The curatorial process - theory and/or intuition; risk and/or delight: considerations for the curatorial procedure and attempting an individual position
The starting point of these ideas was a lecture at the Kunstakademie Kassel, part of a series titled "Der Kurtorische Prozess". My title was "Lieber Kurator, kuratiere mir ... Vom Mythos des freien Kurators und über den subjektiven Umgang mit 'autistischen' Tendenzen”, suggesting that the lecture wanted to present a polarized point of view.
The main thesis of the lecture was that instead of strengthening or enforcing the autonomy of the curator, it will be better to lose autonomy and to give it back to the artist, where it belongs. Of course this loss of autonomy will declare the process of ‘free curating’ as a myth. But finally in my opinion, this autonomy results from social criteria in the 70s, which in a certain way questioned itself from the beginning: so that on one hand curators were confronted by artists out of an artistic crisis, and on the other hand curators were forced by institutions to develop content and context and to transform subjective attitudes towards a global social reality. This social issue induces curators to increase self-reflection, intensifies the pretensions of a theorizing practice, in order to be able to sharply distinguish between being a member and exclusion, and as a result this extends the gap to the public at the same time.
Therefore the impression of an exclusive "on and for itself" working system increases, and the artist loses autonomy at the same time - but indeed, this curatorial autonomy depends on questionable categories from the beginning. It could be distinguished into:
autonomy of content: in the sense of transforming individual interpretations of present phenomena into socially relevant reality, by the appropriation of artistic proceedings. Of course these phenomena often depend on synchronised interests, so that this may be part of an international style in curating which depends on the global curatorial education system, with its main goal, to steadily bring out ‘new’ things and artists.
systemic autonomy: in so far as this is possible - but economic factors determine that this possibility is already politico-culturally pre-defined. It seems to be obvious that big themes remind political responsibilities like migration or the extension of the east and so in this sense art begins to serve politics and, behind so-called scientific researches or approaches, artwork can be adapted to any desired position or decree.
But the cultural reach of such curatorial systems becomes obvious in theories of art, in which art becomes art only out of a combination of presenting, mediating and specifying: this means that art begins with curating and without curation art will remain in anonymity. But nevertheless, although it emphasising communicational aspects, this theory leaves out the practise of ‘doing art’ and leaves out the viewer or the public.
Returning to my lecture’s main thesis, I suggested that ‘free curating’ is a myth for three reasons:
economic determination through fees or grants in turn determined by approaches to political duties - and the economic instability of every day life promoting the necessity to operate within this system;
curatorial ‘clearance’ seeming to be reduced more and more by institutional pressures;
cooperation between artists and self-curated projects by artists creating a needlessness of curators.
For these reasons it seems to be necessary to establish a new practise of curating with social competence, in which the curator should act as an agent or facilitator in the artistic process and should be in close contact with the artists and simultaneously aware of the audience, without any loss of sensual or visual quality in the artwork or its credits of autonomy. It is reasonable that curators are to be able to dissociate from the system and to be next to artistic processes of production, and especially this could be the missing link between art and its audience and at least it is important to shape ones perception of what artistic quality could be.
I was asked at the end of my lecture, about the sources of my own curating - to tell the truth, I've never thought about this literally, because generally speaking the result of my projects is that there is no possibility to declare a reproducible approach to curating - because all the projects depend on concrete demands and they are part of a so-called incalculable intuition and partnership - but nevertheless, important factors are:
to be fascinated by artistic work, processes and artwork in general, to extend ones own limitations of perception and creative practice;
to observe ones own view, and to shape visual practices to become aware of unknown things in everyday life;
an intellectual challenge; to take a delight in discussing artwork.
Recently there has been a main focus on two conceptual aspects in my work: projects which focus on artistic creativity and prepare a research of artistic processes: in-between artwork an imagination: where does the process start, and what motivates this process? (Peter Ewig)
projects which depend on a dialogical situations (like "cut!", "tropic", "dirty denim", "mindscrapers"). These will create a dialogical situation on different layers between two or three artists, to extend a loose sequel of exhibitions that concentrate on specific contemporary questions. It means that these questions should not to be discussed in a universal manner, for instance to achieve general solutions. Instead, they are negotiated in a concentrated, concrete and individual, comprehensible way by the artists. It's not about artificial visualisation of social theory or discourse by art as a kind of service, but about visible artwork and the transformation of these virulent questions in the artistic speech/picture. What might happen in perception and reception could open a space for imagination and association and maybe motivates activities. Simplified, this deals with archaic categories of preparing art (which seemed to get lost more and more in the operation system), categories such as delight and fascination. Of course at the end this is always open and a kind of experiment, but it should never be at will.
What could be generalized at least, is that curating should be a practise or a process that deals with delight and risk; a practise that should be able to prepare ‘public rescue areas’, in which all urgent questions can be negotiated and discussed in an aesthetic manner - or more generally, to create utopian spaces in real places – and to present what is not communicable at all, retaining the minimum of autonomy that all culture still affords.