In the spring of 2011, in an apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I hosted a pilot of what would eventually become my graduate thesis project. In a salon-style evening, framed by the question, “What is the future role of the curator in our digital landscape?” I gathered with nine artists and arts professionals to discuss technology, social space and the role of the authoritarian voice in art discourse. Guests were chosen based on the unique perspectives they brought to the conversation, and the coalescence of their varied insights presented what Roland Barthes described as a study of the interdisciplinary, that which “cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialized branches of knowledge” but instead requires a violent breakdown of these forms into “a new object and a new language.”
As a curatorial project, the aim of this endeavor was not to see what people would share but how they would share it—the tactics and terminologies necessary for artists of different disciplines to move from talking at one another to talking with one another. Throughout the evening, guests were in conversation not only with each other but also with the technology that they used. A YouTube video of an art exhibit in Vietnam brought up on someone’s iPad, the name of a book texted between participants to be recalled at a later date, photos of the gathering posted instantly to Facebook, these encounters with media shaped the context and content of participants’ encounters with each other. By comparing this experiment in unmediated, off-line dialogue with institutionalized systems of online participation, my goal was to challenge the traditionally hegemonic structure of art discourse and propose a new role for the curator as one who does not simply impart knowledge from “the top down,” but creates contexts for collaboration with those who are learning “from the inside out.”
Curation is a field that resists operating solely in the traditional systems of siloed disciplines. It is a field that relishes interdisciplinarity and ambiguity. As Mary Jane Jacob describes it, curation is an act of making space, “the conditions and circumstances, intellectually, socially, physically, and in whatever ways necessary” for participants to engage with the artist inside themselves or “to be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity” in the face of the unfamiliar.
Art Apéritif was originally envisioned as a multi-platform exploration of the art salon in the digital age. Through both online and offline discourse, the goal was to engage members of Kansas City’s regional art market in conversation about the impact of social media and technology on the area’s creative ecosystem.
Now, I hope to take part in a larger conversation. How and why do people participate? How does online participation manifest into social acts? Does discourse necessarily create change?
Now entering into its third incarnation, the conversations held as part of the Art Apéritif will begin to travel focusing less on any one specific community’s creative ecology and instead on the role of online communities in instigating off-line participation, confronting notions of time, place and personal identity as driving factors in collaboration.
As the project develops and moves about it will be chronicled here, along side commentary on the changing relationship between social media and technology and arts discourse.
If you have any questions about this next phase of development or would like to bring the conversation to your city, please contact me. I welcome your thoughts and questions in this dialogue.