Three times lucky…

It’s been a slightly longer process than with the two previous books in the series, but Curating after the Global: Roadmaps for the Present is now off to the printers. This time the team of editors had expanded to four: in addition to Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson, with whom I worked on How Institutions Think (2017) and The Curatorial Conundrum. What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (2016), Simon Sheikh was this time also part of the team of editors. Once again we worked with Valerio di Lucente from Julia, who is as pleasant and responsive a designer to collaborate with as one can wish for.

Although the range of contributions looks similar to the two previous books, quite a few of the essays/text/exchanges this time were significantly longer, some needing work in terms of structure and clarity, or serious expansions and/or reworkings from the presentation during the conference the book follows on from. All of which required more time than originally envisaged. In the end I’ve also managed to squeeze in a small contribution myself, about how anthologies like these are key platforms and mediums in the development of curatorial discourse, and my role in the care for words and the nuanced differences between the spoken utterance and the printed word on the page. Due out in the autumn, available via The MIT Press. Announcements about (a) launch(es) to follow in due course.

Cover open


 

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Tinkering with text

I have known Isabel Nolan for about a decade now, and fell in love with her artworks when I first encountered them, and have been following her practice closely ever since. I have also been intrigued by the odd speech I have had the pleasure of hearing her deliver/perform.* I laughed heartily at her introduction during the inauguration of her work at the Mithraeum in London last year. So no surprise then to be delighted to be asked to work with Isabel on a volume that will contain a selection of her writing. Due date tbc, as we decided it would be a good idea to take our time and do it right. As it should be.Isabel-Nolan-Rock-founded-place

Image of the work Rock Founded Place as installed at Isabel’s solo exhibition at IMMA in Dublin in 2014.

If you’re interested in hearing/seeing her do a talk, try here.

Book Works

After having worked as an associate editor on the series Fabrications for independent art(ists’) book publisher Book Works in 2006-2009, I am now a member of its board. I am looking forward to working with the organisation and the other board members in the years ahead.

This year has kicked off with a bang, with founding co-director Jane Rolo’s announcement she is leaving and the start of the recruitment for a new co-director (Book Works is, after all, a double-stranded organisation, with a studio and a publishing arm). A dream job, but definitely for someone else.

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Curating After the Global

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Following on from How Institutions Think (2017), and The Curatorial Conundrum, What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (2016), I will shortly start work on Curating after the Global. Following a conference at the Luma Foundation in Arles in September 2017, the book aims to address curating with respect to questions of locality, geopolitical change, the reassertion of nation states, and violent diminishing of citizen and denizen rights across the globe.

It has become commonplace to talk of a globalised art world, with specific circulations of discourses, commodities, and individuals, and even to speak of contemporary art as a driver of globalisation. This universalisation of what art is, or can be, is often presumed to be claimed at the cost of local traditions and any sense of locality and embeddedness. But what exactly does it mean to be global, or to be local in the context of artistic, curatorial, and theoretical knowledge and practice?

The book will approach these questions in four sections, which include diagnoses of current conjuctures, exhibition histories, institutional repositioning and roadmaps for the future. The editors are Paul O’Neill, Simon Sheikh, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson. Among the contributors are: Marwa Arsanios, Athena Athanasiou, María Berríos and Jakob Jakobsen, Ntone Edjabe and David Morris, Liam Gillick, Alison Greene, Prem Krishnamurthy & Emily Smith, Emmanuelle Lainé, Nkule Mabaso, Qalander Bux Memon, Morad Montazami, Paul-Emmanuel Odin, Vijay Prashad, Kristin Ross, Grace Samboh, Sumesh Sharma, Joshua Simon, Hajnalka Somogyi and Françoise Vergès. The book will be designed by Julia and is due out in 2019, published by The MIT Press.

Min(d)ing the Gaps

A couple of years ago artist Anthony Shrag and I walked and talked for an entire day (see a previous post). The upshot of that extended conversation was a collaboration around a text, which is now a blog.

The text reflects on an artist-in-residence project that Anthony did, and that, despite all best intentions from everyone involved, for him was a ‘failure’. While failure is something we’d rather ignore or not talk about, doing the kind of in-depth soul-searching about why the project failed that Anthony does here ended up being very productive. It is, as he underlines, not a matter of pointing a blaming finger to individual people or organisations, but trying to really put a finger on how systemic underlying factors and mechanisms, or lack thereof, contribute to projects actually never standing a chance of reaching their potential. Rather than writing a manual on how to do it better, he ends with a series of ‘questions to ask yourself’.

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The text that sits on the blog is written by Anthony but it is one that evolved through shifting ideas of what the text could or should (not) contain and how they could be written up as they emerged and solidified over time. In addition, questions as to who the text was for and how it could be disseminated, and of course what the ultimate aim was weighed in too. The essay as you can now read it was also strongly influenced by our close collaboration through ongoing conversations and editing rounds, the introduction of metaphors, which led to drawings, which in turn pushed the text in new directions. In its final form it is also very much the blog as medium, with its range of mechanisms of interaction and display, that has allowed the different narrative strands to be accessible in multiple ways.

How Institutions Think – launch

The year 2018 will kick off with the launch of the book How Institutions Think on Monday 15 January, at 6.30 – 8.30 pm, during which I will be in conversation with Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson, the editors. The event will be hosted by The Showroom, which also hosted the launch of The Curatorial Conundrum, published in 2016, and which was the first in a series of three books on current curatorial practice and discourse, published by CCS Bard and The MIT Press. Emily Pethick, The Showroom’s director, contributed an essay to the new book and will join us in conversation. More information on the book, see below and here:

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Contemporary art and curatorial work, and the institutions that house them, have often been centers of power, hierarchy, control, value, and discipline. Even the most progressive among them face the dilemma of existing as institutionalized anti-institutions. This anthology–taking its title from Mary Douglas’s 1986 book, How Institutions Think reconsiders the practices, habits, models, and rhetoric of the institution and the anti-institution in contemporary art and curating. Contributors reflect upon how institutions inform art, curatorial, educational, and research practices as much as they shape the world around us. They consider the institution as an object ofienquiry across many disciplines, including political theory, organisational science, and sociology.

Bringing together an international and multidisciplinary group of writers, How Institutions Think addresses such questions as whether institution building is still possible, feasible, or desirable; if there are emergent institutional models for progressive art and curatorial research practices; and how we can establish ethical principles and build our institutions accordingly. The first part, ‘Thinking via Institution’, moves from the particular to the general; the second part, ‘Thinking about Institution’, considers broader questions about the nature of institutional frameworks.

 

How Institutions Think – book and launch

Coinciding with the third conference titled ‘Curating After the Global: Roadmaps for the Present’, organised by a range of partners, including CCS Bard and the LUMA Foundation, the book following the second symposium, How Institutions Think, was released.

Only receiving copies last week, I was surprised by the sheer pleasure of seeing and holding the final product, which this time was designed by Julia. Although I know the book probably better than anyone because I’ve read the texts so many times, feeling the weight and the texture of the cover and the paper, as well taking in the dimensions of the objects was a real surprise. Working with the designers, specifically Valerio di Lucente, was a real treat, as they seem to take such pleasure themselves in dealing with the objects in all their material intricacies. For an interview with Valerio about how it all came together (and a broader and better range of images) see here.

The following quote underlines the connection between the project’s concept, the diversity of content and the various forms, in terms of layout, the texts have been given.

To begin we decided upon an A4 format for the book. It seemed appropriate to start from a standard format used by almost every country in the world – apart from American influenced countries – and in some ways it represents the epitome of an institutionalised sheet of paper. The design expands on the symposium identity, whereby the book is built on a grid displaying different ‘constructs’. The essays’ layout changes throughout book, from one to two columns, from side-notes to footnotes. This variety reinforces the idea of a breadth of positions, rather than fixed conclusions. This design approach also allowed to better represent the tone and typology of the contributions. A longer column for deeper reads, a two-column system for more ‘narrative’ essays, and alternating widths for conversations.

It’s always a pleasure working with designers who work in this way, rather than simply ‘give shape’ to material. Although Valerio claims that Julia don’t design ‘by committee’, working from the content and the concept is by definition collaborative, and thus doesn’t feel hierarchical.

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Taking its title from Mary Douglas’s 1986 book, How Institutions Think, the texts in this anthology explore contemporary possibilities and limitations of institutional formats, practices and imaginaries, starting from a different place, namely from categories of knowledge, cognition and the social. Authors were invited to reconsider the practices, habits, models, revisions and rhetoric of institution and anti-institution in contemporary art and curating by considering practice, cognition and social bond, power/knowledge, and institution as an object of enquiry across many disciplines including political theory, organisational science and sociology.

Contributors are: Dave Beech, Mélanie Bouteloup, Nikita Yingqian Cai, Céline Condorelli, Binna Choi and Annette Kraus, Pip Day, Clémentine Deliss, Keller Easterling and Andrea Phillips, Bassam El Baroni, Charles Esche, Patricia Falguières, Patrick D. Flores, Marina Gržinić, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, Alhena Katsof, Emily Pethick, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Sarah Pierce, Moses Serubiri, Simon Sheikh, and Mick Wilson.

The book will be launched in London in January 2018 at The Showroom. Watch this space… In the meantime you can find it in a bookshop near you, or order it from the publishers MIT.