Breathing Space for Experience

By Nancy de Freitas.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the precarious relationship between artist, artwork and curator in contemporary curatorial practice and identifies a number of problematical issues in the context of material thinking concerns, embodied experience and current artistic practice. For the purpose of this discussion, curatorial practice is defined as exhibition production and design. It is differentiated from those activities normally associated with permanent collections and museums. Constructing meaning through art exhibitions is a process largely dependent on the essential roles of artist and curator but also influenced by the physical environment and the various contingencies of installation practice. The core premise underlying this investigation is that a curatorial intervention should be no more or less than an opportunity to work with a designer, an artist, a collection or a group, to create a transitory moment in which an idea is proposed and conditions are set up for people to react to it. The focus of the investigation is on the increasing level of misinterpretation and perplexity that seems to surround so many curatorial interventions, prize exhibitions and international biennial ventures. Since the early 1990’s, the group exhibition emerged as the leading platform for curatorial experimentation. It opened a new and ideological discursive space where the individual, private concerns of artists were displaced and flattened under the artificial conceptual frames imposed by the curatorial concept. Individual artistic vision has been relegated to a minor position under a curator’s propositional or speculative stratagem. Increasingly, the unique, reflective unfolding of an artist’s philosophical, political or artistic intentions and the relating of that thinking to a contemporary or historical context has almost become an irrelevant curatorial endeavour. The contemporary institutional demand is for local versus global comparisons, public concerns, disparate juxtapositions and trans-cultural contexts. In conversation with artists and curators, several themes have been identified and issues analysed for improving future strategies for making meaning through exhibition.

Keywords: Art, Material Thinking, Curatorial Strategy, Exhibition Practice, Object Interaction

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.305-322. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.742MB).

Nancy de Freitas

Associate Professor, School of Art and Design, Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT University, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

De Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. Her current research deals with practice-based methodologies for artists and designers. De Freitas did her undergraduate work and first degree in Communication Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto. Her postgraduate studies were at the University of Auckland where she obtained a Masters degree in Fine Art. Since that time she has been active as both a professional artist and academic. As a professional artist she has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions, including major installations at regional public galleries in New Zealand with support from University research grants and private sector funding. As a university academic she has been involved in assessment and curriculum-based research and in the development of innovative collaborative teaching strategies for art and design.


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