Updated: Jun 18, 2020
The topic of hospitality comes under strain once the mistreatment of refugees becomes highlighted. Ruth Sonderegger (2016, p.20) ponders “is it anything but cynical to write about hospitality in a geopolitical context where not only hospitality but also basic human rights are trampled?”. The roles these refugees play in highlighting the shortcomings of Western democracies is noted by Sonderegger (2016, p.20), who asks whether this goes “against the grain of hospitality’s universal if not infinite claim?”.
Sonderegger wonders would this, in a curatorial context, “imply that respect for the guest in an exhibition entails that all beings inside the respective exhibition be shown the same consideration as the guest?” (Sonderegger, 2016, p.21). The term guest implies a level of respectability. How well are those featured in the photographs treated? What is preventing these able-bodied institutions from inviting those in need into their spaces? “How on earth could one be inclined to think that curatorial hospitality is easier to achieve than hospitality towards refugees?” (Sonderegger, 2016, p.21).
In Ireland. the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealíon claims that through research they have gained significant insight into the essential role diversity and equality plays in releasing the full potential of Ireland’s artistic and cultural talent and engaging people from every background and perspective in the arts' (2020, p.2).
The lasting impact on the spectator is an aspect that should be at the forefront of every exhibition plan. Intellectual and social engagement within an exhibition space can produce lasting relationships and impact on all involved. It’s also a chance to include and platform those who are repeatedly marginalised within society, in this case, refugees. The last question Sonderegger (2016, p.23) asks in her text is “what if the guests want to stay?”.
How on earth could one be inclined to think that curatorial hospitality is easier to achieve than hospitality towards refugees? - Sonderegger.
Being able to facilitate spectators who want to know more by listening intently and aiming to further their knowledge of what’s shown is a promising factor. The National Gallery of Ireland highlights their public engagement factors, saying “this division is made up of Visitor Experience, Education, Marketing, Communications and Digital Engagement.” In the curation of an exhibition, it’s vital to acknowledge all possible avenues of engagement, looking to other galleries for reference. Similarly, IMMA have a myriad of public policies listed on their site, from customer protection to gender equality. All of these factors should be considered when examining potential visitors to your space, so you can ensure their stay is not only pleasant, but also welcoming and affirming.
The notion of collaboration within art forms is greatly important, with author Lars Willumeit (2018, p.306) stating that collaborative art “defines itself not by style, medium or materiality, but through social processes relationalities between artist, subject, and viewer, and their common world.” The curation of an exhibition relies on collaboration, a contemporary happening. Willumeit references the ‘Unseen CO-OP’, a contemporary exhibit featuring thirteen collectives presenting their retrospective works in the form of a “meta-collective”. This is intended to aid and foster social relations and platform contemporary issues facing those involved. This is a contemporary curatorial practice, including content curators and contemporary topics/concerns.
The compilation of collectives can be understood in a number of ways. In terms of photography, Willumeit (2018, p.308) contests that it’s “a fertile testing ground for these relationships”. Similarly, MoMA hosted an exhibition in 2011 called “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects”. The show focused on “objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.” Photography being a tool for creating communities is a contemporary topic, inherently relevant to curatorial practices in the current moment. Taking heed from MoMA, the dynamics of communication between people and objects, in this case photographs, is something that should be addressed in the curation of an exhibition.
There have been paradigmatic changes in the past and it seems there are more to come ahead - Willumeit, 2018.
The essence of collaboration is also inherent to the dissemination of photographs. To understand this, a historical perspective must be considered, “as there have been paradigmatic changes in the past and it seems there are more to come ahead” (Willumeit, 2018, p. 310). The furthering of reproduction technology meant that photography had increased versatility and reach, only achievable through collaboration. In terms of curation, the role of the viewer should be a primary focus, so it is not under-appreciated and forgotten.
Hearns, J. (2020) 'Being human-centred' in Curating Photography: Poolside. TU Dublin: BA Photography [Online]. Available at www.curating.photography/post/jordan-hearns
Arts Council: Equality, Human Rights & Diversity Policy & Strategy. (2020) Available at: http://www.artscouncil.ie/uploadedFiles/EHRD%20Policy%20English%20version%20Final.pdf (Viewed
Blum, A. (2017) The Role of Art in a World Overrun by Refugee Crises. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-role-of-art-in-a-world-overrun-by-refugees-crises (Accessed April 4th, 2020).
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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/arts/design/the-museum-is-the-refugees-home.html (Accessed March 20th, 2020.)
Feuerhelm, B. (2019) Why Exhibit? An Interview with Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger & Iris Sikking. Available at: https://americansuburbx.com/2019/04/why-exhibit-an-interview-with-anna-kaisa-rastenberger-iris-sikking.html (accessed March 25th, 2020)
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https://www.e-flux.com/journal/94/219462/curating-in-the-post-internet-age/ (Accessed March 31st, 2020)
Scheller, J. (2016) It’s Complicated. Available at: https://frieze.com/article/its-complicated (Accessed April 4th, 2020)
Sonderegger, R. (2016) ‘Curatorial Hospitality?” in Bismarl, VB and Meyer-Krahmer, B (2016) Cultures of the curatorial 3 : hospitality - hosting relations in exhibitions. Berlin, Sternberg Press. Pp. 19-23.
'We never chose this': refugees use art to imagine a better world – in pictures. (2019) Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2019/dec/25/we-never-chose-this-refugees-use-art-to-imagine-a-better-world-in-pictures (Viewed March 29th, 2020)
Willumeit, L. (2018) ‘Why not…gather together?!— Imagineering the (Un-)becomings of Photography as Arenas and Communities of Collective Meaning-Making and Collaborative Agency’ in Rastenberger, A.K and Sikking, I (2018) ‘Why Exhibit? Positions On Exhibiting Photographies’. Amsterdam, FW Books, pp.301-311.
Fig 1 Gholami, R. (2019) Hoping To Survive, Afghanistan, 2019. Digital image, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2019/dec/25/we-never-chose-this-refugees-use-art-to-imagine-a-better-world-in-pictures (Viewed March 30th, 2020)
Fig 2 Arias, G. (2018) Aerial view of Honduran migrants heading in a caravan to the U.S., resting in a basketball court in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca State, southern Mexico on October 28, 2018. Digital image, Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2019/dec/25/we-never-chose-this-refugees-use-art-to-imagine-a-better-world-in-pictures (Viewed March 20th, 2020)
Fig 3 Unseen 2018 - CO-OP. (2018) Available at:
https://phroommagazine.com/unseen-2018-co-op/ (Viewed 31/03/20)
Fig 4 Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects (2011). Available at: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1071 (Viewed April 14th, 2020)