Curatorial development in Scotland

A reflection on Maria Fusco’s workshop

Maria Fusco’s highly invigorating seminar and workshop was a personal challenge but on reflection has given my writing a new editorial rigor and awareness. I daren’t look back on my previous outputs given her fresh and feisty methodology. But the technique of a subjective narrative is a voice I recognise and have used for a few years in discussing art and culture. Crucially the message from Maria’s session is that the writer can/should adopt this subjective voice as a critical method and therefore as writers we have the mandate to discuss art things in this manner. What was also apparent is that the methods and stern focus on the detail and exactness of this voice gives this genre of art writing the gravitas to challenge and bypass the tyranny of art theory writing.

This particular writing voice has been evolving in art writing for a while. Influences on my own work are the catalogue for the seminal Jan Hoet curated exhibition Chambre d’Amis in Ghent (1986) which layers the publication with selected historical factual and fictional texts with documentation of the artworks; the Private View catalogue (1996) for the exhibition of contemporary artworks in the Bowes Museum, County Durham which has a great text by the curator Penelope Curtis which plays with the concept of the imaginary exhibition and the catalogue for artist Mike Nelson’s A Forgotten Kingdom (2001) which is designed like some pulp fiction novel dovetailing his own artwork with sections from choice fiction.

And, if I can mention some of my curated projects – The House in the Woods with Janice Galloway and The Blue Chamberwith Duncan McLean – employed the creative writer to give an interpretation to the exhibition either as a commissioned piece or republished text. But these texts have a purpose in this context. They give extended interpretation to a specific curated project.

Taking such writing out of this context is interesting but may as Maria pointed out in a recent Art Monthly critique, produce hostility and confusion of its intention and integrity. Maria’s own work can stand alone in its own publication as does Chris Kraus’s writing. But it can be an easy target as illustrated in Kraus’s recent book Where Art Belongs (2011), which is a collection of sectioned short stories narrating the ups and downs of the LA artworld, as the text on the short lived Tiny Creatures gallery reads like some sort of horrible trendy Brett Easton Ellis tribute act. Not so groovy.

Iain Irving
Iain is a lecturer at Grays School of Art, Aberdeen and currently working on a PhD to produce a definition of independent curatorial practice.