Selected Maria Lind Writing

Edited by Brian Kuan Wood, Sternberg Press, 2010

Johan Lundh

Maria Lind is one of the most renowned curators of her generation. Currently director of Tensta Konsthall in the outskirts of her native city of Stockholm, Lind previously held posts as director of the graduate program at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in upstate New York, head of Iaspis in Stockholm, director of Kunstverein München in Munich and curator at Moderna Museet, also in Stockholm. In 2009, she received the Menil Foundation’s Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement.

As a writer on art, Lind has not achieved the same influence, even though she began her career as an art critic in Sweden. The newly published anthology Selected Maria Lind Writing should garner her a much-deserved wider readership. The volume, compiled by Brian Kuan Wood, an editor of e-flux journal, features essays, interviews, statements and research notes written in English between 1997 and 2010. In a nod to her curatorial methodology, in which she works closely with artists, often on projects that challenge the programming or organization of the institution for which she works, Lind, together with Kuan Wood, invited a handful of colleagues to select and comment on a few of her texts. Rather than feeling contrived, these responses, from curators Beatrice von Bismarck and Ana Paula Cohen, critic Tirdad Zolghadr and artist Liam Gillick—designer of the book’s repellently bright yellow cover—reveal Lind’s open and trustful relationship with her collaborators.

Selected Maria Lind Writing is divided into six thematic sections: “Expanded Fields,” “Reflexivity,” “Here and Now,” “Working Together or Not,” “Art and Artists” and “Embeddedness.” The contents, however, are exceptionally difficult to categorize, ranging from essays on individual artists and groups, such as Deimantas Narkevicius, Philippe Parreno, Apolonija Šušteršic and Oda Projesi, to texts about Lind’s own and others’ exhibitions and projects, to reflections on art funding and its place in society. Although sprawling and prismatic, the volume successfully encapsulates Lind’s varied interests (art, politics, critical theory) and different roles (curator, director, educator), providing several parallel threads to follow. Still, a front-to-back reading proves demanding. Rather, it’s a volume to return to, time and again.

The book’s length of over 400 pages might also discourage potential readers, but Lind’s prose, candid without being crude, makes for compelling reading. Her training as a newspaper critic, where direct and pedagogical writing is the rule, and the fact that these texts are written in her second language likely influenced the straightforward tone. Lind’s writing style developed during the thirteen years the volume spans, becoming more precise without becoming academic, but her voice remains her own from the outset.

A critical contemplation of contemporary art and curatorial practice, Selected Maria Lind Writing presents texts that will inspire readers to understand art as a method of engagement. Lind shows that art, by shaping perception, can foster both aesthetic and critical engagement with the world without instrumentalizing or forcing those connections. More than merely providing insight into the mind and actions of one of today’s most influential curators, the book prompts readers to think about their own relationship to social, economic and political concerns without ever questioning the power of art.

Johan Lundh is an independent curator and writer dividing his time between Berlin and Stockholm.

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