De-materializing the social

Aimee Rose

#Reciprocity | #Curatorial_practices | #Digital | #Circulationism | #Visuality




It is often argued that for a social art practice to actually function as social, there must be reciprocity. (Hagoort, 2016). I agree, however I also understand that the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit is always immediately possible because of the shared assumption that an encounter in art is reciprocal. Curating and photography can be compared in how they produce experiences that are not necessarily reciprocal by nature (Hagoort, 2016). But various types of art, aesthetics and concepts share the assumption that any encounter with them is by definition reciprocal. In addition, the role of curation is assumed to break down divisions between the giving artist and the receiving audience. Their combined purpose then is to break down hierarchies and inequalities.

United by a desire to create understanding through creative dialogue that crosses boundaries of race, religion, and culture - Kester.

Hagoort’s thoughts are persuasive when thinking about this idea in practice. American art historian Grant Kester, similarly describes networks of artists and collectives who are 'united by a desire to create understanding through creative dialogue that crosses boundaries of race, religion, and culture' (Kester, 2004). When looking at the type of promotional images below, it is interesting to think about who would realistically be welcomed through the doors of the exhibition (figs 1 & 2). I believe it very possible that the people involved in the curation of the show and the making of the art would turn their noses up at particular people.




There is an order of thinking which frames the way in which we experience and make sense of curation and something in the encounter we have which happens outside of reciprocity. Hagoort calls this an 'asymmetry in encounter' (2016, p.171). If humans are a flawed species with desires that often undermine the precarious balance between giving and receiving, then it is here where we see that reciprocity as a moral principle is as fundamental as it is precarious. In the social art practices of curation and photography there is a promise of reciprocity which turns into the social process itself. Here Hagoort (2016) argues that reciprocity is a social fact that is necessary way of existence. I agree with this and realise that the promise of reciprocity does not seem so much a promise as it does an ideological concept. In relation to this, Viktor Misiano (1998) argues that the more you are engaged in this system of reciprocity in the art world, 'the more you are an artist' (Misiano, 1998), leading me to believe that perhaps this is the end goal of such encounters in photography, and in the curation process.






Anyone who uses a smartphone or computer is now a curator of sorts because of the ways in which digital platforms have allowed individuals to carefully curate spaces online, some of which can be seen in figures three and four, despite how generic some representations of personalised expressions and opinions might be. The Internet’s ubiquitous and ever-growing influence across numerous spheres of activity in developed societies is still being understood by artists and curators alike, bringing into question the contexts and ways in which these kinds of activities meaningfully represent a form of curatorial selection.


The promise of reciprocity does not seem so much a promise as it does an ideological concept.

As the Internet has developed 'curator’s have increasingly used it as an exhibition tool' (Ghidini, 2019). These curators and the artists not only set up and arrange exhibitions, but now also create events and archives. We can see examples of this given the current global crisis wherein various galleries and museums such as IMMA have created projects for their audiences to take part in by means of the Internet and social media (fig 5). However, despite the curator’s work in creating such events, Lowry (2018) argues that the prestige, influence and visibility of the curator in relation to the artist in creating these things can be highly disproportionate.


Algorithmically powered content creates what are known as echo chambers of numerous opinions and perspectives.

Lowry introduces us to the term “circulationism” (2018, 14) which I find to be of key importance to this discussion, wherein it is not necessarily about the art of making an image anymore, but the post production, launch and acceleration of it. An artwork can simultaneously exist as a single entity or have multiple materializations due to its introduction to the Internet. Due to digitization, the specifics about the medium of the physical artwork might become less important than knowing what the work does. I agree with Lowry that this dematerialization of the artwork which could too lead to the dematerialization of the artist.



Fig 5 Screengrab showing IMMA’s Inside Out project initiative during the current pandemic.

The artist and artwork is often interpreted and valued through driven perceptions of popularity which come with the usage of numerous Internet platforms. Algorithmically powered content creates what are known as echo chambers of numerous opinions and perspectives. These algorithmic collections are said to have very little variation as opposed to human-curated ones such as Spotify playlists or Netflix title suggestions. Nonetheless, it is clear to me that these algorithms increasingly influence the way in which we consume culture while being less able to introduce content that has a better chance of expanding our horizons. Lowry argues that “it is imperative that curators present content that actively ruptures filter bubbles and echo chambers” (Lowry, 2018, 19) and that the role of the curator must evolve, and is evolving, in response to the ubiquitous nature of the digital image.




Citation


Rose, A. (2020) 'De-materialising the social' in Curating Photography: Poolside. TU Dublin: BA Photography [Online]. Available at www.curating.photography/post/aimee-rose

References

Ghidini, M. (2019) ‘Curating on the Web: The Evolution of Platforms as Spaces for Producing and Disseminating Web-Based Art’, Arts, 8(3). Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0752/8/3/78/htm [Accessed 21 April 2020].

Hagoort, E. (2016). ‘Pertaining Asymmetry’, in Beatrice von Bismarck, Benjamin

Meyer-Krahmer (eds.) Hospitality: hosting relations in exhibitions - cultures of the curatorial.

Berlin: Sternberg Press.

IMMA. (2020) IMMA. Available at: https://imma.ie/whats-on/immainsideout-collective-project/ [Accessed 25 April 2020].

Kester, G. (2004) ‘The Eyes of the Vulgar’. In: Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. US: University of California Press.

Lowry, S (2018). ‘Curating with the internet’ in Buckley, B and Comomos, J. (eds.) A

Companion to Curation. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Misiano, V. (1998) The Institutionalization of Friendship. Available at: http://irwin-nsk.org/texts/institualisation/ [Accessed 14 April 2020].

Images

Figure 1: Leonhard’s Gallery. (2019) David Yarrow - “Wild Encounters”. Available at: http://www.leonhardsgallery.com/exhibition/david-yarrow-wild-encounters/ [Accessed 25 April 2020].


Figure 2: Leonhard’s Gallery. (2019) David Yarrow - “Wild Encounters”. Available at: http://www.leonhardsgallery.com/exhibition/david-yarrow-wild-encounters/ [Accessed 25 April 2020].


Fig 3. Rose, A. (2020) Instagram Screenshot 01 [Image].


Fig 4. Rose, A. (2020) Instagram Screenshot 02 [Image].


Fig 5. Rose, A. (2020) Screenshot of IMMA website [Image].

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