cu•rate is a group exhibition currently showing at the Cass until 17th May. Its ambitious aim is to explore contemporary curatorial practice and the myriad of definitions of the curator’s role. With a collection of works from six artists – Dave Charlesworth, Holly Hendry, Cesare Pietroiusti and James Thurgood – “the negotiating role of inventor, coordinator and obsessor is embodied by artist, curator and audience.” The exhibition has been curated by Phoebe V. Bradford, Natalie Craven & Abigail Shamah; and is part of the MA Curating the Contemporary course run by Whitechapel Gallery & The CASS Faculty of Art and Design. LoVArts caught up with the cu•rators to find out more.
Please tell us about cu·rate, and how it was conceived?
The concept behind cu·rate came about through a unified interest in the developing interrelationships of creatives within curating, ultimately leading to research in the current expanded curatorial practice.
What are your roles as collaborative curators?
To discuss and debate every aspect of the exhibition; the selection of artists, the display, the accompanying written work and the public programme.
Curating an exhibition on curation? Was this challenging and how different or similar was your approach and aims compared to curating a show for an artist. (a retrospective exhibition maybe?)
The exhibition focuses on artist, curator and audience as the three fundamental roles which we believe make a successful show.
Prior to the opening, we received comments on our social media which questioned the exhibition’s intentions, jumping to the conclusion that the show was only looking to put the spotlight on curators. Our exhibition is as much about the artist as it is about the curator. It is also about the audience who complete the exhibition by contributing their time and conversation.
Unlike a retrospective where all the work already exists, the majority of the works on display in cu·rate are new commissions. These works were formed out of an ongoing relationship between ourselves and the artists who have reimagined past work specifically for the exhibition.
Over the past few years there has been an influx in galleries exhibiting shows and artwork solely for online viewing; the most notable example, Paynes and Borthwick Gallery. If the trajectory for exhibiting artwork online grows, would the curator’s role need to adapt and evolve?
The role of curator has already evolved, this is exactly what cu·rate is exploring. We have been approached ourselves by an online gallery who are interested in working with us. The idea of the digital is a growing aspect in galleries today. Our exhibition started online through our social media presence, several months before the show opened. This is how we’ve been promoting and discussing the exhibition, and also how we have advertised our public programme which focuses on the future role of curating. A part of this public programme was an artist talk we hosted by Cesare Pietroiusti who described the curator as a ‘circular leader’.
Finally, what advice would you give to emerging curators?
Do everything. Go to every talk, every event, every Private View. Even though we have only been a part of the London art scene for two years, we already feel integrated through actively engaging in events and exhibitions. You have to be willing to talk to people and have a constant curiosity for contemporary art.