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how to do things with curatorship:

THE INSTANT ANSWER

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THE INSTANT ANSWER

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how to do things with curatorship INTRODUCTION While art making has changed radically over the last century in its perception of its social role, it seems that presentation and display strategies that fall under the responsibility of the curatorial practice are not keeping with the pace of the innovation. If that is the case – you are in for a pioneer experience! Or maybe there are new and experimental curatorial practices that engage differently with the role of communicating and mediating art to the wider public. Maybe these curatorial doings are just less famous and poorly documented comparing to the artistic doings? Anyhow, there seems to be an interesting void that this handbook will try to start to fill.

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THE INSTANT ANSWER

THE CORE QUESTION IN THIS HANDBOOK IS HOW TO USE CURATORSHIP AS A TOOL FOR SOCIAL CHANGE. THE INSTANT ANSWER IS A COMBINATION OF FOUR STEPS:

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THINK BIG: approach art and curatorship with creative and innovative spirit and explore endless ways to express yourself beyond the conventional exhibition-making CHOOSE A GREAT PURPOSE: aim high and try to solve problems that bother you in the society with curatorship DON’T BE A SNOB: to gain a wider influence on the public, avoid the elitist image of artistic projects by experimenting with new spaces, audiences and formats of exhibiting ENJOY IT: take your values to work and improvise when the unexpected happens to avoid exhausting yourself

Following those four simple steps you are guaranteed to be doing things with curatorship. Become a socially engaged curator with a licence to try and change the world around you in creative ways.

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how to do things with curatorship DISCLAIMERS!!! • I do not claim to be an authority on curatorship. I was a student when I wrote this handbook as my research for the Honours in Curatorship programme at University of Cape Town. It was written based on very little experience in curating and on very long list of questions that I faced. This confession/disclaimer means that you must not take these pages too seriously; I do not claim to be an authority on curatorship – only on asking questions about it and suggesting my answers based on a yearlong enthusiastic research. • This particular style of writing is an academic attempt. I couldn’t resist the temptation to play with the mode of display in a handbook that speaks about innovative modes of display. This text is a gamble that my university supervisors kindly allowed me to take. In writing a thesis as I attempt to combine an academic research field with a non-official one and to write about it in a ‘familiar’ manner. I hope I meet this challenge of creating a middle ground between the academic ‘seriousness’ and light reading that is more accessible. • Mind the subjectivity. This handbook is a result of a personal journey of studying. This results in preferences that are more subjective than the usual academic writing of art. Since the handbook is about using curatorship as a tool for social change, it inherently reflects my views that shouldn’t necessary apply to you. I hope you can find the references useful also in case of disagreeing with the ideology.

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THE INSTANT ANSWER

• I reference a lot to Sophie Calle’s works. In my research for this handbook I was encountered with many inspiring artists and creative doers. The one who inspired me the most was French Conceptual artist Sophie Calle, who does amazing things with art, and whose art-making is sometimes very similar to curatorship. As a result of this professional ‘obsession’ you will find I mention her work in many steps of this handbook. Special feature!!! Thanks to the generous funding of the Honours in Curatorship programme I have attended at the University of Cape Town while working on this handbook. The opportunity to attend the 2013 Venice Biennale, the bi-annual International mega-exhibition, ‘The Olympics of Art’, results in collecting examples of curatorial projects from there for the handbook. Those represent the latest of contemporary art from around the world in national and independent exhibitions. This privilege has contributed largely to the practical references in this handbook.

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how to do things with curatorship IS THIS HANDBOOK FOR YOU? This handbook might be for you even if you are not sure what curatorship means. There is a big group of young and creative people who care about society, politics, economy, poverty and injustices. They are looking for a tool to express their will to change the world using their talents and creative minds. If you see yourself as one of them, please read on and consider to do things with curatorship. Ideally this handbook is addressing beginner curators who have aspirations to use their new profession as a tool to be active in their society. Are you tired of going to work every day just in order to pay the monthly bills? Do you want to get satisfaction from your field of practice? Do you care about the world around you and believe in trying to change it? Then this handbook might be for you! If you are an experienced and/or institutional curator who is looking for a new perspective, you can find this handbook useful as well. This is also a helpful read for artists, those practising or those that come from other disciplines but are thinking creatively. While your background doesn’t matter, your intentions do. The key word for this handbook is doing – and you can find these pages useful only if you intend to be a doer. I have designed this handbook to appeal to the optimists and the believers, the hungry kind of individuals that are motivated to make a change in the world around them.

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THE INSTANT ANSWER Scholars of curatorship and educators in the arts field will find in this handbook an attempt to open up a discussion on the way curatorship literature is communicated. In its non-conventional format for a postgraduate thesis it repreIn its nonsents a voice of a student longing conventional format for a comprehensive guidance for a postgraduate in a confusing, overwhelming thesis this handbook and vague art world; a yearning attempts to open up a for the perfect guidebook where discussion on the way the language is clear and inclucuratorship literature sive, the ideas and philosophy is communicated. It are explained with descriptions represents a voice of projects and the references of a student longing also include experimental and for comprehensive geographically diverse projects. guidance in a confusing, Creative activists and other overwhelming and good-doers can find here a vague art world begging of an effort to form a collection of likeminded projects that fall under the umbrella of socially engaged curatorship. It includes references to famous widely documented exhibitions along original references to experimental projects that are not included in the academic discussion about curatorship.

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how to do things with curatorship ABOUT THE AUTHOR I was 29 years old, with ten years of experience in journalism, when I left my job in a newspaper and decided to study curatorship. I didn’t even know what it means exactly, but it felt right to me to go in that direction. As a frequent visitor to art exhibitions I imagined curatorship to be a greater tool for public influence; one that is better than journalism since it focuses on inspiration more than on information. This handbook was written a year after that decision was made and it reflects the full time research into the theory and practice of curatorship that I conducted inside and outside of the academy. It involves lessons learned from lectures, treasures found in the library, insights shared by curators and artists with whom I conducted inspirationinterviews and personal experience of curating experimental projects. What started from a personal and reflective point of view became a quest for ‘relevant’ curatorship that plays an active role in the society. This handbook is the book I couldn’t find in the library when I first ‘stepped into’ curatorship with my pretentious expectations. So I decided to make an attempt to write it myself as a summary of my research into the different meanings of Doing Things with Curatorship as a thesis for the Honours Degree in Curatorship programme.

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THE INSTANT ANSWER

The text is affected by my personal background: I wrote it while living and studying in Cape Town and therefore the South African references and perspectives; I lived in Tel Aviv most of my life and therefore the Israeli artistic examples; I was born and grew up in Soviet Union and therefore my ‘unique’ use of the English language. If this made the handbook less understood for you please accept my apologies. All the shiniest, Valeria Geselev October 2013, Cape Town

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how to do things with curatorship PLEASE NOTE! As any curatorial deed, this handbook is a result of a team work. I would like to thank Anna Geslev for the graphic design; Frank Lunar for the illustrations; Virginia MacKenny and Fabian Saptouw for the patience; Chifunilo, Sizwe, Masello and Zime for the inspiration; Matthew for the iron manual, Corlia for the edit-proof; Garty for editorial advice; My dear parents Diana and Boris, Mellon Foundation and UCT Humanities Faculty for funding; Nancy for the perspective; Nina for Sophie.

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THE INSTANT ANSWER WHAT YOU WILL FIND AND WHAT YOU WILL NOT FIND IN THIS HANDBOOK?

V THE SOCIAL CONTEXT V PUBLIC ART V AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

X CHOOSING FRAMES AND WRITING LABELS X COMMERCIAL GALLERIES AND AUCTIONS X CONSERVATION AND COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT

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how to do things with curatorship NOTES :

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HOW TO DO THINGS WITH CURATORSHIP SELF-HELP HANDBOOK FOR SOCIALY ENGAGED CURATORS By Valeria Geselev Hounours In Curatorship Michaelis School Of Fine Art University Of Cape Town 2013

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How to do things with curatorship / introduction