Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Curating People: Post-Show Paraphrase

My own notes are my personal interpretations of points raised by our speakers, but here is an attempt to share a few paraphrases of some of the things that made me do some extra scribbling.  Others should feel free to add phrases and paraphrases that they remember—or correct mine.
Angela Mattox: how can different organizations make use of each others’ resources to support an artist?…there is an art to the practical…

Erin Doughton: representing the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art not of contemporary art…When we talk about ‘community,’ I mean “us” as part of that community.  Community isn’t a codeword for something else… our Time-Based Arts festival abbreviates to TBA…our theatre tech crew all came from working on ships.

Betti-Sue Hertz: the stage and the exhibit hall both all in crisis…the use of the curtain in the visual art exhibition as a way to think about …my partners are international, and curators often function as the broker between our local audience and a wider international conversation

David Henry: the Walker was heaven… Performance was a central part of the city plan to widen the reach of the ICA in Boston…never under-estimate the power of the registrar…artists are more fun to work with than agents…we could also have another conversation about what kind of performance work visual art curators are drawn to and what kind of performance work performance curators are drawn to…

Kristan Kennedy: my first experience with PICA was when i protested the organization…subverting process is central to what the institution is…look around and you’ll realize that Brody Condon is over there reading Brecht…against the idea of a curator as an arbiter of taste

Trinh Minh-hal’autre marche translates as an other walk and the other is walking…what it means to require the walker in a museum to stop, linger, and alter the usual pattern for moving in a museum

Connie Lewallen: there used to be 15 to 17 alternative sites devoted to performance work in San Francisco…[FABULOUS SLIDES]…several curators really took an interest in performance [FABULOUS SLIDES]…a lot of the great performance work of the seventies was supported by B.A.M…[FABULOUS SLIDES]…there was much innovative work of course that happened in San Francisco with no support…[FABULOUS SLIDES]…

Susan Miller: …some artists I like…artists whose practice developed from working in the San Francisco scene…New Langton was entirely an artist-run, artist-curated space

Tony Labat: …some said that this was a time when artists stopped doing what they were good at doing…remember Paul McCarthy who said that art experiments are created in San Francisco, packaged in L.A., and sold in New York…we thought that starting a non-profit was going to mean having to do a bunch of things that we didn’t feel like doing, so we funded the work by selling beer at the events…we drank alot of beer

Stephen Tourell: Tom Marioni ran the Museum of Conceptual Art from 1970 to 1984; I consider that a success…believe it or not, the title Performance Art Institute had never been registered before October 2009…the O-Visa is the way to expand international residencies for artists in San Francisco

Lucinda Childs: Sol LeWitt did not want to create a background for dancers—why would that be an interesting thing to do, he said—so we agreed that dancers would function as “the decor” for the work…so to speak…an example of a problem that I give my students in studio? OK, “do a three-count phrase followed by a four-count phrase followed by a five-count phrase…”

Friday, May 6, 2011

Post-Show Reflection: Curating People

It is hard to believe that it has been a week since the Curating People conference. Like most participants, I left our day of reflection to return to the mayhem of this week’s obligations, and it has been hard to come up for air.

Since I am writing during a moment that can only be described as “stolen,” I will not try to summarize the pages and pages of notes that I took during all of the thoughtful and energetic sessions. Instead, I will very quickly put out some clustered thinking around ideas and hopes that I heard expressed in the room. I would welcome any feedback, responses, revisions, or expansions on any of the below. So in no particular order, not in complete sentences, no footnotes (hard for an academic), let me offer the following:

1) How to un-silo communities of arts and culture: Milk Bar-like occasions for artists to casually and convivially curate work for each other. Artpractical and ARC “Picks” that run the gamut of arts programming. Co-taught courses that require students, artists, and faculty to engage more deeply, less superficially in the skills and histories of other forms. Sustain a national and international network of artists and organizers addressing similar issues and silos in their regions of the world. Can international programming from abroad in fact facilitate cross-arts engagement, especially when a shared area studies focus provides the context for connection?

2) Economies that support hybrid art work: individual philanthropy? state and federal funding? arts foundation funding? funding from non-artistic sectors? revenue from tickets? from rentals? from selling beer? How does mixed-media address, dodge, and deploy this mixed economy? Amid the distress about a “financial crisis” that makes it hard to argue for the arts, what opportunities do we have to join other discourses that are trying to remind us of values other than the economic?

3) More writers and writing venues: As art organizers and curators lamented the absence of “the press” in contextualizing their work, we ended up confronting the state of criticism as a profession and in the age of the blogosphere. In particular, some noted that the dearth of writers able to address the broad landscape of performance and relational art. We also noted that the act of critical writing is less often integrated into the job description of the performance producer than it is in the job description of the visual arts curator. While I share frustration around these issues, my hope is that academic institutions have a role to play here, both as a venue for educating art writers and in general as a venue that is supposed to be devoted to sustaining public dialogue.
4) Future research: Some of us might be specifically interested in plotting collaborative research projects from here forward. 1) Bay Area Arts Ecologies: While there has been wonderful work on artists, groups, and movements, it seems that there is much more historicization of experimental arts in the Bay Area’s recent past. Some have begun interviews, archives, documentation, and new critical writing on this topic. How can we mobilize extant efforts and begin new ones that plot this diverse history? 2) Cross-Arts Curating Handbooks/Collections: I wondered about a sustained effort to gather interviews, transcribed roundtables, strategic conversations between artists and their curators/producers. Would such real-world stories that are both conceptual and pragmatic be of service to arts administrators, artists, curators, students, funders?  
5) Future spaces for reflection: Participants talked about not having time in the midst of their work to reflect on its significance or to think about broader pictures. Do we need an arts administrators’ retreat?  a curators’ colony?  experiences akin to those Minh-ha described to some of us, where people are gathered from multiple sectors to experience and make art in an unusual space? More immediately, we at ARC want to continue to create more spaces of reflection that produce helpful conversations and new work for all involved. We are thinking that the next one will be more squarely focused on Curating the Social, with all that means for arts education, social practice, community engagement, and audience interaction. Any input on what you would like to see from what such a gathering? or ideas about what kinds of ongoing gatherings we should join rather than try to reinvent ourselves?