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Who Is A Curator And How To Become One
Who Is A Curator And How To Become One

Video: Who Is A Curator And How To Become One

Video: How did you become a curator? 2022, December
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Andrey Misiano
Andrey Misiano

Although curators appeared in Russia a quarter of a century ago and since that time have become one of the most influential figures in art, many still hardly imagine what kind of profession this is. And is it a profession at all. Andrei Misiano is one of the few in Russia who can be called a hereditary curator: his father Victor Misiano, a pioneer of Russian curatorship, was twice responsible for the Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. At the request of Bazaar.ru, Andrei Misiano tells where the curators came from, what mistakes they make and where they teach them.

Who is a curator

The curator is an important figure in the international art system. Historically, the curator grew out of a museum curator, art historian, art critic. He creates exhibition and research projects, writes professional art history, critical and theoretical texts. My colleague Yekaterina Inozemtseva once correctly noted that a curator is a person with a special sensation. With a special sense of art, space, modernity. But if you try to find an analogue for convenience, then a curator can be compared to a film director. Both the one and the other determine the content and fate of the event, build the scenography and process, conduct a team, which includes other bright, interesting people.

How curators appeared in Russia

The golden age of Russian and, probably, international curatorship was the 90s. After perestroika, foreign experts began to come to Russia. They told our contemporary artists that some kind of curator would work with them - it sounded funny, because in Soviet times, a curator was a person representing the interests of the KGB, including in cultural organizations. The first Russian curators were people who knew the history of art and were fluent in foreign languages. In the 90s, the art scene was young, the profession was just emerging - someone called himself a curator only because he was friends with artists and knew how to hang pictures on the wall. But history has put everything in its place.

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Photo: Getty Images

Is a curator a profession?

At one time, this issue has caused a lot of discussion. This was the subject of the Manifest Journal, the first magazine dedicated exclusively to curatorship. Most of the contributing authors concluded that curating is not in the full sense of the profession. An important role is played not so much by the knowledge of the theory, but by the very sensing, as well as the temperament and charm of a person, the ability to build relationships, artistry. But nevertheless, in order to become a curator, it seems to me, you need to do what curators are systematically doing: write to specialized publications and organize exhibitions, albeit small ones. At least in his kitchen, as the famous Hans-Ulrich Obrist began. Prominent sociologist Anthony Giddens once proposed the logic of expert systems. Your work is "credited" if it is evaluated and accepted by the expert community, for example, by critics,who write reviews in Flash Art or Harper's Bazaar Art, or other curators. It doesn't matter if they praise you or blow you to smithereens, they drew attention to you, thereby building it into the system. To be considered a carrier of the profession, consistency and integration into the professional environment is important. It's like going to the pool: if you swim once a month, it does not mean that you are a swimmer.

Where curating is taught in Russia and abroad

The first curatorial school originated in the French city of Grenoble. Soon, something similar was opened at Bard College, New York. Then, departments for the training of curators began to appear in many Western universities. Advanced curation courses are available at London's Goldsmith College and the Royal Academy of Arts. It was London that became the main forge of curatorial personnel. Partly due to teaching in English, partly due to geographical location. In Russia, neither in the 90s nor in the 2000s, there were no institutions that would systematically train international supervision. But recently there have been some positive changes. A two-year joint master's program of the Smolny Institute and Bard College appeared in St. Petersburg. Russian and foreign experts teach the history of exhibitions,critical theory and other disciplines in two languages: Russian and English. This is a fundamentally important point in teaching curatorial work, because contemporary art is a global phenomenon, it cannot be limited to one language and one geography.

John waters
John waters

Curator errors

Curators maintain the purity of the profession almost eugenically. Therefore, bad, intellectually helpless curators are called exhibition maker - this is such an internal slang term. What mistakes do curators make? One of the most common is to select works, and then leave everything at the mercy of an architect, who will arrange them in space, based on pure pragmatics: size, "hanging" area, and so on. As a result, the selected works can correspond to the theme of the exhibition, but not at all enter into dialogue with each other. Another serious mistake a curator can make in the work on explication texts is to give a commentary on the works, too saturated with meanings, written in cumbersome scientific language. A person comes to an exhibition of contemporary art, meets many references to philosophers, complex technical terminology.This creates an incomprehensible aura in which contemporary art is often criticized. The curator must find the right balance between general and special vocabulary, because no one has canceled a good, in our case - Russian, language.

Is it possible to change the exhibition after opening

The opening of the exhibition can be compared to the birth of a person. Let's draw an analogy: should a person have plastic surgery? This is a widely discussed issue. If you are looking to correct your nose with rhinoplasty, it may be acceptable and reasonable. And if you decide on a painful, risky procedure like lengthening the legs, it comes with serious risks. Personally, I prefer not to touch the exhibition after the opening, unless it is about correcting typos on labels and wall texts.

Hans-Ulrich Obrist in his office in London, 2007
Hans-Ulrich Obrist in his office in London, 2007

Photo: Getty Images

How a curator communicates with an artist

Как говорил в 90-е Ханс-Ульрих Обрист, в основе современного искусства лежит диалог. Между самими произведениями, текстом и произведением, зрителем и произведением и, конечно, между куратором и художником. Кураторство предполагает личные отношения между художником и куратором. Но в крупных институциях зачастую художников выбирает не один куратор, а целый коллектив. Поэтому часто вам приходится иметь дело с совершенно незнакомым человеком. А когда две очень разные, и притом особенные, яркие личности вступают в тесное профессиональное взаимодействие, могут возникать конфликты. Бывает, что художник предлагает работу, которая не отвечает задачам выставки, мотивируясь невыгодными для всего проекта причинами. Решая ту или иную проблему, в конечном счете куратор должен помнить, что институции, выставочные проекты и вся система искусства на самом деле существуют именно для художника.

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