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by Maja Ciric and Isin Onol

Can Curating be Taught?

Contributors: Lisa Boström, Hyunjoo Byeon, Övül Durmusoglu, Alhena Katsof, Natalie Hope O'Donnell, AndreaRoca, Alessandra Sandrolini, Adnan Yildiz


Educational Critique: How to swot Curating, panel discussion at Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique? 2010, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel. Photograph by Ann Cesteleyn.


The panel discussion Educational Critique: How to swot Curating took place as a part of the symposium Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique? on March27

in Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel. The goal of the discussion was to look at the increasing number of curating programmes and their aims, functions, roles, and effects within the globally evolving system of curatorial education, from the point of view of prospective curators who are attending or have recently completed these programmes.

Specialized educational programmes in curating and/or curatorial practice were not established within the educational system until very recently, leaving very few establishedcurators from an older generation who have studied it. Although both curating and curatorial practices imply interdisciplinarity in an institutional context, basic statistical researchshows that most curators from the "older” generation have a background in one discipline (art history, sociology, philosophy, or fine arts) and that they have emerged froman independent practice. The lack of a model that would lead towards professionalisation paradoxically allowed the older generation of curators towards establishing themselves asauthors in an unstructured interdisciplinary field, and by their own methods. The fact that an author emerges from a unique, individual experience makes curating and/or the curatorial difficult to be taught.

Nowadays, with an aim to establish a profession (in order to control it) educational programmes in both curating and curatorial practices are growing in number. Some of theseprogrammes concentrate on institutional curating, management, and law (Stockholm University; Royal College of Art, London) while others put greater emphasis on experimentalcurating (De Appel, Amsterdam; L'Ecole de Magasin, Grenoble). There are institutions (Goldsmiths University, London; De Appel, Amsterdam, Postgraduate Programme in CuratingZürich) which choose to bring a critical approach to the history of exhibitions and there are several programmes (De Appel, Amsterdam; L'Ecole de Magasin, Grenoble, Post-graduate Programme in Curating Zürich) that encourage collective curating. Then there are the instant curatorial programmes (ICI, New York) whose main goals are the development of a particular project and the establishment of a new network. There are various curatorial courses in the so called periphery that are adjusting the hegemonic curriculumfrom the West to their particular contexts (Nadal Center, India) or trying to stand for global curating in the biennial frame (International Course for Curators, Gwangju).

Ambivalent as they are, the curatorial and/or the curating programmes in general teach young curators (young as in new entrants in the field) the necessity of self-reflexivity,criticality, negotiation, and translation, as well as the fact that they only exist within the field of curatorial practice, a joint field in between the power field and the art field. Whatthese young curators do when they get into one of the programmes is a performance of an act of self-colonization with the existing curatorial discourse and its relation to both the art and the power field. They are taught how to write, act, and play, and they are informed about what has already been achieved in the field. So, the real function of thecuratorial and/or curating programmes is to introduce young curators into the curatorial field and immerse them in the curatorial discourse that consists of the theory of curating and thetheory of curators. The function of these programmes is to teach them the rules of the game, or not, and allow them to play their own game, depending on the politicalpositioning they will stand for once they are out of the "school." The unstructured ambivalent field still leaves some space for these new entrants to organize their own game. The more they establish themselves as authors by reacting, translating, and negotiating different ambivalences, the more they are able to make a difference in curatorial discourse.

Apart from the existing ambivalences of the curatorial field (interdisciplinarity; theory/ practice; various temporalities; various geopolitics; critique/criticality; different power relations;etc.), its transformation implies the ongoing manifestation of the educational turn, which implies a wider range of concerns, agendas, and methods, and therefore allows the emergenceof multi-vocal and multiple perspectives. The educational turn stands for an education that will not be a response to crisis, but part of its ongoing complexity.1 In other words, onewhich is not reacting to realities, but producing them. The educational turn is concerned with the potentiality and actualization; education is the site that is shifting away from aculture of emergency to one of urgency. Being such, the educational turn encourages the journey, not the destination and encourages curating as a constant process of rediscovery.2

If the educational turn means that a range of concerns, agendas, methods, and subjects are at stake, then the field is constantly expanded by its educational programmes. Knowledge production becomes multifocal and, by creating an awareness of the educational turn, curating and/or curatorial programmes capture the dynamics of a turn. Curatorialeducation, as complex as it is, is mainly centered within the dynamic (constantly changing) landscape of the society and the art world. The more ambivalences a curatorial study programme provides, the more accurate it is because it focuses on the unlimited and, paradoxically, inspires one for actionand production.

While the interdisciplinary character makes it harder to teach, curating and/or curatorial programmes that internalize institutional critique are beneficial because they act as platforms capable of executing various potentials within their networks. They act ascommunities, a specific context for reflection in which different characters, identities, and geopolitics meet or collide, embrace, orignore each other. By exposing themselves in the small-scale and specific context, participants have a chance to modify or confirmtheir positions. If participants are strong, self-confident authors, their participation into the curatorial and/or curating programmes legitimate their action.

No matter how a particular programme insists on diversity and specific notions of selection, choice and labelling are interlinked to thefield of power. However, the main benefit of a curatorial education is the fact that by the ambivalences of the curatorial discourse itintroduces, its logics of selection, choice, and labelling distort the existing power field from an epistemological standpoint.

The real players in the field are those capable of understanding both the legacy of curatorial discourse and its unstructuredcomplexities, grasping different and often controversial stimulus. Education can help them to understand these complexities, but cannot pave the road of their career. That is something that is a function of the authors themselves.

These authors fall in the category of young curators—young standing for being new entrants in the curatorial field. They would not havemade it to the panel discussion Educational Critique: How to swot Curating if they had not attend some of the curating and/orcuratorial training programmes. Hereby is the evidence of the plurality of positions and approaches that new entrants in the fieldembody:

Hyunjoo Byeon, originally from South Korea but currently based in London, completed her MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths Collegein London. As a person who had a chance to experience the system in Asia, Hyunjoo indicated the western hegemony within the field. She also argued that curating could not be taught:

My answer to the main question at this panel discussion "Can curating can be taught?" is "no." a gradual change in the perception of the role of curator turning away from the predominant notion of the professional museum curator occurred in the last few decades. Many curators have attempted to play a creative, social, political, and active part,adapting to the surrounding codes within a society using the process of production and dissemination of art. Curatorial methodologies and approaches constantly evolve, thus the emergence of curatorial education programmes on the global stage atlarge seems to reflect on these current states. However, again, can curating be taught? It is difficult even to define what"curating" or "curator" means. In fact, these programmes seem to take an art education as an investment in social agency.the advent of MFa can be an obvious example. In his article "the MFa is the new MBa" in Harvard Business review in2004, daniel Pink argues that the esteem of the MFa as a professional degree was on the rise, considering it as the economic ladder that was once the exclusive province of MBas. as Pink describes an art education programme in its economic value, many seem to pursue the degrees in curating in order to have various vantage points. regardless of their economic, social, and political values that underlie curatorial education programmes, it seems to be still worth to have curatorial education programmes in the sense that they open up a ground for a more socially committed and intellectual engagement to the students who are concerned with the emerging curatorial discourses. I have to admit that my curatorial programme provided me with an opportunity to exchange ideas with various curators, artists, art historians, and critics; to build my own curatorial practice; to have a positive attitude; and to develop expertise in new areas. nevertheless, it can only be achieved by a process of reaching awareness, self-discovery and selfemancipation, instead of being addressed by the pedagogical models of curatorial education programmes.

Lisa Boström, born and currently residing in Stockholm, received an MA from the International Curating Programme, StockholmUniversity and currently works as a curatorial assistant at Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall. As an individual who directly benefittedfrom her study programme and was immediately employed after her MA completion, she shared a positive approach for thenecessity of curatorial education.

The discussion between the individual and the collective regarding the curator's role is important when it comes to curatorialstudy programs. an important aspect and challenge of the curatorial study programmes is to encourage collaboration betweenthe curator students. Even if many curator students have similar backgrounds (from art history, philosophy, fine art, and otherareas in the cultural field), the different backgrounds and experiences among the students are important. I would like tostress the importance of being generous with experience and knowledge regarding the curatorial field. since the international curatorial working field can be filled with temporary projects, especially for independent curators, continuousrelations have in one sense replaced the former stable employment. the combination of a theoretical education like theInternational Curating Programme at stockholm university and practical work with self-initiated projects is a good way to findones curatorial identity. Is it possible to educate curators through the curatorial programs that are present today? theanswer is yes, in the same way that there's a notion of the possibility to educate artists, there's a place and need forcuratorial programmes.

Övül Durmusoglu, who was born in Turkey, but currently resides in Stuttgart, did not study curating, but critical studies at MalmöAcademy. She has completed few curatorial residences. She defended self-education models rather than institutional curatorialeducation.

Learn, undo it, and learn again in the process of making. Call it a miseducation or bricolage or deterritorialization. Whatmatters is... I am leaving this blank for each reader to fill herself/himself.

Alhena Katsof was born in Canada, lives in Amsterdam, and recently completed her research at the De Appel Curatorial Programme.She looked at the curatorial education programmes by differing the programmes from their academic and non-academic settings.

I am interested in the differences and similarities between practice-based and theoretical-based learning and I think that this distinction may apply to curatorial studies as it does to fine art. In regards to curatorial programmes, — it seems that there are a few main issues that are particularly relevant right now; these have to do with accessibility, collaboration, and the role of authorship in regard to curatorial practice. during the panel, I touched upon a distinction that I think isincredibly important between compromise and negotiation.

Natalie Hope O'Donnell, born in Norway and residing in London, is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the London Consortium. She alsocompleted an MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art. At the panel discussion, she compared andcontrasted these two institutions.

The Curating Contemporary art Ma at the royal College was founded in 1992 by the arts Council and the rCa. It was one of the earliest curating courses and seemed to be initially geared towards working in an institution, though it was notaffiliated to any particular gallery or museum (unlike Magasin in grenoble or the Whitney Programme). It always had a very international approach, and provided both very practical skills training and an awareness of critical discourses around art and curatorial practice. the most valuable aspect of the Ma was this discursive element, which I believe is where curating courses can really have an impact. therefore, it makes little sense to teach curating as an undergraduate course, as it is less about traditional teaching and more about what people bring to the discussion table from their various, diverse backgrounds. at the same time, I think there is something quite cynical about the massive proliferation of curatorial study programmes, it becomes a relatively "sexy"(and money-making) thing to tack onto an art history, cultural studies or critical theory degree. When I started at rCa, they had an employment record of98%. Where are all the graduates from the many curatorial programmes going to go when they graduate? I have found it useful to pursue my research into curatorial practices and audience engagement within the context of a Ph.d. in cultural studies atthe london Consortium. the relatively nascent history of curatorial practice means that it can benefit from crossfertilization from other fields, as it begins to define itself as research area in its own right. I hope that my Ph.d. can offer some contribution to the emerging (and exciting) field of research into the history and practice of curating.

Andrea Roca, born in Colombia and currently living in Zürich, has recently completed her Master of Advanced Studies at the ZurichUniversity of the Arts, Postgraduate Programme in Curating, Zürich. She approached the subject from more ironic or even sarcasticpoint of view, by indicating the power struggles within the field.

To be a good curating student, follow these instructions:

— Be a good communicator and a good networker.
— Have an opportunistic attitude in a collaborative sense.
— Follow the rules without following the rules.
— Get yourself a nice haircut.
— Being male and white would help you.
— Being exotic would also help you.
— Have a good eye on young and talented artists.
— Tell everybody that you will soon go back to school for a Ph.D. because you want to have more time for research.
— Have a nice and generous sponsor which can financially support you for at least the next five years.
— Do not have a firm position or any beliefs.
— Don't be afraid of flying.
— As a woman don't forget to have birth control.
— Be ready to work many many hours without getting paid.
— Tell everybody that you are very very busy, even if you aren't.
— Read and learn by heart www.artreview100.com

Then mix up everything with art world jargon and with the little bit of art theory you have learned in your curating program... And then be ready for a glorious career in the art field.

Alessandra Sandrolini, who was born in Italy and currently lives in Bologna and Paris, completed her MA at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan. Supporting the idea thatcurating doesn't exist from artists, she looked at the issue by including the thoughts of an artist.

When I was invited to participate to this panel discussion I thought about inviting rainer ganahl, an artist who has been working on the very subject of educationalpolitics over many years. With his presence, the point of view on the discussion would probably have been reversed and would have shifted to more interesting issues.Instead of talking about my own experience, I wished to remind others that many artists themselves reflect on curatorship within their creative process, and that a curator should first of all be interested in art. unfortunately rainer ganahl could not participate due to lack of budget; but, I would like share a quote from hisessay "When attitudes become curating," written in 2004: "recently, curating has not only become internationalized but also institutionalized and turned into a disciplinethat is taught academically. International classes for curatorial learning are now created anywhere: at universities, art schools, museums, auction houses, and so on. thequestion of "What to teach curators?" is about as impossible to answer as "What to teach artists?" in a time of deskilling and artistic outsourcing. I am convinced thatthe recipe for a good curator is the same as for somebody who succeeds in life and anywhere else. It is an elixir that I locate in people themselves. It is the basic understanding of who we are, of where we are from, of how we are living, of what we want, and of what we can do."this could be a good way to resume my position.

Adnan Yildiz who was born in Turkey, and currently resides in Berlin, participated in Curator Lab, Konstfack, Stockholm and an Independent Study Program at Valand ArtAcademy of Göteborg University, Göteborg. He also fully supports self-education models. As his contribution, he preferred to send us the following quotation from the conversation between Z. Bauman and M. Jaukkuri:

... the curator as a professional interpreter and "meaning-broker," spending her or his life on a notorious battlefield where competitive interpretations, all the moremilitant for being unsure of themselves, meet, clash, and fight the endless war of mutual attrition... But in your present question you lead us onto another battlefield, noless noisy the one on which culture creators, including the curators, their plenipotentiaries, fight the endless war about the substance of arts and their mode of being-in-the-world… they have different adversary there, though: the politicians, the market bosses – in short, the managers, the "administrators"

... the arts are the advanced units of culture – engaged in reconnaissance battles whose purpose is to explore, pave, and chart the roads which human culture may (ormay not) follow ("art is not a better, but an alternative existence" – said Joseph Brodsky; "It is not an attempt to escape reality but the opposite, an attempt to animate it." and so the artists are either adversaries or competitors in the job which the managers wish to monopolize).

Isin Onol was invited by the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, Zurich University of Art, to organise the panel discussion Educational Critique: How to swot Curating during the symposium Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique? on March 27th in Kassel at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum.


Maja Ciricis is a freelance curator and an art critic. She is a citizen of both Belgrade, Serbia and the transnational-republic.org. Her curatorial practice produces alternative knowledge about social, political, and aesthetic transformations. Her areas of interest include theoretical aspects of curating, curating as institutional critique, and neo-colonial issues.

Isin Onol (1977, Turkey) is an independent curator and writer based in Vienna. She is a Dr. Phil Candidate in the depart- ment of Cultural  and  Intellectual History  at the  University of Applied Arts, Vienna. She completed her MAS degree in Curating at the Zurich University of the Arts, Zurich, Switzerland (2009-2011). She also participated in Ecole du Magasin,International Curatorial Training Programme, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France (2009-10) and the Gwangju Design Biennale International Curator Course, Gwangju, SouthKorea (2009). She received her MFA in Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design from Sabanci University (2003) and her BA in Art Education from Marmara University (2000),Istanbul, Turkey. She worked as the manager and curator at Proje4L/Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul (2006- 2009). As a curatorial concern, she focuses on the para- doxicalimpossibility of national representation within nation-based exhibition conceptions.



1 Irit Rogoff, "Education Actua- lized" — Editorial, E-Flux Journal no. 14, March 2010. http://www.e-flux. com/journal/view/127.

2 ibid.



Richard Shusterman ed., Bourdieu: a  Critical  reader, Blackwell,  Oxford, 1999.

Brian Holmes, "Liar's Poker- Representation of  Politics/Politics of Representation," springerin no. 1/03.

Irit Rogoff, "Education Actua- lized" — Editorial, E-Flux Journal no. 14, March 2010. http://www.e-flux. com/journal/view/127.

Irit Rogoff, "Free," E-Flux Journal no. 14, March 2010. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/120

Nora Sternfeld, "Unglamorous Tasks: What Can Education Learn from its Poli- tical Traditions?," E-Flux Journal no. 14, March 2010. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/125.

Jacques Derrida, "The Science of Ghosts," in ghost dance, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG_JA6SJD8k.

Ganahl, Rainer, "When Attitudes become – Curating." http:/www. ganahl.info/attitudes.html


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Issue 13

Institution as medium. Curating as institutional critique? Part 2

The second part of the publication for the symposium, Institution as Medium. Curating as Institutional Critique?, organised by the Kunsthalle Fridericianum and the Zurich Postgraduate Programme in Curating (Institute for Cultural Studies, Department of Cultural Analysis, Zurich University of the Arts), deals with notion of art-mediation and addressing publics in the realm of institutional critique. The question remains: how can a practice that intends to radically show the conditionality of art, its financial entanglements, and its function as a means of distinction, be related to institutions and curators’ activities therein? Is this not a contradiction in terms? The aim of the symposium was to explore these contradictions, as well as the possibilities and limitations of critical curatorial practice.

Contributions by Giovanni Carmine, Maja Ciric, Neil Cummings, Helmut Draxler, Beryl Graham, Damian Jurt, Hassan Khan, Marysia Lewandowska, Isin Onol, Dorothee Richter and Yael Eylat Van-Essen. Edited by Dorothee Richter and Rein Wolfs.

by Dorothee Richter and Rein Wolfs

by Dorothee Richter

by Giovanni Carmine and Hassan Khan

by Damian Jurt

by Marysia Lewandowska and Neil Cummings

by Maja Ciric and Isin Onol