Curating People

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting a symposium this week on the changing modes of presenting performance and visual art, and both Erin and Kristan will be speaking on a panel there. The conference will dive into the questions raised by visual artists working with a performance-based set of tools, and traditional performing artists presenting in galleries and museums—familiar territory for us here at PICA. To initiate the conversation, ARC asked each of the participants to muse on the subject at hand and provide some early thoughts and confessions. For those of you who can’t make it to Berkeley, we thought we’d repost Erin and and Kristan’s contributions.

From Kristan Kennedy, Visual Art Curator:

In my role at PICA I have often said yes. I have rarely had to say no. This feels like a privilege. I want to pass that along to the artists I work with. I want them to feel free to make what they want how they want where they want.

I often have difficult conversations with the community of artists and others that surround me about art and money, and art and meaning, and art and value, and art and community. I use words like “hybrid” and “discursive” and “dialogue” and “ practice” and “ intention”. I often talk about “de-historization” the “current moment” and “ collapsing forms”. I love to put the word “post” in front of everything. I like to think we are post- everything. Sometimes those words sounds right, and sometimes it sounds like the shifty language of the art world and therefore, flawed and contradictory and awful. The not so secret, secret is we are all still looking for the words to describe the now.

The rest of Kristan’s statement is online here.

And from Erin Boberg Doughton, Performing Arts Program Director:

…over the past 15 years, I have worked with a series of Artistic Directors and have been sometimes more and sometimes less involved with the curatorial work of researching and inviting artists and putting their work in context with each other and for a public. Curating in that sense is a small fraction of what I do. I spend most of my time on project management, coordinating or producing, although I hesitate to use any of those words as they sound so commercial. The word “presenting” falls short to me, because it feels too focused on the moment that the curtain opens and the work is revealed: voila! Though I have been the person standing in front of that curtain many times, I feel more at home behind it.

I think about the Latin root of curate—“to care”—as a deep part of what I do, and in that case (when I am really living up to my own ideals in my job), it feels right. I feel what I contribute is in service not only to each individual artist but to moving our cultural history forward in small increments that will add up to something meaningful over time.

Read Erin’s entire statement here.

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