I look forward every year to being in a room filled only
with curators. Since I started officially in the profession in 1998, I remember
many years when no such space/place existed to formally come together with
like-minded souls. Being able to swap
experiences, skills and contacts is invaluable. I see the conference working in
a two tiered way, social time to meet others and in depth conference
presentations on the meaty issues facing curators. In general, there were many
sessions I was engaged by and numerous people I was happy to meet, the
conference just went by too quickly, while certain periods felt like they could
have benefited from more customization.
An emphasis was placed to big building expansions, but I
spent more time in the auditorium of the MFA Boston hearing others uncondensed
presentations than on actually seeing the museum itself. This highlights two
items: there should be more optional time to view the institutions and
presentations should be much more condensed. The Pecha Kucha session was a
favorite—efficiently learning about a plethora of curatorial strategies. I
would have appreciated an alternative to the "Expanded and Reconfigured
Spaces.” I’m not living through one of these and would have benefited from learning
how others are dealing with the concerns I face everyday. How to negotiate
independent curator contracts? How does the concern with the local and global
affect individual curatorial decision making?
I especially enjoyed Helen Molesworth’s keynote address—the
most provocative and thoughtful presentation on actual curatorial thinking and
philosophy. As a contemporary curator who worked in a museum with an hundred
and fifty year old collection of "contemporary art” myself, her plea to attend
more to the historical in the contemporary was a long needed critique and
commentary on this end of the profession and a well articulated example of how
rarely the "academy” and the procedural aspects of being a curator find a space
of rigorous thought.
The session "Technology and Community Engagement” was
probably the best session in its entirety, with presentations that were well
crafted, diverse, and attending to a concern, or rather galvanizing force, that
is all pervasive in contemporary art practice, but whose topics here I would
have likely not encountered otherwise. "Exhibition Management” and "Negotiating
Loans” were helpful, well organized, and specifically relevant.
Perhaps there is a way that one of the lunches or breakfasts
could have tables like those for the different committees. People interested in
specific concerns could just show up and meet others with those concerns. I did
meet a number of other independent curators, but I longed for us to all to sit
at a table together and talk shop. Later the same week I went to another
conference, Open Engagement in Portland, Oregon, which focused on social
practice and art. There, one artist was leading a kind of speed dating session
where people were able to quickly and efficiently get to know each other, something
especially valuable when time is tight and the resources so plentiful.
Finally, as a travel grant recipient, I want to end with a
gushing thanks to the people who make the conference, physically, financially
and intellectually possible. Your hard work is sincerely appreciated.
Claire Schneider, Independent Curator, Buffalo, New York and
Consulting Curator of Contemporary Art, Ackland, Art Museum, University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Currently organizing More Love: Art, Politics and Sharing Since the 1990s (Feb. 1 – Mar.