Curatorial development in Scotland

The subjective voice workshop

This was the workshop I was most unsure of. I have over the development of my curatorial practice had an uncomfortable relationship with writing. Understanding it’s importance but never fully able to commit myself to it in any other way than the completion of funding applications and press releases. This was a concern that seemed to be shared by a few of the other participants.

The workshop started with Maria presenting a version of her essay ‘Say who I am. Or a Broad Private Wink’*. With a call to inductive process in opposition to the traditional idea of deductive criticism. Instead of attempting to create a fixed relation to the ‘art object’ she suggested that the role of the critic should be to work within the contradictions and problematics that the ‘art object’ throws up.

Following on from this we where given 2 options of how we wanted to proceed with the day. Either a practical workshop or a continuation of more theoretically based discussion on the role of art criticism. I voted for the 2nd option but was overwhelmingly disagreed with. In hindsight I am glad it went against me.

The workshop took the participants through how the use of different tenses and persons in writing alters the way a text is read. Working with a material selected from a visit to Hans Schabus’ exhibition ‘Remains of the Day’** we were set a number of exercises starting on ones own and building to a choral text working in 2 collaborative groups. At the end of each writing exercise we then had the uncomfortable experience of reading out the texts to the group and the discussing what the different registers did to the tone of the writing.

The event as a whole cast light on a number of issues I have been thinking through on the interrelations between curating, writing and editing and how subjective voices emerge within all of them. Echoing some of Jans points in the first workshop there was an idea that working with art needs to shift from the readily assigned roles of the artist as the dominant voice with the curator/critic attempting to disentangle in a pure act of interpretation to a position in which everyone adds further subjective layers in the process further complicating our relationship to art. The workshop was helpful even though I am a long way away from coming to terms with my relationship to art writing although maybe this is the point?

Benjamin Fallon


* published in judgment and contemporary art criticism edited by J.Khonsray and M.O’Brien for Artspeak/Fillip Editions.