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an ode to joy, marginalia from ways of curating

This is the seventh piece for interrobang, ?!, our arts+culture+????? column. A film review was first, odes to joy: sanna wani second, odes to joy: alfabet/alphabet by s. de meijer third, followed fourth by a thank you note to a transit bus driver., and aunt jay pitter. Spending a little time now with marginalia of books, then The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Context: The following post is part of a collection called odes of joy. Curation is one of the most important practices because it is only possible, in a good way, if there is a lot of intentionality and thoughtfulness attached to it. There are few pieces of text in bookform, maybe Ai Weiwei in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, these are some clippings from Ways of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist. I read it three times mostly in and around 02015-02016.

Consider listening to Mehcinut by Jeremy Dutcher.

A lil context:

Curation is a kinder way of translating algorithm is a working thought of mine. We curate constantly, it is a form of triage, of sensemaking, distilling signal from noise. There are few curators in modern day as celebrated as Hans Ulrich Obrist (there are others I celebrate more). I stumbled into this book while visiting the bookshelves of the architect-artists, Christine Leu and Alan Webb, of http://www.leuwebb.ca/. They were kind enough to loan this to me and the book had a long journey back to them.

These are the parts that I revisit regularly:

To make a collection is to find, acquire, organize and store items, whether in a room, a house, a library, a museum or a warehouse. It is also, inevitably, a way of thinking about the world - the connections and principles that produce a collection contain assumptions, juxtapositions, findings, experimental possibilities and associations. Collection-making, you could say, is a method of producing knowledge. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Since 1990 I have gathered information on an unusual species of art: unrealized projects. Unlike unrealized models and projects submitted for architectural competitions, which are frequently published, such endeavours in the visual arts - that are planned but not carried out - ordinarily remain unnoticed or little known. But these roads not taken are a reservoir of artistic ideas: forgotten projects, directly or indirectly censored projects, misunderstood projects, oppressed projects, lost projects, unrealizable projects. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Producing exhibitions represents the current crop of a curator's practice, while writing books is equivalent to preserving the harvest of the past. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Conversations, meanwhile, are obviously archival, but they are also a form of creating fertile soil for future projects. For this reason, I began to ask everyone I interviewed a very future-oriented question: what is your unrealized project, your dream? The answers to this have spurred many initiatives: from these conversations have come many new projects, in the form of both exhibitions and books. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

... we had discussed what it meant that Western curators such shows and how interesting it would be if there was a meaningful back-and-forth between a Western and Eastern curator. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

It demonstrated that simply introducing two people who one thinks should know each other can have a major effect on future artistic practice, whether through the impact they can have on each other's work or through entirely new collaborations. It's another form of curatorial practice, and I have continued it ever since. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Boetti had an epiphany about maps in 1971, nd had then begun an extensive and labour-intensive project, making embroidered maps (Mappa) of the world. He colloborated with embroiderers in Afghanistan and later Pakistan to produce these extraordinary works, travelling to these countries on many occasions but also collaborating at a distance, especially following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979. These collaborations intertwined aesthetic and political concerns, craftsmanship and the physical journey of the artist, as well as the negotiation of linguistic and physical borders. In the midst of 1989's global realignments and paroxysm, Boetti's World Map appeared with the immaculate sense of timing. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

This is probably the fundamental idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk: to create a self-contained world. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Alighiero Boetti died in 1994. I was affected by his death as the immense personal loss of a mentor, but also as the loss to the public of an encouraging, stimulating presence. As an artist, he had left behind many works, but he himself as a speaking subject was forever gone. I immediately regretted that all the conversations we had had were suddenly no more, that there was no record of his unique way of expressing himself, his ways of making connections. Almost everything I had done was born out of conversations of which I had no trace, despite their being the core of all my activity. And so I decided to start systematically making recordings. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

At this stage, my desire to be a curator had solidified, but I was still generally unsure of how I could be useful to art. Boltanski was very clear on one point that has become one of my guiding principles: exhibitions, he said, should always invent a new rule of the game. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Gonzalez-Torres, in turn was interested in infiltrating all the social spaces of the museum. He hung a billboard at the museum's entrance, which he had also done at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He also bought vases and flowers from nearby markets and placed bouquets in the museums's offices. Visitors would now see this work, since they did not normally have access to the office areas. Only the staff experienced this change to the museum environment. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

On day twenty-two, the instructions read 'leaf guests for a leaf hotel', which referred to a project Slominski had been working on that called for transposing the leaves at the bottom of a tree to another tree, which no one would suspect. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

In none of them did he work alone: his genius was for navigating amongst allies and opponents to achieve his goals within large collaborations. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

By definition, a bridge has two ends, and as the artist Huang Yong Ping points out: 'Normally we think a person should have only one standpoint, but when you become a bridge you have to have two.' This bridge is always dangerous, but for Yong Ping the notion of the bridge creates the possibility of opening up something new. Be resorting to the notion of chance, one can gain access to enlightenment. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

The King of Spain once enquired of Diaghilev, 'What is it then that you do in this troupe? You don't direct, you don't dance, you don't play the piano, what is it you do?' Diaghilev answered, 'Your Majesty, I am like you. I don't work, I don't do anything, but I am indispensible.' +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

As his biographer, Sjent Scheijen, has written, 'The labels customarily attached to him - those of impresario and patron - fail to do justice to the powerful influence he exerted on the arts in the early part of the twentieth century. His goal of developing his own variant of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, without ever really producing creative work of his own, makes it difficult to place him or assess the value of his achievements.' +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

In-betweenness, as the critic Homi Bhabha has written, is a fundamental condition of our times. This is an especially useful principle for my exhibitions involving science, where the idea has always been to produce an in-between space that allows for radical and unexpected combinations. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

In Ways of Worldmaking, Nelson Goodman wrote that art and science are both of utmost importance to understanding our multiplicity of worlds; this book's title was inspired by this. +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Being a Curator:
The first of these was preservation.
The second task was the selection of new work.
The third is the task of contributing to art history.
Finally, there is the task of displaying and arranging the art on the wall and in the galleries: the making of exhibitions.
+Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

As the Vietnamese General Giap said: 'If you win territory you lose concentration - you win concentration you lose territory.' +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

As Harald Szeemann told me on a walk in Appenzell: 'The curator has to be flexible. Sometimes he is the servant, sometimes the assistant, sometimes he gives the artists ideas of how to present their work; in group shows he's the coordinator, in thematic shows, the inventor.' +Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Additional Reading:

The Curator Who Never Sleeps, D. T. Max, New Yorker Ai Weiwei Speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Hans and Ai Weiwei, Penguin Randomhouse

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