I began this archival/curatorial project in July of 2015 and will continue adding narratives through the end of the year. The support and feedback has been unbelievable, thank you all!
Below are links to the first 9 “12″ narratives (July-September)
Chicago: Mighty, Lord. : explores the Black Power Movement in Chicago and the roles of the Blackstone Rangers and the Conservative Vice Lords (C.V.L.) during the 60s-70s through the photography of Robert Sengstacke.
Nabokov frequently voiced annoyance with scientists and science-writers not attributing discovery – not acknowledging the person who discovered and named a butterfly species. Therein lies a broader, and rather timely, lament about our culture’s failure to honor discovery as a creative act and a subset of scholarship – such a scientist, after all, doesn’t invent a species, for it already exists in nature, but discovers it, names it, and contextualizes it in the canon of natural history. It is no coincidence that Nabokov’s own role at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology was that of curator, for this is the task of the curator – to describe, arrange, and contextualize what already exists in such a way as to shed new light on its meaning, to discover and un-cover its significance and place in the canon of ideas.
Embedded in this act is also a lineage of discovery, similar to the “links in a chain” metaphor Pete Seeger used for creativity: I learned of Nabokov’s pet peeve about discovery thanks to Stephen Jay Gould – perhaps the greatest curator of scientific ideas the world has ever known, the greatest contextualizer of such ideas in the popular imagination – and you learned of it via me, and the person you tell about this will learn of it via you. All of us are links in the evolutionary chain of ideas, much like each butterfly species discovered is a link in the evolutionary chain of natural history. This is why Richard Dawkins, in coining the word meme, used a metaphor from evolutionary biology to describe how ideas spread: “Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain.”
A decent photograph of the sun looks similar to any other decent photograph of the sun: a pale circle with a livid red or blue sky around it. There are hundreds of thousands of such photographs online, and in the daily contest for “likes” they are close to a sure thing: easy to shoot, fun to look at, a reliable dose of awe. The American artist Penelope Umbrico downloads such photos of the sun from Flickr — she favors sunsets in particular — and then crops and prints them, assembling them into an enormous array. A typical installation may contain 2,500 photographs, organized into a rectangular mural. It is the same sun, photographed repeatedly in the same way, by a large cast of photographers, few of whom are individually remarkable as artists and none of whom are credited. But, with Umbrico’s intervention, the cumulative effect of their images literally dazzles: the sun, the sun, the sun, the sun, in row upon brilliant row.
If you look close, you can see this isn’t a digital mosaic — it’s all printed out and stuck together with tape, which makes me like it more:
Project by Rosi Grillmair automates the art curation process with a bot and the artsy recommendation dataset:
exhy is based on the huge database of artsy.net – an online art gallery. More than 15.000 artist profiles are part of it and they are all linked by the logic of the Art Genome Project. The
project is growing with every user interaction on artsy.net which is taken in account to improve the algorithm.
The artsy.net art recommendation system tries to define the users’ taste in art and suggests works they
might like. Each work of art is described by characteristics. Exhy
filters similar works by characteristics and generates a list of
artworks. To compare the process with artsy.net browsing, as soon as exhy landed on the site of a linked artwork, it jumps to the next most similar one.
The list of featured artists, title and exhibition text are generated by using the information collected during this process.
Everything we think we are, it seems, can be predicted, the probabilities sifted – and the chances are that what we do will fall inside the bell curve of predicted behaviour… Facebook curates what the folks who use it see first.
In contrast … what I and other “experts” offer is surprise. Many of us are strays from the herd. We artists are the antennae of the society, Ezra Pound once said.
While the wisdom of crowds has been a popular digirati meme, sometimes the outlier – or a small group of them – is the one who has taken the time to find a better way or to try something new, to take a risk on something surprising. In some ways, we ensure the survival of the soul.
After a highly successful music career during which he produced Don McLean’s American Pie, Ed Freeman returned to his original love of photography. While driving around southern Californian deserts to photograph landscapes, he was struck by the beauty of the desolate buildings he passed on the way.
I wanted to appreciate these old, falling-apart buildings that no one pays any attention to. So I photographed them as if they were the most important thing on Earth.
I’m going back to school in the fall as training to become a museum curator. After much internal debate and asking friends on social media, I’ve decided to start a gofundme campaign to help raise money for tuition and living expenses.
Here’s my story:
From fall 2010 to early 2014 I had the great good fortune to be living in London, England, where I received an MA in Film Studies, met the love of my life, got a cat, wrote a book (see photo above), helped curate an exhibition, made a lot of great friends and contacts, and started building a life. And then my post-study work visa expired, and because my place of work was unable to offer sponsorship, I had to leave it all behind and move home to California.
Needless to say it was difficult. My boyfriend Robbie and I hoped that I would be able to go back to the UK last fall on an unmarried partnership visa - we had been together for the required two years - but because we had only lived together for one year, he was unable to sponsor me. So for the past year I’ve been thinking of how I could go back and resume my life in London.
The path of least resistance is to go back to school, and this actually turns out to be a great opportunity for me. Back in 2013 I was given an internship in the photographs department at the National Portrait Gallery, and got to co-curate a photography exhibition about my favorite actress, Vivien Leigh. That experience was a wake-up call for me. I felt like I’d finally found a line of work where I could combine my loves of writing and archival research, and present those in a public facing way. I felt like I was “at home” in that environment. But getting in to the museum field is tough these days without a museum studies or archiving degree.
Here’s the good news: I applied for and have been accepted into the Museum Studies MA program at University College London, one of the most prestigious courses of its kind in the UK. They even offer a work placement in the second semester (just the kind of thing I was looking for)! I’ve accepted the offer, and am heading off in a few months.
Here’s the catch: As a non-UK and non-EU national, I have to pay overseas tuition, which for this one-year course is £17,000 (roughly $26,000), not including living expenses. I currently have a full-time job, some savings, some projects in the pipeline. I will also be taking out a loan, and have applied for a scholarship through the university. However, this combined is not quite enough to attend the course and be able to get by in the city.
After much internal debate, as well as running the idea by friends on social media, I’ve decided to create this crowdfunding page to ask for your help. The amount you see to your right reflects the dollar equivalent of the scholarship I applied for through UCL (£10,000). I should know whether I’m a recipient or not by the end of June. But I’m not holding my breath. $15,000 is a lot of money, and I don’t expect to raise that much. However, any money raised here will go toward tuition and expenses like food, transportation and rent (and probably cat litter and treats).
I see this journey as one that has the potential to be mutually beneficial to many in the long run. Please consider making a donation to help me get back to Robbie and Lulu (the cat mentioned above), and to help me pursue my career as a museum curator. Every little bit helps, even if it’s just a reblog to spread the word.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
I think a good curator is like a good chef. They understand the city’s needs – and fulfill and challenge them. How do curators and artists work with each other? Ideally, it’s a collaboration in which one inspires and challenges the other. The best thing a curator can do is elicit the response, “I didn’t know you could do that,” from the public. The worst thing is to present a show that is no longer relevant.
“Today there are millions of people making stuff and putting it into the world: that’s become part of our identity, and it shouldn’t be limited to people who fancy themselves writers, or who are particularly witty or talented: curation is a new, more accessible way to express yourself.” — David Karp (david), Tumblr CEO and founder
Attention is neither monopolized nor homogenized. The exhibition is a very democratic and liberal ritual where the viewer decides the duration of his or her stay. There are, however, limits to the ritual of the exhibition.
If one looks at curatorial history, there are figures like Diaghilev, who invented his own way of doing this. He curated painting shows in the early 20th Century in Russian museums that would then tour through Europe. And then at a certain moment he felt that it was too limiting and too narrow; he wanted to go into other disciplines. But where could he go? He had to invent his own structure, which became the Ballets Russes. The Ballets Russes was like a migrating troupe, touring from city to city. And he collaborated with the greatest composers of his time like Stravinsky, and artists like Picasso. And his idea was that it would be a construct where he could pool all the knowledge and bring all the great practitioners of his time together to produce the ballet.
I think about exhibitions in a similar way. The exhibition is a great opportunity to bring it all together because it’s an experimental form; it’s not like a feature film, which has a prescribed duration. A film needs to be more or less 90 minutes; it’s difficult for the cinemas if it’s only 10 minutes or it’s 12 hours. Obviously, there are experiments where filmmakers break that form, but the exhibition has this amazing advantage: that it’s a ritual, it’s extremely public. There isn’t a prescribed time when people can visit it, or a prescribed length to their visit. They can visit it for a minute or for five hours or ten hours. There isn’t the sense that one has to visit it in a group; it can very often be a one-to-one experience. But still, it’s a one-to-one experience for millions of people. Within this sort of 21st Century ritual, the exhibition, there’s a great opportunity to bring all the disciplines together.
“There’s something about throwing up all those neat things that you find — all of those things that would be relegated to a folder on your desktop or your bookmarks in Firefox. Instead, you start putting that stuff up there. And before you know it, there’s something neat." — David Karp (david), Tumblr CEO and founder in 2008