Curating After the Global

Capture

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 artworld, 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: Antariksa, Marwa Arsanios, Athena Athanasiou, María Berríos, Qalander Bux Memon,Ntone Edjabe, Liam Gillick, Alison Greene, Prem Krishnamurthy & Emily Smith, franck leibovici, Nkule Mabaso, Morad Montazami, Paul-Emmanuel Odin, Vijay Prasad, Kristin Ross, Rasha Salti, Sumesh Sharma, Joshua Simon, Hajnalka Somogyi and Françoise Vergès. The book will be designed by Julia and is due out in November, published by The MIT Press.

Advertisements

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’.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 11.03.48

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:

Capture

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.

IMAG5383IMAG5384

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.

 

 

 

Revisiting: Tony Oursler – The Influence Machine

In Madison Square Park in New York, and subsequently in Soho Square, the heart of London’s media world, video artist Tony Oursler created a spectral audio-visual experience for an image-saturated society. Conceived as a kind of psycho-landscape, The Influence Machine delves deep into the history of media, rousing long-forgotten spirits and setting them to roam about both squares at night. The ghosts of the Fox Sisters, who made telegraphic contact with the spirit world in the mid-nineteenth century, haunted alongside the ghost of television pioneer John Logie Baird.

Jointly commissioned by the Public Art Fund, and Artangel, and realised in 2000, the work is now part of the Artangel collection, and has been restaged in a range of location both in the UK and elsewhere.

What the work itself comprises is difficult to delineate, as it not only relies on Oursler’s quintessential ‘talking heads’, and thus also sound (including a sound track by Tony Conrad), in this case moving image’s ephemerality is pushed even further because of the outdoor projections onto whatever they fall upon – buildings, trees, people and, most strikingly, smoke, which forms an integral part of the realisation of the work. As a result it is not only literally always fleeting but also different in every context, visibly influenced by the surroundings in which it is revived.

In the book Oursler’s then most elaborate deep media project is condensed in an illustrated time line, ‘Timestream, I Hate the Dark, I Love the Light’, while accompanying texts elaborate on the phantasmagorias of the late eighteenth century, its contemporary equivalents, and the influence of spiritualism within the general development of media. With an introduction by Susan K. Freedman, Tom Eccles and James Linwood, a conversation between Tony Oursler and Louise Neri, and essays by Carlo McCormick and Marina Warner, as well as extensive image sequences.

The design is by Mark Diaper, who came up with the idea to break up the ‘Timestream’ and divide it in different strands that, as time passes, cross each other, or new strands ‘fade in’ and old strands ‘fade out’. The hardback cover also has a dust-jacket on which the title on the front cover and spine lights up in the dark…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Revisiting: Rachel Lichtenstein – Rodinsky’s Whitechapel

Traversing London from near Euston Station to the top of Brick Lane through back alleys and quiet streets today, made me realise how much this city has changed in the span of just under two decades. I was reminded that in the late 1990s, early 2000s, virtually the only happening place was the Vibe bar on Brick Lane, and that you struggled to find a decent cup of coffee. And now look at it! Designer shops galore, and more trendy bars and restaurants than one could have ever imagined. Not to mention the upmarket hotels, private members’ clubs and bicycle shops…

One of the reasons I know the area around Brick Lane well is the range of projects Artangel commissioned around the area around 1999. In addition to the premiere of Douglas Gordon’s  Feature Filmin a cavernous space that was part of the Truman Brewery complex, and Janet Cardiff’s The Missing Voice (case study b), which literally took visitors out on the surrounding streets, from the Whitechapel Library to Liverpool Street Station, there was Rachel Lichtenstein’s Rodinsky’s Whitechapel.

The project focused on the story of the Jewish recluse David Rodinsky. In 1969, he mysteriously disappeared from his attic room above the synagogue in Princelet Street, in the heart of the old Jewish East End. A decade later his room was reopened and its mess of papers, notebooks, writings in several languages and cabalistic diagrams began to capture people’s imagination. Eventually, Rodinsky and his rooms assumed mythical proportions.

As the granddaughter of Polish immigrants who settled in Princelet Street in the 1930s, writer and artist Rachel Lichtenstein was immediately intrigued when, in 1990, she first heard of the synagogue. She secured a residency in the building and took over Rodinsky’s role as self-appointed caretaker. She began to catalogue the objects left in his room, and also started searching for people who had known him. Granta commissioned her to collaborate on a book about her findings with Iain Sinclair, which became Rodinsky’s Room.

Working on this publication and walking the streets of Whitechapel, Lichtenstein built up a wealth of information about the area, and gradually the story of David Rodinsky began to interweave with her own history, her knowledge of this neighbourhood they had both inhabited. Commissioned by Artangel, Lichtenstein ended up writing an artist’s guidebook titled Rodinsky’s Whitechapel, which takes the reader on a walking tour, past sites and buildings that played an important role not only in Rodinsky’s life, but also in Lichtenstein’s own. The walk highlights the last remnants of many important locations of the once vibrant, but now quickly vanishing Jewish East End. Mr. Katz’s closed not long after publication in 1999, as have many other places on the route since. Like Cardiff’s book and audio work, Lichtenstein’s guide highlights how a city like London has been a home to migrant and different communities living side by side for centuries. Doing the walk now also makes us aware of how quickly so much of the city’s tissue can change, and what stays the same, revived, refurbished, regenerated.

The book as an object is a neat little number, that comes with a map, and that fits easily in one’s pocket. Designed by Mark Diaper.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

How Institutions Think

cover-draftFollowing the conference titled ‘How Institutions Think’, which took place in Arles in 2016, and which was organised by CCS Bard, Central St. Martins, Valand Academy (University of Gothenburg) and the Luma Foundation, work has commenced on the book. I will be working on it as managing editor, alongside editors Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson.

The publication How Institutions Think: Between Contemporary Art and Curatorial Discourse brings together an international and multi-disciplinary group of writers who will reflect upon how institutional practices inform art, curatorial, educational and research practices as much as they shape the world around us. It also aims to propose new and emergent forms of institutional practice. Implementing a work-together methodology, combining and sharing networks and knowledge resources, the publication asks how we may begin to conceptualise and build possible institutions/anti-institutions of the future: What are the models, resources, skills and knowledge bases required to build new and progressive institutions now and in the future, if that is indeed possible?

Contributors include Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, Dave Beech, Mélanie Bouteloup, Nikita Yingqian Cai, 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, Alhena Katsof, Emily Pethick, Sarah Pierce, Zahia Rahmani, Moses Serubiri, Simon Sheikh and Mick Wilson.

How Institutions Think is the second in a series of three publications and builds on the success of The Curatorial Conundrum: What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016).It is due in September 2017.