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Posted by on May 5, 2016

Curatorial Synopsis

Before taking this class I had no clue what a curator or a docent really was in terms of job or title. I had only a marginal understanding of what an exhibit really entailed and even less than that about what it really took to host one. Throughout the class I learned through action what it meant to be a curator, a docent, and what kind of work went into executing and properly hosting a successful exhibit. Beyond that my understanding of what an exhibit was and even what art was expanded exponentially. I participated in hosting the 2016 Game Changers by being a docent and a curator, and am currently deeply involved in the 2016 ELO Conference and Media Arts Festival. Both of these have given me first hand experience in being a curator. I have also attempted to document my own experiences throughout the class on my personal WordPress site which is essentially the entire essence of digital curation.

The way the class was organized allowed a unique method of learning from multiple perspectives on what it means to be a curator. As previously mentioned there were the two exhibits in which all students contributed and gained first hand experience about curation and exhibitions. Secondly there was a series of analytical writing assignments in which we were all asked to look at and discuss an archived electronic literature exhibit, and relate concepts we learned from two separate texts. Finally the two texts we were asked to read, Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating by Jens Hoffmann and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist, each gave a decidedly unique description of curation.

The first book, Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating, answers as the title suggests ten important questions about curation. This book was particularly helpful in allowing me to conceptualize the idea of curation because of its straight forward format. The title of each chapter presents a question while the content of the chapter presents an interpretation of what an appropriate answer might be. While the answers and the questions are all somewhat open ended and equally open to interpretation, the book makes a point to answer each question. The second book however, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Curating, took the form of a series of interviews which drifted through a series of topics. This book while entertaining was a little harder to follow, and thusly taught me a little bit less effectively. All thing considered though, where I learned the most was from the discussions brought on by Hans Ulrich Obrist’s book.

In both books the authors discuss what constitutes art, which is one of the most fundemental questions in determining what an exhibit is and what it means to be a curator. In the book Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating the author says this about art, Truly of a nonsensical nature, art poses active resistance to description and to interpretation. In front if the impossibility of total inadequacy between the language and the things, language kills the matter.” This to me was probably the best quote from the first book, as well as the best answer to the question “what is art?” In another chapter this quote is used to define an exhibition and in a sense what it means to curate, “The critical consensus today would seem to be that an exhibition is, in the most basic terms, an organized presentation of a selection of items to a public” The answers from this book are easy to find and simple to digest making it an effective tool.

This class taught me a lot about what it means to be a curator as well as what the future may hold for curators and exhibitions. “My laptop, an enfolded monster, holds a polyphony of futures.”


Hoffmann, Jens. Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Obrist, Hans Ulrich, and April Elizabeth. Lamm. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Curating: But Were Afraid to Ask. Berlin: Sternberg, 2011. Print.

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