The art world is ever-more international, with artists crossing borders and new global audiences demanding new ways of exhibiting and thinking about art. Who are the curators who are wrestling with this process, and what new ways of thinking about art will they come up with? To begin to answer these questions, BLOUIN ARTINFO has turned to its editors across the globe, asking them to profile curators who seem to be starting a new conversation. Below, we present Part One of this two-part series.
NAME: Anna Colin
WORKS WITH: Open School East (London), as curator and co-founder; independent curator
BACKGROUND: French-born Anna Colin first earned her stripes as a critic working for both print and radio before moving on to curating full-time in 2007, when she joined Gasworks as exhibition curator. During her three years in the South London non-profit organization, she staged exhibitions by the likes of Olivia Plender and Matthew Darbyshire, and gave first London solo shows to Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc and The Otolith Group (who went on to be nominated for the Turner Prize in 2010). During a short stint in Paris in 2011-2, Colin worked as associate director at Bétonsalon, and associate curator at la Maison Populaire in Montreuil, where she developed a project on the figure of the witch “as a metaphor for alterity,” she explains. Back in London, she co-founded (with Sarah McCrory, Laurence Taylor and Sam Thorne) Open School East, an art school and communal space slated to open its doors later this year.
ANNA COLIN ON CURATING: “I'd rather talk about the kind of art that made me become a curator, and since the word count is limited, I'll quote Claire Bishop's short but precise proposed definition of art 'as a form of experimental activity overlapping with the world.'”
— Coline Milliard
NAME: Travis Chamberlain
WORKS WITH: The New Museum (New York), as associate curator of performance
NOTABLE SHOWS: “NEA 4 in Residence + Performing Beyond Funding Limits,” May-June 2013; “Movement Research in Residence: Rethinking the Imprint of Judson Dance Theater Fifty Years Later,” September-December 2012; “Green Eyes,” January 2011 (at P.S. 122); "THEM AND NOW: Ishmael Houston-Jones with Chris Cochrane and Dennis Cooper," September – October 2010 “Replica,” a collaborative performance piece by Daniel Arsham, Jonah Bokaer, and Judith Sanchez Ruiz, December 2009
BACKGROUND: Unlike most curators at major visual arts institutions, Travis Chamberlain’s background is not in the visual arts, but in theater and contemporary performance. With stints as the artistic director of Galapagos Art Space, and as a curator at P.S. 122, he began producing shows like Schoolhouse Roxx that combined music, comedy, theater, dance, and performance art and tended to examine the nature of transgression as reflected in Western culture. In his role at the New Museum, Chamberlain oversees the Performance-in-Residence program in which artists are invited to do month-long residencies to investigate an idea, or help create a series of “contextualizing programs” around the process. Most recently, he invited the artists collectively known as NEA4 (Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller) — infamously defunded by the National Endowment for the Arts in the early 1990s due to their controversial nature of their works — to investigate the long-term impact of that experience on their careers as well as on the next generation of solo performers. The program resulted in performances like Finley’s buzzed-about installation “Sext Me if You Can,” for which she had visitors send her sexually explicit pictures of themselves, transforming them into works of visual art they could take home.
TRAVIS CHAMBERLAIN ON CURATING: “I do think of performance as art. I feel very strongly about the role that contemporary performing arts institutions play in this dynamic between museums and galleries, showcasing performance in general. Those institutions are dedicated to this art form. Museums are starting to look at performance and its history in an interesting way. It’s really important that museums are providing something that is useful and necessary to that community.”
FUTURE PROJECTS: Chamberlain is currently working with Johanna Burton to pull together a Fall Season around the concept of the “archive” as it relates to performance and the ephemeral arts — a nod to the iconic documentation of the early performance work of Chris Burden, whose survey opens at the New Museum in October.
NAME: Bassam El Baroni
WORKS WITH: international art festivals and biennials, as independent curator
NOTABLE SHOWS: “Cleotronica 08,” Festival for Media, Art, and Socio-Culture, Alexandria, Egypt, 2008; “OVERSCORE,” Manifesta 8, 2010; “When it Stops Dripping from the Ceiling (An Exhibition That Thinks About Edification),” Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, 2012
BACKGROUND: Known for cultivating the contemporary art scene in his hometown of Alexandria, Egypt, curator and art critic Bassam El Baroni recently left his directorship at the non-profit art space Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF), which he co-founded in 2005, to take on projects of a global scale. He is currently co-curating the Lofoten International Art Festival in Norway, slated to open September 2013, and he will also be the sole curator of the 2014 edition of eva International, Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art. Bassam regularly contributes texts and presents papers and is a PhD researcher at Goldsmiths’s Curatorial/Knowledge program in London.
BASSAM EL BARONI ON CURATING: “I spend a lot of time researching, preparing and reading, but then it’s very important to let initial thoughts or areas of research grow organically and live their natural cycle inside one’s mind and daily experience of life, to be thought, reconsidered, and rethought again until they have the ability to be something other than research or tool box concepts. I think curating is all that goes into the making real of ideas through the curator’s preparation and through the experience of the involved artists’ works. The constituting of a certain convincing and effective presence in space and time comes from a sense of being personally implicated and/or affected by something.”
FUTURE PROJECTS: 36th edition of eva International, Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art, in 2014.
NAME: Biljana Ciric
WORKS WITH: leading art institutions across China, as independent curator
NOTABLE SHOWS: “Fly,” a Yoko Ono retrospective at Ke Center for Contemporary Art and Guangdong Museum of Art (2007); a 30-year retrospective on art in Shanghai called “History in Making: Shanghai 1979-2009” (2009); and “Alternatives to Ritual” (2012-2013), wherein Chinese artists expressed their attitudes to institutions.
BILJANA CIRIC ON CURATING: “What curators do today for me is what Harald Szeemann beautifully explained years ago. An exhibition maker is an ‘administrator, amateur, author of introductions, librarian, manager and accountant, animator, conservator, financier, diplomat.’ Furthermore it’s someone who is always close to artists and learns from working with them, being with them.”
FUTURE PROJECTS: “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back — Us and Institution, Us as Institution” at the Times Museum, Guangzhou (just opened); “Tino Sehgal,” Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, September 2013
— Sam Gaskin
NAME: Shihoko Iida
WORKS WITH: Aichi Triennale 2013 (Nagoya), co-curator; independent curator
NOTABLE SHOWS: “Omnilogue: Journey to the West” (a series of co-curatorial projects organised by the Japan Foundation) at Lalit Kala Akademi Gallery No.1 & No.2, New Delhi in 2012; “Trace Elements: Spirit and Memory in Japanese and Australian Photomedia” (co-curated with Bec Dean, Associate Director at Performance Space, Sydney) at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in 2008 and Performance Space in 2009; “Rapt! 20 contemporary artists from Japan” (co-curated exhibition organised by The Japan Foundation) held across multiple cities in Australia in 2005-2006; and “Wolfgang Tillmans: Freischwimmer” at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in 2004.
BACKGROUND: In terms of artistic practice and contemporary art in general, Iida has a special interest in photographic media and multi-disciplinary practices. Her diverse involvement in co-curatorial projects also reflects a critical and professional interest in the idea of co-curation itself. After serving as a member of the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation from 1998-2009, where she helped to inaugurate its Art Gallery, Iida served as visiting curator at the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane from 2009-11, conducting extensive research on the evolution of the Asia-Pacific Triennial (APT) throughout its 20 year history. She has also worked in the wider Asia-Pacific region, engaging with questions of how multiple art histories of contemporary art and the notion of “contemporary art” itself have been contextualized within art institutions and Biennials in different cities.
SHIHOKO IIDA ON CURATING: “Curators should be attentive to what is going on around the world, as art is part of our society and our lives, not something isolated and exclusive. Curators of contemporary art in particular should take responsibility for contextualizing the artists of our time, engaging with society and its various communities.”
FUTURE PROJECTS: Sapporo International Art Festival 2014
— Darryl Jingwen Wee