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Bard conference on curatorial practice, Day 1 – Live coverage by Karen Archey

I’m so enjoying your recap, Karen. It’s my understanding that I can’t see this online now, but that Bard will be posting video of the conference soon. I just wanted to double check that I have that right? Thanks!

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Yes! The video will be available on the CCS website after the symposium

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Curator Nikita Yingqian Cai poses a refreshing take on Chinese Art History by re-visiting moments in the span of the ‘85 New Wave Movement, collectivity realized through artist groups such as ‘Big Tail Elephant Group’, etc.
The artist-as-curator, as provocateur and navigator between cultural infrastructure and the rise of the globalized art market is thus evoked, by Cai, through various examples of activating a ‘localized’ art history.
Ribas’ comment finds resonance here too, when he mentions: “…The Curatoriat inheriting forms from the artist”

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Shu Qun, “8” 1988

Nikita Yingqian Cai, curator of Times Museum in Guangzhou (and notably the first person from mainland China to be admitted to the de Appel curatorial program), traces a history of Chinese art from the late 1970s until today, and how, well, Ai Wei Wei isn’t the only important Chinese artist, despite his omnipresence.

She notes that the rapid political changes and economic development of late 20th century China is inextricably connected to its art history. (For example, the art market was only privatized in 1992 after the end of Deng Xiaoping’s leadership and period of detente between cultural producers and the government, and the amelioration of Mao-era market regulations. For more information on artistic practice during the transition between Maosim and the privatization of the market, here’s a review of the exhibition "The Un-Officials | Art Before 85” at Boers Li, Beiing that I (Karen) wrote for Art-Agenda last spring.

Nikita Yingqian Cai ends her talk with this great quote from Italo Calvino’s “Short Stories I Didn’t Write”:

Localism is always one step behind history. What intrigues me is what synchronizes without the history. But in the meantime we need to treat our root as a starting point, to stick to inland and to have one experience.

To avoid a stage set made of paper, imagination has to be filled with memory and necessity. In other words, it has to be full of realism.

Some links to artists mentioned in Nikita Yingqian Cai’s talk:
Northern Art Group
Shu Qun
Li Liao
Tehching Hsieh
Yuan Yunfu
Huang Yong Ping
Hu Xiangqian

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I’ll double check, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t live streamed!

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I am always a bit wary of critiques of newness for what they might suppose to be more permanent and substantive qualities. there might actually be some justice in marginalized artists using newness to enter through the front door. they might actually be better at reinventing themselves than artists who suppose they are working with some kind of stable and enduring material that will never change, what kind of entitlement is that! I’ll take flashy and new any day!



We’re back at about 2:30pm with presentations by curator David Teh and Bombay-based cultural theorist and independent curator Nancy Adajania.


Ha! This image would fit perfectly into my colleague Ryan James’ collection “Women Smiling While Eating Salad.”

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LUNCH HOUR Snapshot: Rain, Ramen, Curators in a Wedding Tent…


Curator and writer David Teh’s presentation is about the lack of exhibition history in Southeast Asia. He begins with a conversation about the Afterall publication series “Making Art Global.”

Teh poses these challenges to exhibition history in Southeast Asian Art

  1. Organizational: There are no statefunded institutions that aren’t subject to governmental oversight and censorship. Teh brings up documentary filmmaker Tan Pin Pin and artist Simon Fujiwara as subjects who have recently had projects censored in Singapore.

  2. Educational: Many cultural producers have no formal art historical education, and there’s very little writing about art produced by institutions on the occasion of exhibitions. There are very few catalogs produced for even museum exhibitions, and those that do exist have a dearth of critical writing. As such, Teh says, there’s no go-to reading list for those interested in education themselves about Southeast Asian art.

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David Teh also suggests privileging the “curatorial function” over the persona of the Curator as understood through an art history inscribed in “The West.” Through the function and faceless functionary then: the role of artist curators, independent organizations and studio archives facilitate the transmission of exhibition histories and ‘live’ pedagogies that are cast under a wider umbrella. Aesthetic modernity is thereby to be opened up beyond the nation-building project and parochial regionalism in South East Asia.

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@nginwala that’s the title of next year’s conference

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Dashrath Patel surrounded by his 9-screen projection, India Pavilion, Montreal World Fair, 1967. Image courtesy The Dashrath Patel Museum.

Echoing Nikita Yingqian Cai’s presentation, theorist and curator Nancy Adajania’s talk again takes up the problematics of creating a national artistic style in countries that don’t share the West’s modern and post-modern cultural history. To Adajania, this is a reductive and deeply complicated task.

She proceeds to talk about Dashrath Patel, an Indian new media pioneer, sculptor, and exhibition designer, who Adajania believes to have a similar path as designers Charles and Ray Eames. Both Patel and Eames presented large-scale new media installations at World Fairs, that weird, defunct convergence of nationhood and exhibition. While the Eameses presented at the IBM Pavilion in the 1964 New York World Fair, Patel showed a similar transmedia installation at the 1967 Montreal World Fair. To Adajania, the similar nature of the practices of the Eameses and Patel sheds light on the different ideologies of the respective nations and their relationship to technocracy.

Adajania has published seemingly similar research previously on india-seminar.com

We’re nearing the end of the first day of Bard’s “The Future Curatorial What Not & Study What? Conundrum” symposium. While today was supposed to address the question “What to study? What is the future of exhibition histories/studies?”, this seems to be a cypher for a more specific question: How do we create a global exhibition history when exhibitions happen in disparate nations that don’t always share translatable cultural histories? How do we protect local art histories from becoming homogenized by the increasing influence of Western cultural history in the rest of the world? Is it imperative or reductive to create a hybrid local-international style?

Unfortunately, we’re asking ourselves how Eastern art can be understood by the West, rather than how to educate Westerners to understand Eastern art.


Critic-Curator, Nancy Adajania begins with this image: featuring India’s future Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi captured opposite to artist, pedagogue, exhibition designer and photographer, Dashrath Patel, standing amidst the 'Nehru Memorial Exhibition (1965), dedicated to the life and thought of Jawaharlal Nehru (first Prime Minister of Independent India and a founding figure of the Non-Aligned Movement).

As founding secretary of the National Institute of Design, Patel remains a critical yet largely underrated figure entangled across an array of Media, Curriculum-building, Rural Design and cultural forms of Activism. Here, Adajania presents a range of major exhibitions, expos and festival projects realized by Patel as a mode of “excavating a pre-history for New Media practice in India.”

In re-considering, Dashrath Patel as an autodidact, he must also be understood as a decolonial figure in Modernity - who consistently negotiated between the complex character of freedom and political participation. Leaving the National Institute of Design in 1980, Patel took up design education towards a communal horizon and the instituting of far more radical endeavors in Rural India.


I see what you did there! :

Writer, Researcher and Curator Miguel A. López addresses a schematic history of Latin American Biennales since the late 1970s (Havana, Medellín, Sao Paolo…) as gestures and infrastructures that animated the radical “place” of the Third World, produced vocabularies to “exhibit” dissonant avant-gardes and cultivated a “South-South” dynamics.

However, the question that remains is: how we might continue to learn from these temporal events beyond the bounds of “marginalized” exhibition history, and instead as lessons-in-practice, today?

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Writer and curator Miguel A. López presents a body of research on two historical exhibitions that attempt to reclaim Latin American artistic production from Western hegemony: the 1st Coloquio de Arte No-objetual y Arte urbano, held in Medellín, Colombia in 1981, and the Bienal Latino-americana de São Paulo, which existed for one edition in 1979.

From the Bard symposium booklet:

These two exhibition projects, born from a new generation of regional critics, tried to shift the locus of theoretical enunciation from the North to the South and foster a Latin American perspective of a history of art. These episodes were part of a regional transformation of the art field that opened up new local possibilities to discuss exhibition politics, the scope of the curatorial, and the geopolitical role of large-scale exhibitions in Latin America.

This is obviously different from the modus operandi of the contemporary São Paulo Biennial, which basically utilizes the same model as European Biennials, such as the Venice Biennial.

Another quote from his presentation:

The São Paulo Biennial internally reproduces international languages imposed by the dominant European exhibitions. Even more: it attempts to extend the same schemes of domination to other nations in the continent…. the history of the relations between the international biennial of São Paulo and Latin America have been characterized by omission, erasure, and submission…

And an ending quote:

I do not agree with the biennial. I don’t believe that it is fair to produce more biennials of this sort… anywhere, even less in Colombia. It would only be a proper third world biennial if instead of comparing Colombia with the United States or Venezuela with England, we made a direct connection between the countries of Latin America and other countries in Asia and Africa with similar economic, social and poetical conditions. For example, see the art of Colombia with the art of Pakistan, or Algeria or Libya with Brazil. This is how you could make a more informative and relevant biennial, and create something in real accordance with the moment that the developing countries are living. Medellín could conceivably produce the best third world biennial. – Pierre Rastany

Is it just me or are things getting a little echo chambery in here?


Mounir Fatmi, This History is not Mine (2013)

Curator Elvira Dyangani Ose initiates a discussion on history-making from the rather ungrounded position of “an etc.- curator” (borrowing from artist Ricardo Basbaum). Whilst placing back on our table “the matter” of the Archive - as a matter of fiction, identification, memory and of instituting power.

Ose has conceived some compelling projects during her time at TATE Modern and across the African context - with artists and collaborators ranging from Otobong Nkanga, The Otolith Group, El Hadji Sy, to Chimurenga and the Centre for Historical Reenactments.

However, the spaces and making(s) of Representation, of Pan-Africanism and Negritude are markers that require a more nuanced articulation and performativity, to communicate with the gathered audiences. Ose, unfortunately, only managed to race through her projects in a name-dropping ‘etc’ fashion.


Maryam Jafri, “Getty vs Ghana,” 2013

Elvira Dyangani Ose’s presentation focused on becoming an “etc.-curator,” which in the context of today’s symposium is somewhat self-explanatory. She quotes Ricardo Basbaum, who wrote “I love etc.-artists” in an online debate responding to The Next Documenta Should Be Curated by an Artist, hosted on e-flux and curated by Jens Hoffman. Maybe I’m bastardizing the idea, but it seems like this usage of “etc.” could basically be translated as “Other.”

Dyangani Ose, who comes from both Spain and Equatorial Guinea, is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, and is currently organizing the Göteborg International for Contemporary Art, GIBCA, 2015. She used to hold the position of “Curator of International Art, supported by Guaranty Trust Bank Plc at Tate Modern” (she actually said that out loud) from 2011-2014. There, she was charged with developing the Tate’s holdings of art from Africa and its diaspora. While on one hand this seems like an “etc.” position it’s also obviously a “non-etc.” position if you verbally state the name of the bank funding your position out loud at a curatorial conference. Shrug.

After the symposium there will be a pig roast that is also an art project by Pedro&Juana.

P.S. I will spare you a “funny apropos” image of a pig roast because I Google image searched it and they are all so grotesque!

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