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by San Keller


1 April 2011, 5 p.m. – 6.15 p.m.
Kunsthalle Fridericianum,  Friedrichsplatz 18, Kassel
Participants: San Keller (SK), Rein Wolfs (RW) and approx. 20 guests
Minutes: Sylvia Rüttimann

After Rein Wolfs’ words of welcome, San Keller takes the floor. He has reflected more on the idea of a conference room, he says, and today wants to take a closer look at the role of the curator and that of the conference room. Incidentally, he says, he has come to the conclusion that there should be no interaction between the artists and the companies and institutions who make the rooms available, because he views the concept of a conference room in a rather general sense. Like an exhibition room in a museum, for him the conference room is a place where something can be negotiated, but nothing concrete has to happen there. For him, it is not essential that the artists create a collective work, found a movement or take decisions. Rather, he would like to do without a work and emphasise the aspect of chance – the artists are being brought together through the principle of chance – and the temporary, fleeting aspect of the project. In a temporally and spatially closed framework, a certain mood should be created, which needs not culminate in a work, but rather is to be processed into an exhibition that the curator is responsible for.

Wolfs agrees with Keller’s point that to meet in a conference room doesn’t necessarily imply taking decisions, but he is opposed to comparing the conference room with an exhibition room, because in the latter the result is tangible. In addition, he has difficulties with Keller’s procedure of intending to separate work and exhibition, which he finds inconceivable. In the end, he asserts, there is always a product that can be called a  “work”. For him, a work is what an artist produces, while an exhibition is what is negotiated between artist and curator. Thus, in Keller’s case, too, he expects a work, although it is not yet known what shape it will take. The work could consist, for instance, solely of video or audio recordings of the meetings. However, he says that during the meetings the participants should definitely discuss the form, the concrete realisation. As a curator, he does not want to deal with the form of the work per se, and clearly states that unlike some other curators he does not view himself as an artist, does not want to mix these roles. But if this is Keller’s absolute wish, then they will have to think about engaging a guest curator.

Keller replies that the discussion between the artists itself, the mood that arises, can be called a work. Additionally, he says that he is particularly interested in the role of the institution and the curator. In an institution, artists who otherwise would not come together are brought together and linked by the curator, and it is here that the artwork is given its specific form to begin with. In this context, he asks Wolfs whether he views the putting together of works for an exhibition as an interpretation. Wolfs raises the consideration that at the beginning of an exhibition project he always has to clearly distinguish between artists who are still alive, with whom he works together on an exhibition, and with the work of dead artists. Regarding the latter, he says, an interpretation by the curator is needed much more; a completely different kind of curatorial work is necessary. Therefore (in reply to the question of what role he should play during the talks in the conference room), he says he would like to be present, but not to participate, because he does not want to intervene in the genesis of a work. But, says Keller, the curator has to be active after the meetings; he would like the curator to take over the leadership at that point.

Wolfs is sceptical, feels the project is slipping away from him a little. In addition to the form of the work, he believes there are still open questions regarding the conversation between the artists. He voices criticisms of Keller’s project in St. Gallen for which artists came together for talks in a parliament. Wolfs does not find the formal aesthetic implementation of the concept or the talks themselves entirely convincing. Following this experience, he says, he came to the conclusion that a curator has to intervene more and clarify the direction things should take in advance. Wolfs says he is uncertain about three main things in the current project: Can one trust chance when bringing together artists, will the talks lead to a result, and will this then work as an exhibition? Criteria have to be developed for this, he says. For Keller, too, there are open questions: Will the move from the museum to other institutions arouse false expectations? Does it really have to be Kassel? How should the conversation be moderated and what role should Keller play? Might it perhaps be better to set up a dining room table so that the talks are made more casual? To clarify these issues, Keller would like to have a trial run. Wolfs thinks this is a very good idea and would like to be present to see what methods Keller will use in the process. Keller agrees to this and hopes that during this test run the question of the unpredictability of such an action and the usage of the room can be clarified.


San Keller was born in Berne in 1971. He completed his studies at the Hochschule der Künste in Zurich, where he now lives and works. Among his most recent solo exhibitions are R S - K P R S G B at the Neuer Kunstverein Giessen (2009), Show Show at the Centre Pasquart, Biel (2008), Concept and Commerce at the Maes & Matthys Gallery, Antwerp and Clever and Smart at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (both 2007). San Keller participated in several group exhibitions including Our Subject Is You at the Weather Spoon Art Museum, Greensboro, Eine bessere Welt at the Bonner Kunstverein (beide 2009), Shifting Identites at the Kunsthaus Zürich (2008), Wenn Handlungen Form werden (2007/08) at the Neues Museum Nürnberg and The Go-Between at the De Appel, Amsterdam (2007).


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