“smartly dressed and supposedly knowledgeable” – Professional curators, who needs ’em?

Posted in Uncategorized by dilettanteventures on 08/23/2013


What happened to the expert curator? – Daniel Blight

A space has now opened up – both physically and online – where anyone can give curating a go. If you are part of culture, then you are qualified to contribute to the arrangement of its artefacts. The practice of curating now occupies museums, public and commercial galleries, project spaces and, of course, the internet.

Within these contexts, the act of arranging objects, images or sounds into an order that may or may not have meaning has proliferated throughout the creative and cultural industries. The curator is now a producer: you might curate your Flickr feed, your mates playing records at a bar or festival or an exhibition in your own apartment – a trend showcased by the Serpentine Gallery’s co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, a master orator of what he calls a “global dialogue… in space and time”.

While the practice of curating within cultural institutions may have changed, the elitism and sense of privileged access remains – abundantly. Even now, you can walk into a museum or gallery and be overwhelmed with the feeling of being in a place where meaning is inaccessible to the layperson, other than through spaces specifically created for audience participation.

What, then, if we’re looking in the wrong place for qualified, ground-breaking curators? Perhaps they are no longer in museums, galleries or cultural institutions, but instead in front of a screen – sociable and connected.
Curating in the age of the internet is the act of responding to social and technological developments: their usability, instability and the various networks of communication in which they are presented online.

In this, we return to the movement from expert to amateur. The sheer quantity of material being collected and curated on the internet, and indeed the rate at which this activity can represent culture and form social networks, is staggering. Institutionalised curators are, along with the institutions themselves, being left woefully behind.

In fact, their attempt to keep up may soon become their authorial downfall: people are creating meaning themselves – online, inside, outside and in rings around the snail-paced bureaucracy that has come to characterise most cultural institutions.

Whatever our response to this, one thing is abundantly clear – we cannot do it by bandwagoning internet art, nor will it be helped along bythe ostentatious character of the curator in itself. The cultural institution, tied in the UK to the wider governmental logic of the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, may need to shift its priorities structurally and ideologically. In times where money is harder to come by and people’s access and thirst for knowledge is more readily satisfied via the internet, curators need to play a much more transparent and far less haughty game if they are to stay ahead.