Tuesday March 22, 2016 – 7pm
From the virtual feminist museum to the analysis of biennial culture: Curatorial challenges and the politics of critical thinking, reading and making art
HEAD, Boulevard Helvétique 9, 1205 Genève, salle de séminaire CCC, 2e étage, salle 27
“For the last 15 years, my work as a feminist scholar has focussed on trauma and cultural memory and the uncertain place of feminist analysis in the fields of art, art history and exhibitionary formations of the distribution and consumption of art. Informed by a range of social-historical and psychoanalytical frames, my proposal of the virtual feminist museum worked with several new concepts for resisting despair in the face of globalization and the effacement of critical initiatives: these included concepts emerging from the artistic and theoretical work of Bracha Ettinger: fascinance, art as a transport station of trauma, aesthetic wit(h)nessing and the encounter-event. These are now being invoked to undertake a research project on contemporary curation and critical curatorial practices, focussing on an analysis of DOCUMENTA since the landmark historical moment signalled by the date 1989.
I pose three questions:
How can contemporary history be approached through artistic practices?
What can such an exhibitionary focus reveal about the history of contemporary art at the end of the history of art?
Can curation be a critical and a political practice?
Could an exhibition history constitute a method of studying such questions?
In the modern era, the temporary exhibition is one of the major forms through which knowledge, as well as appraisal, of contemporary art is produced. As an event, an exhibition is experienced and remembered by those who visit. What they experience is scripted by the selectors’ concepts for the show and the selection of work included. These function as units of a larger statement, objects of observation and analysis, and the furnishings of a cultural dramaturgy. Of course, any show is open to unanticipated readings. The exhibition has, however, a historicizing afterlife through formal critical writing that places the event in cultural memory and through the catalogue or other publications that become the monument to the event and also its long-term historical form. Since the middle of the twentieth century one exhibition, DOCUMENTA, begun by Arnold Bode in 1955 as an attempt to reconnect the broken thread of modern art in Germany shattered by Nazism’s expulsion of modern art as ‘degenerate’ in the 1937-8 has become one of the most significant and influential sites for a quinquennial review of current art, increasingly gaining its place as the most important temporary exhibition even amidst the proliferation of biennials worldwide. Conceived in the context of the massive historical trauma of Nazism and the aftermath of racist genocide, addressing the significance of art in the face of such a history and its traumatic legacies, the DOCUMENTA exhibitions can be studied as important indices of the critical relation between the artworld and its changing artistic forms and debates and contemporary histories studied through the device of authorial curatorship, critical response and the temporary exhibition as an extended form of cultural practice and theoretical intervention. My current research project involves a feminist, queer and postcolonial analysis of DOCUMENTA since 1989.”
The talk will be responded by Pierre Hazan, Denis Pernet, Catherine Quéloz of the research project Beyond the Monument, which has been developed in the context of the CCC-Master Program since 2010, and Nicole Schweizer (Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne).