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Chat Room's generally post-internet worldview awoke again when members tested O'Neill's definition of the now popularized verb "to curate," as now practiced by nearly anyone with a social media account. O'Neill's defense was to site this battle upon the "praxis" of the curator who, he said, must work with art or artists. This tautology struck the class as sort of hidebound to the decadent postcolonial biennial circuit of the 1990s and 2000s, or the late Manifestas, Documentas, and Performas. Boris Groys touches on this in his new book Going Public, "Today, there is no longer any 'ontological' difference between making art and displaying art. In the context of contemporary art, to make art is to show things as art. So the question arises: is it possible, and, if so, how is it possible to differentiate between the role of the artist and that of the curator when there is no difference between art's production and exhibition." O'Neill's book helpfully included Andrea Fraser's definition of the institution of art as a condition of its existence as such: "art is art when it exists for discourses and practices that recognize it as art..."

 

Posted
AuthorMike Pepi

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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