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Bard conference on curatorial practice, Day 2 – Live coverage by Karen Archey

Continuing the discussion from Bard conference on curatorial practice, Day 1 – Live coverage by Karen Archey:

Day 2 live coverage will begin at 10am EST on Fri., Nov. 7

The Future Curatorial What Not and Study What? Conundrum

Symposium organized by LUMA Foundation and CCS Bard in partnership with Valand Art Academy, University of Gothenburg; Afterall Books: Exhibition Histories and Central Saint Martins, University of Arts London; and de Appel Arts Centre.

November 6–8, 2014
Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Entitled The Future Curatorial What Not and Study What? Conundrum, the symposium will include presentations by Nancy Adajania, Mélanie Bouteloup, Thomas Boutoux, Luis Camnitzer, Eddie Chambers, Nikita Yingqian Cai, Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma (Clark House Initiative), Common Practice New York (CPNY), Elvira Dyangani Ose, Galit Eilat, Annie Fletcher, Liam Gillick, Koyo Kouoh, Miguel A. López, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Tobias Ostrander, Joao Ribas, Sarah Rifky, Simon Sheikh, David Teh, What, How and for Whom, Jelena Vesić and Vladimir Jerić, Vivian Ziherl, and others. The moderators and respondents will be Lorenzo Benedetti, Suhail Malik, Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds, Jeannine Tang and Mick Wilson.

Given the extraordinary expansion of curatorial research and its surrounding debates, the focus of this international conference, organized collaboratively by four of the world’s most prominent curatorial programs asks not “what is next” but rather the more urgent and durable question of “what futures?” This is a question asked with deliberate intention to carry forward the various critical projects framed within curatorial production of the last two decades. The question “What future?” becomes also “Whose futures?” and “Whose agency to frame possible futures?”


Writer and curator Karen Archey will provide live coverage of this event for e-flux conversations. She previously provided live coverage of the Extinction Marathon at Serpentine Gallery in London, October 18–19, 2014.


Good morning from Bard! Today kicks off with German-born, Uruguayan artist Luis Camnitzer and Bétonsalon director Mélanie Bouteloup.


Mick Wilson, introduces this morning’s session through the notion of Research as “that which will become known”, essentially, the unquantifiable, which further submits itself to channels of control, debt and obligation once manifested.

Moving onto the first speaker, artist, educator and theorist, Luis Camnitzer’s lecture, we are drawn to the centralizing realm of “quantification” - in terms of art, pedagogy and its various institutions of distribution. How does the body put to work become quantifiable? and Where does the body of art intersect this working body?

Beginning with two paradigmatic concepts: (1) Time is Money (2) A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Camnitzer delivers a complex structure shuttling between the two to assign a pattern to the monetization of time and administrative contagion, which incessantly turns artistic education into a credit system.

Camnitzer has already given us a lot to think about (…racing to keep up). He then glides into the terrain of Leisure - putting to task its modality of measure, training and class stratification. The disjunction between knowledge and professionalization is also engaged here through the lens of Leisure. Here too, the artist is considered as a “freed” and “unfree” subject (the western and non-western formation of the artist) through the markings of leisure.

It is apt to conclude this note with Camnitzer’s reminder of Marcuse’s conception of repressive de-sublimation - to remember then, “The music of the soul is also the music of salesmanship.”


A comment from Vasif Kortun:

We are in post-curatorial here at SALT in Istanbul and work around questions like visualizing research where different subjects from the professional, academic or purely curious and interested are assembled around the making of an exhibition. The result may look familiar but how we get there is different. Not in big sense of historical correction but as modes of producing subjectivity and hoping that the rest of culture will take care of it.


This comment from Vasif Kortun on “Visualizing Research” intersects with the talk we are listening to now by Mélanie Bouteloup and her work at Bétonsalon.

In performing the curatorial as a mode of research, Bouteloup’s key contribution here circled the realm of ownership: Who owns images? How do images remain active as the matter of a radical consciousness? How are “living images” to be enfolded into the body of an exhibition? To what edge must we travel in order to own up to a visual form of fissured histories?


Q&A Time:
Luis Camnitzer is asking/telling “Is Art a Production System or a Knowledge System?”
Does Art exist to inform or to unleash a process?



Setting aside the perhaps unnecessary, either/or distinction, these questions have as a background, the larger issue of the role and function of the humanities in general.

In addition, the corollary that follows from this distinction, is what then is our responsibility to the valences of knowledge, or of research? What is the criteria for knowledge and/or research? Are we responsible to the criteria of OTHER disciplines then, to the methodology of science, the analytical rigor of mathematics, or the statistical focus of the social sciences? Is a formal paper? An exhibition? An artwork?


Mélanie Bouteloup presented mainly on her own research at Bétonsalon – Centre for art and research, a Paris-based institution integrated into l’Université Paris Diderot. Artists she has worked with include Olivier Mosset, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Maryam Jafri (who Elvira Dyangani Ose spoke about yesterday), Cheryl Dunye, etc.

The most interesting part of her presentation asked “How do we work with difficult images? How do we work with problematic material?”

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I found it really helpful that moderator Mick Wilson pushed back on Camnitzer for his views, which are quite totalizing. Wilson characterized the artist’s ideas about art and society as too bleak, to which Camnitzer replied that he agreed, because if he got his way “a lot of people would be unemployed.”

It begs the question: how idealistic is too idealistic? I really respect Camnitzer and his work, but I kind of felt like his critiques of art fell on deaf ears because they’re not enactable without a complete overhaul of the system.


Galit Eilat is presenting on the intersection of art and politics, and how art does oftentimes reach out of its little hermetic bubble and enact change. She spoke about the recent boycott of the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, which she curated with Charles Esche, Nuria Enguita Mayo, Pablo Lafuente and Oren Sagiv, due to its acceptance of Israeli Consulate funding amidst Israel bombing Gaza.

Here is the artists’ boycott letter:

We, the undersigned artists participating in the 31st Bienal have been suddenly confronted, just as the show is about to open, with the fact that the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo has accepted money from the Israeli state and that the Israeli Consulate logo appears in the Bienal pavilion and on its publications and website.

At a time in which the people of Gaza return to the rubble of their homes, destroyed by the Israeli military we do not feel it is acceptable to receive Israeli cultural sponsorship. In accepting this funding our artistic work displayed in the exhibition is undermined and implicitly used for whitewashing Israel’s on going aggressions and violation of international law and human rights. We reject Israel’s attempt to normalise itself within the context of a major international cultural event in Brazil.

With this statement, we appeal to the Fundação Bienal to refuse this funding and to take action on this matter before the opening of the exhibition.

Eilat wasn’t terribly explicit about how exactly the boycott turned out… does anyone out there in internetland know?

The questions of complicity and solidarity that the talk brought out, in regard to the boycott, were interestingly patent in the exhibition itself, to me—as in the case of how the gentrification struggle in Istanbul, relates to the informal housing conditions in Rio, for example.

I wonder if this was the intent from the inception of the show, or whether the boycott made these issue more apparent or palpable, or whether the curatorial approach reacted to the boycott in that way.


Goldsmiths professor and e-flux journal columnist Simon Sheikh talked about curating and futurity by way of education. He mentioned that he thinks that curating and education are inextricably tied because they both have pedagogical functions. From his abstract:

Curating and education are historically closely linked, with exhibitions and collections having an instructive as well as pedagogical role. Curatorial education is similarly, in the contemporary privatized University matrix, caught between disciplinary modules and liberational rhetoric. Education is also inherently about the future, about the future of disciplines and practices, and future generations of practitioners—it is thus a form of care, as is curating, following Hannah Arendt’s famous claim that education is the place where we measure our love: for the world, for our children, and how we will entrust it to them. If curating is thus a process of world-making, curatorial education must be an endeavor of providing emerging curators with the tools for them to not only navigate the world, but to care for it. As world-making, curating is a form of future projection, setting up horizons of the possible and the impossible, naturally, but also asking questions of temporality, history, and futurity. It is thus not just about future generations, and how to co-inhabit the world, a common world, but also engaged with the politics of time: What is contemporaneity, whose future, and for how much longer?

I think Sheikh hits on something about the peculiarity of curatorial education, and why sometimes the topic of curatorial studies is met with skepticism: How do we educate the educators?

Sheikh ends his presentation with the rather optimistic question, “How can curating contribute to the caretaking of the world?” Personally, I don’t really know–this might be a cynical view, but sometimes I feel like trying to educate someone walking into a gallery is like preaching to the converted.


It doesn’t necessarily have to happen within the gallery. Curators should contribute to the world, not just to the art world, as SS points out.

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But wouldn’t that just qualify as being a socially conscious person, rather than a good curator? I feel like if this charge is taken out of the gallery it de-specifies it from a curatorial endeavor.

In other words, a call for models of citizenship, of which the demands and needs are entirely different than just notions of care.
Galit just brought this up tangentially, in talking about the difference between citizen and customer.

LUNCH TIME!!! We’re back at 2:30pm.


about preaching to the converted: things don’t always end there. there is a lot of pleasure to be had in the circuit of preaching, and even being further converted. isn’t education at its best when it doesn’t suppose ignorance? convert me! again and again and again!


isn’t the art world part of the world? for better or worse, it seems helpful to insist that it is and always was part of the world. after all I don’t think we can remove it from the world no matter how hard we try. might as well get used to it!


Mladen Stilinović “An Artist Who Cannot Speak English Is No Artist” 1992

We’re back! Ivet Curlin, member of What, How & for Whom/WHW, a curatorial collective based in Zagreb, Croatia, is currently speaking. This afternoon’s panel also features Common Practice New York (CPNY), a recently formed advocacy group that fosters research and discussions about the role of small-scale arts organizations in New York City. They’re represented by Lia Gangitano (Participant Inc.) and Peter Russo (Triple Canopy). Joining WHW and CPNY is artist Liam Gillick.

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More on the boycott of the 30th São Paulo Biennial (2014):

A short mention from The Guardian:

“the biennial itself faced a rebellion shortly before the opening, when a group of participating artists briefly called for a boycott of the event unless it returned funding by the Israeli embassy. The dispute was resolved by a taped amendment to the sponsorship board that spelled out that the consulates involved (including that of the UK) were simply supporting artists from their own countries.”

Hyperallergic has a more detailed coverage of the event:

"After registering objections from 61 participating artists that were supported by the entire curatorial delegation of its 31st São Paulo Biennial, the Fundaçao Bienal São Paulo has agreed to ‘clearly disassociate’ Israeli funding from the general sponsorship of the exhibition. The agreement, announced this morning in a release from the Biennial’s objecting participants, has the Israeli consulate’s logo appended only to the presentations of the Israeli artists who received its direct financial support.

The deal was struck in negotiations with Biennial administrators last night, a source close the discussions tells Hyperallergic. The number of participant signatories to the original letter was also up to 61, from the original 55, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wire service. The curators’ statement of support, released one day after the August 28 artists’ letter, was unanimous, though Israeli curator Oren Sagiv “stressed” to Ha’aretz “that he did not support the letter but rather the artists’ right to protest.”

The three Israeli artists with whom the sponsorship is associated are Yohai Avrahami, Leigh Orpaz, and Nurit Sharett. A fourth Israeli artist, Yael Bartana, was a signatory to the letter of protest; the other three were not. Agence France Presse reports that Israeli funding comprised approximately $40,000 of the Biennial’s $10.5 million budget."

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