Naming a Practice

This anthology documents a major seminar on curating involving twenty-three participants as well as the organizing committee of Daina Augaitis, Lorne Falk, Sylvie Fortin, Bruce Grenville, Tom Hill and Peter White. The book includes papers by independent curators, artists/curators, curators for artist-run and commercial spaces, directors of major institutions, critics and academics, and contains portions of the discussions and commentaries by the organizers.

Scott Watson contextualizes the anthology by focusing on the utopianism of late-modern avant-garde practice. In the first of four thematic chapters, “Local Knowledge/New Internationalism,” the debate circles around notions of “community,” emphasizing the need for a “critically located” curatorial practice. In the second, “Methodologies,” the essays show how the practical aspects of curating are affected by the changing cultural environment. In considering Habermas’ concept of the “public sphere,” Renee Baert draws attention to the “provisionality” of curatorial practice and introduces the curator as “desiring subject.” “Negotiations” focuses on community involvement in the arts through public intervention, interdisciplinary collaboration and artist/curator co-authorship. And in the fourth chapter, “Ethics,” participants consider curatorial responsibility in light of the ethical crisis of postmodern relativism. “Curatorial agency” is the primary concept through which the relations between artist/curator/institution are questioned. In describing the “performative moves” of curating, Jennifer Fisher outlines a curatorial ethic of “affective investment” focusing on “experiential aesthetics” and “care.” Everlyn Nicodemus’ and Keith Wallace’s essays emphasize the curator’s responsibility to the artistic discourses inscribed in the works.

Naming a Practice provides a useful reference for considering the issues and concerns that have influenced and continue to affect curatorial practice. What is often a highly technical and specialized discourse is now in a readily accessible format. J. S.

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