October 15, 2011

Excerpt from Chamber of Public Secrets' subjective effort to explore the richness and specificity of collective curating


To begin with, there were a couple of questions from Viktor Misiano: ‘If not you, who? If not now, when?’ And a number of responses straight from thinking loud:

a) The idea of collective curating is a matter of being able to renounce what I already know in order to learn what I do not know – and someone else in the team does. How far can I embrace this attitude and renounce my individual knowledge? Collectives (should) resonate wider; it is not only a matter of adding knowledge and producing something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. It is a dynamic that works by detraction rather than addition and extends its reach precisely by renouncing the singular power position.

b) The above is also important in terms of building and enlarging audiences, be that an art public, a media audience or a peer community: besides renouncing or acquiring knowledge, it is a matter of giving up control and accept risk. Collective production can go awfully wrong or fantastically well for unforeseeable reasons because they involve a greater number of actors. In this context, I work within a territory that is (and remains) uncharted. Calculated risk is a chimera.

c) Furthermore, collective curating is interesting outside the field of art. While it is rather common to group-curate literature (editors) and cinema (programmers), it is less so to ‘curate’ science, journalism or architecture. How would it be for a group of scholars to curate a scientific endeavour or programme, how could it work out a journalistic platform curated collectively (deciding together what to cover and how, not merely producing in team), and what about an urban masterplan devised by a (small) community of inhabitants? (The fact I added ‘small’ is a clue of what can/cannot work within a collective effort.)

d) The crucial question, which exists independently from the activity of curating: why collectively? The first response would be that to work alone, I get bored – a good enough reason. There is something else. In a collective, the risk of overwhelming ideologies, blind faiths or devastating emotional responses is less. All is diluted both in relations, space and time. Of course group ideologies do exist and are no less effective than those imposed single-handedly. But even if the process is slower and sometimes unnerving, there is a good chance that thinking, working and deciding together may bring a less self-centred and more interesting outcome. If people stick around long enough, that is.

[The rest of this text can be found on the Chamber of Public Secrets website here. Their remarkable Immigrant Image Archive can be found here.]  


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