RE: [-empyre-] pedagogy and curating

But for today, Tuesday, still with 36 hours left in the Bush ultimatum, I
would like to shift our attention into another arena of curatorial practice
that specifically involves pedagogy.  We've already touched on this issue,
partially thanks to Christiane, in relation to the pedagogical
responsibilities and opportunities open to curators of new media for
"framing" exhibitions in provocative and pedagogical ways.  For many of us
this has ranged from the kinds of curatorial statements with which Arthur,
Marilouise, and I frame every issue of CTHEORY MULTIMEDIA, to conferences
and colloquia discussing or deriving from our exhibitions.

Hello, all -

First of all, as someone who's done a great deal in independent curating, I apologize for not participating more, as some personal issues such as a complete OS meltdown and finishing parts of this issue of Intelligent Agent have kept me busy.

In regards to curatorial practice in light of contemporary society, IA is squarely addressing this issue, and I invite everyone again to look at Schleiner' essay on alternative curation, as well as the first version of my "Reconfiguring the Museum" article which was published in the SJSU/CADRE Institute Switch journal in February 2001.

Briefly put, there are many issues being put forth in regards to the emerging electronic art from access, representation, archival, sociocultural agendas (such as a panel I was on at Eyebeam that Michael Rush asked me to be on regarding the museum as bulwark for the forces of secular humanism [which I was ambivalent about, BTW]).

However, Timothy (whom I recently met in Nagoya this fall) and everyone else have addressed many of these concerns quite well, and thus on to pedagogy.

I'd like to take a dogleg regarding curation as pedagogy to pedagogy as curation in regards to a project I have been involved in for the past 13 years called the 'Haymarket Riot" project. In the early 90's, my main collaborator (Jonathon Epstein, Kent State Univ. USA) and I were interested in how one could use apt metaphors for the Baudrillardian mediascape, the Krokerian panic culture, Virilio's notions of acceleration, and so on in the classroom. The crucial moment came when Jon asked me "So what does simulated/hyper-reality look like", to which I replied that you need only to open Vogue or Elle, or watch cable TV.

From that time on, we first created series of multimedia digital imagery the first of which was called "Americans have no IDentity, but they Do Have WOnderful Teeth - The Sociology of Jean Baudrillard", which premiered at Concordia as well as the first Event-Scene on Ctheory, and did series on the Krokers, Hendrix, and Virilio before we get tot he point that's salient here.

The goal of Haymarket Riot was to create media metaphors for the classroom that were illustrative, yet subversive in the same way that brand name manufacturers invade our space every day. In '95, CGI technology finally became affordable enough that I got a system, and we began creating very leftist media works, not for the festivals or galleries, but for the classrooms as 'fringe culture'. Jon used his reputation as academician to inject this virus into the academic body, and it spread for a long time. BTW, we're looking to complete the 10-year cycle on the videos within the next couple years and release a DVD. The digitization of the old analog data is now done.

However, now that the context is laid for what I'm really getting at, the point is that the academic and the curator have some key similarities in the selection of material and dissemination of it as pedagogy. Of course, the academic is in a different engagement with their audience in that it's much more direct, but in a way, the curator has a more passive role.

I'll deconstruct it this way; for the independent like myself, the goal has been to illustrate points that would not normally be seen in the institution for ideological, technical, or other reasons. There's a lot more risk for the independent without the institutional backing and moderation of the bureaucracy, but I think that if done intelligently, the payoffs are far greater for bringing new works to the attention of the art community. I'm keeping this paragraph short only for sake of brevity.

Conversely, the institutional curator has many challenges in regards to the perception of a direction of a particular institution, the resources available, as well as the interdisciplinary turf wars between the various curators within a given museum. AS Michael Rush stated at Eyebeam, one of his goals is that of building a humanist discourse around the museum, and under the rubric of Modernism, this makes perfect sense for him. Dietz and Weil have frequently espoused the online long before its emergence, most notably at net_condition and the 2000 Whitney Biennial.

Another problem in the institution is that of the encroachment of consumer capitalism into the cathedrals of culture (of unrealized capital, as Adorno would say) Could we say that the pedagogical function, pragmatically speaking, in the major museums is also turning into education as to make the best choices in the gift shop? That may seem a bit far-fetched, but when public funding, especially in the US, is shrinking in terms of the arts, capital steps in, leaving nothing without a price tag. Although curators woudl argue against this as being a primary meme in the institution, I would counter that it is becoming more invasive as time goes on and that operations are becoming more dependent on sales of consumer goods and on large populist shows like Impressionist and egyptian exhibitions to name a couple.

Am I syaing that there is a tug of war between consumer culture and 'high culture'? No, but it is a border of contention, and not in the traditional form of the high/low culture discussion.

I have observations and questions. Although the curatorial practice is bound by history and various social contracts, I do believe that many curators are diligently working to construct pedagogical narratives for the public. However, as mentioned before, there are the financial challenges, as well as board politics, and the , perish the word, 'subjectivity' of artistic 'taste'. It's truly a difficult set of negotiations that friends have to venture through every day.

In order to not tire everyone out (including myself), I'm going to leave here, and add a couple more questions:

How does the curator address pedagogy vis-a-vis emergent forms?
Is it necessary to inculcate the youth with an awareness of culture, especially digital?

I'll anxiously await everyone's replies.


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