December 12, 2010—February 27, 2011
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
Outsider-Insider: non-artist and non-curator; was studing business administration for 5 years, now in San Francisco Art Institute studing art and curation for almost two years, in the process becoming an artist-curator.
Insider-Insider: artist-curator; is an artist in printmaking for 12 years, curator for two exhibitions recently.
Representation: George Steiner, Real Presences, University Of Chicago Press (April 23, 1991)
(Anita and Swing on the way back from The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA).
Anita (Outsider-Insider): Toward the last you stated that the question concerning curator’s role is not a question about curating.
Swing (Insider-Insider): Sometime you don't have to put a name on that thing( sign ). Exhibition making, art making. Curators seemingly want to be artists like Harald Szeemann. In other words, curators are in a role of creating, which same with artists. Exhibition became curator’s artwork. In the opposite, some artists designed a way how to show their arts to audience, therefore, these artists are doing what curators suppose to do.
Anita: Moreover, the coming to meet us is not at all a basic characteristic of role of curator, let alone the basic characteristic. If curators encountered so many obstacles and critiques in their own development of the dream exhibition, seems like they became artists. Then why not forget the curator?
Swing: The curator gathers, just as if nothing were happening, each to each and each to all into an abiding, while resting in the connecting of artists and exhibitions.
Anita: So curators are abiding expanse that, gathering all, opens in themselves, so they are in the openness to let everything to merge together. Like host and organizers, just to direct. Then, why do we need exhibitions? As curators, we can just open the doors and allow artists to plan their own destiny.
Swing: If we analyze exhibitions in an ethic way, then exhibition is a bridge. This bridge connects artists and audiences. In my point of view, the first thing of curators need to do is to create a context—the context of interpretations and reading, and the context of artists work. Curation is not just about to host, but a starting point and discourse base for artists and audience.
Anita: Perhaps in contemporary art world, curators are closer to create rather than organize. And to the openness characteristic of curators, who have to go beyond the various types of artists. Because contemporary thinkers from different disciplines and a whole set of nonartists, including people working in any field of research or occupation anywhere in the world. These people would not be producing art at all, but would be involved with the artists or artworks in a permanent forum or fair for real-time thinking. The fact is that contemporary art world is an intellectual forum for non artists and artists to converge within, curators have to think of ways to create a dialogue by who they choose and how they frame the ethos of each exhibit.
Swing: Curators have two functions: re-presentation and re-figuration. His major task is a "participant observer.” He or she is an reporter first, but his or her presentation of the report has been interfering and changing realities in the art system. He or she has to observe the artists and their life-world, and with this the two conspire together to make it happen.
Anita: Artists as producers to produce their product as artwork. And exhibitions are places to make transactions happen, like supermarket or shopping center. But curators are like an invisible hand to control the transaction between artists(producers) and audiences(customers), and to control the trend of which exact way they connected through exhibitions.
Swing: In the course of the exhibition, curators like a Libra, balance the relationship between artist and audience. In the context of contemporary art, the artist focuses on the feelings of self-expression, their approach is more a way of metaphor. Meanwhile, audience has their natural curiosity. Artist and audience are like the Yin and Yang of Tai Chi, belong to each other and live with each other. Both of them together became the exhibition itself. Therefore, once curators or others can balance the relationship between these two, then the exhibition is successful.
Anita: This is so how difficult for artist to become curators. Artist-curators mostly holding an exhibtion to make their artwork in the way of their willing to show up. Not only in solo exhibitions, but group exhibitions also have an fair-unfair problem, such as space or location to show of each artist in an exhibition. They want to break the boundaries, and be holding a new path towards a real growth of diversity and freedom in thinking about the art system. But group exhibitions need something in common. There are big differences between curators and artists.
Swing: As an artist-curator, I already established and have reached a reflective point in my career, I can understand what and how an artist wanted to tell the audience. As a curator, a new career now, I can merge aspects of artist and curator, and to dip a little deeper on both sides. An ideal curator has to know how to balance between artists and audience. As we saw in MOCA, curator Alma Ruiz was really closer to the three artists in Suprasensorial exhibition, she knew exactly what the artists want. But once she getting closer to the artists side, she half closed with audience.
Anita: Exactly, Cruz-Diez’s Labyrinth for a public place, is so easy to get in and figure out with three colors in the space, but no one would get it what the artist want when outside of the space. However, it also seems that viewing the 3 rooms from different perspectives may have been intentional. Firstly, the exhibit was laid out so that you visit the neon piece, the mirrored room piece and then exit from that to be confronted with a white wall with 3 colored windows. This is the viewers first experience with the piece and it is a very different experience, physically and sensorially to the one they have when they make their way around the the front and inside of the piece. This shifting experience of the piece seems to be part of the whole ethos of the light and space movement and therefore comes across as very intentional on the part of the curator.
Carlos Cruz, Dies Cromosaturación(1965)
Swing: Well(sneer), she understand what the artist want. The artist want audience to figure it out by themselves. And Alma Ruiz didn’t do anything wrong with it.
Anita: But curators should be in charge with directing artists, and guiding audience. Of course, she doesn’t need to give a sign to tell people about the colors on the back of space, but she could do something to make it more obvious rather hiding behind the building columns.
Swing: So the room could shrink a bit, and could be set in the center for both sides showing up like front turn to right side, and turn the back to left side. Alma Ruiz is a good curator, she shows the respect to the artist, and surprised audience too. Sometime, curators are bounded with such an limited utility. Like the space of this show, everything is big, huge space, but columns of this building could not be avioded.
Anita: Alma Ruiz was totally understandable with the show she curating, and she understand from the bottom of her heart. And so many curators are willing to use the thesis to express their own thinking, and to make exhibition as their own artwork, they’ve become artist of artists. Then how to balance between thesis of exhibitons and artists’ own theme?
Swing: Engaging with and working in each modality expands of curator’s idea of what is possible, and ultimately strengthen curator’s work with artists’ perspectives. Sometimes, it even easier, if curators and artists think alike, or want to see sort of similar reflection through audience, then they are performing as one.
Anita: When artist-curator in charge with an exhibition, the artist presented the work itself a thought, an idea, and the soul of the exhibition. Then the artist put the time in the planning of the exhibition works of art themselves as good performance out of ideas.
-- ZIZHOU (ANITA) WANG & XIAOYING(SWING) ZHOU