all cultural workers to perform extensive research on who is or could be the audience for a particular exhibit or collection, and what would constitute an effective display for this audience. Just as a priest isn't simply someone who says Mass and a doctor isn't simply someone who taps your knee with a hammer, a curator isn't just someone who selects images. The larger role of the curator encompasses the creation of links to other creative dialogues, writing and contextualising work, developing the physical (or virtual) exhibition sequencing and flow, and perhaps most important of all, nurturing a relationship with the practitioners who make the work and understanding the narrative inherent in their career trajectory. (Or, in the case of those who work with historical collections, having a scholarly background on the movements/time periods/artists represented in these collections). What can and will be lost in the reduction of the term curator to mean one who clicks on a thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon is that sense of for what and for whom.

Is it possible to build a notion of for what and for whom into the singular model and the crowd model, and is that an appropriate aim? Or do these models serve the very specific purpose of magnifying the intricacies of these selection processes? I would argue that building larger cultural narratives, and developing clear intentions towards an audience are functions too important to ignore. Behind each of these very important additional tasks of the curator is an understanding of intentions and a burden of responsibility towards the public, artists, and colleagues.

Perhaps the intentions of those working with either old models or new are too divergent to reconcile. In interviews about the Brooklyn Museum crowd-curated exhibition Click! on, a photoblogger describes traditional modes of curating as about "judgment and exclusion" and that it allows "only a certain group of people to have their work seen", whilst a professional curator working in an institution characterises the crowd mode of curating as allowing people to act "less as curators and more as participants" and another curator described how the the exhibition might undermine the educational aspect of a museum's mandate.

In a very direct statement on the matter, blogger Jason Kottke says of his FFFFOUND! project: "I would argue that these sites showcase a new form of art curating. The pace is faster, you don't need a physical gallery or museum, and you don't need to worry about crossing arbitrary boundaries of style or media. Nor do you need to concern yourself with questions like "is this person an artist or an outsider artist?" If a particular piece is good or compelling or noteworthy, in it goes." Were these thoughts to be developed a little further, Kottke might have found that the terms "good", "compelling", and "noteworthy" are problematic, and the use of those terms in a cavalier way indicates a lack of consideration for who both the audience and the users are, or could be. In "Here Comes Everybody" Shirky also notes that: "As with the printing press, the loss of professional control will be bad for many of society's core institutions, but it's happening anyway. The comparison with the printing press doesn't suggest we are entering a bright new future - for a hundred years after it started, the printing press broke more things than it fixed, plunging Europe into a period of intellectual and political chaos that ended only in the 1600s." (p. 73). Will the notion of flexibility espoused by evangelists such as Kottke break more things than it fixes? It will certainly stretch, if not completely break, the definitions of noteworthy, good, and compelling, as well as curating.

In these open forums for participation, the very arbitrariness and randomness that is held up a virtue also ensures that there will never be a common vision or consensus on direction and intention. While this doesn't undermine the value of online or offline filtering by the public as an educational or research vehicle, it is erroneous to imagine it could take the place of a specialist waking up every day and asking "for what and for whom?" (before putting the "u" in curator). Rather than muddying our terms, the way forward is to identify and clarify what the purpose of singular or collaborative methods of filtering are, and refine how to make these methods more useful and meaningful to the participants.
Reference links:
(1) Brooklyn Museum, Click! (Further information:
(2) FFFFOUND! Commentary:
(3) Kemper exhibition, Putting the U in Curator:
(4) Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody:
This essay was included in the latest issue of Vague Terrain, guest edited by the fine folks at CONT3XT.NET.
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