Here’s the April ’08 edition of Pick ‘N Mix, my monthly annotated list of little news items in the realm of curating.

– The Whitney Biennial is generating the usual column inches. Of interest in the coverage of the Biennial is the ongoing commentary about the curators themselves, and their intentions. Jerry Saltz’s recent column discusses the significance of their age: “I was thrilled that the Whitney was prepared to give itself over to young curators. […] no sooner had Huldisch and Momin been named than Whitney director Adam Weinberg pulled back the reins, announcing that the two would be “overseen” by the museum’s chief curator, Donna De Salvo, and that they’d “work with” three older “advisers,” Thelma Golden, Bill Horrigan and Linda Norden.” A piece entitled “The Facebook Biennial” in NY Magazine, offers a detail-rich portrait of the two curators, from the ways their careers unfolded (apparently, Momin’s highly planned, Huldisch’s not as as much) to the technology in the room: “Momin pulls out an iPhone, Huldisch a battered Motorola”.

– In a recent post on Tara Hunt’s blog, she talks about the example of how the now-ubiquitous Post-It note came into being. (Stay with me, here.) Tara writes about the three personalities that were responsible for the Post-It note’s success: the Creator, Catalyst, and Champion.

“…the Creator, Spencer Silver, had come up with the glue that makes the Post-It note work almost a decade before the Catalyst, Arthur Fry, found a use for the glue (keeping his church choir sheets staying put). But even then, it didn’t even make it past corporate scrutiny until they found Champions: the people who were able to take the idea and sell it to others. […] Creators are the inventors, the coders, the people who come up with a crazy idea. Quite often, though, they aren’t able to connect that crazy idea with a real life issue to be solved. That’s the Catalyst’s job. Catalysts are really awesome at understanding real life applications of wacky ideas. They are connectors. But Catalysts aren’t always good at marketing their ideas nor can they replicate themselves, so they need Champions (many of them) to take that awesome application of the wacky invention and spread the word. The three types of people behind innovation are necessary to make ideas come alive and spread.”

And so, in the cultural domain, are curators catalysts or champions? A bit of both? Are they also sometimes the creator? I found this example to be an interesting way to think about the ways that the role of the curator can shift and requires a wide range of skills and roles to be played.

– And now, for a little light bedtime reading… A recent paper by London-based think-tank Demos about cultural learning provides food for thought. “In the context of recent government announcements about cultural education, Demos today challenged cultural professionals and educationalists to provide a new and coherent direction for creative learning and for encouraging creativity through culture. Culture and Learning: Towards a New Agenda, a consultation paper written by John Holden, is published today to invite debate and responses.” Demos is a very interesting think tank, I recommend you browse their full collection of cultural papers at their website.

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