The second active curating session took place on Tuesday 6th May. As had been previously suggested, this session took place over the course of just one evening and following the format of an unconventional sort of game. Most people who attended brought an artwork or two, and everyone took turns at being “the curator”. Curators were allowed to move a certain number of the artworks (decided by roll of dice, or if you have no dice, numbers generated by lucky dip from hastily scribbled pieces of paper in an envelope). The curator has a strictly enforced 5 minutes to complete their moves. Then it is the turn of the next curator, who can move as many of the pieces of work as specified on their piece of paper, except one that the previous curator has nominated as unmovable for the duration of the next turn.
Despite the relatively small number of people who attended this session, which in turn made for a small number of artworks, the session was deemed a success, as it did throw up some interesting combinations and juxtapositions of work. We had a couple of small lamps and an old fashioned projector which were used to light the artworks dramatically and which really enhanced the overall effects we were able to produce.
After everyone present had had two turns at being the curator (we had by the end also introduced the idea of the curator’s assistant, for handling tricky shaped artworks or heavy props such as tables), we declared the session finished. Afterwards we had an interesting discussion about what the focus of the activity had been, were we hoping to arrive at the best possible placement for each work of art? How would it be possible to reach a consensus on what that would be? Could the rules be tinkered with in such a way that it would aid the achievement of these goals? In this way, the session raised some interesting possibilities about how active curating could proceed in the future.
This was my first session of active curating and my impressions were that the rules of the game and the spirit in which it was conducted were light-hearted and playful, but at the same time done in earnest and taken as seriously as was needed to make it a meaningful exercise. This atmosphere of "playing seriously" seems to me to be what active curating is all about. It's not something you are invited to do much in everyday life, but it is essential to the practice of an artist, and as such I think these sessions are very practical as well as lots of fun.
Here is an account of the event by another of the people who attended:
Lauren: I’ve long been interested in ways of displaying art work that go against preconceptions of how art should be shown and arranged; making use of floor and corners rather than walls, laying paintings and pictures flat, and arranging things in awkward and ugly ways. The active curating is a good way of trying these kinds of arrangements out and seeing how it affects the viewing experience, especially as each ‘curation’ is only temporary, meaning that odd and counter-intuitive positions can be tried and discarded.
There also seems to be a value in trying-out different permutations of the ‘active curating’ method; after our first session that took place over a week, the next took place over one night and involved strict rules, and it will be interesting to try again with a new set of rules or restrictions.