On curating

In my previous post I mentioned that to work with a curator I would need to have a huge amount of confidence in their skills.

By that I mean I would want them to have an understanding of what drives me to make the work I do, and to take that as a guide for how my work would be incorporated into a project or exhibition.

In the Ralph Rugoff’s opening paragraph of his article within What makes a great exhibition? (You Talking To Me? On Curating Group Shows that Give You a Chance to Join the Group) by Paula Marincola, he states that when asking a curator what needs to be considered to create engaging and stimulating group exhibitions the answer came, “Well, that’s a no-brainer. All you have to do is show some really good works of art together”(2006: 44).

And that’s what is of concern to me when I imply the need to feel confident in the curator – great artwork may not work well together simply because it’s great artwork.

I rather liked Rugoff’s likening of a great group exhibition to an orgy, with descriptive words such as “stimulating”, “unpredictable” and “multiple climaxes” used to elaborate (2006: 44). But it is the point that they should provide more than an opportunity for viewers to ‘view’ that resonates for me. Like a film or a book, or even an TV advert, if the show does not last in the memory much longer than when you have stepped out of the door, what has that achieved for the artist, the curator, the project or perhaps even, in my case, the photographic art itself?

Having worked in communications and marketing, the analogy that how an exhibition is ‘packaged’ influences how the audience responds is pretty apt. How something is wrapped up and presented to the world can attract a particular audience. And this is where it can be difficult to get things right – how to show the world at large your work when you seek to create inclusive means of dissemination? Is it possible to be something to all?

It’s an interesting point about the difference between grand biennial type shows and those with themes on specific topics. I can see when Rugoff says that by having a theme it can “reduce our possible interpretations of a given artwork by forcing us to examine it through a specific (and limited) thematic filter”, with the theme being more important than the art (2006:47).

As my practice has the overarching theme of human impact on the environment, I appreciate how this may be so. Yet, if you make your work because you are driven by a specific topic, would it not seem more appropriate to promote your work through your topic rather than a stand alone artwork? A delicate balance required.

In Rugoff’s article he states that an exhibition is not where the work culminates but where it begins. I will take this on board now for any future exhibitions I may hold or take part in. It’s a great way to help imagine where to go next with your work.

But the most salient points he makes, and something that for me has been the basis of any display of my work I am/will be involved in, is the ability to arouse curiosity and that to be successful the audience must also feel they are a part of it.

Book Reference

MARINCOLA, Paula. 2006. What makes a great exhibition? (You Talking To Me? On Curating Group Shows that Give You a Chance to Join the Group). USA: Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage