The Exhibitionist #11. Jens Hoffman (Ed.). The Exhibitionist

Posted in magazines, writing on October 23rd, 2015
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Jens Hoffmann, Julian Myers-Szupinska, and Liz Glass
A peculiarity of the current field of curating is an ongoing contestation over the very meaning of “to curate.” As Alice said in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” Humpty Dumpty answers, “The question is which [meaning] is to be master—that’s all.”

On the cover of this issue is Thomas Ruff’s 1989 portrait of a young Hans Ulrich Obrist. If this fresh-faced guy has done more than most to consolidate the identity of the curator—as a ubiquitous, cosmopolitan character, tirelessly promoting him- or herself, an exhibitionist of the global age—he has also presided over that identity’s confusion and multiplication. Is the curator, as Obrist often describes the role, a catalyst? Or is she, to quote Obrist’s frequent collaborator Suzanne Pagé, a modest commis de l’artiste, an “artist’s clerk”?

Curating has become a global concern, yet many languages still even lack a steady term for it. Meanwhile, in some circles, “curation” has a gained a buzzword-ish currency, signaling taste and discrimination across a dizzying array of cultural activities, from so-called “data curation” to creating playlists and dinner menus. The hope, it seems, is that a renewed connoisseurship might discern value amid the profusions of a global market—separate the wheat from the cultural chaff—even if it means, too, that Kanye West now has as much claim on the term “curator” as Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev or Okwui Enwezor. The more we stretch the word, it seems, the easier it becomes to hijack. It is time for some clarity.

In Attitude, João Ribas meditates on this semantic drift of the word “curating” into marketing, where it is proposed as a cure-all for digital excess and consumer glut. Following John Searle, who warns that the terms we use control the field of meaning, Ribas argues that contemporary curators must battle to retain the understanding that “curating” has held historically in the field of art, beyond connoisseurship and mere selection. He emphasizes in particular the spatial and temporal character of exhibitions, which may still offer the possibility of resisting the behavioral paradigms inflicted by capitalist urbanism and digital technology.

Geopolitical space is a central concern for several essays in this issue. In Back in the Day, Clémentine Deliss contends with the Museum of Modern Art’s notorious 1984 exhibition “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinities of the Tribal and the Modern, which “remains bedeviled by criticisms and emotional refutations that are hard to dissolve.” Comparing that exhibition’s model of “formal affinity” to a recent exhibition by the Senegalese artist and curator El Hadji Sy, she argues for exhibitionary methods that might “effect a remediating affirmation” of ethnographic objects in order to recover something of their “conceptual code.” Missing in Action republishes passages from Rasheed Araeen’s introduction to his 1989 exhibition of British Afro-Asian artists, The Other Story. By assembling the fragments of their collective story, Araeen dismantles the chauvinism of a “master art history” that had excluded non-Western contemporary artists.

In Assessments, Claire Bishop, Cristina Freire, Tobi Maier, and Octavio Zaya address the exhibition Histórias Mestiças (Mestizo Histories), a trenchant critique of Brazil’s racial democracy curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Lilia Moritz Schwarcz at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake in São Paulo. The writers find consonance around one remarkable installation that juxtaposed photographs of indigenous people by Claudia Andujar, 18th-century watercolors of the “discovery” of Brazil by Joaquim José de Miranda, and drawings from the 1970s by Taniki Manippi-theri, a Yanomami shaman. Says Bishop, “Such an anthropological gaze can diminish the present-ism of contemporary art and allow it to become a method or system of thinking. Would that more curators, in more countries, had the nerve to investigate so unflinchingly cherished national myths.” Curators’ Favorites asks contributors to elaborate on an exhibition that has inspired their thinking. Guy Brett describes a 1979 installation by the Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles, an allegory aimed at the military dictatorship in power at the time. Natasha Ginwala contends with The One Year Drawing Project, an experimental exchange of artworks across Sri Lanka meditating on the traumas of that nation’s civil war. And Vincent Honoré considers the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Geneva, claiming the museum itself as a “constant, ever-changing exhibition.”

Six x Six challenges curators to name the exhibitions that have mattered most to them. In this issue, Ionit Behar, Astria Suparak, Inti Guerrero, Gianni Jetzer, Sarah Demeuse, and Nikola Dietrich assemble their miniature pantheons. In Rigorous Research, the scholar Vittoria Martini deliberates the little-discussed 1970 Venice Biennale, a turning point for that venerable institution. In the gap opened by a political stalemate, the staff assumed control, and embraced experimentation and research. Research and reflection also connect the two essays in Rear Mirror. Ruba Katrib details the thinking behind her exhibition Puddle, pothole, portal, co-curated with the artist Camille Henrot at SculptureCenter, New York, describing their attempt to capture something of the weird, rambunctious spatiality of early Disney animations. Scott Rothkopf evinces, in turn, the extraordinary spatial and conceptual deliberation behind his recent Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Across this issue, then, the specificity of curatorial labor emerges—the thought needed to build aggregate meaning from disparate things in space. The word “curating” is not infinitely plastic. This, for us, is what it means. We all know how Humpy Dumpty ended up.


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Bulletins Of The Serving Library #6. Stuart Bailey, Angie Keefer, David Reinfurt (Eds.). Sternberg Press.

Posted in Fashion, graphic design, Journals, typography, writing on February 21st, 2014
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Bulletins Of The Serving Library #6. Stuart Bailey, Angie Keefer, David Reinfurt (Eds.). Sternberg Press.

This issue doubles as a retroactive non-catalog for the group exhibition “White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart” at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (February 6, 2013-July 28, 2013), curated by Anthony Elms.

Contributions by:
Angie Keefer, Robin Kinross, Joke Robaard, Brian Eno, Nick Relph, Eli Diner, Chris Fite-Wassilak, Stuart Bailey, Sarah Demeuse, Adolf Loos, Kuki Shuzo, Eli Diner & Sanya Kantarovsky, Perri MacKenzie

Pages: 160 + insert
Language: English

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Paper Monument 4. Dushko Petrovich & Roger White (Eds.). Paper Monument.

Posted in Journals, writing on December 2nd, 2013
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Paper Monument 4. Dushko Petrovich & Roger White (Eds.). Paper Monument.

From the Editors

Before the Earth was covered mostly in water, there lived a people who worshipped petrochemicals and spent vast sums of money on things called “art objects.” I kept revisiting this thought as I worked: these far-future humans, or maybe even post-humans, puzzling over this funny piece of sculpture—which was now, thanks to my careful ministrations, almost completely free of water stains. It did somehow get me through the day.

Spasm to Spasm
Christopher Hsu

Even during my lifetime, the world, or at least its representation, has become clearly funnier. It’s not just cultural products, films or TV or magazines, YouTube videos of men and women fist fighting on city buses; I mean that I myself, for example, and seemingly everyone I meet have gotten noticeably funnier. I feel an impulse to preface almost every remark in conversation with something light or even with an outright joke, as a sort of aperitif.

Was Asked to Write About the Experience of Occupy Wall Street and Directing Light Onto Fist of Father

can we begin at the energetic?
can we all meet there?

our beliefs are not our own.

“we” is quoted culture.

Toward a History (and Future) of the Artist Statement
Jennifer Liese

Some are self-doubting, like Adolph Gottlieb’s: “Surrounded by my materials, canvas, paints, oils, brushes, etc. I feel like a relic of the past because paintings are still among the few things made by hand.” Others process-oriented, as with Karel Appel: “I make myself free, I stand aside, I squeeze myself dry. Then I am ready to begin painting.” Some are droll: “Rembrandt is beautiful, but sad. Boucher is gay but bad. ‘Great Painting’ has never made anyone laugh,” observes Jean Dubuffet.

Painting Under Obama
Julian Kreimer

Months later, as I wandered around the Bushwick open studios, it became clear to me that metallic colors had become (along with neon hues) major signifiers of the “Shwicky” look: the blend of irony and earnestness that denotes, somehow, that the artist is aware of her impossible position in the world, simultaneously seeking ideal truths and the mythical rent of $1.00/sq. ft./month.

Martha Schwendener

Why would anyone who opposes torture interrogate painting?

Painting Has Issues
Cameron Martin

It’s hard to know what to think of all the paintings being made right now. A curator recently told me that he feels “the conversation” is so diffuse, at this point it’s next to impossible to talk about contemporary painting as a coherent subject. The heterogeneity of current painting production can leave us feeling deep in the potpourri, unable to separate the orange peel from the rose hips.

Dear Yoko Dear Sierra
Sarah Demeuse

I decided to address my feelings in a personal letter to you because I need not only to get rid of my sense of guilt but also to tease out some of the issues raised by this type of exchange. (If you want, you can share this letter with Rivane.) Though I usually prefer email, I feel a letter is closer to the spirit and original context of your tree. While I long ago mastered the skill of writing profusely detailed exposés to Santa, I am not experienced in writing to a famous artist.

Caroline Picard

Through the horse-blood infusions, Laval-Jeantet claims to have effected a shift in her consciousness in which she experienced the world as an herbivore: sleeping little, being unusually nervous. “In my opinion,” she said, “my essence was not changed, but I was able to respond to an eternal frustration: I could finally feel Animal Otherness in me, outside of a purely anthropocentric point of view.” Of the prosthetic cat device, she wrote, “As soon as I put them on and got used to this strange way of walking, the cats came up to me, sniffed and jumped on me, playing with me in the same way as they played between themselves.”


William Pope.L and David Giordano
Andro Semeiko
Mary Weatherford

Price: €13.00

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