Jonah Freeman, Justin Lowe and Alexandre Singh
Age Grade #3, 2008
Custom pigment print
Dimensions variable
Courtesty Ballroom Marfa

Death of the Curator

A Forensic Analysis of Curatorial Practice

Whenever there is a rupture in the traditional fabric of cultural production, it is not unusual to cry hypothetical wolf. The death of the author, the death of the object, the cyclical zombification of painting, the collapse of the power of the critic: aphorisms abound and rebound, eventually comforting us through inevitable reification. But what if we were to shelve the ivory ping-pong paddles and take up, for instance, full contact paintball? It would certainly liven up the debate—and the playing field.

So, rather than dredge up some stale row (which is rarely as much fun the second go-round), Art Lies, in conjunction with Guest Editorial Contributor Julieta Aranda, hereby announces the Death of the Curator. This is not a coup d’état, mind you, just a “modest proposal” of sorts. Why a forensic analysis? Well, because a preemptive strike sounds misleadingly and unnecessarily harsh considering the topic at hand. As a subtitle for this issue, A Forensic Analysis was agreed upon because of its clinical connotation—because of the folds, overlaps and sutures that complicate the distinction between current curatorial and artistic practices.

In his essay “The Bias of the World: Curating after Szeemann and Hopps,” David Levi Strauss lists various manifestations of curatorial disposition. His register includes the administrator, auteur, bricoleur, broker, bureaucrat, catalyst, the collaborator, cultural impresario and the diplomat. To this I would add the cat herder, the confidant, the casting director, the enabler, the overly entitled, the magician, the producer and the delinquent. While these are not new incarnations, some are antithetical to the traditional role of the curator as a caretaker of objects. And while most of us discarded that construct long ago, there are those who still function solely within that rubric. I see figures in long robes, scurrying about to plug up holes in the convex surface of a decaying diaphragm, while provocateurs prick its surface from the other side, in the hopes of giving birth to a hybrid creature—an entity unconcerned with titles and semantics—an entity capable of navigating the cultural landscape to come.

Anjali Gupta, Editor
Special thanks to Valerie Cassel Oliver for her insight on this topic.