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Bard conference on curatorial practice, Day 3 – Live coverage by Karen Archey

Continuing the discussion from Bard conference on curatorial practice, Day 2 – Live coverage by Karen Archey:

Day 3 live coverage will begin at 10am EST on Sat., Nov. 8

Liam Gillick, Wie würden Sie sich verhalten? Eine Küchenkatze spricht (How are you going to behave? A kitchen cat speaks), 2009.

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.

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Welcome back to the last day of coverage of the “Future Curatorial What Not? And Study What? Conundrum.” Stay tuned for more Whats? And Nots? from Serpentine co-Director and generally omnipresent curatorial guru Hans Ulrich Obrist, Van Abbemuseum chief curator Annie Fletcher, castillo/corales’s Thomas Boutoux, Beirut co-founder Sarah Rifky, and many more throughout the day.


Here is the Portuguese revolutionary song being referenced by Hans-Ulrich Obrist in the talk:


Serpentine co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist presented a compendium of his recent projects, of which there are quite many. Personally, I found HUO’s talk interesting because I know many of these projects and have attended many panels and symposia that he organized, but I’ve never really heard him speak about his own practice. He’s also kind of asking people questions or on the run to somewhere else. That’s pretty much the same case here–he doesn’t seem terribly self-reflective. (Is this a self-preservation strategy or what?)

Solaris Chronicles at Luma Arles
This exhibition responded to the work of (everyone’s least favorite) architect Frank Gehry. All projects are meant to bridge art and architecture. Organizers and participants include Frank Gehry, John Baldessari, Nicolas Becker and Djengo Hartlap, Pierre Boulez, Liam Gillick, Cai Guo-Qiang, David Lynch, Greg Lynn, Philippe Parreno, Asad Raza, Tino Sehgal–sadly, all men.

Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price: a stroll through a fun palace for the Swiss Pavilion of the 14th International Architecture Biennale, Venice
Sociologist Lucius Burckhardt invented the term “strollology”: the art of going on a stroll, hence the title “a stroll through a fun palace.” This project seems to be another blending of art and architecture honoring the practice of an older (male) artist.

From the biennals.ch website:

Both Burckhardt and Price critiqued the traditional tertiary education system and were interested in rethinking the basic concept of a university. Following their revolutionary teaching methods, Obrist’s Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price – A stroll through a fun palace radically re-approaches the idea of the national pavilion, reconceiving it as a site for cross-disciplinary, interactive, international engagement. Acknowledging that it is not possible to present the complex practices of Burckhardt and Price through a static display of drawings, Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price – A stroll through a fun palace aims for visitors to encounter the architects’ archives performatively. The display on Lucius Burckhardt is co-curated by architects Herzog & de Meuron, in collaboration with the Lucius & Annemarie Burckhardt Foundation and Martin Schmitz Verlag, whilst the temporary archive of Cedric Price is co-curated by Mirko Zardini, director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). To present the temporary archives, Herzog & de Meuron have devised a site-specific system located in the graphic room of the Swiss Pavilion, aiming to create a new system of knowledge and ideas. Visible through the glass walls but not accessible to the public, it is to be conceived as an object on display.

This project, says HUO, was kind of influenced by Julia Peyton-Jones’ idea for the Serpentine Pavilion, instituted in 2000. Peyton-Jones sought to answer the question, “How can we invent an institution that reinvents itself every year?” Subsequent commissions inlcude Sou Fujimoto, Rem Koolhaas, and most recently Smiljian Radic (2014).

2006, also the year HUO joined the Serpentine, saw the first Serpentine Marathon. “We urgently needed a contemporary Black Mountain College,” says HUO, "And how can we recreate this in a museum space? He was inspired by previously working with curator Kaspar König at the Portikus museum and Städelschule art school in Frankfurt. Marathon was thought of as both a group show and a festival. Themes include Manifesto (2008), Experiment (2007), Poetry (2009), Map (2010), Garden (2011), Memory (2012), 89plus (2013), Extinction (2014). Extinction was a collaboration with Gustav Metzger that attempted to take a stand against the widespread extinction of species. (You probably remember we covered this a few weeks ago.)

Van Abbemuseum Annie Fletcher is currently speaking–her wrap up coming soon.


The contrast between HOU and Koyo Kouoh from Raw Material Company http://www.rawmaterialcompany.org/ that spoke earlier, was visible. Koyo mentioned among other things that most independent spaces in Africa are initiated by women.


The person sitting next to me said that he could basically wrap up that talk by saying “Look what me and my white male friends have done.” I really can’t disagree that HUO needs to focus on diversifying his collaborator group to include more women and people of color. It also seems like he has been collaborating with basically the same group of 30 people for 20 years.


Lucy Steeds, Tobias Ostrander, Annie Fletcher, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Koyo Kouoh

Van Abbemuseum Chief Curator Annie Fletcher hinges her presentation on the question “What are radical institutional models today?” She focused on her work brining the roving project Museum of Arte Útil to the van Abbe.

Arte til is also meant to be read phonetically as “a tool,” as in “something useful.” From their website,

“Arte Útil roughly translates into English as ‘useful art’ but it goes further suggesting art as a tool or device. For the past ten years the artist Tania Bruguera has been teaching and researching Arte Útil through an academy in Havana; the Arte Útil lab at Queens Museum, residencies at Immigrant Movement International, New York and most recently the Museum of Arte Útil, in the Old Building of the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.”

It actually seems like Arte Útil kind of took over the van Abbe–for example, visitors didn’t have to pay admission during Arte Útil’s residence at the museum. Fletcher says that they’re focusing on specific terms: a-legal, space hijack, institutional re-purpose, open access, legislative change, reforming capital.

A lot of presentations have raised questions about de-institutionalizing institutions, or how we can make them more malleable structures that can actually respond to urgent issues despite the bureaucracy and long-term planning that museum curating usually necessitates.

Tobias Ostrander

Tobias Ostrander, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Pérez Art Museum, Miami, is talking about his work in both Mexico (where he lived for 11 years), and the newly renamed Pérez Art Museum. He’s speaking about the tendency of Latin American institutions to focus exclusively on Latin American artists. It’s left unsaid, but I think Ostrander feels that these museums self-marginalize. Again, we’re facing questions about internationalizing the local.

Pérez Art Museum’s recent exhibition, Americana, running from December 4, 2013 through August 3, 2014, focused on the Spanish/English term “Americana.” “An English and Spanish word that broadly describes images and objects produced in the Americas and typical of American cultures, here it is specifically intended to evoke both North American vernacular art collecting traditions and a unique hemispheric perspective that reaches across national borders.”

Ostrander also briefly speaks about “Caribbean: Crossroads of the World,” which he mentions didn’t go over well with Miami’s population of Caribbean artists.

Finally, Ostrander mentioned that PAMM is currently working on a project with Mario Garcia Torres, who is researching the legacy of Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg notably lived in Florida for many years (didn’t he spend his twilight years drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels a day on his own private Floridian island?). Torres is looking into why Rauschenberg isn’t considered a tropical artist–good question!


Koyo Kouoh just asked an honest and probing question to HUO related to the concern above: As a famous curator, how much space do you give to emerging artists, people of color, and women, within your practice, especially when you have a rotating cast of established, famous collaborators?

Hans Ulrich Obrist (paraphrased): I believe, at the first beginning of the stage of a practice, to invite people to residencies. And I also believe in enabling as a form of curatorial practice–how can we support artist run spaces and alternative spaces and bring the into institutions? I think that this is very much at the core of what is very urgent right now. I came to art by way of reading this book by David Sylvester, who spoke with artist Francis Bacon throughout his life. These lifelong relationships are particularly interesting and fruitful to me, which is why I return to working with the same people. I also think it’s interesting to make space for other disciplines. (Starts talking about Rauschenberg). So it’s enabling, creating possibilities, and making junctions and creating visibility.


We’re back from lunch!

First up is Vivien Ziherl, curator, critic, and researcher; then Zasha Colah & Sumesh Sharam, who began Clark House Initiative Bombay as a curatorial collaborative interested in ideas of freedom.

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Vivian Ziherl

Vivian Ziherl’s presentation, titled “The Emperor’s New Tools,” focused on the idea of Aesthetic Solidarity. Ziherl introduces herself as a “butch-femme, anti-capitalist, caucasian, cisgendered, queer…” curator. I would say that this is the first presentation of the weekend that focuses on feminist and queer issues.

Ziherl opens her presentation with a slide displaying this quote: “There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.” Gilles Deleuze, Postscript on Societies of Control (1992).

Ziherl gives some objectives to battle institutionalized misogyny. I appreciate that she locates this site of action within the self, the body and consciousness as a bridge between theory and practice:

As a female artist, you are structurally positioned as an object of desire to male curators and in competition to female artists. As a male artist, you are treated as a comrade. As a lesbian artist, you simply do not exist.

Women, if you feel yourself in competition with other women for a job under a man, stop this within yourself.

Straight male curators, if you feel yourself mentally framing a female artist in an endearing way because you find them beautiful or coquettish please stop that within yourself.

Gay men, woman who aren’t divas aren’t invisible.

I think that we should hammer out protocols about how we should work together. And in this pursuit, we will get to know each other and how to treat one another.

Here’s her abstract if you’re curious:

But what if the best new weapons are old ones in disguise? Drawing upon recent work with the Dutch horizontal feminist institution If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t What to be Part of Your Revolution, conjecture around the notion of “aesthetic solidarity” with artist Susanne M. Winterling, and research into the global imaginaries of the Australian frontier for IMA Brisbane–Ziherl will attempt to posit a set of practices that may yet support the rebellious desires of the working curator.

Vivian Ziherl is a curator, critic, and researcher. She has been a curator at If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution since 2012. Independent projects include the ongoing research project Landings (Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art & other partner organi- zations) and the performance series StageIt! (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam). Vivian is editor of The Lip Anthology, has been a contributing editor of Discipline, and her writing has appeared in periodicals including Frieze, e-flux Journal, Scapegoat, Pages Magazine, LEAP Magazine, Metropolis M, and Eyeline, among others.


General reactions to Vivian Ziherl:

“Who is this ‘we’ that we’re speaking about, when you say that ‘we’ should institute these objectives? We, the people in this room? We, curators? Or is this ‘we’ a fiction?” – Simon Shiekh

Koyo Kouoh seemed to intimate that the intensely academic way in which Ziherl spoke seemed orthodox in itself, and might be counterintuitive to her mission.

“Anne Marie Schwarzenbach broke Carson McCullers’s heart” – Joao Ribas (more on Anne Marie Schwarzenbach’s relationship with McCullers via Wikipedia.)


The point is that the one-sided relationship between them–which is the way it has been portrayed, though not the way it was presented in the talk— mirrors the political problem of the postwar left to unite, in solidarity, the worker’s struggle with the cultural sphere.


Thanks Joao. Also hoping that @srifky will post her comments, couldn’t summarize all of them.

Koyo also mentioned how, in the absence of a more developed market and private patronage, spaces like hers are often sustained from personal investment in both financial and social ways, out of necessity. There is consequently is less distinction between between funders and consumer. In both Raw Material Co’s creation of discursive, educational and experimental space and necessary work against systemic homophobia, her words and work materially made clear how art needs relevance – “instituting is not just aesthetic but also political activity”


Thanks @jtang I’m really sad I wasn’t here for most of Koyo’s talk, so the more information the merrier.

I’ve always found this particular curatorial flipflop between institutionalizing and deinstitutionalizing very interesting. To follow Koyo’s line, we might even see the two positions divided geopolitically, with cozy subsidized institutions usually dreaming of liberal-type imformalism from European capitals while Thatcherite defunding slyly converts deinstitutionalizing from a fantasy into a necessity.

The question of how to institutionalize might actually be the more productive one. It’s not as sexy, but infrastructure is rarely sexy. Maybe that’s a task for young curators - make infrastructure sexy!


Zasha Colah & Sumesh Sharam from Clark House Initiative in Bombay are up now. They focus on instituting projects that address political situations. They work with a large cast of artistic collaborators.

They have a unique operational structure–they don’t seem to be traditionally commercial or non-profit, and are technically a commercial space that “patrons don’t like to buy anything from.” Clark House Initiative also doesn’t have a legal status and rely on funding from outside organizations like FFAI.

Their abstract:
“How do we put ourselves between a closing door and its frame?”
The title is a call, and refers to a curatorial practice that may be described as a way of entering situations where political and social freedoms have been closing in, or diminishing, seeking strategies that keep the remaining open windows and doors ajar. Colah and Sharma will discuss curating as performing “conversions” of economic, political, and social systems. They arrange their slides and discuss how this motivation has functioned in their past projects, while framing questions about the role and premise of curatorial work.

Clark House Initiative Bombay is a curatorial practice about a place, which in sharing a junction with two museums and a cinema, mirrors the fiction of what these spaces could be. Curatorial interventions in the space hope to continue, differently, the site’s history of internationalism, experiment, and research. It was established in 2010 as a curatorial collaborative concerned with ideas of freedom.

Zasha Colah is interested in cultural sovereignty and the way art addresses injustice and legal frameworks. Her curatorial work researches instances of collective imagination under situations of political exigency, political and philosophical motivations for choreography; and under-represented art historical narratives.

Sumesh Sharma’s practice is informed by cultural perspectives of political and economic history. Histories of communities in India; language, religion, and politics in Francophone Africa; and immigrant identities in Europe form part of his research.


There’s been a bit of talk about the differences between private and governmental funding, and how the restricted / not restricted dichotomy doesn’t really exist the way we think it would. Yesterday, Simon Sheikh was speaking about how working in a private educational institution is actually under more rules and regulations than state-sponsored ones.


now we’re talking. I wonder what this looks like for them.