Kathy Rae Huffman
Discussion with audience questions
Questions and Answers Session (for all speakers)
RB: I was interested in Vivienne’s idea of the curator as mediator, and was wondering if you might all have other models of ‘curator as …’ such as events managers, or public relations.
VG: It’s involved very much in the projects – notion of mediation was as much the notion of marketing and PR, and I think that’s why they expanded the curatorial roles. With the Club Night model, for example, these have to be mediated very much, as I said, as club events – they have to be mediated on the audience’s terms in what they expect from these kind of events. So I just direct the whole marketing/PR strategy. With the re-enactment, as a second example, the media hype around these events actually becomes that narrative, it becomes the art to an extent. It sustains the art because without it, it wouldn’t exist. So those roles are absolutely absorbed into what I perceive is mediation.
RB: So going on from the Club Nights, did you make any differentiation between art and culture, or is it one?
VG: I’ve always dealt with culture, and I leave it to other people.
CH: The project that I was doing in a lot of ways challenged the role of the curator and also the role of the artist. We defined ourselves as collaborators – both as artists and curators, but also collaborators within the community. The project in a sense would not have been successful if we gone went in there with these pre-designed roles (of curator and artist) because it doesn’t mean anything in that context. In a sense, as a curator, you have to take on all of those models and roles as part of what you do.
KRH: I quite often feel that the work is more about being a producer than a curator, especially if the projects get very big and you have a lot of things to co-ordinate. The curating comes with the initial idea or the initial concept and of putting ideas together, but then it’s just flat-out production. Timewise, it’s mostly budgets and everything else. It’s not just sitting around thinking about history or theory, the object is getting it done – and getting it done on budget and on time. Also important is the issue of language – when you’re dealing with certain projects, you use a certain language, and you can’t use the language of connoisseurship because that audience will not respond to that in that context. So it’s almost about training your marketing department and bringing in specialists to do this kind of job for you because it’s so essential.
Audience: Kathy mentioned time from a curator’s point of view, and had some great points about how the audience used the artworks, so I was wondering if you could comment about about time, from the audience’s point of view? Clive Gillman has mentioned how video (and live art) is a time-based medium, but also how that interactive artworks are rather different to this more familiar curatorial approach.
KRH: I think the time element would depend on the person and how long they have to go into the work. They will come with an hour to spend or ten minutes to spend, so at times it becomes more on the user’s back than on the artist’s back. If it’s a video or a projection of a linear kind, then yes it’s time factors there, but people quite often ignore that and just look at say ten minutes of it and leave. It’s something that you can’t really control. I don’t really worry about it too much to be honest. Maybe that’s wrong, but I think if they get a little bit of something and they want to come back later or whatever, at least they’ve got a view into it. I think more important than time is the social: if it’s a night when there’s a kind of party atmosphere – this becomes a whole social evening where you spend more time. We do some of that as well, then it extends the idea of the gallery. I’m not familiar with what Clive Gillman said, I don’t really have a theory on it, but I have observations from my own experience. I’m fascinated by how people interact with each other over computers (people say ‘jeez, you just have a bunch of computers in there, people won’t go in’), but it’s not like that, and they seem to they talk to each other much more than they do if there’s a regular exhibition on. It’s really interesting.
VG: The kind of projects that I’ve dealt with are collapsed in time, whether it’s 25 years hence (or the Milgram is about 40 years now). It is collapsed in that time element, so you’re not dealing with a project purely from a point of nostalgia. You’re dealing with it and a current experience which is based on a memory, a history, on a cultural notion and therefore time becomes, to some extent, a notion of relevance for the time that you’re in there, for the time that you’re engaged in it has to become negligible. You’re not looking back, you’re experiencing at the same time and this notion I keep raising is of the virtual environment – it’s surrounding you in a total experience.
KRH: Do you get people who were at the orginal events, and say ‘I was here …’
VG: Yes, it’s quite scary. The people who are the originals are fanatics, but we all believe that we’re the original ones. I was too young, but I’ve seen the Pennebaker films so I felt those were the originals. For months leading up to that particular event, every morning before I went to work I watched the film because I watched a different clip of the film and I watched a different aspect just so that I, in my head, had that experience that I could then translate with the artist and with the practitioners on stage. So it’s that easy to become obsessive yourself.
RB: Any more comments on audience, engagement and installation?
AK: The Little Worlds exhibition was really quite a packed installation in the gallery, which broke down that traditional connoisseur aesthetic where there is one object every 10 metres. One of the nicest things I heard ,was someone standing there and saying “I thought this used to be an art gallery”, and I think that has to do very much with the installation, and how much time people spend.
Audience member: As a consumer I sense a gap between ordinary people who don’t have curatorial concerns, and curators are ‘devotees’. There seems to be an attempt for ‘desperate inclusivity’ (like those who sample music and call themselves musicians) and a desire to be ‘confronting the proletarian gaze’.
AK: Great question. I think that where this problem is created is that with ‘the death of the author’, whereas the curator always used to be silent, invisible, omnipotent, and always right, now artists lead the way in critiquing that position, and the idea that it ‘speaks to everyone’. So now it’s not the Wizard of Oz spectacle, but the curator is visible and present. But, how can we do this without taking attention away from the artwork? Every exhibition is an attempt to negotiate that. […]
KRH: This is a particular curatorial gathering. Often I organise non-media shows but I particularly like the interaction with the audience. I think that the audience needs to be part of the discussion, but I think that they are also perfectly capable of dealing with this work own their own terms. […]
SC: I’m afraid that we have run out of time, but it is always good to end on an interesting question. Thank you to all the participants, to AN and to the NGCA.