Thursday 2 August 2012

Journal I (museum) space-hopping

hi, it's me rachelle.

today's curriculum was exceptionally interesting because we finally got to talk about the curatorial practice in an actual space - the museum/gallery setting. oh, do not get me wrong, i am not implying that the first 2 days were dull. i do appreciate and enjoy the discussions we've had so far:  curatorial motivations, political implications arising out of these motivations, theoretical/social concerns revolving around exhibiting, curator's responsibilities, etc. i would think these to be very necessary thought processes that drive any good exhibition-making. beyond asking questions and "interrogations", i wonder - as curators, is it not equally important for us to understand the dynamics behind our curatorial concepts/intentions and the act of translating them into a physical space? the naggy bottom-line is that people understand and experience an exhibition by walking through it. the interaction between the viewer and the object/narrative in space cannot be excluded from the curatorial language. if an exhibition fails to communicate spatially (with text or no text), then the entire curatorial storyline collapses alongside it. i guess what i am trying to say is that, without a proper understanding of "site", a curator could sabotage his own efforts.

i am commenting on this as a reaction to today's curatorial tours, and also as an inevitable response from having been trained as an architect and my cursed OCD-ish tendencies towards the physicality of any space.  the 4 places that we visited - NUS museum, SAM, Future Perfect and NMS - all handled their objects/narratives in space very differently, with some more successful than others. i understood these excursions as an activity that is v pertinent in understanding each institution's curatorship. simply because exhibitions are 3-dimensional in nature and should be perceived beyond imagery, text and concepts. reading and looking at Jia Aili's works from a brochure is quite different from witnessing them in real space. i appreciated how david considered the old saint joseph's building structures in his positioning of Jia's paintings. this is the juncture where architecture becomes a curatorial device. which is very exciting for me because i then begin to understand paintings beyond their frames and the idea of site-specificity comes into play. 

this post also seems to respond to one of the 6 modules (sadly not the one i was assigned to) where it discusses the "appropriating of knowledge as a curatorial commonplace" and how "information as a body of knowledges and ideas is synonymous to the internet landscape." my problem with curators not tackling issues of site/locality is that exhibitions produced are often spatially incoherent. and my very gut response is - why bother taking up physical space? why not a virtual museum instead? people remember TATE for both its art and its turbine hall references. and besides, we were all so drawn to the gillman barracks today, albeit sans art! siuli also commented how SAM's acquisition policy was largely based on the assumption that they will at some point move into a bigger space. the notion of site in exhibition-making should be talked about more among curators. the physicality of an exhibition space does determine the curatorial direction in a very real manner. back in school, i was trained to express architectural/political/social concepts and theories using drawings and 3-d models only. and in the words of pauline, "this was the fun part" because we were then forced to think with our hands. hence all these leave me wondering - why do curators talk so little through the arrangement and placement of things? is it not fun for them? so far, it appears only as an after-thought. 

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