Who Cares Wins: Curated Environments


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Lecture for postgraduate students in School of Art at eca.

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  • diversity of strategy and engagement manifest in the range of actual curatorial practice The curatorial function cannot be crudely reduced to exhibition making
  • Everything is curated now…?What do we mean by this?What is a curator?
  • From the Latincuratus (compare Curator), a curate (pronounced /ˈkjʊərɨt/, us dict: kyoorʹĭt) is a person who is invested with the care, or cure (cura), of souls of a parish. Their job was to – take care of their parishioners souls.Following this tradition, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., gallery, museum, or archive) is a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections. The object of a traditional curator's concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be inter alia artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.
  • A reliquary (also referred to as a shrine or by the French term chasse) is a container for relics. In Central West Africa, reliquaries used in the Bwete rituals contain objects considered magical, or the bones of ancestors, and are commonly constructed with a guardian figure attached to the reliquary.Used by the Kota whorevered the relics of ancestors. Ancestor worship formed the core of the family group’s religious and social life.
  • These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic's provenance.
  • Ontology (from theGreek ὄν, genitive ὄντος: "of being" (neuter participle of εἶναι: "to be") and -λογία, -logia: science, study, theory) is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality as such, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.With the development of transport and the discovery of new worlds in the 16th century, several princes, scientists and amateurs started to collect curiosities. A general definition of the cabinet of curiosities would be to say that it was like a microcosm or summary of the world where the produce of the earth, sea and air (mineral, plant and animal), could be compared to the productions of mankind. The cabinets of curiosities found in the 16th and 17th centuries were collections of a rare or strange multitude of objects representing the three elements of Naturalia: the animal world, the vegetable world and the mineral world. In addition the cabinets would record Articialiahuman achievements.
  • The objective of the cabinets was not to accumulate or index the totality of naturalia and artificialia, as would the encyclopedists of the 18th century, but rather to penetrate the intimate secrets of Nature reproducing its spectacle and fantasy in microcosm. By collecting the oddest objects available, the cabinets would seize the feeling of wonder and surprise encapsulated in European creationist doctrines such as Judaism and Christianity. All objects were seen to have a divine origin. Some were ambiguous. This produced further curiosity. For example, it was often puzzled if fossils and coral were of vegetable or mineral origin. These objects seem to be in an intermediate state. Such confusion caused interest. The secrets of creation were thought to lie in such transitory phenomena. It is important to remember, however, that these cabinets were part of a prescientific era. Curiosities were able to seize the infinite richness of the world and give some points of passage between the material earth bound existence and the heavenly afterlife. As such cabinets were often named Wunderkammern– they were quasi religious experiences.
  • Collections of curiosities were not defined by their contents. Objects were extracted from the circuit of utility and economic activities to form new meanings and relationships with each other. How, then, were the cabinets structured? What did the elements have in common? The majority of the cabinets to the 16th and 17th centuries consisted of composite objects and seldom contained only works of art. Works of art were not valued as highly as some curios. For example, the Medici paid 6000 guilders for the horn of a unicorn, 100 guilders for Fra Angelico’s Adoration of the Magi and only 30 guilders for a painting by Van Eyck.
  • Wonder and spectacle are central to the curatorial impulse.They are inherent to early science and remains a driving force for those who seek the truth.But spectacle can be traded as an end in itself.e.g. Dime museum as an earlier kind of infotainment.
  • Click to play the film of the MJT
  • Reformation (1517+)Attempt to split objects from devotion.
  • Reformation (1517+)
  • Curating in the service of the state rather than church – National Galleries.Acquisition of objects is an exercise in imperial power for nation states, a way of generation a legacy and a lineage.
  • National collections still have a blatantly ritualistic (liturgic) function. We can think of collections as performative objects.The places that host them are ceremonial in this sense.This function hasn’t disappeared, galleries and museums and institutions of governance perpetuate it.
  • Civic Galleries curate a model of civic responsibility and pride.What is it that is being taken care of? How is this circulated and distributed? Clearly curating is a form of exchange, but what kind of value system is in operation, what is being exchanged?
  • Much thought concerning curating places emphasis on acquisition and consumption. Perhaps we need to think more about the other side of this equation – those who give rather than those who take?. The Gift is a short book by the French sociologist Marcel Mauss and is best known for being one of the earliest and most important studies of reciprocity and gift exchange."An essay on the gift: the form and reason of exchange in archaic societies” was originally publishedin 1923-1924. Mauss's essay focuses on the way that the exchange of objects between groups builds relationships between them.He argued that giving an object creates an inherent obligation on the receiver to reciprocate the gift. The resulting series of exchanges between groups thus provided one of the earliest forms of social solidarity used by humans.The Gift has been very influential in anthropology, where there is a large field of study devoted to reciprocity and exchange. It has also influenced philosophers, artists and political activists, including Georges Bataille and Jacques Derrida as well as in research into the phenomenon of Open source software.
  • So we could say the inherent obligation on the receiver to reciprocate the giftis what is activatedwhen people contrivetocurate their environments for religious or secular purposes. A gift economy is at the heart of the art economy, is this one that’s incommesurable with capital? Is it an index of social solidarity?Much of the empirical evidence of how artworlds are organised, regarding who works where and who benefits would suggest otherwise.Five interrelated myths are particularly misleading when it comes to deciding whether to become an artist.1. Making authentic art will be endlessly rewarding. Even when no other rewards are forthcoming, artists receive ample private satisfaction.2. Talent in the arts is natural or God given.3. Certain talents in the arts will only appear at a later point in someone’s career.4. Success in the arts depends exclusively on talent and commitment.5. Everyone has an equal chance in the arts. And so the myths and delusions about the kinds of chances artists have in the arts, chances that are unthinkable in any other field with its diplomas, old-boys-networks etc, continue to beguile the would-be artists.According to Hans Abbing, these are central myths in the artworld that glue the participants together via reciprocity and exchange.
  • THE GIFTGenerates cultural capital - which translates into surplus capital that circulates in a gift economy (this is a way of trying to ensure that this surplus does not fall into the hands of the state).But this surplus capital, can just as easily be concieved as what George Bataille called the‘accursed share’.
  • George Bataille, The Accursed Share (1949) / Home of Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1892–1975)According to Bataille's theory of consumption, the accursed share is that excessive and non-recuperable part of any economy which is destined to one of two modes of economic and social expenditure. This must either be spent luxuriously and knowingly without gain in the arts, in non-procreative sexuality, in spectacles and sumptuous monuments, or it is obliviously destined to an outrageous and catastrophic outpouring, in the contemporary age most often in war, or in former ages as destructive and ruinous acts of giving or sacrifice, but always in a manner that threatens the prevailing system.
  • THE GIFT as accursed share.For the late Kim Il SungWarhorses of the communist world set aside conservative habits to go on a shopping spree for Kim.Mao and Stalin sent railway carriages.Fidel Castro contributed a crocodile-skin briefcase. Former Soviet prime ministers Georgy Malenkov and Nikolai Bulganin dispatched sleek black limousines, copies of the cruisers seen in "The Untouchables."
  • Saddam Hussein’s mural in Peter York’s Dictator’s Homes
  • Immelda Marcos’ Shoes
  • The Heritage Industry?But the accursed share doesn’t require riches –Bataille says that "this poverty cannot in any way interrupt the movement of exuberance”
  • Influence of studying the potlatch - a festival ceremony practised by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America.The word comes from the Chinook Jargon, meaning "to give away" or "a gift". At potlatch gatherings, a family or hereditary leader hosts guests in their family's house and holds a feast for their guests. \\The main purpose of the potlatch is the re-distribution and reciprocity of wealth.Different events take place during a potlatch, like either singing and dances, sometimes with masks or regalia, such as Chilkat blankets, the barter of wealth through gifts, such as dried foods, sugar, flour, or other material things, and sometimes money. Within it, hierarchical relations within and between clans, villages, and nations, are observed and reinforced through the distribution or sometimes destruction of wealth, dance performances, and other ceremonies. The status of any given family is raised not by who has the most resources, but by who distributes the most resources. The hosts demonstrate their wealth and prominence through giving away goods
  • The level of offering is dependent on the place the family hold in the caste system. Giving is more prominent in this cultural than receiving – it is a form of curating, literally a way in which people take care of their souls.The display is a gift related to low (nista), middle (madya), and high (utama) levels – it indicates or curates the correct place of all things in the cosmos.Good and bad spirits are given offerings as well as bad (trash is left for the bad ones).Gifts are a part of daily life.
  • ChristmasWe may think of a gift as something freely given, with no strings attached, an act of pure generosity. But this is not the way the gift functions in the potlatch according to Marcel Mauss and to Bataille"Hence giving must become acquiring a power..He [the gift giver] regards his virtue, that which he had the capacity for, as an asset, as a power that he now possesses. He enriches himself with a contempt for riches, and what he proves to be miserly of is in fact his generosity" (375). According to Bataille, giving and "reckless expenditure" are productive of rank, social standing. Giftingconfers rank.. [rank exists in Peanuts, think about it… who is the hereditary leader ?]
  • This is a false dichotomy, but a persistent one.Let’s look at some examples of how it persists.
  • Curated Computing?
  • Teresa Gledowe makes a similar point in this book.Origins of curating courses in the Whitney ISP – this was focused on institutional critique in the later 1980s.So most curating that has emerged since has been ‘independent’ – not based in museums, not adherant to the CAA’s rules regarding Art Historical scholarship.It has been generative and speculative, much like art since the 60s. Not a case of learning on the job any more, but of reflecting upon what that job might become.Artists were increasingly concerning themselves with mediation and the language of mediation, as they turned towards conceptual strategies. They were also, increasingly,organising themselves collectively.It is a product of post-conceptual notions of an expanded practice and is, therefore, something we should consider alongside the history of the MFA in terms of its impact upon artwork.As Paul O’Neil and Mick Wilson comment:In part these possibilities have been created by the emergence of alternative reputational economies that are not circumscribed by the market, and which are not necessarily destined to be 'cashed-in'.
  • Duman is perplexed by curators discussing curating in curating publications and curating conferences.Question might be how do we move away from the focus on the curator as an auteur towards the idea that we all curate?Curating isn’t something for just some people but a process we are all implicated in.How do we use this realisation to differentiate between what’s simply emergent in the dominant culture (which is how the CAA defines a curator) and what’s generative of a new direction in culture? How can curating correct rather than replicate, existing tendencies of managerial and administrative ranks typical of post-industrial capitalism?
  • Who Cares Wins: Curated Environments

    1. 1. Who cares wins: CuratedEnvironments<br />
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    5. 5. Reliquaries seen by <br />P.S. de Brazza"Voyages dansl'Questafrican"Le Tour Du Monde, Paris, 1887<br />
    6. 6. Reliquaries<br />
    7. 7. Ontology and Wunderkammern<br />
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    13. 13. Hubert Duprat <br />
    14. 14. MEGOLAPONERA FOETENSSTINK ANT OF THE CAMEROON OF WEST CENTRAL AFRICA<br />THE MUSEUM OF JURASSIC TECHNOLOGY<br />"...guided along as it werea chain of flowers intothe mysteries of life." <br />HORN OF MARY DAVIS OF SAUGHALL<br />
    15. 15.
    16. 16. Dutch Calvinist Iconoclasm 1566 - an engraving by Franz Hogenberg in Michael Aitsinger's "De Leone Belgico" (Cologne, 1588)<br />
    17. 17. St Andrews Cathedral Scotland<br />
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    23. 23. Artist-run galleries<br />in England<br />
    24. 24. George Bataille, The Accursed Share (1949)<br />Home of Generalissimo Francisco Franco (1892–1975)<br />
    25. 25. International Friendship Museum, North Korea<br />
    26. 26. Saddam Hussein’s mural in Peter York’s Dictator’s Homes<br />
    27. 27.
    28. 28.
    29. 29.
    30. 30. The Gift in Balinese Hinduism<br />
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    32. 32. The Gift, associated with:incommersurable, authentic, emergent, self-organised? Accursed Share, associated with:capital, commissioned, prescribed, authored top-down? <br />
    33. 33. Late Modernism<br />Gift and Accursed Share?<br />
    34. 34. The Lower East Side hosted a loosely connected art colony on East 10th Street that formed as part of the avantgardist New York School.<br />
    35. 35. Charlie Mingus,<br />at the Five Spot,<br />1950s<br />A 1956 exhibition entitled "Painters and Sculptors on Tenth Street" featured the works of 25 artists who lived on the street.<br />
    36. 36. The artists, de Kooning and Larry Rivers, frequented the bar as did the beat writers Jack Kerouac and Frank O’Hara and jazz bassist Charles Mingus and saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Franz Kline, along with several other Abstract Expressionists, all vistited the Colony, a bar on the corner of E. 10th Street and Fourth Avenue.<br />
    37. 37.
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    39. 39. The Giftopen source, creative commons?Accursed Sharemonopolising, curated content?<br />
    40. 40. The Content Curator: Job Description<br />“Someone whose job it is not to create more content, but to make sense of all the content that others are creating. To find the best and most relevant content and bring it forward.”<br />rohitbhargava.typepad.com<br />Source: cloudave.com<br />
    41. 41. Cory Doctorow <br />
    42. 42. Two non-curated categories?:<br />1. The Personal<br />2. The Tailored<br />
    43. 43. Two non-curated categories?:<br />1. The Personal<br />2. The Tailored<br />
    44. 44. www.ica.org.uk<br />
    45. 45. Teresa Gleadowe in<br />Trade Secrets: Education/Collection/History, organized by the Banff International Curatorial Institute in collaboration with Teresa Gleadowe, and held at The Banff Centre, November 12-14, 2008.<br />
    46. 46. When Travesty Becomes Form<br />Alberto Duman<br />The problem with critiques of curatorship is that they usually end up reinforcing the central importance of the curator.<br />http://www.metamute.org/en/When-Travesty-Becomes-Form<br />