To discuss some aspects of the Postgraduate Program in Curating, Institute Cultural Studies, Zurich University of the Arts, I will present three different projects we developed with the students.
The Postgraduate Program in Curating is conceived of as a discursive platform which imparts key areas of contemporary exhibition-making by way of praxis-oriented project work. The Program focuses less on the 'genius concept' of the exhibition planner as individual author – a highly controversial topic since the 1990s – than on cooperative, interdisciplinary working methods, as employed, for example, in film productions or non-government organizations.
Exhibition-making / curating means the creation of innovative structures for the presentation of cultural artifacts through interdisciplinary collaboration. In this field, art, digital media, design, and architecture intermingle in new ways. The manner of working employed by curators, artists, architects, designers, museum educationalists and writers has become increasingly unified, bringing about new forms of mediation, lounges, archives, reading rooms and new virtual forums – and with them new means of access and forms of interpretation. At the same time, we are witnessing a shift in the organization of work processes throughout society. Individual areas of action are merging on new meta-levels,namely those of networks and knowledge transfer. The Postgraduate Program in Curating Zurich responds to these changes in the processes of the production of cultural meaning. The course creates a model situation in which students can gain practical experience of curating and learn to think critically about the issues involved.
I would like to briefly introduce three exemplary projects we have organised with students and in different collaborations.
Emancipatory Education – Emancipatory Forms of Mediation? The READY-TRADE TRAILER as a mobile project platform
READY TRADE TRAILER: From the beginning of June to the end of September 2007, the trailer – the mobile project room of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating – was ontour with the curatorial project READY-TRADE TRAILER. As a small, mobile stage, the trailer represents a small-scale version of a regular exhibition institution while atthe same time critically questioning that institution. The tour included: Artist residencies Worpswede (D), Künstlerhaus Bremen and Atelierhaus Güterbahnhof Bremen (D) as well asFriedrichs- platz, Kassel (D), Kanzlei Flea Market, Zurich and Festival der Künste (Festival of Arts), Zurich (CH)
On tour with the trailer were multiples produced in direct cooperation with nineteen artists from five European countries: Marion Bösen; Stefan Burger; Diego Castro; AnneliseCoste; Stefan Demary; Köken Ergun; Annette Hollywood; Tom Huber; Daniel Knorr; Andres Lutz / Anders Guggisberg; Mickry 3; Dan Perjovschi; Frédéric Post; Egill Saebjoernsson;Jörg Wagner / Ingke Günther; Joseph Zehrer; Silvie Zürcher and one artist XXXX, whose contribution was the edition of deleting his/her name on all publications, cards andpress releases accompanying the project.
Editions and multiples depart from the auratic artwork and tend towards the everyday object, thus raising questions about the relationship between the original and thereproduction, the creation of value in and the appreciation of art. The project attempted to provide insight into the transformation from cultural and social capital into economiccapital. How is art recognized as such and who awards it its value? Does easier accessibility really amount to the democratization of art and is this accessibility/democratization solely a question of price? Taking the multiples as a point of departure, these and other questions were to be considered and discussed with the public in different locations.
To begin with, let us consider the proposals put forward by Oliver Marchart, who suggests the following possibilities (for a anti-hegemonic approach): 1. interruption, 2. counter-canonization. The interruption aims to examine naturalization effects of the exhibition format and the institution.
In other words, it formulates an institutional critique with something that interrupts some hidden rules of representation. The counter-canonization would use the defining power of exhibition institutions chiefly in order to expand theircanon with regard to content. From my point of view, however, such an expansion or reinterpretation can only succeed if it is accompanied by a change in the formal parameters.Thus, of the proposed "methods", all that remains is the interruption, since in the traditional setting the “invocation” of the subjects by an exhibition presupposes the latter as inactive, consuming subjects.
Below I would like to discuss the extent to which the predefined parameters can be escaped and used for self- empowering processes. The READY-TRADE TRAILER investigated the interrelationships between displays, (re-)presentation strategies, ennoblement and economies in artistic and creative projects.
In this context, the question of mediation to various publics played an important role. "Style & Design" at the ZHdK, Flurina Gradin (student) and Katharina Tietze (director ofstudies) formulated the display for the presentation of the multiples. Here the association of salesroom, flea market, kiosk and outdoor market was to be evoked. The chequered bags serving as tables and seats made the project immediately accessible to passers-by.
Sunshades and carpeting marked the area. In the course of the project it became clear that even the varying arrange- ments of the "tables" signalized a varying accessibilityto the space. A fundamental element of this project was its issue-raising function. The mediation was accordingly not a secondary aspect, but part of the project. The act ofpurchase or barter as a setting for the negotiation of values was of far greater importance to the organizers than the earnings. The situation of art contemplation was extendedbecause the public was actively involved in the discussion on art and its value and thus co-produced a part of the project. As participating "salesmen/ saleswomen" we observedthat, although the public participated in discussions on value assignment, the "sales stand" situ- ation created a certain predisposition which was difficult to break through. Due to thefact that the trailer functioned as a place of sale and communication at different sites, it also functioned within the connotations evoked by its respective location. It was infected, so to speak, by the underlying character of its respective surroundings.
On an idyllic grassy square in front of the little Worpswede artist residencies museum, the trailer was easily recognizable as an art project and the public which came to see itproved very willing to participate in lively discussions about contemporary art and its statements. Here the multiples’ invisible "foil" was the art of Paula Modersohn Beckerand Heinrich Vogler. In Bremen the trailer parked at two sites, in the courtyard of the Bremen Künstlerhaus and in front of the open studios in the Güterbahnhof. Herepassers-by expected to see contemporary art. Many of them were artists themselves and were accordingly interested in the multiples, which they compared with their own approaches. In Kassel the trailerwas located on the edge of the documenta grounds in the downtown pedestrian zone. The public in Kassel was particularly heterogeneous and the "competition" with thegadgets on sale in the documenta shops was significant.
In contrast to the documenta activities, the trailer’s artifacts did not deny their merchandise character; more in-depth discussion usually reflected the relationship of the visitors – limited to art professionals during the first few days – to the documenta. One topic was therefore the feeling of exclusion and of not being addressed by the "official" artactivities. The public included connoisseurs who recognized and responded to the allusions made by the multiples to pop music, etc. At the Kanzlei Flea Market in Zürich, the organizers soon realized that neither thetrailer nor the multiples met the market rules and regulations and we therefore had to vacate our spot there quickly: secondary markets of this kind are likewise governed byrigorous rules and hierarchies. At the Festival der Künste the trailer was located in front of the Museum für Gestaltung along with a number of other outdoor events and presentations; the project was also particularly accessible to the public on account of the notoriety of several participating Swiss artists.
In this setting it proved difficult to conduct more in- depth discussions. There was a good deal of communication, but it was of a rather superficial nature. Only in a few caseswas it possible to examine the "sales pitch" situ- ation. The visitors were frequently surprised and happy to be given multiples such as cards bearing maxims on art which were produced by students of the post-graduate programme and distributed free of charge. They also liked to leavesome own remarks and comments. The visitors and passers-by generally reacted very positively to the attempt to involve them in the goings-on of contemporary art. It is conceivable that the act of addressing the public by means of the setting, the artifacts, the student group and the respective context triggers processes of re-evaluation of and reflection on art.
The Archive of Shared Interests, Transfer Zone -Temporary Life, Temporary Communities
The Archive of Shared Interests, Transfer Zone -Temporary Life, Temporary Communities: The next project was based on a set of different collaborations: The archive of SharedInterests, Transfer Zone - Temporary Life, Temporary Communities was developed from a research project of the Institute of Critical Theory, ZHDK. It was curated by Siri Peyer,Karin Bernasconi and myself, who selected artists whose work can be seen in the light of this topic. Part of the project was also a list of publications, which was chosen by Elke Bippus, Joerg Huber and myself. This marked the idea that art and critical theory are reflecting, questioningand producing one another. The exhibition display was developed with students of the Postgraduate Program in Curating in cooperation with Jesko Fezer and the design workwas conceived by Megan Hall.
Artists: Marina Belobrovaja; Ursula Biemann; Corner College; Jeremy Deller; eggerschlatter; Finger (evolutionäre zellen); forschungsgruppe f; Fritz Haeg; Christina Hemauer/RomanKeller; Michael Hieslmair/Michael Zinganel; interpixel; Martin Kaltwasser/Folke Köbbeling; San Keller; Pia Lanzinger; Michaela Melián; MetroZones; Peles Empire; Frédéric Post;Public Works; Alain Rappaport; raumlaborberlin; RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co); Oliver Ressler; Shedhalle; Erik Steinbrecher; support structure (Celine Condorelli and GavinWade); Szuper Gallery; tat ort ; Jeanne van Heeswijk; Markus Weiss.
The text with which we contacted the artists was a bit complicated (maybe overdetermined), and therefore I will quote only a short paragraph of it:
"'Transfer' refers to nomadic states of like in Post- Fordist societies encompassing a large number of different subjects. How is this state of temporariness reflected in thepictorial media and architecture of everyday culture? How are communities invoked and organized? And how is this conveyed to the subjects afterward as tolerable and desirable? What role is played here by urban architecture, how does the latter function as de-historicizing power structures, how do the latter permit other, subversive tendencies? How do subjects create niches and identi- fications for themselves in these environments dominated by the flowof capital? How do they organize a reversal from power structures to the nodal points, the archi- tecture, the pictorial media, the agreements and the discussions? What temporary alliances and communities are formed in the process?"
The dossiers we received in response to this call were content-wise very different: Communities are defined by artists, scholars and urbanists as an antithesis to general societyand its constraints, but they differ widely from one another in the roles they play. Whether the community is thought of as a secret utopia or as a threat to the individual, whether as a cooperative, a neighbourhood or a societal group, and whether or not the respective community is to be dissolved – every time, a certainartistic, architectural or theoretical concept of community initiates a subtext directed toward the public. The invited articulations range from complex urban projects which politicizedaddressed neighbourhoods like Jeanne van Heeswijck Twilight see www.jeanneworks.net, to Jeremy Dellers re-enactment of workers' upheavals, to a project by Patrick Weissworking in a school and implanting social situations for pupils there.
The task of the students group together with Jesko Fezer was not an easy one: this heap of very different material should be made accessible and the difference between theory wehave used to enter the theoretical area of communities should be presented in different ways than the artistic dossiers, but also show that they influence each other. For thematerial we also needed a kind of index situation, so the public could have an idea what they could find in the archive. The situation should reflect the possibility of communicationand shared interests, and last but not least we had very little money to realize the project, about 2000 CHF, or 1300 €. Jesko did propose to use the space as a kind of shelf in itself, not to split it up by shelves.
The curatorial and the design project's background was based on a shared reading and discussion group by Elke Bippus, Jörg Huber and myself, some of these ideas I willaddress here briefly, they are discussed in depth in issue 7 of On-Curating.org about Being With. Ontological and political perspectives on notions of community were at thecentre of its debate. "We believe that such an explicit discussion of community on a theoretical level is an urgent requirement in the context of "curating" since culturalarticulations always implicitly or explicitly address and produce communities. It was Jacques Rancière in particular who in The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible pointed out the importance of access to visibility and audibility since these are what enables or prevents access to a community. "The distribution of the sensible makesvisible who can participate in the communal according to what he does. A particular activity determines thus who is and is not capable of being communal." In his perspective,aesthetics, visibility and politics are causally linked.
Jacques Rancière defines equality as a fundamental opposition to the police order, to the limiting power structures of a society. It is impossible for the police order to "respond to themoment of equality of speaking bodies". For Rancière, equality is produced as a process in an open set of practices. He draws two conclusions from this: "First, equality isnot a state, and it is not a state that an action seeks to achieve. It is not a precondition that an action sets out to verify. Second, this set of practices has no particular name. Equality has no visibility of its own. Its precondition must be understood in the practices that bring it into play and derived from their implications."
According to Rancière this process approach corresponds to the traditional leftist notion of emancipation: "Emancipation is equality in actu, the logic of equality between speaking beings, which has an impact on the distribution of bodies in the community, a field characterized by inequality. How is this impact created? In order for the political to exist, there must be a space of encounter between the logic of the police and the logic of equality." Following Rancière one such space of encounter would be art. I want to emphasize this quote, because even if Rancière had put art in a somewhat surprising, maybe idealistic position it holds possibilities for cultural producers: some specific kind of art, some specific kind of image production, some specific kind of participation may open up a space for this encounter of the logic of policy and that ofequality.
The project apparatus and the artist dossiers allowed the (emancipated) spectator to have access to a broad range of material about im/possible communities.
Project Apparatus with Publications by:
Giorgio Agamben: Was ist ein Dispositiv? Zürich, Berlin 2008
Giorgio Agamben: Ausnahmezustand. Frankfurt a.M. 2004
Giorgio Agamben: Was von Auschwitz bleibt. DasArchiv und der Zeuge. Frankfurt a.M. 2003
Giorgio Agamben: Die kommende Gemeinschaft. Berlin 2003
Marie-Luise Angerer: Vom Begehren nach dem Affekt. Zürich, Berlin 2007
Roland Barthes: Wie zusammen leben. Frankfurt a.M. 2007
Zygmunt Baumann: Flüchtige Moderne. Frankfurt a.M.2003
Zygmunt Baumann: Gemeinschaften. Frankfurt a.M.2009
Maurice Blanchot: Die uneingestehbare Gemeinschaft. Berlin 2008
Maurice Blanchot: Museumskrankheit. Das Museum, die Kunst und die Zeit. Köln, 2007
Janine Böckelmann, Claas Morgenroth (Hg.): Zur Konstitution des Politischen in der Gegenwart. Bielefeld, 2009
Janine Böckelmann, Frank Meier (Hg.): Die gouvernementale Maschine. Zur politischen Philosophie Giorgio Agambens. Münster 2007
Jens Kastner, Elisabeth Bettina Spörr (Hg.): nicht alles tun. Cannot do everything. Münster 2008
Ernesto Laclau: Hegemonie und radikale Demokratie. Wien 2006
Bruno Latour: Von der Realpolitik zur Dingpolitik. Berlin, 2005
Bruno Latour: Eine neue Soziologie für eine neue Gesellschaft. Frankfurt a.M. 2007
Chantal Mouffe: Über das Politische. Wider die kosmopolitische Illusion. Frankfurt a.M.2007 (London, New York 2005)
Jean-Luc Nancy: Die undarstellbare Gemeinschaft. Stuttgart 1988
Jean-Luc Nancy: Die herausgeforderte Gemeinschaft. Zürich, Berlin 2007
Jean-Luc Nancy: singulär plural sein. Berlin 2004
Jean-Luc Nancy: Die Erschaffung der Welt oder Die Globalisierung. Zürich, Berlin 2003
Jacques Rancière: Die Aufteilung des Sinnlichen. Die Politik der Kunst und ihre Paradoxien. Berlin 2006
Jacques Rancière: Ist Kunst widerständig? Berlin 2008
Jacques Rancière: Zehn Thesen zur Politik. Zürich, Berlin 2008
Gerald Raunig: Kunst und Revolution. Künstlerischer Aktivismus im langen 20. Jahrhundert. Wien 2005
Hans Bernhard Schmid, David P. Schweikard (Hg.): Kollektive Intentionalität. Frankfurt a.M. 2009
Klaus Schönberger, Ove Sutter (Hg.): Kommt herunter und reiht Euch ein … Eine kleine Geschichte der Protestformen sozialer Bewegungen. Berlin Hamburg 2009
Richard Sennett: Verfall und Ende des öffentlichen Lebens. Die Tyrannei der Intimität. Berlin, 1983, 2008
Ferdinand Tönnies: Community & Society (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft). New Brunswick 2007
Gianni Vattimo: Wie werde ich Kommunist. Berlin 2008
Joseph Vogl: Kalkül und Leidenschaft. Poetik des ökonomischen Menschen. Zürich, Berlin 2008
Joseph Vogl (Hg.): Gemeinschaften. Positionen zu einer Philosophie des Politischen. Frankfurt a. M. 1994
Fluxus Festival and "exhibition" as video bibliotheca
This last example of activities around the Postgraduate Program in Curating shows a Fluxus Festival that was curated by myself and Adrian Notz in the Cabaret Voltaire. The students could participate in this example as witnesses of the most interesting artistic productions of the sixties and support the Festival as assistants. They had also some insight in the problematics of representing performative activities, which are now historical positions, but should nonetheless reveal their revolutionary impetus through the way theyare displayed. Most displays in museum contexts would position all editions, activity cards and boxes in show cases and shorten film material to a length a contemporary visitorcould endure, five minutes of footage instead of two hours, for example. So we decided to invite the artists Alison Knowles, Larry Miller, Hannah Higgins (art historian and daughter of Higgins and Knowles), Ben Patterson, Eric Andersen, Ann Noel to perform the old Fluxus pieces on one evening, and their new productions on the next evening. Alison Knowles and Hannah Higgins performed contemporary interpretations of some works, supported by video screenings of different versions of the event scores. The following "exhibition" tried to deal with the problematic of the Mausoleum-function of museums that pacifies artwork. Our imperfect proposal was to makearound 40 films and film-compilations of Fluxus pro- ductions and about Fluxus, accessible in a video-library. Visitors could come and choose their one program and share their experiences.
In all of these projects, it is central that the notions of pedagogy and curating overlap. The production of meaning for an intended public, as well as for students, is themain goal. In this sphere, one could distinguish between more democratic and participatory approaches, which try to constitute a platform of dissent and consent against attitudes concentrating on a 'genius' – whether a curatorial or artistic one – which would highlight, on the level of idealogical meaning production, the notions of the individual and of entrepreneurship.
Dorothee Richter, art historian and curator; Director of Studies for the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, ICS, at the ZHDK Zurich and publisher of On-Curating.org; prior to that Artistic Director of the Künstlerhaus Bremen; symposiaon questions of contemporary art with the following publications: Curating DegreeZero – an international symposium of curators (with B.Drabble); Dialoge und Debatten – on feminist positions in contemporary art; Im (Be_)Griff des Bildes (with Katrin Heinz and Sigrid Adorf); Die Visualität der Theorie vs. zur Theorie des Visuellen (with Nina Möntmann); Re-Visionen des Displays, (with Sigrid Schade andJennifer Johns); Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique?, Kassel (with Rein Wolfs), teaching: University of Bremen, Ecole des Beaux Arts, Geneva,Merz-Akademie Stuttgart; University Lüneburg, Zurich University of Arts. Initiator(with B.Drabble) Curating Degree Zero Archive, archive, travelling exhibition andwebsite on curatorial practice, www.curatingdegreezero.org. Other editions:Curating Critique (with B. Drabble) editor of the web journal On-Curating.org.