Curating as a medium of artistic practice: the convergence of art and curatorial practice since the 1990s

Winter Lights-14

Curation moved from a pre 1960s administrative practice to a performance akin to artistic practice and one where the artist production of showing converged.

Curating and culture industry

  • Individual creativity and organisation can be seen as oppositional p88

The exhibition as museum

  • Exhibitions are part of the “consciousness industry” p90 where they communicate ideas, perspectives constructed through the exhibitions organisation and so they are political tools p91

The exhibition as form

  • Auteur, group, collective
  • Temporary, multi-sited

Curatorship contra artistic autonomy

  • Curatoriship has become its own practice with personal styles and approaches p97 where arts services the curatorial purpose rather than vice versa (sort of p98)

Curating as a medium of self presentation

“contemporary art museums now tends to place its emphasis on the research and mediation of temporary exhibitions rather than focussing on its collection” p99

Curating within the field of cultural production

  • Curating going beyond the institutionalised exhibition space and acting as an explicit artistic endeavour
  • Curating goes beyond aesthetics and includes values, classes and characterisations p102

The exhibition as medium for both artists and curators

  • Artistic and curatorial practice now resemble each other p103 – the artist curator
    • “objects are transformed into art by the critic writing about them” p102 – ie cultural producers p104 eg Hoffman inviting six people to curate one show p114

The new curatorial rhetoric and its discontents

  • But Hoffman’s approach has been attacked as hiding (or at least obfuscating) the position of curator
  • Some have countered this by some curators using exhibitions as a means to explore the process of artistic production rather than finished objects p116

Antagonism to the new curatorship

  • Curators have too much power and the role makes them akin to critics – they should not be seen as authors and limit themselves to the focus on organisation based on aesthetics p122/123
  • Curators close off possibilities and promoting particular ways of engaging and perspectives p124
  • In some cases the exhibition’s brand (approach and identity) overwhelms the art

The emergence of a dialogical understanding of exhibition making

  • Time limited one off exhibitions become discursive and develop over longer periods

This book was both fun and hard work. As with much in art the issues raised and explores where simultaneously simple and complex, obvious and hidden.

The history part was straight forward: curatorship moved from an administrative role within institutions to a performance based role that offered people new perspectives on art by bringing together time limited exhibitions that offered new articulations. This has resulted in new cultural economies and new global cultural elites who are the arbiters of taste. So the curator can make art of classifying and presenting it as such.

But curating in this way can bring about distortions as the process involves including and excluding, elevating and perspective building. Thus viewers see things through prisms created by associations. Thus artistic and cultural hegemony and colonialism can take place. Indeed it is clear that these are inherent traits and connect be expunged from the process.

What was interesting about the book and its presentation was it showed me just how little I knew of the subject of curating and exhibiting. So I purchased the two volumes of Biennials and Beyond – Exhibitions that made history so I can find out more about what people thought of some of the exhibitors talked about at the time they were produced.

Implications for my work
This book has important implications for my work as I see curation as central to my practice and the meaning I want to evoke is only ever partially achieved within single images as I need to produce and organise a body of work in order to articulate my position.

However, while I have been doing this in regard of the production values and organisation of the book (Paralysis) I have not applied much thought as all to the issue in terms of the summer exhibition and so will begin to turn my mind to that. Helpfully I think a lot of the issues raised in this book chime with that of the short 6 week course I have just begun Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum – so that helps.

(The pretty picture at the top of the post is just to get you interested)

P. O’Neill, (2012) Curation: The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture , Published by MIT Press


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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