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ClaireDoherty CuratingWrongPlaces OrWhereHaveAllthePenguinsGone?

ClaireDoherty,CuratingWrongPlacesOrWhereHaveAllthePenguinsGone, PaulONeill,ed.,Curatingx24.Amsterdam:DeAppel(forthcoming)

BertholdLubetkins1930spenguinpoolatLondonZoohasbeendesertedbyits inhabitants,intheinterestsofthepenguinsstrainedmusclescausedbythedouble helixstructure.Pottedplants,barkchippings,branches,murkywaterandpondweed havebeensubstituted,effectingthesitestransformationintoanalligatorpool.British archaeologistAndyShaplandremarks,despitethebesteffortsoftheZookeepers,this


1 wasabuildinginwhichpenguinesswasproduced.

Therhetoricofplacehasbecometherallyingcryforthecuratoroftheinternational scatteredsiteexhibitionorbiennial.In2004,theInternationalcomponentofthe LiverpoolBiennialprofessedtoaddressandempowerplaceashavingvalue, commissioningsome48artiststoproducenewworksforthecity.Thatsameyear, DonostiaSanSebastianwasconceivedasaprivilegedsocialsiteandcatalytictrigger forManifesta5,whilstthisyeartheGwangjuBiennalepurportstoprovidean


2 impetustothecityofGwangjutoberebornasageographicalmetaphor. Most

notableofrecentplacedbasedcuratorialassertionswasCharlesEscheandVasif
th Kortunsopeninggambitforthe9 IstanbulBiennialin2005,inwhichtheyproposed

anexhibitionstructurethatfoldsoutofandrevealsitscontextthecityofIstanbul,by commissioningartiststorespondbothtotheurbanlocationandtheimaginative
3 chargethatthiscityrepresentsfortheworld.

EscheandKortunsbiennialsignalledapervasiveshiftincuratorialpracticeawayfrom, whatDeclanMcGonaglehastermed,wideandshallow[engagement]ratherthan
4 narrowanddeepsightseeingratherthaninsight. stanbulemergedthrougha

discursiveprocessofshorttermresidenciesandprojectswhichsoughttoembed visitingartistsandartworkswithinthecity.Itcreatedintersectionsbetweenlocaland international,andeschewedlocationswhichmightendorseanostalgicorexoticviewof thecity.Furthermore,withtheintegrationofcriticalplatformswithintheresulting exhibitioncomprisingthenowubiquitousbiennialreadingzones,workshops,talks seriesandhomegrownjournalsthecuratorsestablishedactiveparticipationasakey componentofthepublicmanifestationofthebiennial,notjustpartoftheresearch process. EscheandKortunsconceptcanbeseenasaretorttotheaccusationthatbiennials operatemerelyasstopoversontheinternationalcircuitforthefrequentflyertribeof artistsandartcognoscentithatbiennialshavelittleornolastingimpactonthe inhabitantsorculturallifeoftheirhostcities.Insteadthecocuratorsofstanbul positedengagementwiththecityastheprimarymotivatingforcefortheirexhibition

(albeitstillwithinthesignifyingsystemoftheglobalarteconomy).stanbul,they maintained,asametaphor,asaprediction,asalivedreality,andaninspirationhas manystoriestotellandtheBiennialwillattempttotapdirectlyintothisrichhistoryand


5 possibility.

Thepredominanceofplaceasthesubjectforcuratorialinitiativesofthiskindhas emergedfromthe convergenceofthreecommissioningmodels:thescatteredsite internationalexhibitionwhichprecededtherecentswellofbiennials,governedbythe organisingprincipleofplace(fromTyneInternationalandTSWAintheUKto Skulptur.ProjekteMnsterandthepublicartprojectsofMaryJaneJacobin Charleston,ChicagoandAtlanta)theresearchbasedprojectprogramme(Locus+, Casco,Artangel)andtheresidencymodelwithitsconcentrationonengagement, processandencounter.Locationseemstoofferasuitablyboundedspaceinwhich thesecommissioningmodelscancometogetherandconsequentlymeaningis producedthroughresearchbasedprojectsandresponsiveprogrammingincontext. Overtenyearsago,BruceW.Ferguson,ReesaGreenbergandSandyNairne identifiedtheharnessingofthiscuratorialstrategyforaregionseconomicandpolitical gainintheirarticleMappingInternationalExhibitions, Thelocaleofanexhibitionisembracedinitstitleasarhetoricalmanoeuvreto appropriateculturalstatus,themeaningsandthemythsthatattendthecollective
6 imaginationattachedtothecity,regionorcountrynamed

Sincethemid1990s,thecontextspecificinternationalexhibitionhasbecomealliedto urbanregenerationandculturaltourism,whereby theculturaleventbecomesanideal cipherforthemeetingofinternationalandlocalhenceanythematictitletendstobe supersededbythecitysnamefollowedbythewordbiennialorinternationalandin somecases,asinstanbul,areoneandthesame.Thedilemmasofculturaltourism versuscriticalitynotwithstanding,thepromotionofplaceasbothsubjectandsitefor internationalexhibitionsalsorunstheriskofsubjugatingarttoanotionofplacethatis outofdate. Consideringtheprogressivenotionsofplaceadvancedbygeographerssuchas DoreenMasseyandDavidHarveyintheearly1990s, howcancuratorssupportartisticengagementswithplaceswhichcanbeseen
7 tobeconstructedoutofaparticularconstellationofsocialrelations?

Ifwesubscribetoanotionofplaceasanintersectionofsocial,economicand politicalrelations,ratherthanaboundedgeographiclocation,whereandhow doesartisticengagementwiththecontextoftheexhibitionstart?

Howdosuchworkscoalescetoformameaningfulexhibitionforthebiennial visitorwhentheexperienceofplaceitselfisaneventinprogress?

Doestheemphasisonengagementleadtotheprivilegingofprocessbased, participatoryprojectsovermateriality?

Andfurthermore,howdocontextspecificprojectsandartworksbecome meaningfuloutsidethesignifyingcontextoftheexhibition?

Toconsiderthesequestions,wemightlooktotheetymologyofthetermcuratorand speculatethatthesamedutyofcarebornebythecustodianofthecollection,governs thecuratorofthecontextspecificinternationalexhibition.Theirresponsibilitiesmight bebrokendownintotwoprimaryobjectives:

Tosupporttheartisttoproduceaprocess,projectorworkthatrespondsto placeasamutableconcept,withdueconsiderationtothecontextofthegroup dynamicthatistruetotheartistspractice,butwhichmovesbeyonda replicationofpreviousworkthateventuallymayalsooperateoutsidethe originatingcontext

Tosupportandengenderencountersrecruiting participants,engaging viewers,interlocutorsandcollaboratorstoexperiencetheprojectsandworksas autonomoussignificationswithinthelogicofanexhibitionprovoking opportunitiesfornewunderstandingsandresponsestocontextandinitiating potentialoutcomesbeyondtheeventexhibition.

Incontrasttotheresponsibilitiesofthecuratorproduceroftheartist/conceptledsolo project,thecuratorofthecontextspecificinternationalexhibitionhastoengagewitha progressivenotionofplacepriortotheselectionofartists.Thecomponentsofthe biennialshorttermresidencies,researchbasedinvestigations,scatteredsitesand distributionmechanisms,interdisciplinarycollaborations,urbaninterventionsand criticalplatformsideallyfollowfromarigorousconsiderationofthebasisofthe invitationplaceasanintersectionofmappedlocation,urbanmythology,power dynamicsandsocialinteraction.

Oneofthemostusefulandcogentlyarguednewtheorisationsofplaceinrelationtothe commissioningandproductionofcontemporaryartisMiwonKwonsOnePlaceAfter Another:SiteSpecificArtandLocationalIdentity.Kwonsstudyisparticularlypertinent foraconsiderationofcuratorialresponsibilityinplace.Sheraisessignificantquestions aboutthemotivatingfactorsforparticipatoryprojects,critiquingtheessentialisingof siteandcommunityincontextspecificprojects. Kwontracesagenealogyofsitespecificitythroughthe70sand80sandsuggeststhat, asartistsandcuratorshavebecomeinformedbyabroaderrangeofdisciplines (includinganthropology,sociology,literarycriticism,psychology,naturalandcultural histories,architectureandurbanism,politicaltheoryandphilosophy),soour understandingofsitehasshiftedfromafixed,physicallocationtosomewhereor
8 somethingconstitutedthroughsocial,economic,culturalandpoliticalprocesses.

Giventhattheplacesofthebiennialhavebeenreconsideredaspointsofexchange andcollision,remadethroughintersectionsofsocial,economicandpoliticalrelations,it isnotsurprisingthatthepredominantformstoemergefromthesecontextspecific invitationsaresocial,spatialandinterdisciplinary. SpeculatingontheimpactofGillesDeleuzeandFlixGuattaristheoriesof deterritorializationandnomadism,Kwonarguesthatwithincreasedpressureto conceiveprojectswhichengagelocallybutspeakglobally,comesatendencyto essentializepotentialcommunitiesandtoconfinearttoasetagenda.Kwons argumentisdevelopedthroughacritiqueofNewGenrePublicArtinthe1990s(in particularCultureinAction),referringexplicitlytoHalFosterscriticalexaminationof theArtistasEthnographer.Fostercritiquesthepseudoanthropologicalintentof engagementswiththeethnographicparticipantobserverwhereby,theartistis typicallyanoutsiderwhohastheinstitutionallysanctionedauthoritytoengagethe localeintheproductionoftheir(self)representation,andwarns,[s]uchmappingmay thusconfirmratherthancontesttheauthorityofmapperoversiteinawaythatreduces
9 thedesiredexchangeofdialogicalfieldwork. Writinginthemid1990s,Fostersubmits

artistssuchasCleggandGuttmannandcuratorialprojectssuchasCultureinAction, butwemightwellconsiderrecentbiennialprojectssuchasEskoMnnikksportraits oftheresidentsofAltbridgeParkinLiverpool(2004)orBojanSarcevicsWorkers FavouriteClothesWornWhileS/heWorked,anexperimentinBerlinwhichgaugedthe behaviourofworkersonandoffduty(2004).Theconsiderationhereisnotsimplyhow theartistsandcommissioningbiennialsmayhave delimitedtheparticipants,butalso howthenatureofthecollaborativerelationshipmayhavebeenpredetermined.

Kwonsrejoinderistosuggestthatcommunitybasedartmightbeapproachedasa projectiveenterprise,ratherthanadescriptiveoneandthatprojectsshouldunsettle,
10 activateandraisequestions. Onemighttheorisetheavantgardestruggle,she

suggests,asakindofspatialpolitics,topressurethedefinitionandlegitimationofart
11 bylocatingitelsewhere,inplacesotherthanwhereitbelongs. Hence,theintention

touncoverlosthistories,torevealwhatisunknowntoacitysinhabitants,isessentially negated.Beingsituated,embedded,tofeelthatyoubelongoratleastknowaplaceis notnecessarilyofartisticmerit.Thisaestheticsofthewrongplaceisclosetothe playful,psychogeographicalnatureoftheSituationistdriveandcanbedetectedin recentbiennialprojectssuchasTheOfficeofAlternativeUrbanPlanninginSan SebastianduringManifesta5andNedkoSolakovsArt&Life(InMyPartoftheWorld) inIstanbul.Theseareinterventionistgestures,remedialactionsandshiftsinthestatus quo,whichresisttherepresentative/documentarytendency. KwonsargumenthasbeendevelopedrecentlybyLondonbasedartcriticClaire Bishop(withoutspecificreferencetothebiennial)whohassuggestedthatthesocial turnincontemporaryarthaspromptedanethicalturninartcriticism.CitingJeremy DellerandPhilCollinsasexemplars,Bishopsuggests, Thebestcollaborativepracticesofthepasttenyearsaddressthecontradictory pullbetweenautonomyandsocialintervention,andreflectonthisantinomyboth
12 inthestructureoftheworkandintheconditionsofitsreception.

GrantH.Kesterwouldarguethatbypressingforworkwhichresists(asBishop suggests)truthfulnessandeducationalefficacyinfavourofconfrontingdarker,more painfullycomplicatedconsiderations,wewouldmisstheopportunityforartprojects whichengageinactsofsolidarity.Kesterarguesforadialogicalorconversationalart whichallowstheviewertospeakbacktotheartistincertainways,andinwhichthis


13 replybecomesineffectapartoftheworkitself.

KesterdevelopsthisargumentandhisresponsetoMiwonKwonscontributioninhis bookConversationPieces:CommunityandCommunicationinModernArt.HereKester suggeststhatperhapsartistscanalsoworkfromapositionofsolidarityratherthan simplyasprovocateurs,andthattheeffectivenessofthissolidaritydependsontheir sensitivitytolocalpoliticaldynamics,historiesandculturesandthepossibilityofa


14 sustainedrelationshipwithparticipants.

Thus,asparticipant,viewer,collaboratorandclienthavebecomekeyrolesforthe audiencesofthebiennial,sothenatureofengagementhasbecomeincreasinglyunder scrutinyleadingtoatensionbetweentheunsettling,provocativeandinterventionist andthecomplicit,strategicandcollaborative.Theunravellingofthisdebateinrecent years(complicatedsomewhatbyapervasivemisreadingofNicolasBourriauds RelationalAestheticsandtheconsequentconfusionofrelationalwithsocial engagement)hasprovidedaplatformforthecriticalappraisalofsociallyengagedand participatoryartworksinthecontextspecificbiennial.Consequently,curatorial initiativeswhichseektoengendersuchinteractionsmustbegintounpackthe terminologiesweusetodistinguishoneprojectfromeachother.Forexample,those artistswhoinviteparticipation,oftenthroughacomplicitengagementwiththeirsubject, butwhoessentiallyremainthesignatoriesoftheirwork(ThomasHirschhorn,Phil Collins,SantiagoSierra),fromthosewhothoseembedthemselveswithinthesocial fabricofacitythroughintervention(FrancisAls, MinervaCuevas,RomanOndk), fromthosewhoworkcollaborativelyeffectingakindofsocialsculpture(Superflex, Wochenklasur).So,tospeakofcontextasametaphor,predictionandlivedreality necessitateslessanemphasisontheethicsofartisticengagementthanona differentiationbetweentypesofengagementandthepotentialforresonanceinthe resultingexhibitionbeyondmetaphor,predictionorlivedreality. Andthisleadsustoconsiderthequestionofqualityandsignificance.Theunstated aimofanycuratorialendeavouristoproduceasituationlikenoother.Everybiennial propositioncanbeseenasaresponsetoitspeersanditsprecedents.Significanceis judgedagainstcultural,politicalandeconomicagendasclaimsaremadefor audiencefigures,sustainability,consumertargets,graduateretention,economic benefit,thelistgoeson...Butwhatifwejudgetheresultingexhibitionsandprojects againstthestatedaimstoaddressandempowerplaceashavingvalue,toconceive thecityasaprivilegedsocialsiteandcatalytictrigger,torespondbothtotheurban locationandtheimaginativechargethatthiscityrepresentsfortheworld,howdothe workswhichresultfromtheseambitious,complexandsophisticatedcuratorial methodologiesandstructuresactuallyrespondtoplaceanddotheyresultinsignificant andsurprisingencounters? LookingatthecriticalresponsestotheLiverpoolBiennialin2004andstanbulin 2005,itappearsthatstanbulemergedasacriticalsuccessthoughattractedfewer numbersofpeople.Criticsheraldedthelatterforitsarticulationofpleasureand politics,aconfidentworldviewandunpretentioussenseoflocalplace,whilst

responsestotheLiverpoolBiennialweretemperedbytheallegeddegreeof parochialismandarepetitiveriffing(orevenanunreflectivecapitalization)oncertain
15 politicallyorculturallychargedepisodesfromthecityshistory. Thoughthe

exhibitionsdivergedfromoneanotherinselected sitesandaccompanying programmes,bothweredevelopedthroughadialoguebetweenlocalandinternational curators.ArtistsintheLiverpoolInternational04wereselectedbyfourcurator researchersSabineBreitwieser,YuYeonKim,CuauhtmocMedinaandApinan Poshyanandaandsupportedtoproducenewartworksbyahometeamofcuratorsat TateLiverpool,FACT,BluecoatandOpenEyeGallerywhilstIstanbulemergedfroma dialoguebetweenEindhovenbasedEscheandIstanbulbasedKortun. Whatmaydistinguishcriticallyacclaimedbiennialsfromthemorequasi anthropologicalistheircapacitytoallowprojectstoemergeovertimeindifferent guisesindialoguewithexistingworksandcontexts.Ifweweretoconsidersomeofthe mostsignificantartprojectstorespondtoplaceofthepastfiveyears,amongthem JeremyDellersTheBattleofOrgreave(2001),WhenFaithMovesMountains(2002) byFrancisAlsandJavierTellezsOneFlewOvertheVoidforInsite_05,wewould seethattheyaremultifaceted,temporaryanddurationalexperientialandhighlyvisual interdisciplinaryinvolvingnotonlyotherartforms,butotherfieldsofknowledgeand
16 lastly,spectacularlyengaging. Theseprojectseffectasenseofthewrongplaceby

shiftingthestatusquo,byinterveninginthebordered,prescribedspacesoflocation andconsequently,whenthe filmsofallthreeprojectshavecirculatedthroughtheart economy,thesedislocationshavebeenmeaningfulbeyondthespecificsofLima, OrgreaveandTijuana/SanDiego. Iremainsomewhatsuspiciousaboutwhethertheinternationalscatteredsiteexhibition isthemostappropriatecontextinwhichtoconsiderplacethroughthecommissioning ofnewartworks.Recenthistoryhasshownthatthecuratorialemphasisonthecityas researchsubject,interlocutor,socialcontextandphysicalsitemayleadtoexhibitions whicharetoointerpretative,tooquasianthropologicalincharacter.Mostsignificant placeresponsiveorcontextspecificprojects,whethertheyunsettleandprovokea senseofthewrongplaceorworkcollaborativelytoeffectsocialchange,need flexible timeframesandtendtoemergefromdifferentkindsofmotivationthanagroup exhibitionrationale.Thatsaidthechallengetoproduceasituationinwhichsuch projectsmightoccurindialoguewithoneanother, alongwithexistinghistoricaland contemporaryworks,inthecontextofthedynamicintersectionsofplaceisstillhardto resist.

ClaireDoherty.Thepersonusingtheresearchresourceonlinemayview,reproduce orstorecopiesofthispaperprovidingtheinformationisonlyfortheirindividualuse,andisnot usedforcommercialpurposes.Anycopiesofthispaper,inwholeorinpart,mustincludethe copyrightnoticeaboveandthecustomarybibliographiccitationgivenonthefrontpageofthispaper.


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