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Post by Claire Schneider, Independent Curator

Posted By Claire Schneider, Wednesday, June 06, 2012

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. 31, 2013).

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