Prem Krishnamurthy’s talk “Double Agency” addressed the speaker’s two primary roles: a founder of the design firm Project Projects (with Adam Michaels) and director and curator of P!—an interdisciplinary curatorial space that he described as a “mom-and-pop kunsthalle”—on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Project Projects has a critical and conceptual relationship to graphic design, Krishnamurthy said, that includes curatorial and editorial roles, but with respect to the traditional worker/client relationship. His goal is to produce design that is porous rather than unidirectional, working with existing materials and ideas instead of starting new with each project.
Artists get gentrified out of the neighborhoods they’ve rescued. Can real-estate professionals and activists be hired or made available to advise artists? Can mortgages or loans be made available to make ownership possible? Is the dispersal that gentrification creates necessarily bad, or can it be renewing?
Back at A.I.R. again, there was at last an exception to panel chaos, perhaps because only two panelists—Marcia Tucker and Barbara Haskell, both of them Whitney curators—showed up. With Mary Beth Edelson moderating, their talk was focused. “Changing and Stabilizing Women’s Art from the Curator’s View” was the title, but discussion was about the woes of the curator.
“Exhibiting Experiments,” the first session of “Exhibit A: Authorship on Display,” comprised two graduate students and a fresh PhD recipient and was moderated by Grant Johnson, a doctoral student in art history at the Graduate Center. Each speaker presented research on a single case study: unrealized projects by the Swiss curator Harald Szeemann and two group exhibitions from the 1960s, Dylaby at the Stedelijk Museum and Art by Telephone at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Boris Groys presented a keynote address called “The Museum as Gesamkunstwerk” to kick off a daylong conference, “Exhibit A: Authorship on Display,” that explored historical and contemporary approaches to organizing exhibitions. His accent made it difficult for me to concentrate, and he repeatedly chuckled at what seemed like minor disciplinary quibbles between he and other theorists. He relayed that, according to the nineteenth-century composer Richard Wagner, “the artist of the future must be radically indifferent” and boldly claimed that “dictatorship is a curatorial project” and documentation of it supplies nostalgia for the ephemeral event.
“People have lost faith in traditional democracy,” said the Belgian political theorist Chantal Mouffe. “They have a vote but not a voice.” But rather than call for revolution during her talk at Columbia University, she emphasized the need for better, more inclusive representation within institutions of power, such as when which leaders “come to power through election in order to implement a set of radical reforms.”
“It’s not what you know but who you know that counts” so goes the saying, which you’ve heard so many times that it’s basically become truth. But why? Among those who have investigated the issue—which sociologists call social capital—is Mark Ebers, a professor of business administration, corporate development, and organization at the University of Cologne. During a recent talk at New York University, he attempted to explain what social capital is, how it works, and what its effects are. Basically, Ebers stated, social capital is resources gained from networks—an incredibly vague, nebulous definition that begged for explanation.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about biennials,” mused the artist Michelle Grabner, seemingly without irony. No kidding—she’s one of three curators of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, which opened to the public on the day of this panel, held at the Armory Show. “Here and Now: Biennials in the Twenty-First Century,” moderated by the curator and scholar Lynne Cooke, assessed not so much the current state of biennials—of which the Whitney’s signature exhibition is a leading example—but rather demonstrated how she and two other panelists have shaken off what some call “biennial fatigue” to reinvent the form and scope of these large-scale, super-hyped exhibitions that take place around the world every two, three, or more years.
The question “How the Market Gives Form to Art” is one I ask not at all cynically. I think it’s the question of the ’80s and a difficult one to answer. My premise is that the drastic change in the art market over the last twenty years has effected a change in the condition of the artist as modernism defined it, that is, as outsider. The artist’s life is still difficult, the speculative nature of his or her work remains the same, generating insecurity and so providing a continuum with earlier times. However, today, opportunities are far more numerous than they were two decades ago and this seems to have reduced the artist’s identification with the marginal.
If a bomb had dropped on the building at 1 East 78th Street in Manhattan, the world of modern and contemporary art history would have lost its most respected and erudite scholars. KIDDING! A bomb wouldn’t even have been necessary, as the speakers and audience members who gathered for a workshop called “Is Contemporary Art History” are perfectly capable of imploding on their own.