Curatorial / Knowledge Introduction

The project of curatorial/knowledge is simultaneously a teaching program for post-graduate research and a mechanism for bringing together the experiences of working within art institutions and environments with modes of theoretical reflection and analysis being explored within the university. Both forums urgently require a complex mode of dialogue and exchange with one another, one in which experience and reflection can come together, not as service industries but as interlocutors, disturbing and agitating the surfaces of each other’s practice. As the boundaries between theory and practice continue to erode, we all feel the need to explore how these might come together beyond context or illustration.

What we envisage is in a sense, two flows of traffic: a Ph.D program in which working curators can enrol and reflect theoretically on what they are both observing and doing in the field and a forum to which those working in the partner institutions and feeling the need for another modality of discussion, can make occasional visits as time allows. The program also encompasses an initiative in which groups of students will be invited into partner institutions to put on experimental projects.

In order to enable the kind of movement we have in mind we will need to apply for funding for a period of 5 years, enough time to really ground the exchanges and to enable a cohort of people to finish their dissertations. The institutions we have approached as partners are those who value investigation and experimentation and with which we hope to have a transformative on-going conversation that may affect all of our practices.

The Project:
The area of inquiry explored by this degree is ‘the curatorial’ as differentiated from ‘curating’. One of the main reasons to differentiate between these two concepts is in order to open up a space of theoretical reflection and speculation consistently missing within the ever-increasing activity of curating and its professionalisation. The conjunction of the title ‘curatorial / knowledge’ implies an understanding of curating as the production of and engagement with knowledge. Thus ‘knowing’ is not the absorption of information and materials -- not simply analysis and interpretation, but rather something we actively produce through our various practices.

While ‘curating’ as such deals with the mechanisms of staging exhibitions and their discursive sphere in or out of the remit established by the museum or exhibition space, ‘the curatorial’ explores all that takes place on the stage set up, both intentionally and un-intentionally by the curator. By this we mean the event of knowledge both scopic and non-scopic, the ideologies embedded in these performances, the interactive, relational and participatory nature of knowledge imparted, the edges of the knowable showing the limitations and or possibilities of knowledges imparted, and all the sources of knowledge; historiographic, curatographic, experiential, used in the production of the ‘curatorial’.

In addition there will be considerable attention paid to the fields of activism and engagement which intersect with the curatorial, both politically and performatively. By this we mean to explore how the political is both staged and curated and how these are not simply reflections on political states but the actualisation of a politics. While much curatorial practice critically references political events, this program wishes to explore the way in which the curatorial is a point of access to politics as a mode of being. Instead of putting forward a praxis, the curatorial can become a mode of engagement in the world that cannot be anything but political.

The aim of this field of inquiry is not to constitute a science of curatorial practices or a know-how of exhibition making, but to explore the possibilities for an emergent discourse on and for curatorial activities. This discourse is by necessity a combination of the historical, the theoretical, the critical, the epistemological and the political. Through these conjunctions the Ph.D program is intended to discover the various frameworks within which work by curators, artists, organisers, editors and funders, is articulated as they assemble visual knowledge.

Intended Participants:
The degree is intended for those who are already working in the field in some capacity and have a body of knowledge and experience which they might like to reflect on theoretically. The degree intends to set out a complex network of theoretical and methodological tools that will enable participants to revisit previous projects and link these with a variety of other activities out in the world. It is also aimed at helping participants explore less conventional ways by which the assembly and circulation of visual knowledge might be conceptualised and pursued. The program also welcomes applications from those non-practitioners interested in theoretically exploring investigations of the curatorial.

Not limited to a critical discourse on the nature of the event of the exhibition itself, the program would also welcome historical engagements with curating that go beyond chronicling events to opening up the cultural paradigm shifts that have impacted curatorial practice.

In parallel to the program we are hoping to establish an archive of materials for the field of ‘ the curatorial’, part of which will be the research being done within the program. This will provide a unique opportunity to think through the wider field of what constitutes a knowledge basis for a notion of ‘the curatorial’.

Unlike other Ph.D programs this strand is intended to offer maximum flexibility for students who would then be able to pursue their studies in conjunction with their professional practice. Lectures, seminars and workshops will take place in short concentrated blocks several times during the academic year (e.g. six times a year for several days each time) and as such they do not require the constant attendance of students who are employed in jobs or engaged in projects of their own. Students would also have the opportunity to access the general Ph.D seminars and the range of post-graduate courses offered within the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College.

The degree is constituted in collaboration with a number of individuals and museums and research institutions across Europe including:

MuKha Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp
Van Abbe Museum of Contemporary Art, Eindhoven
KW KunstWerke, Berlin
Galerie fur Zeitgenossische Kunst, Leipzig
Fundacya Wyspa Progress (Solidarity Mueum and Foundation), Gdansk
Platform Garanty, Istanbul
Iaspis (research and residency centre), Stockholm

Colleagues from these institutions may be joining seminars and workshops on an ad-hoc basis whenever time permits or if there is the wish to lay out a project they may be working on and subject it to a theoretically informed discussion.

Participants in the Ph.D program will have access to one or two of these collaborating institutions to pursue a collective, experimental research project within that institution and with its support. Should that project extend beyond the institution or then this will be negotiated by host institution.

We envisage the dissertation to be a departure from the traditional academic dissertation which is most often characterised by one unified subject and generally includes a balance of archival research and theoretical speculation with a strong emphasis on new materials. This model is obviously equally available to all students enrolled in the Curatorial/Knowledge program. However, we are also hoping to explore a new model of dissertation, one formed by the theorisation of a number of projects; these may include candidates own curatorial project, group’s collaborative project, and an historical or contemporary example of something that has impacted your practice. The resulting dissertation will be made up of case studies framed by a theoretical introduction. It is our hope to establish a publication series which will track the work in the program and offer it as a laboratory of working processes for the field rather than for the profession.

Prof. Irit Rogoff
Dr. Jean Paul Martinon