The Curator’s Lot

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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.

Messages, Signals, and Noise

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“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.

Suicide Solution

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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.

Curatorial Assistance

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“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.

An Almost Unimaginably Radical Act

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Unlike many of his colleagues, the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928–2007) embraced the term Conceptual art. And at a time when artists were abandoning the white cube to make work in the real world, the traditional gallery was for him the best place to show his art. In fact, in a 1969 interview with Patricia Norvell he said: “The gallery situation is, I think, a very good situation in that it’s an optimum way of showing things.”

New York, New York, New York

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What did this evening’s panelists—three artists who had moved to New York from across North America around the turn of the century—have in common? If you guessed a burning desire to find success—whether that be money, fame, or gallery representation, or just an audience for their work—you’d be wrong. The correct answer is couch surfing. All three artists, Noah Becker, Sue de Beer, and Ryan McNamara, none of whom is a native New Yorker, spent many nights crashing on their friends’ sofas without a place of their own.

Disembodied Experiences

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For “Dennis Oppenheim: Form – Energy – Concept,” Electronic Arts Intermix offered a special program of films from the early 1970s: selections from the artist’s Aspen Projects (1970–71), the rarely screened Disappear (1972), and two of his 2-Stage Transfer Drawings (both 1971). Transferred to DVD, the films were presented as double projections, as Dennis Oppenheim (1938–2011) was said to have exhibited his films and videos in this way or as dual-monitor installations.

Toward a Strategic Regionalism

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According to Annie Fletcher, curator at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the professor Irit Rogoff once wrote that “you can’t have a position without a location.” A location, Fletcher explained further, can be psychic, historical, and sexual. Despite this expanded denotation, geography and its larger concept, proximity, nevertheless remains a perceived obstacle that needs to be overcome. The second panel for the Museum as Hub Conference, “Choosing Your Neighbors,” aimed to cover partnerships among institutions from across the globe and to address concerns of provincialism.

Let’s Stall the Conversation

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“Is it possible to define a cogent code of ethics in art writing?” asked the promotional statement for this panel, presented by the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department at the School of Visual Arts. The answered offered by the giddy, often flustered moderator, Aimee Walleston, a graduate of the program, was something like “I think, um, I don’t know. It’s an interesting thing to think about!”

Istanbul, Not Constantinople

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Jens Hoffman began his talk, “Biennials and Curatorial Ambivalence,” by declaring that there are too many talks in New York. I wholeheartedly agree: our abundance of lectures, panels, conferences, and summits has ridiculously saturated the city’s intellectual landscape, and the pedagogical turn in contemporary art and its related disciplines has twisted itself into a knot.

 

IN TERMS OF

Reviews of lectures, panels, interviews, conferences, and other live speaking engagements in the visual arts.

 
Funding for In Term Of has been provided by the Arts Writers Grant Program.