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

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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Curlin introduced What, How & For Whom’s recent exhibition “Really useful knowledge” at the Reina Sofia.

They write:

The notion of “really useful knowledge” was originated from the workers’ awareness of the need for self-education in the early 19th century. In the 1820s and 1830s, workers’ organizations in United Kingdom introduced this phrase to describe ‘unpractical’ knowledge like politics, economics and philosophy, as opposed to what factory owners proclaimed to be “useful knowledge”. Some time earlier capitalists began investing in advancement of their businesses through funding the education of workers in ‘applicable’ skills and disciplines such as engineering, physics, chemistry or math.

Through this reference to the beginnings of struggle against exploitation and the early efforts towards self-organized education of workers, the exhibition “Really Useful Knowledge” looks into issues around education from contemporary perspective.

The exhibition does not point towards one ‘correct’ method of education, of learning or (co)learning, but rather presents a range of strategies and methodologies through which artists deconstruct the ‘common knowledge’ and hegemonic views on history, art, gender, race, and class.

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Liam Gillick, “A Kitchen Cat Speaks,” 2009 (detail)

Liam Gillick is throwing down the gauntlet with some much-needed dissent about the importance of the contemporary curator. He has coined the word “complete curator” to describe a problematic curatorial practice that treats art as a supplementary, rather than essential part of their practice.

He says,

Over the past 25 years, the complete curator has emerged as an agent within cultural practice. This heightened individual or group demonstrates varied responses to ethical demands, exceeding those being produced by artists, and posits new models in advance of art being made today. The complete curator bypasses the complexities and dead ends produced by attempting to match theories to forms – curatorial conceptualization runs ahead – dragging desire for new structures into direct confrontation with theoretical (philosophical, sociological, and psycho-logical) constructions.

This “complete curator” is also prone to a nebulous, elastic understanding of their own role and function. Gillick humorously applies to research. “What do curators even mean when they’re researching? They could mean anything. And I’d know, I tell people I’m researching but I’m really just reading a book!”

While the symposium has been very enlightening thus far, Gillick’s artist perspective seems a welcome change to a speaking line-up of only curators.


Long Live Liam Gillick!


Lol the comments from the audience are NOT HAPPY.


please post the comments!!!

“If you hate curators right now so much then YOU tell US what the future of curating is!”

“But you work in the COMMERCIAL ART WORLD and make MONEY!”

“Artists are egomaniacs, too!”


But my favorite moment was when moderator Suhail Malik asked him a question and he goes “Sorry I was just daydreaming, what did you say?” Malik was slackjawed!


Liam leaves stage during co-presenters talk and then when moderator asks question to panel Liam doesnt question because he confesses to day dreaming during other panelist responses.


There is something irritatingly boyish about the cockiness of the tone (not necessarily the content) of the presentation, though it performs a point Karen, whereas the satirical picture LG presents of this “CC” could be quite funny to caricatural ends, I find it dismisses some key points, including the very tone of his own reading doubled with his film - as he presents it as backdrop to lecture - which creates this phantom sequel nightmare of the “complete artist” in turn. I think these brazen dichotomies that feed off self-evident and easy cynicism are abundant, possibly too much. I think a portrait of incomplete curators would be much more useful, at least in this context.


Gillick isn’t, in fact, the only artist/non-curator who has spoken here, just the only one who has emphasized that position to service his caricature of curators.


You are totally right, Sarah. I usually don’t love cocky theatrics, but I appreciated him breaking the echo chamber a bit.


Right, I forgot about Luis Camnitzer. Otherwise all curators/researchers.

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The “CC” term seems an ironic allusion to “complete” in the 18th century sense?


Whoops! An earlier post was erased. Here it is:

Common Practice New York is an offshoot of Common Practice London (initiated 2009), an advocacy group supporting small non-profit art institutions aiming to reaffirm the value of the oft-overlooked work of non-profit workers. Founding members include Afterall, Chisenhale Gallery, Electra, Gasworks, LUX, Matt’s Gallery, Mute Publishing, The Showroom, and Studio Voltaire. The New York chapter started as an initiative spearheaded by Matthew Higgs of White Columns and Stephan Kalmar of Artists Space, who wanted to bring a Common Practice across the Atlantic. Founding members of the CPNY are Artists Space, The Kitchen, Light Industry, Participant Inc, Printed Matter, Triple Canopy, and White Columns.

At first, I wasn’t clear on what exactly Common Practice could do that these smaller non-profits couldn’t. Lia Gangitano offered a salient response: “When you run a non-profit by yourself,” she says, “you don’t really allow yourself the time to reflect on larger issues, but Common Practice allows for this critical space.”

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The Complete Daydreamer …


For live coverage of Day 3, visit this thread: Bard conference on curatorial practice, Day 3 – Live coverage by Karen Archey

thank you Karen and other posters for these insights into the conference, very valuable for those of us who could not be in the echo chamber in person.