Reflections on Curating the Turn
posted February 16, 2011 in salons--Ania Szremski, SALON curator
Of course, the idea of a curator whose role is increasingly hybridized with the figure of the artist and the educator, and for whom the role of language is increasingly important (whether through the scholarship that he or she produces in conjunction with the exhibition, or through roundtables or other such pedagogically-oriented events) hardly feels novel anymore. But, interestingly, during our SALON on February 8th, there appeared to be some resistance to that idea here in Chicago.As independent curator Kelly Shindler pointed out during the Salon, Chicago is not exactly an “institutional” city. If debates about the relative power of the creative curator (or the ethics regarding his or her “co-authorship” of an exhibition) make sense in New York or in European cities, it’s because those cities have a very different artistic ecology, so to speak. As Eric May and Aay Preston-Myint attested to, Chicago is characterized by its plethora of small, independent artist-run spaces, where such concerns don’t really enter into the equation. Both Eric and Aay described their curatorial work as a relatively hands-off endeavor, through which they tried to help other artists show their work in the best manner possible, without imposing a curatorial vision. The concept of “ethics” or “responsibility” towards the artist was often mentioned in this regard; both artist-curators felt they had a responsibility towards other artists to allow them to represent their work as they saw fit, and in their own terms. This point of discussion brought forth a lot of comments from SALON attendees, and piqued my curiosity as to why this unspoken ethical code for artist-run spaces exists (you must not show your own work, you must show the work as the artist intended, etc.). It was often brought up in the discussion that Chicago is great for artists and curators alike because there are so many of these small spaces that are so easy to access; which makes me wonder, if there are so many “safe spaces” for experimentation, why be so cautious? Perhaps Chicagoans should not be so self-congratulatory in this regard. Why not think more self-reflexively about the possibilities for curating, and engaging more actively with the debates that occur elsewhere in the world - could the reticence to do so be indicative of a somewhat apathetic hermeticism?