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How do you effectively judge or comment upon a post-colonial biennial? At most you can stand back as a flat-footed spectator, nod, and engage the sprawling vision with an antiseptic relationship to its "organizational strategies." Is the international hyper-curator engaged in a zero sum game with the waning role of the critic? This is, mind you, the critic-as-critic, or critic/critic/critic; a peculiar species of high modernism. Before they were forced to react to the God head wisdom of the celebrity curator, who probably also started out as a theorist-critic, but succumbed to the careerist pressure to "do", be pro-active, not just "write", which is most often forced into a reactive relationship to the "curated" work.  This occurs even though the critic and the curator are in theory (but not in practice) doing the same work -- arranging, selecting, contextualizing, and presenting works of art and artists. We should decide what we lost when we entered the age of the "slash." Did we insulate curatorial practice by weakening one of the "estates" in the production and reception of art by forcing it to merge with the active role of the curator? Is it conservative to pine for the "pure", singular voice of the critic who merely reacts, write, and accompanies artistic production with purposive text? 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi

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Is the textual production of the curator in the catalogue essay or wall text tantamount to the voice of history or criticism? I refer to "pre-curatorial" critical discourse, when the artist's work, theory, and history were the main subjects, not the vision or execution of the curator as "globally-connected auteur." O'Neill's book  nicely charts the historical contingents of this notion of the "demystified" curator, one that arose in the late 1960s and then blossomed in the biennial fever of the 1990s. He identifies the post-Szeemann phenomenon of "curated by" exhibition-making and highlights the reign of curator-centered discourse. Seemingly stuck in a "curatorial moment" that has now passed, O'Neill's balanced text still does a great service by doing as much to challenge this notion as he does to historically re-construct it.

 

 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi