How might recent theorisation of ‘the curatorial’ be valuable to the ‘artist as curator’ in the context of the art school environment?

Dr. Susan Ostling (Griffith University)
2016 Conference

Generally, the concept of the ‘artist as curator’ is discussed through examples of the dramatic and growing compendium of artist initiated projects, identified from the turn of the twentieth century. The role artists have played in transforming the experience of art in art museums in the last two decades has been well acknowledged; as has the influence of artist practices on the formation of the contemporary art curator. This paper then will shift the focus in the discussion of the artist as curator from the influence of artists on curatorial practice. Instead it will discuss the emerging theorization of “the curatorial” and argue for its value within art school education.

Significant here is the differentiation of the terms curating and the curatorial; curating is a set of skills with the purpose of bringing art into the public domain; Beatrice von Bismarck describes it as a “constellation activity” making new links between things: artworks, artifacts information, sites, contexts, resources defined through aesthetics, the social, economics, institutions and the discursive.  On the other hand, the curatorial is seen to subsume technique, formats and aesthetics not unlike, von Bismarck says the “concepts of the cinematic or literary”. It is she says a dynamic field where the “constellation condition comes into being”. Irit Rogoff identifies how conceptualizing the curatorial makes it possible “to affect a shift in emphasis to a very different place, to the trajectory of activity”. She talks of the curatorial as “an epistemic structure” where existing different knowledges come together to produce the “event of knowledge”. Here she draws on Jacque Derrida’s metaphor of the “send-off” focusing on a space that is slippery and less material, and is concerned with effects in the world. These positions will be drawn out in the paper arguing that ‘the curatorial’ brings to visual art students a greater understanding of the conditions through which art and culture become public.

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About the author


Susan Ostling is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Her research agenda is to explore ways for exhibitions to provide catalysts to frame and question the conditions of contemporary society. Susan’s curatorial projects have consisted of Place.Product which investigated the social history of clay, tiles and ceramic manufacture in the Ipswich area Brisbane: Future Factor, which toured nationally, examined the impact of new technologies on craft and design practice; Lingua Franca considered the shared language between art, design and craft; The course of objects—the fine lines of inquiry mapped the triggers that inspire art practice and lead to rigorous lines of inquiry; Radical Romanticism brought artists together whose work considered anew the experience of the everyday. Her PhD investigated the shaping and defining of the contemporary art curator.