San Antonio, TX. ART Magazine.
Often times curated shows diminish the efforts of the artists. When there is a curator for a certain show, his selection and theme becomes an art form of its own. If an exhibition does not have a curator, the attention falls back again into the artist. There are also times when the selection made by a curator creates an important dialogue, but the art and artists on display diminish the work of the curator. So, what is a curator? Chad Dawkins, artist,critic, and curator, after being asked to curate an exhibition, decided to explore the concept.
Haydee: Chad, please tell me a little more about how you came with this concept. Was there something that triggered your thinking? Is is something you have been thinking for a while now?
Chad: I was asked to curate an exhibition. The questions “Who to select?” and “Should I have a theme?” I found overwhelmingly stupid. Instead of attempting to build a show in that ordinary manner, I chose to question the act of curating itself. Considering myself an artist and critic, I have held strong feelings towards the position and function of a curator for some time. As an artist, I’ve come to understand curators as those that hold sway–the gate keepers. As a critic, I consider them the enemy–opportunists that exploit the work of artists and dodge or negate the role of critics. But I didn’t think it right to use an exhibition as a platform to vent my spleen on a subset of the art world. I wanted instead, to open up the question to a selected group of artists, curator, critics, and collectors. I wanted to know what other people thought.
H: As the curator for this show,what where you looking for in the artwork?
C: I knew that this show wouldn’t be about a group of artists or a collection of work. Instead, I wanted to ask a set of questions to provoke responses in the most basic form to spark some interest in talking about what “curating” even means. So instead of curating, I wanted to question curating.
H: Who is participating in the show?
C: I wanted to collect from a pool of established and emerging artists, curator, and critics. But especially from those that I feel have a voice and those that are interested in the inner-workings of their profession. I mostly chose people that I know personally, knowing that I probably wouldn’t respond to a call to submit from a stranger.
H: How did you select the people who that are participating?
C: After sending out seventy-five emails asking for responses to my question, What is a curator?, I let the recipients decide if they wanted to respond and how they would do so. I didn’t expect as may responses as I got. Out of the seventy-five, more than half responded with a yes-or-no, and twenty submitted entries. Most answered the questions, but a few took the prompt in their own direction.
H: I assume this exhibition was an exploration not only for the participants but for you as well. So, What is a curator then? What was your final conclusion?
C: What started out as a charged attempt to provoke my compatriots into joining me in lambasting the curators turned into something more rare. The nuances of who was willing to respond, who wanted to stay anonymous, and the overall positive–but passive–answers I received solidified some of my prejudices. But more importantly, I may have learned a thing or two. Even the written declines I got were useful to me. Many people are really busy, some don’t want to think about these theoretical problems, a couple no longer speak publicly, a few don’t find this relevant to their practice, but everyone wishes me the best of luck. I hope this project can contribute to a larger dialogue about our roles, our expectations, and the really weird power-dynamics at work in the art world. At this point I could say that a curator is someone that banks on relationships.
After being asked to participate as curator for the exhibition, Chad Dawkins sent the following e-mail to seventy-five artists, critics, and curators:
The Questionnaire A series of questions: Please respond to the following questions in the manner you feel most comfortable. Answer as many or few questions as you like. (Please include the number of the question with your response)
1. Name a curator whose work you respect.
2. Name a curator you like personally.
3. Name a curator you have not worked with that you despise.
4. Name a curator you have worked with that you despise.
Please respond to as many of the following questions as you like with as much information as you feel is necessary, elaborate as needed. (Please include the number of the question with your response)
5. Give a specific, positive example of a curator working within the boundaries of their position.
6. Can you give a specific, negative example?
7. Give a specific positive example of a curator working outside the boundaries of their position.
8. Can you give a specific negative example?
9. Can you name one thing you have learned from a curator?
10. Has your career/practice/collection advanced due to the work of a curator?
11. Have you, or your work, been abused (misrepresented) by a curator?
12. Do you feel that the role of the curator has infringed upon your role in the art world?
13.Would you like your name attached to this response and in the exhibition publications? yes or no Names are encouraged, but If no, your responses will appear simply as artist, curator, collector, or critic. ex: “artist” or “curator/collector”, etc.
The opening reception will take place on March 18 from 6:30 pm through 10:00 pm at Unit B Gallery. The show will feature diverse responses in different forms by Amy Austin, Anjali Gupta, Chris Sauter, Devon Dikeou, Florian Slotawa, Hills Snyder, Jeff Williams, Joey Fauerso, Joshua Bienko, Lyle Williams, Maia Gianakos, Rene Barilleaux, Wendy Vogel and six anonymous artists. For more information contact the gallery at (312) 375.1871