5 cues to design a non-exhibition – the curator’s studio

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tapis de lecture 2058 (Bibliography)_Noero
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Tapis de Lecture 2058 (Bibliography), 2012, carpet, book, 300 x 300 cm. Curtesy Galleria Franco Noero

The crisis changed the way in which we look at the economy, revealing that the ongoing model is not perfect and needs to be reconsidered. Little by little we became aware of the need to adapt to new ways of doing. Recently new strategies of production and consumption of goods and services are raised, based on the possibility to rationalize resources, de-bureaucratize them, better allocate them, making them easily available and sharable. Most of these strategies seem to work. Particularly, realizing the fact that some mainstream models can fail -or, better, no longer correctly respond to the current situation- represents one of the fruitful values of the crisis. Dismantling a system opens the space for a new one.
Even in the artistic and curatorial field new scenarios can be opened, starting from the exhibition. And what better moment to experiment if not inside our project? Why take for granted that the PIIGS_An Alternative Geography of Curating project must end with an exhibition? Just because curators use to make exhibitions? What’s the real necessity hidden behind the choice of “making an exhibition”? Is the “classical exhibition” the only (the better?) way through which a curator can synthesize and give shape to his research? And to whom is he speaking?

We face a unavoidable reality: making an exhibition is usually an expensive thing. We also have to keep in mind that a huge part of the PIIGS_AAGoC project is represented by the curatorial research carried out not only inside the artistic field, but also beyond it, through other disciplines. We don’t need, then, to merely re-iterate canonical paths to reach our goal. Saying it with economics, we need, to think to a restitution of the research process that minimizes the costs, keeps intact the content and maximizes the benefits. Here, the “classical exhibition” -the five of them, one for each curatorial group inside the PIIGS_AAGoC project- may eventually diminish the potential of a shared research, and present it as parceled out.

Here are five cues to start outlining our “event-exhibition” to be realized in November:

1 – Do not start a cultural and artistic production in which costs (ascribed to the material realization of the exhibition) exceed benefits. The research project must be conveyed with efficacy and efficiency.

2 – Reduce the production costs of the “event-exhibition” by taking it out -partially or entirely- of economic mechanisms. That means sustaining it thanks to other economic systems linked to it, re-distributing resources.

3 – Maximize benefits by setting up an exhibiting format that can reach the audience in the most direct and clear way, stimulating an active involvement.

4 – Imagine devices through which the research processes developed by every PIIGS Country can intertwine. The active role of the PIIGS_AAGoC participants even outside their own project is fundamental to reach a synthesis point through the visions of the different Countries, fostering further cross-geographical critical analysis.

5 – Level out the contents to be exhibited, that is to say, dematerialize the objects by publicly presenting just the ideas behind them and, on the other hand, give a material form to informations and theories developed during the research process.

So, how can be designed in practice our “exhibition” project? My proposal is to design a space, an environment where people can take a sit, get comfortable and spend some time to read and study, learn more and deepen the contents gathered and produced by the PIIGS_AAGoC platform. People actually should be involved since the beginning of the project, starting from the online platform, where they can take an active role producing comments, texts, images or whatever else. Contributions in the platform may come not only from the curatorial teams but also from other people. Contamination is one of the great values of this shared platform, creating a common ground and empowering debate through continuous exchange. So it might be in the final part of it, in November during the “event-exhibition”. Conceived as this, the exhibition will no longer be a punctual and autonomous event, but one possible way to give shape to the platform.
The “exhibition” function is to exhibit ideas collected and manipulated throughout the research process. All ideas (taken from art, economics, literature, politics, etc.) share an equal value; the artistic object won’t be preponderant on the other contributions. Actually, the artwork no longer needs to be physically present if its idea is. It’s not about “putting goods on the shelves”. In this simulated studio the contents/ideas will be displayed together and will be read as a unicum. They can be texts, images, videos, websites, fanzines, posters, photocopies, handwritings, little objects, folders, or maybe people taking their space to give lectures, perform, make show and tell…
People walking through this space will make an experience similar to that of entering the studio of a curator, reading the title of the books he keeps on the library, taking a look at the artworks he owes, scrolling his archive materials, watching web contents from his laptop.

Veronica Mazzucco

6 thoughts on “5 cues to design a non-exhibition – the curator’s studio”

  1. I’d like to highlight another aspect that I am experiencing in my research: the low number of artists and artworks that deal with issues related to the economic crisis. I think we can also consider this aspect as one of the consequences of choosing a different format from the traditional exhibition.

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  2. Great! We should absolutely work on the “library section”, which, I think, is the more useful in this kind of project; this way of thinking, actually, reshape the exhibition moment as an ongoing exhibition (a four day exhibition could be too much . We can think also to create a sort of ebook of the exhibition and, of course, of our writings (here’s some tips about making our own diy catalogue: https://www.bookbaby.com/how-to-make-an-ebook). Some years ago Paul O’Neill created something similar with the project “Coalesce” intended as “a metaphor of the exhibition as a landscape as a means of establishing a formal structuring device, responsive to three planes of interaction available to the viewer”. Briefly, he maintained the exhibition-mode but he reshaped the way through public perceive the work of art, intending public’s interactiveness as a part of his curatorial project. Obviously, it’s an ongoing project. Here’s a reflection on his (fantastic) project: http://www.on-curating.org/index.php/issue-22-43/co-productive-exhibition-making-and-three-principal-categories-of-organisation-the-background-the-middle-ground-and-the-foregrou.html).

    We should check also the Journal of Artistic Research in order to reflect over these points. Basically it is a site where artists and curators work on their own project using internet coding and templates to create an exhibition (http://www.jar-online.net/)

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  3. Cool idea!
    Pretending like we’re in a studio could help us defying and realizing our project as an ongoing platform, without any fixed dimension, any goal to propose a finally definitive solution.
    As a curator’s studio, we can develop a series of meetings with artists that can be seen as studio visit, we can discover the work of art from the inside.
    And let the public be part of it.
    It could be a kind of showing what is happening on the other side, without being referentially oriented.
    Then the blog could be an important part to that. It could be used to comment, write articles, directly while things happen. Let’s experiment!

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