[-empyre-] "Death of the Curator"

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Thu Apr 12 01:13:30 EST 2012

dear all

thanks for the provocative readings and viewings provided over the past days,
(I am listening to Brad Troemel's "Art after Social Media"), Aram, thx for the many links. 
Also am trying to catch up reading the text ["Las Grietas"] you linked us to , Pedro,  thx!

and I wanted to ask Naeem to talk about the photograph chosen in the front of his essay on "At the co-ed dance" -- i attach it for those who have not read it....

Naeem Mohaiemen schreibt:
I have attached here the PDF of an essay I had written about
artists-as-curators. It was published in the now defunct ART LIES
journal in their "Death of the Curator" issue in 2009 and then
reprinted in TAKE ON ART in India in 2011.
Some of this now feels quite dated, but hopefully some of it can still
be relevant to our discussion.

I enjoyed reading this piece a lot,  and was sorry to learn "Artlies" is not alive anymore, I remember writing for it when it got started
in Houston some years ago in the 90s, an independent organ of criticism run by a collective (of writers and artists, no curators allowed though) if I remember correctly,  
laid out and pasted together on John Bryant's computer in the attic.  

Brian's long post and critical reflection on decision-making processes (underlying curating?) and organizing under "the governmentality of neoliberalism" was most insightful, I felt, and deserves much more
discussion, if we were to look at the compromises (and roles as "accomplices") Ana pointed to, especially under the conditions of the market described by Brian,  and I wonder, if I could ask Aram this question, whether the conditions are the same or somewhat different - for social networks, online galleries, YouTube, etc and temporary "speedshows" ?  very And if they are unchanged, and particularly timely for the digital/networked platforms, then how can distributed curating become like a tactical media?  very fast and very ephemeral before co-opted, to be re-hyped (it started at the beforementioned documenta X, with the splendid installation of "The Hybrid Workspace  temporary media lab" , for 100 days,  -- so one might think the museum had already co-opted you before you even had started)....?

Naeem's implicit self-questioning is something can surely be addressed, from the many experiences people on this list have, 
-- when you say "I started to wonder if artist-as-curator was always a healthy construct"  (not really),  I assumed you meant the inevitable
complications that might arise when artist-run galleries or shows remain "hermetic"  (inviting friends and themselves) or self-serving
before they, possibly, create interesting cracks in the mirror that make the very messiness and spontaneity you describe interesting to be coopted
by museum and academic institutions or larger public venues like Kunsthallen etc. I wonder whether some progressive municipalities were run like that
or imagined themselves like that (Amsterdam?). The idea (harking back to last month's debate) of the cit as curator interests me a lot, with some of the implications of "caring" , "curing" and "being curious" that
have been raised here.  

Were it not for the photograph, Naeem, that keeps haunting us. 

And what is the role of private capital?  Can it, in some cases, provide a certain "autonomy" allowing the forging of exhibitions that could
not happen in public institutions or museums governed by boards of directors/collectors and friends?  In Houston, for example, the Station Museum (run
by James Harithas) has kept putting on what one might call political exhibitions which no one else would touch or dream of doing, and it must
take a certain financial independence to be able to sustain that. 

Lastly, I wish we'd not leave the first week entries, for example the questions raised by , and returned to, Jennifer and Jim about mass orchestrations
of urban festivals or spectacles un-scrutinized.  There was so much claimed for "artists produc[ing] large-scale performances and interventions that engage, critique and reconceptualize the urban context"
which we have not questioned at all here, for example in connection to tourism industry and civic/city policy or economic interests participating in urban spectacles and fostering
the illusions of art concerts/rock concerts being a 'counter-movement" and leaving audiences to have or influence choices of/for (collective) curating...

is there such a thing as "collectice curating", and what would it be?  

In the town where I was born, the local merchants and businesswomen and men  (Mittelstandsbetriebe) put on a show every year, for the masses to enjoy. 
They also get the streets blocked off, for sure.


Johannes Birringer
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