Lovely and telling tale, Jon,
and I'm glad Annick responded, in the she did, to Sarah's question (which quite possibly was meant to ironically?)
about whether anyone would be interested in exhibitions on curators' lives, loves and ways of working.
The social dynamics of museum labor, and the instrumentalizations and self-exploitations involved, as well as issues of institutional
paranoia, greed, power lust, betrayals and heart-break, fake and false investments, perverse showcases, alongside the splendid narcissism
of some artists and their collusion with curators and doc/TV/movie makers,
of course all that is the stuff thrillers are made of.
Annick, you make a great point that although we usually describe the curatorial drive as "presentation," in practice it's just as much about hiding.
As you may know, several artists have created static exhibitions that reverse the public and private spaces of a gallery. Rirkrit Tiravanija is probably best known, though Michael Asher did it decades before him.
My favorite example is John Cage's last work, the exhibition/performance Rolywholyover A Circus. I had the honor of curating the 1994 New York version, following its premiere at LA MOCA organized by Julie Lazar. To say I "curated" it, however, is an overstatement--not because I didn't work my tail off to coordinate the myriad moving parts, but because the work in many ways required museum staff to give up their authority.
Questioning the museum's authority is, of course, the MO of the "institutional critique." Sadly, for many artists who draped themselves with that mantle, I think the critique was mostly rhetorical--something you could easily miss if you didn't read the catalogue or wall texts. Cage, on the other hand, who really knew how to turn an institution upside down, tugged every department from security to visitor services into his creative maelstrom.
As an example, one of the rooms in the installation offered a constantly changing array of paintings and sculptures; every couple minutes a Rauschenberg or Kubota would be pulled from the wall and re-installed in a new location or replaced with another work. The randomly changing selection was determined by a computer program written by Andrew Culver that emulated the I Ching, which curators, registrars, and art handlers would print out and follow like a score. So we literally had the crates and hammers out on the floor at all times.
This open process uncovered some of the back-room social dynamics of museum labor, and not just by letting the public chat with registrars doing their work. Julie told me that an art handler at LA MOCA who was also an artist objected to his public role in the ever-shifting installation. (I can't remember ever meeting a preparator who wasn't also an artist.) The problem was that he was just starting to get recognition as an artist, and didn't want his "public" to know he had to work a day job too.
> Why do we want the audience to see "the kitchen" as we say
> in French when we (curators, artists, and everyone envolved
> in building a show) spend so much energy, time, money to
> "display" a work of art in a manner that makes sense, is
> respectful of the intention of the artist and that,
> precisely, hides the making.
> So, would another "next step" be an exhibition "in the
> making", without the works fully "set up" or with the
> crates, hammers and all the tools, wires, and dust also on
> display ?
> And then, what would it/should it look like ? and what would
> it tell ?