I have been following this discussion with much interest having just
completed a thesis on the history of early new media art in Canada. The
convoluted and slippery question of the curator/artist has been present
throughout the difficult history of new media art primarily due to the
exclusion of early new media art from curated exhibitions of visual art.
This exclusion led to artists endeavouring to organize/program/curate
exhibitions where new media art was present. Inevitably, artists ended up,
through collective enterprises or more formal curatorial projects, including
their own work within exhibitions.
As someone mentioned, artist-run culture introduced less formal curatorial
practices leading to artists curating their work, their friends', and/or
their partners'. As this practice radiated out from the comfort and
understanding of ARC culture we saw similar self-curated examples in larger
venues. While this may appear to bring up questions of ethics, I would posit
that it is a result of a systemic exclusion of new media art by curators.
Therefore we need to consider the ethics of curatorial practices more
broadly with regards to the ongoing and overt exclusion of whole genres of
art. Conceptual art underwent a similar evolution. New media artists also
bore the added burden of theorizing the field they were entering, also
necessary due to the lack of serious critical writing regarding this new
field of art practice. So we may be dealing with something that became a
habit more than anything else.
Had early new media artists not formed collectives, or boldly included their
own work in exhibitions we may not have the foothold, albeit tenuous, we now
appear to have in the art world. At least we are in a position to have this
conversation. Twenty years ago that would not have been the case.
Also, I find it telling that several people have suggested they let their
artmaking wane in order to work in curating or writing practice. I would
include myself in this group as well. I would suspect that within more
traditional art practices there have been fewer artists who have taken up
the gauntlet of responsibility to disseminate and theorize their field.
However, I may be wrong. At Ontario College of Art and Design, where I
teach, there is a program called Criticism and Curatorial Practice which
recognizes the artist-curator as its cornerstone.
In terms of Andreas' example, I think we could all cite case-by-case
examples of projects we have been involved in where one of more of the
personalities exhibited unethical practices, but this may have to do with
the human condition. We tend to hold artists up to more scrutiny and have
higher expectations of each other in terms of ethics. I wish it were true
that artists functioned on some kind of higher ethical plane, but my own
experience suggests we are all equally fallible.
Best wishes to all for the holidays!
>From: Andreas Broeckmann <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Andreas Broeckmann <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Fwd: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] artist curator
>Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2008 13:16:38 +0100
>just a brief note to say that - probably like many others - i am following
>with much interest the discussion and contributions sparked by the question
>i particularly liked roger's comments - and of course agree with the
>suggestion that, even if there were some sort of rules or codes, there
>would have to be exceptions. whether you want to declare the situation open
>and the distinction between curator and artist obsolete, is for me a
>question of pragmatics: is there sufficient need for having terms that
>describe a particular practice, or not? and if yes, does that practice
>follow general structures which have recurring ethical implications which,
>in turn, a community like this chooses to have shared opinions about, or
>not? (i can easily live with both, and only choose to have my own position
>roger's question why there are curators in art but not in science is
>interesting. in my own perception, it is very much a question of
>reflexivity (a reflexivity that is built into many peer review systems),
>i.e. in how far somebody who has to make value judgements is able to do
>this in a fair, transparent and critical way, and come up with an
>interesting, dense and meaningful selection - of texts, of art projects, or
>other works or items; in some cases, not in all!, i doubt whether the
>artists who work as curators evaluate their own work with the same critical
>interest that they apply to other people's work. (assuming that artists
>have a close and intimate relationship with their work; would you invite
>the partner of one of the candidates for the Mr. Universe competition to be
>one of the jurors?)
>my own recent experience is this: i was working in a curatorial team and
>one of the people on this team is a practising artist; he forcefully
>suggested to include his own work in the project, leaving little room for a
>critical evaluation by the rest of the team, comparable to the collective
>selection process that we had been working with on other proposals. i had
>hoped that there would be a consensus among my peers on this crumb list
>that especially high moral standards apply for a situation in which an
>artist wants to include his/her own work in an exhibition project. i learn
>now that such a consensus does not exist, due to the abundance of different
>situations and settings we have to take into consideration.
>what does it mean for the audience?