”Qu’avons-nous fait ? Nous nous étions dit non, pas de textes convenus, préfaces, articles des professionnels du catalogue1”;
from the ‘exhibition text’ to the ‘curatorial text’.
an annotated bibliography
Esche, Charles and Maria Hlavajova. "Once is Nothing: Thoughts on an Exhibition on an Exhibition.” In Once is Nothing. Individual Systems, edited by Charles Esche and Maria Hlavjova, 57-66. Brussel: Brussels Biennial, 2008.
Once is Nothing : Individual Systems
is, as the title of the text states, an Exhibition on an Exhibition. The origin exhibition was Individual Systems, "an exhibition on the problematic of modernity in contemporary life, curated by Igor Zabel as part of the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003.1
" The context for Once is Nothing was an invitation made by the first Brussels Biennial (2008) to BAK (basis poor actual kunst) and Van Abbemuseum (impersonated by Maria Hlavajova and Charles Esche). Once is Nothing is composed of two distinct elements: an 'exhibition' space and a new project, a museological catalogue.
an 'exhibition' space and a new project.
For the exhibition Once is Nothing, we decided to focus on one aspect that formed the base structure onto which the artists and the public built their understanding of Individual Systems: the architecture of the original show, designed by Austrian artist Josef Dabernig for the colluded space of the Arsenale. [...] We have invited him to interpret his proposal again for the new given space of the former postal-sorting center. The works of art that were originally exhibited in this architecture in Venice, however, are necessarily absent. [...] We also want to suggest the possibility that this architecture is a space that might produce a new artistic impulse. Thus we have asked Belgian artist Patrick Corillon to make use of the physical void.2
a museological catalogue.
We have also produced this museological reference book documenting the artworks from the original exhibition in as precise and objective-as modernist-a way as possible.3
The museological catalogue also hosts the exhibition text from Individual Systems written by Zabel, as well as the text in question here, Once is Nothing: Thoughts on an Exhibition on an Exhibition
, from Charles Esche and Maria Hlavjova. This text is the exhibition text, and provides a thorough look into the conceptual elaboration of Once is Nothing
and the narrative that permits the exhibition itself, since the discourse is what discloses the reference networks at play in an 'empty' space. It is through the narrative that the architecture as a reinterpretation comes to be (with the help of floor plans) and offers the documentation of the original exhibitions with the additions of descriptions of the works and the artists from the first show.
The catalogue holds a central role, enabling the manifestation of the ghost of Zabel and his Individual Systems, and the manifestation of the theoretical research on 'an exhibition on an exhibition'. Although the format of the text would be considered as quite classic within the field of exhibition texts, it acts, it is active. It creates the possibility of a multi-temporal dialogue between two contexts, two exhibitions. It 'makes' the exhibition, rather than a more conventional explanation, or justification through discourse; the catalogue is the exhibition.
Donner, Alexander and El Lissitzky. “kabinett des abstrakten - original and facsimile.” In Displayer 03, edited by Doreen Mende, 1-32. Karlsruhe: Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, 2009.
This catalogue was conceived for the exhibition Kabinett der Abstrakten—Original and Facsimile at Halle fuel Kunst Lueneburg (24 January to 8 March, 2009). It was published by the Museum of American Art (MoAA), Berlin, within the publication of the programme Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice at Hochschule for Gestaltung Karlsruhe, Displayer 03 (2009). "To create a complex space of memory, the exhibition worked with various kinds of reference material and display techniques including paintings, books, catalogs, film footage, and sound. 'The artifacts at this exhibition are not works of art. These are rather souvenirs, selected specimens of our collective memory. (Walter Benjamin)"4
The catalogue hosts three essays : Provinzal-Museum by Water Benjamin (October 2008), Letter by Alfred H. Barr, Jr (195?). and A Box in the Basement. On the works of Kasimir Malevich loaned to the Provincial Museum of Hannover by Ines Katenhusen (probably 2008). This last text depicts the complex genealogy of a box of works from Kasimir Malevich and its intersecting story with different museums, directors, inheritors, heirs, etc, starting in 1927 and finally ending in April of 2008. Barr's Letter recalls the sad faith of the Kabinett der Abstraken designed by El Lissitzky and commissioned by Alexander Dorner. The first text from Walter Benjamin examines the parallelism between the different conceptions of history and the museum from Alfred H. Barr Jr and Alexander Dorner. Benjamin concludes his text with a genealogy of the museum and its fundaments, only to open up on a reflection on what would be a Meta-Museum, "and, what would be the narrative that will connect all the exhibits in the Meta-Museum? Meta-History?"5.
The catalogue is also hosting some reproduced works that were part of the exhibition at the Halle fuel Kunst Lueneburg (the date of the artworks varies from 1902 to 2062, and are all acrylic on canvas done by different and anonymous artists). Opening up the catalogue feels weirdly as common (within 'our collective memory') as strange by the impossible dates of the artworks and the new text by Walter Benjamin; this project a atmosphere of doubt, suspending belief. This feeling bleeds to the text by Barr as well as Katenhusen, extracting the catalogue and its exhibition from the conventional art history, hovering above the fundaments that hold the concept of 'Art' in the centre of its (epistemological) system. The catalogue is not the exhibition text, but weaves a discursive fictionalized from which the exhibition draws its strength.
Wade, Gavin. “Gavin Wade interviews El Lissitzky.” In Upcycle this book, edited by Gavin Wade and James Langdon, 77-105. London: Book Works, 2017.
Gavin Wade interviews El Lissitzky
is an interview between Gavin Wade and El Lissitzky. El Lissitzky's voice(s), here, is performed by different actors. As Wade details the process in a post-scriptum explanation :
This interview was produced in 2009 as part of the development of 'Abstract Cabinet Show' at Eastside Projects. I had taken on the persona of a number of artists, curators and designers in my own artworks and had seen other artists do this. I wondered if the participants of this group show of groups and collectives that I was curating would all take on the persona of El Lissitzky, whose 1920's Abstract Cabinet was being referred to in the title. The result reveals surprising connections, and makes a coherent (in places) conversation. I'd like to interview El Lissitzky again sometime. Perhaps I'll do it 100 years after he mad his famous artists-curator works!6
The result is a multi-voices interview, where every artist and collective within the original exhibition, Abstract Cabinet Show at Eastside Projects (2009), responds alternately to quite general questions about their respective artistic practices. Sometimes it builds up on previous answers and creates a sense of continuity; sometimes it fractures the interview in a fragmented and superficial overview of each practices. Some took on the persona of Lissitzky as a fictional character and played with the possibilities of a meta-historical conversation (Clarke & McDevitt); some broke the suspension of disbelief and answered quite directly divulging their identity with the usage of their proper name (Grizedale Arts); some contextualized their responses into Lissitzky's historical period (Freee); some used the languages either by means of a back and forth mechanized translation, English-Russian-English, (The Hut Project) or by responding in Esperanto affirming firstly their own identity (D Salomon); some reflected on their phantomatic being (Dj Simpson); some blurred the line of identification (James Langdon).
The conceptual premise of this exhibition text renders an exhibition where every proposition repurposes directly or indirectly a common origin, producing a text that curatorially acts, making collide different voices, histories, positions, into a single interview. It creates an exhibition text that is assembled in a parallel fashion to the exhibition itself, expanding the curatorial process to the structure of the discursive space.
Lyotard, Jean-François and Thierry Chaput. “La raison des épreuves.” In Epreuves d’écriture, edited by Chantal Noël, 6-7. Paris: Éditions du Centre Georges Pompidou, 1985.
La raison des épreuves
Une trentaine d'«écrivains» commentent, chacun sur son ordinateur, une série de mots thématiques imposés. Ils s'expédient leurs textes par voie télématique. Après deux mois, l'expérience est interrompue. Le résultat est passé tel quel sur papier. Qu'arrive-t-il à l'écriture? Confusion des auteurs et des lecteurs, du privé au public? Hégémonie du contexte et du pré-texte sur le texte? Télescopage des phases de l'écriture artisanale? À coup sûr, traumatisme de l'écrivain.7
is the introductory text for Epreuves d'écriture, the second half of the exhibition catalogue (the other half : Album et Inventaire
) produce for Les Immatériaux, curated by Jean-François Lyotard and Thierry Chaput in 1985 at Centre Georges-Pompidou. This introduction specifies the process behind the writing experiment, unfolding the hypothesis as well of 'les règles du jeu' that permitted the experiment. This collective writing experiment was the establishment of a network (of mircro-computers) connecting 26 authors (philosophers, scientists, writers, poets, sociologists, lawyers, etc.) together, giving them the possibility to write their contributions and uploading it in a network-accessible main memory; the authors were able to not only upload, but consult their own texts as well as the other authors' texts and could also respond to their peers' contributions. There was no possibility of erasing, compiling the contribution in the order of arrival to the main memory. The writing experiment lasted two months (it was supposed to be four, but due to the complexity of creating the software and hardware component of this network, the experiment was shortened), and was structured in such a way that the 26 authors received a list of 50 words to react to, those 50 words were chosen by Lyotard, Chaput and their team to compose the concepts field within which Les Immatériaux
was embedded (and was trying to compose).
as a whole compose what is the broader discursive field of the exhibition, the network apparatus is formatting the discursive existence of the exhibition. This authorial network creates a field of meaning overarching the museum installation. This half of the catalogue is curatorially active by the collective writing experiment, and its collection of texts, creating a fragmented, yes, but a vast space of knowledge, inter-active, feed backing into an informa(tiona)l web (it is worth mentioning that the editorial team for this volume, Jean-François Lyotard, Thierry Chaput, Elisabeth Gad and Nicole Toutchef, supplement the volume with the Post-Scriptum text reflecting on the results of the writing experiment). This whole half of the catalogue is the exhibition text, adopting the unconventional format powered by 'télématic' network of texts and authors.
The experiment's aim was surely to construct the concepts field with a collective 'en direct' writing structure, but it was mainly to expose the discourse to the new technological apparatus, the novelty of the network and its possible repercussions on 'l'écriture'; irradiating 'l'écriture' of and by the new technologies, seeking an atomic alteration.
Concerning the unconventionality of this exhibition text, the opening sentences address their specific intention : "Qu'avons-nous fait ? Nous nous étions dit non, pas de textes convenus, préfaces, articles des professionnels du catalogue."8
Condorelli, Céline and Gavin Wade. “Support Structure : Phase One. In Support of Art. I Am a Curator", Chisenhale Gallery (2003).” In Support Structures, edited by Céline Condorelli, 115-128. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2009.
A detailed look at the involvement of Céline Condorelli and Gavin Wade in the making of the exhibition I Am a Curator, Chisenhale Gallery, London, (2003), an artist project and 'curated' from Per Hüttner. Their intervention was entitled : Phase 1 Support Structure. "The structure would provide storage for the artworks in the exhibition; categories the works; accommodate documentation of artists and works; store electronic equipments and tools; and would be supplemented with a set of plinths, tables and chairs.”9 "The six units of different heights, widths and surfaces were designed to embody an awareness of curatorial choice and even responsibility in regard to the nature of the environment in which artworks would be developed or placed.”10 "Hüttner invited the public to make proposals to curate a series of one-day art exhibitions in what was disingenuously described as 'an experiment in democratising the curatorial process’."11 The text details the material structure itself as well as the intention behind the making of a 'support structure' for an exhibition that would 'democratize' the curatorial process, outsourcing the curator's role to the 'public'. The structure was conceived as the host of all of what the 'public' would need to 'curate' an exhibition : works, tools, equipment, as well as 'jokers' provided by Condorelli & Wade and aimed at assisting with decision-making.
The text itself is quite straight forward, detailing the structure, making a list of the works contained in the structure, and the intentions of Condorelli and Wade. Within the conceptual framework of this exhibition, the Support Structure becomes the exhibition, the exhibition in potential. The one-day curated-by-the-public exhibitions are far from being the focus point of this one-liner of a curatorial concept. The exhibition exists as a potentiality, permitted by the Support Structure. In this sense, the text from Condorelli and Wade acts as the exhibition text, permitting a detailed view of the potentiality of an exhibition that would only be, a 'curatorial process' away. Viewing the text in this fashion, points at how a detailed overview could be a strategy to construct an exhibition in potential.
Lippard, Lucy. "In the Cards." In 4,492,040, edited by Jeff Khonsary. Los Angeles and Vancouver: New Documents, 2012.
Lucy Lippard: 4,492,040
4,492,040 is a facsimile reprint of a series of catalogs produced by curator Lucy R. Lippard. Drawn from material originally published between 1969 and 1974, 4,492,040 includes reprints of all four of the catalogs from Lippard’s hugely important “numbers shows” a series of exhibitions named for the populations of the cities they were held in: 557,087 (Seattle), 955,000 (Vancouver), c.7,500 (Valencia, California), and 2,972,453 (Buenos Aires). As with the originals, 4,492,040 is made up of a collection of loose notecards containing statements, documentation, and conceptual works by each artist, to be rearranged, filed, or discarded at will. This new edition is supplemented by a new afterword by Lippard.
Edited by Jeff Khonsary. Co-presented with the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Seattle Art Museum.
15.25 × 10.15 cm
358 Pages in Wrapper
First Edition (2012)*12
Instead of a conventional exhibition catalogue, the exhibition sequence of the Numbers Shows had loose index cards, as unconventional as Lippard's projects. "It was a form that put both my words and the exhibitions themselves in motion. The cards could be randomly shuffled, rearranged by preference, or discarded in bits and pieces. [...] The card catalogues were sort of a collaborative collage with artists -- not glued down, but flexible, changing, open-ended, unpredictable.
This experimental form unveils precisely how the conventional bounded books and exhibition texts are rigid, how they act as officialisation devices, institutionalizing the exhibition but also the discursive space that a catalogue can provide. This officialisation happens as an authoritative process, authorizing the discourse of the curator in regards to, certainly, the exhibition, but most importantly, over the artworks and artists within the exhibition. The form adopted by Lippard in the index cards breaks the power of the nowadays figure of the curator, by implementing a catalogue and an exhibition framework that are not relying on the authorial fundaments of the contemporary curator. Many factors are notably counteracting the formation of a curatorial author within the index cards format, such as the loose cards format, the possibility of re-ordering by preferences, but also the inclusions of the artist's contributions as 'blank canvas' (a lot of different experimentations took place by the only possibility of the index cards), the flexible authorship of the artists works within the potentiality of the works to be either constructed or performed by anyone, etc. The index cards format also allows for a cheap production cost and an high postal mobility. The counteracting of the authorial role of the curator did not stop Lippard to produce an accompanying documents enriching the exhibition, with the formalization, while keeping the dynamism, of the informational fields that so much of the works existed in.
It is also fertile to look at how those unconventional catalogues are now aging. In Québec's University Library, there was one copy of the original catalogue for the 557,087 exhibition, though, upon entering the institutional environment of the University Library, the catalogue was glue-bounded, the library froze in a conventional linear sequence the previously too-frivolous loose cards.
Kosuth, Joseph. “The ‘Play’ Detailed.” In The Play of the Unmentionable: an installation by Joseph Kosuth at the Brooklyn Museum, by Kosuth, Joseph and David Freedberg, 69-144. New York: The New Press, New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1992.
The Play of the Unmentionable is a canonic example in the genealogy of the figure of the Artists-as-Curator; example of a tradition of institutional critique that aimed at "exhibitions by artists working within museum collections [...] as a means of contesting museological histories.”14
The catalogue of the exhibition is quite conventional in form and content : Acknowledgments, Preface (from the director of the Brooklyn Museum, Robert T. Buck), Introduction (from the curator of contemporary art, Charlotta Kotik), Photographs from the installation, An Interview with Joseph Kosuth (with Randall Short), Joseph Kosuth and The Play of the Unmentionable (an theoretical essay from David Freedberg). There is one more section, the one of interest : The 'Play' Detailed (and the list of sources).
The 'Play' Detailed would be an exhaustive cataloguing of what was implicated in the exhibition. The 'detailing' is rather an compilation of all the material used and exhibited by Kosuth with the list of sources concerning the textual quotes, rather than a leap into the content of those presences. With The 'Play' Detailed, the catalogue offers a version of the installation through documentation and layout. In an exhibition where "an artist's activity consists of making meaning, not simply fashioning objects"15, the physical layout of this material becomes the key strategy of meaning making. And this is what is offered in the iteration of the installation that is The 'Play' Detailed. This section of the catalogue reproduces the constellation of works, objects, photos, quotes, etc. within the format given by the physical object of the book, just as the installation is wielding the format of the museum display and its codification. The 'Play' Detailed is an adaptation of the physical installation; an adaptation hinging less on the museum display languages, codes, histories and conventions, but rather on the informational level created by those constellations of material. An adaptation, nonetheless, since the semiotic structures of those cultural objects and their insertion into the museological apparatus still indicates an 'originel', but an adaptation that reveals and condenses the meaning-making acts to its informational levels.
Stankievech, Charles. “Apparatus Criticus” In Loveland, by Charles Stankievech, 19-48. Berlin: K. Verlag, 2011.
Texts from the ancient world reach us by a long complicated process of transmissions from copy to copy. 16
In this way, the publication is not so much the documentation of the installation but is an archive from which the installation is born out of despite that is published after the fact. In a wormhole time warp, the book functions as an apparatus criticus to the overall project.17
The curatorial text as a apparatus criticus.
The exhibition as the original text.
The artist as the author and the editor.
Another exhibition as the apparatus criticus.
The curatorial text as another exhibition.
The apparatus criticus is a device, produced by the editor, that ensure the reader of a critical edition with the surviving evidence of the transmission process and the editor’s interpretation of it. As Cynthia Damon, Professor of Classical Literature, University of Pennsylvania, pointedly express : “Texts from the ancient world reach us by a long complicated process of transmissions from copy to copy.”
And it is the responsibility of the editor to make visible and intelligible the critical edition origins. In this text, that is not a text, Stankievech makes use of the form of the apparatus criticus in order to replace the conventional form of the exhibition text. Instead of a lineage of the different copies of a common original, the apparatus criticus is presented a collection of images, works by others artists, archival materials and various references, that all collides shaping what would be another exhibiton, an exhibition functioning as the apparatus criticus to the Loveland exhibition. Stankievech enacts the author of the original manuscript, as well as the editor of its apparatus criticus. There seems to be a certain reversal of the function of the apparatus criticus at play here by the monstration of the material involved, which he is editing rather than authoring. Stankievech uses this responsibility device of the editor and aims it back at his own work. Hence, creating, with the writing device, a certain authoritative effect to his own creation, that would be Loveland. Instead of rendering the editor responsible in front of the reader, Stankievech subversively authorate Loveland in a brand new narrative and lineage. But this divergent act is only counter-intelligence.
Rooij, Willem de. Intolerance. Düsseldorf : Feymedia Verlagsgesellschaft, 2010.
The Intolerance catalogue is a compilation of three volumes : Hawaiian Featherwork, Melchoir d’Hondecoeter and Willem de Rooij Intolerence. There are no exhibition nor curatorial text for Intolerence. Instead, there is this series of catalogues. In the exhibition space there was no didactic material nor any textual material. The catalogues holds, in three parts, the discursive space of Intolerence, almost making them part of the artistic work that Intolerence is. The exhibition was the sole colliding of two bodies of works within a museum display system, composed of a unique wall hosting both presences. As mentioned, the catalogues can be considered as another of the curatorially artistic gesture from de Rooij, in this instance, through the discursive strategy of the form of the catalogue. His impulse for the three-part catalogue was mainly to create academic volumes treating both bodies of works that until this date were lacking any academic attention. The third volume is an extensive compilation of his works and artistic practice. The curatorial logic enacted by de Rooij, the juxtaposition of the two bodies of works, is continuing through the making of the catalogues, enabling his artistic and curatorially-informed act as going as far as the compilation of academic research and the publication of this material. This opens up a completely different understanding of the curatorial and exhibition text, projecting its implication to a broader field of knowledge.
Baere, Bart de. "Modes and Moods: Antique olive 15 lower case medium." In This is the show and the show is many things, by Baere, Bart de, Pierre Giguel and Dirk Pültau, 11-20. Ghent : Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst , 1994.
Pütlau, Dirk. "To Bart, Ronald and the Artists: Between the process and us, me." In This is the show and the show is many things, by Baere, Bart de, Pierre Giguel and Dirk Pültau, 5-10. Ghent : Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst , 1994.
Bart de Baere includes in the catalogue of the exhibition This is the show and the show is many things many different texts and artists imput. The artists’ inclusions in the making of the catalogue itself is certainly coming from de Baere desire to make the process the most important aspect of the exhibition and consequently, the catalogue. This strategy is also reminiscent of Szeemann strategy in making the catalogue for his landmark exhibitions. The catalogue opens up with a text from Dirk Pütlau, a critic brought in the process of the making of the exhibition by de Baere, responding to a text from de Baere, sent during the collective elaboration (in other words, the conversation between the curator and the artists that leads to the show as well as the inclusion of critics in this process) of This is the show and the show is many things. Pütlau’s text is entitled : To Bart, Ronald and the Artists. Between the process and us, me. It is a critique of the uneasiness that Pütlau experienced in front of the de Baere intentions with the show.
The second text that we encounter in the catalogue is the text that Pütlau responded to. Entitled Modes and Moods Antique olive 15 lower case medium, de Baere text is a self-reflexive look at the making of a show with the addition of anecdotal materials (conversations with artists and mentions of the catalogue’s own future, such as a look at what the publication typeface should be and how it was proposed by ‘Marleen’) as well as an honest account of the curator theoretical constellation and the unknown future of the exhibition. The writing strategy that de Baere employs in this exhibition text, or should we say in-the-making-of-the-exhibition text, reflects well the energy that was fuelling his collective process of elaboration of This is the show. Done in a transparent fashion, the text aims at making visible the inner working of the curatorial endeavour that This is the show was. The ongoing self-reflexivity adds to the proccessuality, and the implication of the critic voice and participation is a logical conclusion to such intentions, making visible and public, the show in its own making.
Badovinac, Zdenka. “A Glossary of Contemporaneity.” In Glossary of the Present and Presence, by Badovinac, Zdenka, 76-77. Ljubljana : Moderna Galerija, 2011.
The Glossary of the Present and Presence
was published as an accompaniment to the 2011 exhibition Present and Presence taking place as one of the two inaugural exhibitions for the new Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (MSUM), Ljubljana; the other half of the inauguration was an exhibition entitled, Museum of Affects. In the framework of L'Internationale *, and curated by: Bart de Baere, Bartomeu Marí with Bojana Piškur, Leen De Backer, Teresa Grandas.
The short entry A Glossary of Contemporaneity from Zdenka Badovinac presents both the Glossary as well as situates the exhibition, Present and Presence, within a historical evolution from what was the Moderna Galerija to its now younger sibling that is the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova.
To supplement our views the back issues of contemporaneity, we are compiling a glossary of key ideas related to contemporaneity, as I am discussing it here, from some of today’s leading Slovene and international thinkers, artists, and curators. We do not want this glossary to be confined merely to the pages of this publication, but rather to extend its existence into both the physical and virtual space of our museum. The present publication, therefore, is a declaration that what we are creating in Ljubljana’s Metelkova District is not only a collection of artworks but also a museum of ideas.18
What becomes interesting in this gesture of the glossary is, first, the implication of different authors (twenty-four in total) in order to collectively elaborate a conceptual field, one that is enabling as well as preparing the presence of this new museum and its futurity. Secondly, the exercise entailed by the glossary is not one of definition, but rather re-definition; the definitions provided by those authors are not relevant by their novelty, but rather by their implication of defining again, this time into this specific museum’s context. Thirdly, this strategy of re-contextualization becomes amplified but the exhibition itself, Present and Presence was composed from a selection of works from the Arteast 2000+ collection, “a pioneering assembly of works from the post-war avant-garde movements of Eastern Europe.” Again, re-contextualizing a collection; one that is fundamental to the origin of this new museum. Badovinac is well aware of the possibilities that those strategies of reiteration permits, it is quite telling by the trajectory that she has given to the MSUM. The exhibition Present and Presence has been subsequently repeated nine more times (stated as such : the Present and Presence | Repetition 1-9), leading to a second cycle of re-contextualization and reinterpretation of the Arteast 2000+ collection, in the suite of exhibition entitled Low Budget Utopias; this time the repetition is rebaptized: Recycling (ex. Low Budget Utopias – Second Recycling).
Gaba, Meschac. Library of the Museum Vol. 1 Museum of Contemporary African Art. Amsterdam: Artimo Foundation, 2001.
When Meschac Gaba presented the first draft of this Museum of Contemporary African Art in 1997 at the end of his period of study at the Riijksakdemie in Amsterdam, he had already decided how many rooms this nomadic and virtual museum would ultimately contain: twelve. When asked about why he chose this number, he referred to the twelve months of the year and the twelve Apostles. It’s a perfect number to him. A couple of years late, when it was suggested that he produce a publication on the museum, he proposed to document the first six rooms of the project. The book itself, which he also regards as a public space, is to be part of the library of the museum displayed at the Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. Six plus one makes seven: another special number. Art is never without meaning in Africa, as he says in the interview included in this book.19
The Museum of Contemporary African Art is a “nomadic and virtual museum”, it is also an artist’s project, from Meschac Gaba. Here, this publication, documenting the first six rooms of the Museum, is not exactly an exhibition catalogue for the upcoming exhibition inaugurating the seventh room, the library of the museum; even though, it contains an anticipatory (“This room will not be ready until after the publication of his book”) text from Bartomeu Mari, curator of the Gaba’s exhibition at Witte de With. Nor that it is exactly a monograph of Gaba’s project (i.e. The Museum of Contemporary African Art).
This publication presents itself as a reversal, a reversal of authorities, of the power structures. As if the publication was not on the topic of Gaba’s work entitled The Museum of Contemporary African Art, but rather, as if it was published by the Museum of Contemporary African Art as a self-reflexive look at its own origin and history. As if the publication was not an assemblage of exhibitions texts produced by the curators and directors of the institutions that hosted in their walls one of the first six rooms of Gaba’s projects, but rather, as if it was actually a collection of exhibition texts from curators employed by the Museum, where all of the exhibition are looking self-reflexively at their own institution’s existence. As if Gaba was no longer the artist of a project that takes the appearance of a museum, but rather, as if he was the founder of this museum, employing curators around the world, in order to produce self-reflexive exhibition at the museum itself, where the curators do not write as hosts anymore, but as guests.
Mangion, Éric. “Visite fantôme.” In Le Dit du dé, by Gander, Ryan, i-xv. Dijon: Les Presses du réel Collection Villa Arson, 2012.
Le 18 octobre 2010, Ryan Gander et Åbäke demandent à Éric Mangion de faire une visite fantôme de l’exposition The Die is Cast de Ryan Gander qui a eu lieu un an auparavant. Ce jour là, les galeries du patio et des cyprès de la Villa Arson sont fermées au public pour le démontage de l’exposition de Roman Ondák (Shaking horizon 2 juillet - 17 octobre 2010).20
Le Dit du dé is the catalogue from Ryan Gander’s first museum-scale exhibition, The Die is Cast (2009), at Villa Arson, Nice. This book was conceived by Gander and Åbäke, a transdisciplinary design studio. Published in 2012, Le Dit du dé is a playful cannibalization of the archive and the present absence of what has been The Die is Cast. Visite fantôme is a mnemonic experience, a challenge issued by Gander and Åbäke towards the curator of the then exhibition, Éric Mangion. “Si, j’ai bien compris le projet, c’est de refaire l’exposition en me souvenant des oeuvres, selon le principe de Perec «Je me souviens» ?
”21 Mangion was asked to re-construct the exhibition only through memory, no documentation was involved, and a fantomatic walkthrough in the space of the exhibition, but one year later (2010), during the dismantling of Shaking horizon, an exhibition from Roman Ondák. The curator was asked to remember the exhibition, creating then a second exhibition, one from the 18th of October 2010, the day of the Visite fantôme. This new memory-based exhibition not only shifts its time but also its author; it is no longer a Ryan Gander’s exhibition, but one produced by Éric Mangion. The visit is a three-voiced conversation, transcribed and laid out over 10 pages, as if it was a comic book where every panel is a blacked out only showing speech bubbles, as if the walkthrough happened with the lights turned off. This strategy of shaping this conversation in a lack of visual information was to mimic the absence of the works, where only discourse can summon them back into existence. Discourse recalled here by the authoritative voice of the curator. This prompt from Gander and Åbäke is asking the curator to perform his role, his discursive duty, showing the intricacies of the mnemonic existence of one exhibition as well as the spatial memory of an architecture. In this case, the curator, through his voice, carries his curatorial responsibility speaking as the curator.
Alberro, Alexander. “Maria Eichhorn.” In Documenta 14: Daybook, edited by Quinn Latimer and Adam Szymczyk, 26 April. Munich ; London ; New York : Prestel Verlag, 2017.
Alexander Alberro is not a curator. Although this text, on Maria Eichhorn serves as an artist bio or portrait for Documenta 14: Daybook (where every artist is presented via a one-page text written by a group of authors), and often it is how curator writes about artists in their exhibition text, this text is not an exhibition text. But this text, in its style, employs some curatorial strategies, writes in a curatorial way, specifically in an institutional-critique-informed fashion. Writing in this way exposes both Eichhorn and Alberro fundamental political fundaments. Alberro’s voice in this text is a self-reflexive and conscious one, where through a narrative framework (recalling the encounter he had with Eichhorn, that led to this presentation text), he is able to situate itself, its position, and what drove him there (recalling as well how Documenta14 framed their inquiry to him, making visible the origin of the text itself). This consciousness unfolds different frames, power structures and agencies at work, in the making of the text itself. One strategy particularly effective in this text is the unveiling of the negotiation between Alberro and Eichhorn concerning the content to be included in the writing, quoting her saying : “ ‘I always try to avoid summing up my practice in general’ ”22, permitting a space for Eichhorn’s uneasiness with the discursive power or duty can take over an artist’s practice. This same space was then taken over by Eichhorn herself and recalled by Alberro’s narrative : “She points to the first lines and says : ‘You could use this paragraph. Don’t you agree ?’ “23. The paragraph is then inserted in Alberro’s text, giving space for Eichhorn self-determination, agency inside the discursive space. His voice is brought back after the inserted artist’s presentation, staging the consensual negotiation of the discursive space; “Since Maria likes this paragraph, I’m happy to go along with her idea.”24 Since discourse is a space in which the curator enacts its authority, Alberro’s type of self-reflexive and conscious voice and inclusion, render (hopefully) the curator as a politically responsible figure, exposing the power structures enabling its own authorship. The questions then to ask are about what is not there. With wishful transparency as politic, something gets inevitably obscured. Who gains from this type of text ? To what degree can this type of politic can be applied to the curator and the exhibition text ?
Obrist, Hans Ulrich. “Introduction.” In do it the compendium, by Obrist, Hans Ulrich, 15-28. New York : Independent Curators International ; Distributed Art Publishers, 2013.
Over the course of twenty years, my introduction to do it has changed, along with my understanding of the project. The ongoing question of how to create dynamic institutional exhibitiion formats — something that remains urgent today, particularly as centres of art continue to emerge and diversify — is reflected in each version of the project.
For this compendium, we have compiled extracts from all the introductions to give an overview of how do it accumulates structure as it learns to be responsive to each new circumstance. Perhaps most importantly, this collage of beginning reveals how do it generates associations and ideas. It has only just begun.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, December 2012 *25
With this introduction as well as the compilation of introductions, Hans Ulrich Obrist is reiterating the purpose of the compendium onto itself, applying its reflexive structure towards the introduction as well. The compendium of the do it series of exhibitions has taken the challenge of collecting as well as organizing the artists’ instructions at the basis of the project. Not only that this assemblage crystallizes, as a snapshot with a timestamp, the ever-growing natures of the instruction-based exhibition, this assemblage creates a new exhibition, one in potential, one that can serve as an instruction itself. This compendium double acts as being a tool to make sense this, now, twenty-five-year-old project and its modulation over time, iterations and contexts, but it also acts as being an instruction for implementing a do it exhibition, re-entering the exhibition within the same sphere of mobility and actualization as the content of the exhibition itself. The introduction cleverly does it as well. By doing so, using the structure of the compendium and applying it to the exhibition’s introductions as well, Obrist is able to distill, through this compendium format, the core of the curatorial gesture that he has been establishing with the do it project; an open-ended, always transforming projects that exists in a dematerialized and potential way, proposing a new understanding of what is or can be an exhibition. And here, with this introduction, Obrist unfolds the do it thinking machine into itself, looking back at previous introduction, in order to pluralize the reach that the do it project has or can have.
Hoet, Jan. “An Introduction”. In Documenta IX, edited by Roland Nachtigäller and Nicola von Velsen, 17-21. Stuttgart : Edition Cantz, 1992.
To write a text about an exhibition, after living with it through a gestation period of nearly three years, now seems to me like a contradiction in terms. At this moment the exhibition is becoming visible, tangible, real. Everything is in motion, though very little is finalized. Writing, for me, is always a definitive process: it establishes, freezes, creams off a concrete reality. The energy that propels me at the moment is one of movement, impetus, constant new involvement: an energy from without, not from within.
What can I write about when so much remains to be said? Some things I would prefer to shout about; for such things, print seems altogether too quiet. I shall be expected to produce explanations, declarations of principle. But there are no true explanations or declarations, only letters and words: explanations, if you like, but not reality. Nothing but marginal notes, anecdotes, proposals.
My exhibition is an offer and a challenge; it is an invitation and an argument that can be experienced through the individual encounter with art. If a text that accompanies an exhibition is to be anything beyond self-justification — defending the work for which one has assumed such total and minute responsibility — then the only statements that count are those that direct the eye straight back to the exhibition itself.
So what should an introduction contain?26
‘So what should an introduction contain?’ is asking himself for the rest of this 10 points introduction text, meant to open the 1992 Documenta IX exhibition catalogue of essays. He goes on, with each point, by drafting some different possibilities of what an exhibition texts can say, what a curator can write about. Some more relevant than others, certainly his self-reflexive look at the object of the exhibition and its relationship with discourse enables a complex understanding of the curatorial endeavour; exposing the different expectations of such texts as well as setting a narrative frame to bring into the text the experience of writing. An interesting outcome of such a text would be the question of relevancy, here the text touches on many different concepts and arguments, but what is this self-reflexivity about ? Who does it concern ? Embedded within the process of composing an annotated bibliography compiling exhibitions texts exploring the possibility of writing as a curator, this text is definitively of interest. But as an exhibition text, where the intended public might be concerned more with the actual exhibition and less with a self-reflexive look at the act, impetus, responsibilities, expectations, of crafting an exhibition; what does this text perform, or achieves ? Hopefully, a conscious look at what the curator is expected to perform and write about is permitting an iconoclastic moment, where the curator as an authority figure, as the author of the exhibition, as he states so clearly, “This exhibition is my text”27; an iconoclastic moment might render a figure of the curator that is aware of its doing, of its own power, within the structures of the art. But is this text, really able to do so, and are those moments only creating a decorum for a theatre of politic ? ‘So waht sould an introduction contain?’.
1. Esche and Hlavjova, "Once is Nothing,” 58.
2. Ibid, 64.
3. Ibid, 64-65
4. “kabinett des abstrakten,” 32.
5. Ibid, 14.
6. Wade, “Gavin Wade interviews,” 105.
7. Lyotard and Chaput, “Album et Inventaire”.
8. Lyotard and Chaput, “La raison des épreuves,” 6.
9. Condorelli and Wade, “Support Structre,” 116.
10. Ibid, 16.
11. O’Neill, Paul, “I am a Curator”, Art Monthly, 2004 (275), 9.
13. Lippard, “In the Cards,”.
14. O’Neill, Paul, “The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture(s),” Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012, 140n94.
15. ”Press release Grand Lobby Installation by Joseph Kosuth” New York: Brooklym Museum, 1990, 2.
16. Cynthia Damon, Professor of Classical Litterature, University of Pennsylvania. “Reading the Critical Apparatus- Video 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch v=FFHLj1D4Qs4&list=PLo8pZkfZN5h3ofSkKnyIZ59fHHwQ-MfGi
17.Stankievech and Springer, “Traversals”, 211.
18. Badonivac, “A Glossary”, 77.
19. Steevensz, “Introduction”, 7, in Gaba, Library.
20. Mangion, “visite fantôme”, i.
22. Alberro, “Maria Eichhorn”, 26 April.
25. Obrist, “Introduction”, 15.
26. Hoet, “An Introduction”, 17.
27. Ibid. 21.