A few weeks ago I remarked upon the current popularity of the words ‘curate’ and ‘curation’ as a new form of marketing lingo, following a story in The New York Times on that subject. Today I ran across this very good bit of commentary within a post at things magazine on “The Death of the Object” as it applies to a type of emerging blog genre that’s driven by particular cults of personal taste. The specific websites they’re referring to relate largely to fashion, but the larger idea, I think, makes just as much sense when considered in terms of how objects of art and culture are consumed on the internet today. Read Things Magazine’s full post here, an excerpt is below (bolded text is my own emphasis).
“…a recognisable genre of weblogs has emerged (see this question: Is there a name or term for the aesthetic these blogs contain?), the seemingly random streams of ‘good work’, quirky images, striking photography, cool objects, strange concepts, old scans, etc. etc. etc. We can drift though these – and we do – yet we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we are flaneuring our way to anything but a highly selected cultural overview. This genre of presentation is both persuasive and pervasive, the digital equivalent of Wired’s ‘Fetish‘ pages (which have obviously a far more natural existence on screen than on paper). Take the AJ’s new Notebook site, wherein ‘inspiration’ is ‘curated’, an explicit acknowledgement of the dominance of image-driven culture.
These visual essays, together with animated stings and very short films, have become the primary modes of communication; objects are strung together rather than taken in isolation. There is no space for contemplation, just clicking, scrolling and flicking. This leaves the solitary object somewhat adrift, only embodying meaning when it is juxtaposed or collated or slotted into a larger collection. Although a glance at any tumblr or curated weblog might suggest otherwise, the ‘thing’ is in danger of imminent extinction.
Even Umberto Eco. I love what the Louvre is doing by signing him on as guest curator (as they have previously done with writer Toni Morrison and composer Pierre Boulez). Eco’s theme for his work at the Louvre is “The List.” For example, he’s organizing a conference on 16th century Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder that looks at how the latter’s peasant subjects make for a kind of visual list. There will also be a performance art piece that draws from lists found in works by Homer, James Joyce, Victor Hugo and Eco’s own oeuvre. I like that they’re using Eco to curate not artworks but institutional programming, which allows him greater reach and play.
J. Crew’s a curator now too. Their online catalog features a new “Designer Collaborations” series, one which promises “a HIGHLY EDITED selection of the top names out there–those who have truly perfected their CRAFT. You shouldn’t have to travel the world to find the very BEST.” Italics and bolded words most certainly NOT MINE.
The New York Times ran an interesting article last week about the attractions that the word “curator” holds for fashion, new media and marketing professionals, but that J. Crew blurb pretty much sums it all up: an offer of selectivity and exclusivity, of authoritative knowledge and insight into what’s considered to be the best that’s out there.
I like the fact that the word ‘curating’ has gone mainstream, although it does seem like most of the marketers who use the term “curate” are confusing its meaning with the idea of list-making, or worse, with personal shopping. Even if that list is meant to be a selective offering of the best whatever-it-is in your field, it’s still just a list of things you’re meant to go out and buy. Curating, as we know, isn’t exactly like that (although Whitney Biennial-type curating sometimes kinda is….). Curating for museum professionals is as much about cultural and historical contextualizing and recontextualizing as it is about discernment or “having a good eye” — a phrase that curators themselves throw around and which I always loathed, mostly because it tended to make me feel self-conscious about my shoes.
Check out Ben Street’s thoughtful and timely essay on curatorial practice of the institutional kind posted today on the Art 21 blog. Best line: “…(G)reat curatorship hides itself, or, put another way, the first rule of curating is you don’t talk about curating.” Here, here!
Via Art Fag City.
I don’t Tweet, and no one can convince me that Wikipedia is a fundamentally reliable source of knowledge, but I’m definitely intrigued by gallerist and 20 x 200 impresario Jen Bekman’s experiment in “crowd-sourced curation.” Bekman asked fellow Twitterers to recommend artists they’d like to see participate in 20 x 200, and received a deluge of suggestions in response. Get the full story here.
Did any of you New York readers see Bekman’s talk “Overcrowded – How crowd sourcing is ruining everything” at Ignite NYC III last week? If you did, can you give us the lowdown in the comments? Bekman’s take on the issue is of interest, as she’s one of only a few dealers to develop a successful model for marketing affordable contemporary art to the masses. Makes me wonder if or how phenomena like micro-blogging and crowd-sourcing will affect the future of art criticism as well as institutional curation. I’m sure there’s a number of art critics already twittering out there (are there any who now use Twitter exclusively?), and you know some enterprising curator will find a way to Tweet out an art show, it’s only a matter of time.