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Event Report: Collaboration & Curating

8 August 2014
Emma Balkind

SCAN – Collaboration and Curating (Chairs’ Summary)

I was pleased to chair this SCAN event during the Edinburgh Art Festival, with a great mix of speakers from a variety of curatorial backgrounds. First on the panel was Sarah Cook of CRUMB. Sarah spoke about Transitio, a media arts festival which she recently worked on in Mexico City where the organisation chooses their director by jury each year, and then the director chooses their curators. Through this example, Sarah asked whether it is a luxury to know and trust your collaborator.

Stacy Boldrick spoke about her experience working alongside curators at Tate Britain for the exhibition Art under Attack. The theme of the works centred around the idea of iconoclasm, which Stacy explained relates to both the notion of a traitorous collaboration, and the act of positive co-operation. Attending to this, Stacy explained that working with a large institution developed her skills in resolving conflict when working with large teams where not everyone would agree on curatorial decisions.

Finally, Tiffany Boyle and Jessica Carden of Mother Tongue described how their practice as early career curators has involved them instigating many different types of projects themselves and seeking out organisations and frameworks to partner with. They explained that as freelance curators, for them collaboration in curating is not sustainable due to a lack of funding.

After the discussion we had a lively breakout session with attendees. My group had three different rural or peripherally based curators: one from Nova Scotia, one from the Borders another based in Invernesshire; and one Edinburgh-based curator. Each discussed pragmatic points as to how they are employed as curators and how support varies by geographical location. We discussed the idea of having an exchange or visiting post of curator to allow small organisations to broaden their horizons as to what is possible in rural settings. In addition to this we had a discussion about artists unions, and the Canadian standard where galleries must have fixed and transparent fee structures for artists and curators if they receive public funding.

We found that although the term curating relates to the act of programming and authoring art exhibitions, the practice of curating actually varies widely according to ones institutional affiliations (or lack thereof). There was a lot of discussion around the paucity of funding for independent curators, with a recent change in wording of Creative Scotland funds closing-out curators and arts professionals who also work in art education or research. One response from the day stated: ‘Through the discussions it became apparent that funding for the arts is still a real obstacle in delivering these curatorial projects. In order to bring these projects to light more support is needed to bring a greater fairness to all involved.’

It was mentioned in the participant responses that the term collaboration was perhaps too broad to be productive in this setting. I think that on the day we managed to cover a breadth of topics throughout the session with a very high level of participation from panel and attendees, which led to an energetic and worthwhile set of discussions.

The participants were asked to leave one thought, comment or critique that had stayed with them. You can read these here.


Event Report: Collaboration & Curating