[-empyre-] Curatorial Studies

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Thu Apr 5 13:12:54 EST 2012

Thanks for joining us this week, Jim and Jennifer.  We are looking forward to a very wide-ranging discussion this month with an exciting group of guests from across the globe.

It's very interesting to contemplate the relation between curating civic spectacle, as Jen put, and curatorial study as Jim introduces the term in relation to your new journal (we're very pleased to able to profit the opportunity of your journal launch to introduce this April discussion).  Tomorrow we are hosting the postcolonial theorist Ranjana Khanna from Duke University who joined me and Renate and group of artists and scholars in Venice last summer to conduct a week-long seminar about the global biennale in a digital world. Empyreans might recall that we discussed some of the issues raised about the biennales in discussions last June.  As one of the organizers of this seminar, along with Ian Baucoum, I anticipated that our work would focus on the issues of public spectacle associated with the biennales as well as the complexity of national selection and representation that's characteristic of the Venice Biennale.

One of our initial tasks was to read selected essays from The Biennale Reader that took us on a bit of a different path by tending to focus our discussion on the volume's emphasis on the growing centrality of the curator.  The spin of this Reader seemed to promote curatorial authority over artistic production and institutional position over the independent status of so many artists.  This emphasis on authority, with so many resemblances to earlier patriarchal models of artistic genius and gallery legitimation, struck Renate and me as standing in stark contrast to the openness of so many civic projects like Nuit Blanche, not to mention the diversity and unanchoredness of so much of the artwork and exhibitions on the internet.  What seemed to disappear in so many of those essays was the vitality of "the sensory economy" emphasized by Jim.

So I'm curious to hear more from Jim and Jennifer how the expanding project of curatorial studies stands in relation to the potential destabilization of the "sensory."  Related to this is my question of how "criticality," which drives curatorial choice stands in relation to ludic participation.  And are these mutually exclusive practices (perhaps some of the attendees of last September's ISEA will weigh in on the critical project of the Istanbul Biennale that tended to favor reflection over ludic participation.   As the month progresses, we're going to have the opportunity to learn about many concrete curatorial projects and strategies, so it might be fascinating for now for the list to engage in a broad discussion of the parameters associated with curating and curatorial studies per se.

Looking forward to it, and very happy to back in the mix after being sidelined by a few months of heavy administrative chores (and not of the curatorial nature...).



Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York. 14853
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Jim Drobnick [displaycult at sympatico.ca]
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 6:05 PM
To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Subject: [-empyre-] Curatorial Studies

Hi Folks,
Perhaps another thread concerning our curatorial practice would be more conducive to a dialogue. We have just launched a peer-reviewed publication called the Journal of Curatorial Studies that seeks to be a forum for critical discussions on curating, exhibitions and display culture. The first issue is free to download at http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=205/
Our editorial points out the journal’s general mandate, below, and there are several questions listed in the middle paragraph. We might also discuss the status of this emerging area of study called curatorial studies. Does it constitute a discipline? If not, should it aim to become one? What would be the advantages and disadvantages? And if it is a discipline, what should its parameters be?
We look forward to hearing your comments.
Jim and Jennifer
Journal of Curatorial Studies, 1.1, 2012
Jim Drobnick and Jennifer Fisher, Editors
Curating, as a field of study, often falls between the cracks of disciplinary boundaries. Until recently, it has been left to curators themselves to theorize upon their practice and the function of exhibitions. The Journal of Curatorial Studies builds upon the pioneering contributions of curators to encourage in-depth investigations from an array of disciplines. Through the examination of current and historical exhibitions, display venues in the art world and elsewhere, and the work of individual curators, the journal inquires into what constitutes “the curatorial.”
While curating as a practice of arranging objects remains important, in the current context exhibitions involve more complex and unorthodox conjunctions of rhetoric and methodology. Cultural analysis, collaborative processes, institutional critique, performative interventions, networked interactivity – these are some of the strategies that are now regularly employed. This journal will explore these and other issues, such as: How has the identity and authority of the curator shifted in a decentralized artworld? How do exhibitions emphasizing experience and interactivity function as forms of research and knowledge? Beyond the so-called gatekeeping function, what are the new ideological conditions that drive the activity of curating? What connections exist between displays of visual art and those found in culture at large? To this end, the journal will feature thematic and open issues, theoretical explorations, contemporary and historical case studies, interviews with curators, artists and theorists, and reviews of exhibitions, conferences and books.
The Journal of Curatorial Studies invites texts from a broad range of perspectives on curating and exhibitions. It intends to serve the international community of curators, academics whose research engages questions of the curatorial, whether stemming from the art world or other domains of contemporary culture, as well as the growing number of curatorial schools and graduate programs. We welcome a readership that encompasses a range of standpoints – scholars in art, art history, visual culture, museology and material culture studies, along with curators, artists, art critics and cultural theorists.
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