The Defining and Shaping of the Contemporary Art Curator
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Curators have come to figure quite prominently in the cultural landscape of late, such that the concept of a curator is now applied in a wide variety of contexts from art to shopping. It is said curators are now far more linked to the internet and social networks, than to the interiors of museums; and most accounts see the contemporary art curator as caught in the flux of global cultural economies. Why should this be? It is in this volatile terrain I have situated my research on the contemporary art curator. I ask how has the role of the curator been shaped, defined and constrained by competing discourses? Were there other influences, I ask beyond the global market place that may have contributed to the defining and shaping of the contemporary curator? I undertake this study in two ways. Firstly, I conduct an historical overview to explore whether there were precedents of curatorial practice that might lead to a greater understanding of the contemporary curator. Here, following Foucault, I consider the transformations in dominant discourses that have effected the assembling and interpretation of collections of significant objects. Secondly, using interviews conducted with three ‘independent’ curators—Seth Siegelaub, Juliana Engberg and Charles Esche—I undertake discourse analyses, identifying a number of fields of discourse, which I argue have impacted and shaped their curatorial practices. What has emerged through this study has been recognition of how across time there is a duality of discourses at the core of curatorial activities. And far from undermining or weakening the curatorial practice, I suggest this duality plays a dynamic and regenerative role in forming the relationships produced between place, ideas, objects, artists, viewers and capital.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Queensland College of Art