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Curatorial Studio Blog: Situation and the Encounter

by Nikki Kane
Image: Image: Alan Dimmick

We began the fourth session of Curatorial Studio with roundtable discussions where we were able to take some time to delve further into each other’s practices and approaches to curating. During our first discussion, we revisited two events we had experienced together during the July session of Curatorial Studio as part of Scottish Sculpture Workshop’s (SSW) Edge Effects programme that took place at the CCA in Glasgow.

SSW Programme Manager Yvonne Billmore framed this conversation and gave us more insight into the workings of the project which has been developed over a five-year partnership with institutions across Europe, and involved long-term collaborations with a range of artists and practices. This project’s presentation at the CCA Glasgow, outside of SSW’s usual setting in the rural village of Lumsden in Aberdeenshire opened out conversations about working within different institutional relationships, and the experiences of urban and rural settings in relation to engaging audiences.

Questions about audience engagement and ‘access points’ also came up in our next group discussion, where Peter Amoore shared a project he developed and presented at Generator Projects in Dundee, following an invitation to respond to their archive. Peter’s approach re-visited a single exhibition that he had not actually seen in person, and resulted in several collages made through a series of rules and exercises that he devised. Together around the table we read aloud the text written to accompany the exhibition, reflecting on the layers of past and present in the project, and on modes of explaining or mediating in curatorial projects. After reflecting on these past projects, we spent the rest of the weekend looking forward: dealing with curatorial questions through unknown, potential and imaginary, future projects.

We were joined by curator Ellen Blumenstein who had just begun her new position as the inaugural curator of HafenCity in Hamburg, a new urban redevelopment project in the city’s former industrial port area. During Saturday afternoon’s public talk at the Goethe Institute, Ellen described the complex, challenging and exciting opportunity to curate a cultural programme for this whole district, acknowledging the possible tensions in maintaining creative and critical autonomy and managing conflicting expectations and demands from the developers, residents, tourists and art audiences.

Ellen Blumenstein. Image: Alan Dimmick
Ellen Blumenstein. Image: Alan Dimmick

Although undoubtedly complicated, the transformation of this industrial area into HafenCity is a rich and timely setting to examine issues around economies, public space, social care, work and leisure through cultural programming. In a workshop session the following day we devised possible future projects for HafenCity, and although these were imaginary and unrealised ideas, as in our previous day’s discussions of past projects, there was an emphasis on audience engagement, and working with existing infrastructures.

These questions around situation and the ‘encounter’ frame much of my own thinking around curatorial practice, and over the weekend it was interesting to consider these through projects of vastly different scales, settings and durations. Looking now towards our last organised group session in November, and hopefully beyond, I am looking forward to seeing how these themes might continue to shape our conversations and relations.