After reading Rosanne's post, I wanted to respond, but I got
distracted. Since you brought it up again, though, I would still like
to respond, although I am not sure how relevant my comments might be.
When I saw the exhibition of Curating Degree Zero Archive in Linz, I
was most intrigued by the different bags containing material from
different people. In my work as a translator, there are a number of
curators that I follow all over Europe, so to speak, people who
especially ask for me to translate their concepts and catalogue texts
and other written material related to their exhibitions. There are a
number of these people that I have never met in person. That means
that I know what they read, what kinds of themes interest them, their
approach to their work, how they write - I just don't know what they
look like. For me, the bags with their very different appearances and
contents provided a fascinating material aspect to work that I was
already familiar with, but without "limiting" it to a specific
individual. Barnaby, I think you mentioned, when we spoke briefly in
Linz, that the bags were chosen at random, so I was even more
surprised that they seemed to correspond so well to the personalities
of the individual curators that I know from their writing.
It may be due more to the specific nature of my own work, but I think
what I appreciate most about Curating Degree Zero Archive is the way
it answers a question about who is behind certain exhibitions without
reducing the ideas, the approach, different ways of thinking, to a
conventional linear biography or list of experience. Obviously, this
worked well for me in the case of curators, whose work I was already
familiar with, so I didn't feel a need to spend hours researching the
available material, even though I think I would have enjoyed doing
that, if I had had the time to spend days in the exhibition going
through the material in detail. The few hours I spent there were
certainly rewarding in a different way.
I also wanted to point out that there was a discussion of the Curating
Degree Zero Archive and the idea of "critical curating" in conjunction
with the exhibition in Linz with Stella Rollig as guest host on
Discordia. That discussion is archived under:
I think some of the points raised there might still be relevant here.
In any case, I wish you and Dorothee all the best for the continuation
of the project,
On Thu, 5 May 2005, Barnaby Drabble wrote:
> in response to Rosanne's questions about the curating archive
> We are indeed changing the presentation of the materials in the archive on a
> regular basis, as much as anything to avoid creating a sort of orthodoxy of
> how the documentation which makes up the archive 'should' be shown. I guess
> we considered carefully the 'critical and experimental' practices included in
> the archive and felt we should reflect upon these by inviting various people
> to reinterpret the archive in a way that they saw fit. The archive is
> currently on display in Sunderland, and is housed in a cardboard structure
> created by the UK based artist-curator Gavin Wade.
> Rosanne questions the navigability of the archive and quite rightly notes
> from her visit that visitors 'have to sort through all the material him or
> herself... much like researching at a library', however, we don't see this
> process as a challenge to observing mutual strategies across a range of
> media. Indeed we'd go the other way, and say this is exactly where a process
> of establishing parallels between varied practices emerges, in the moment
> where the visitor starts to sort and classify the material under headings of
> their own making, rather than be presented with thematically closed
> selections. We try not to privilege one sort of material over another and I
> guess that is what i meant by 'bundling' different media in the archive. We
> hope that the users are lead by and through material both online and off,
> browsing, drawing a line through the material. This process replicates the
> archive's haphazard growth, fed as it is by influences and circles of
> friendship and interest.
> The fact that the viewer cannot achieve 'total' knowledge of the exhibition
> (without a month or two to spare) does not to our mind denote its failure,
> but rather point to the fact that it is not concerned with completeness or
> Rosanne's point about the organisation of the material is important, and
> other visitors with specific interests to research have raised the same
> question regarding navigating this mass of material. From the outset we have
> tried to offer a key for those who required it, although we have rarely
> chosen to foreground this in the exhibition itself. All the material is
> meticulously catalogued, listed and ordered under the name of the
> practitioner who has gifted it to the archive, and this list is available in
> the space and downloadable on the website. It is of course rudimentary, with
> no search function that one might expect to find in a library, but the
> archive is in the process of forming itself, and as such remains an
> in'form'al collection of material. Perhaps at the point where it's journey
> ends and it crystallises itself we may consider cementing the terms of its
> The questions facing the archive now are numerous, and we would be grateful
> for any feedback from list members with experiences of ongoing documentation
> projects like this one.
> a) Many people around the world have expressed an interest in hosting the
> archive in the coming years, should we continue the tour indefinitely?
> b) If we continue the tour, should we completely outsource the process of
> adding new positions, or would this affect the quality of the archive?
> c) The archive is reaching 1000 pieces of material, given the problems that
> endless growth present (transport costs, Rosanne's point about navigating
> this mass of material) should we consider editing the material that's there?
> boiling the selection down?
> d) Given the workload and Cost of inviting artists and designers to
> re-interpret the archive's display at each venue, should we settle on a
> singular display structure and what might this be?
> e) When, if ever, should we consider sealing the archive, stopping its growth
> and seeing it as an historical document?
> with warmest regards to all on the list and thanks to Rosanne for her
> thoughtful consideration of our project.
> On Thursday, April 21, 2005, at 05:32 Uhr, Rosanne Altstatt wrote:
>> When I saw Curating Degree Zero in Bremen there was a tote bag of sorts for
>> each curator. In the bag one found the curator's writing, catalogues, etc.
>> Since then the presentation has often changed, but it is not clear to me
>> parallels in different people's curtorial strategies are brought to light
>> the exhibition. In Bremen, a visitor would have to sort the through all the
>> material him or herself in order to figure out what each curator was doing
>> much like researching at a library.
>> In response to your writing, "...the tendency is for people to observe the
>> critical and experimental strategies that new-media curators share with
>> other kinds of curators, rather than seeing the question of media as one of
>> separation..." I ask: Really? How are they able to pick those nuggets out
>> of the expanse of material presented in Curating Degree Zero?
>> There is a lot of valuable material in the exhibition, and as the amount of
>> information continues to grow, how does Curating Degree Zero organize that
>> information so that a viewer does not have to spend days culling it in
>> to get anywhere? Or should the viewer come with pre-formulated questions
>> (like one would when one goes to the research desk at the library) and
>> from there?
>> Rosanne Altstatt
>>> Dear List
>>> in relation to the theme of the month about curating education and the
>>> role of documentation I wanted to tell you a little about the curating
>>> degree zero archive a project which I have been developing with
>>> Dorothee Richter since the beginning of 2003. It is a live, growing
>>> archive of material aboput critical and experimental approaches to
>>> curating, that could be seen as a direct answer to Beryl's question
>>> about how curators are documenting their process and sharing their
>>> knowledge with future generations.
>>> The concept we have chosen for the archive, rather bizarrely some
>>> think, is the touring exhibition. The collection of over 900
>>> publications, websites, audio cds, cd roms, dvds and videos has been on
>>> the road since its conception and we install it into gallery and
>>> project spaces as it travels, normally with the help of an artist,
>>> group of artists or designer who 'reinterpret' the display at each
>>> site. We have been touring to venues in Switzerland, Austria and
>>> Germany and we are now on our way through England, with the support of
>>> the arts council. It is normally at each venue for around a month and
>>> we always try to accompany the exhibition with discussion events on the
>>> issues addressed by participants in the archive.
>>> In fact, in Sunderland, with the archive on display at the Northern
>>> Gallery of Contemporary Art, we will be holding a discussion entitled
>>> 'curating can be learnt, but can it be taught?' on the 19th April.
>>> Amongst the international speakers we have invited Liliane Schneiter,
>>> who co-directs the CCC (curatorial, critical, cybermedia) study
>>> program in Geneva, she has been developing a site with her students
>>> http://www.cyberaxe.org/ , and she will be talking about this as an
>>> alternative space for the students to curate, produce work and engage
>>> in critical discussion.
>>> What is perhaps interesting for the list is that the archive bundles
>>> together documentation about the practices of new-media curators,
>>> freelance curators, artist curators and collaborative groups who
>>> curate. In doing so the tendency is for people to observe the critical
>>> and experimental strategies that new-media curators share with other
>>> kinds of curators, rather than seeing the question of media as one of
>>> Dorothee and I would be interested to hear from list members what they
>>> think of this approach, if any of you would like to attend the
>>> discussion, and of course any comments or recommendations about the
>>> archive project as a whole, from the viewpoint of a new-media curator.
>>> The archive is online at www.curatingdegreezero.org
>>> warmest regards
>>> Barnaby Drabble
>>> Barnaby Drabble
>>> Culmannstr. 22
>>> Office +41 1251 9926
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