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Guest Curator: Miriam Kathrein
in collaboration with Alva Unger, graphic designer


With curatorial pioneers such as Friedrich (Frederick) Kiesler, Aleksander Dorner, Alfred Barr, Willem Sandberg and Pontus Hulten the curatorial role emancipated itself from being purely administrators, preserver and canvassers.

This could be demonstrated in the direct collaboration of Aleksander Dorner and El Lissitzky at the Landesmuseum Hannover in 1927, when they set up the Abstract Cabinet in need of a new and more flexible model of display to show a transdisciplinary approach in their work. Dorner was convinced that museums should be Kraftwerke (power plants) with an ability for spontaneous change. At the same time El Lissitzky stated that the most important work as artist begins with the creation of exhibitions.

Later on with Harald Szeemann, the definition of the freelance curator was established: “(…) Szeemann then proceed to characterise the practise of exhibition making in the very same terms as the intense experience of a creative process, and hence an art form of its own right.”

Verwoert, Jan (2006). This is not an exhibition from: Arts and its Institutions: Current Conflicts, Critique and Collaborations. Edited by Möntmann, Nina. Blackdog, London

At the latest in the 1990s Hans Ulrich Obrist, as an example, contributed heavily to a new notion of curatorial practice. The question of curators being authors or even artists themselves, applying artistic strategies in their practice, created a huge amount of debate amongst artists, critics and curators. Through the last years a decent amount of new curatorial and artistic models emerged concerning exhibition making. With this the notion of the curatorial persona as a kind of celebrity figure came up due, as a response, to the popularisation of art as part of the global entertainment industry.

As a consequence, and this is not a new movement, well known from the 60s, artists themselves used and use curatorial strategies to illustrate and communicate their work, trying to blend out the interposition of the curator and her/his position of power, trying to avoid that shows turn the curator into the main artist, as Andrea Fraser criticizes it. Today the term "curated by“ is strongly (over)used and both, artists and curators seek for new possibilities in their practice to overcome the competitive situation between them to find new ways to engage in both their practices and come up with different and, more important, collaborative approaches.

ARTIST VS CURATOR/CURATOR VS ARTIST sets out to research these new forms through tools such as debate, traditional exhibition elements and graphic design as a visualisation format. The title of this project is chosen on purpose to instantly illustrate and create a debate.

ARTIST VS CURATOR/CURATOR VS ARTIST is an ongoing debate project by Miriam Kathrein which started out as a a master thesis in 2007 in London. It focuses on the relationship and shifting roles of artists and curators in contemporary art and the resulting consequences in their relationship and production of art. Therefore it looks into new artistic and curatorial practice through a collaborative approach. Since starting this project the aim was to identify existing art and exhibition environments and through re-contextualising the content creating a new narrative environment to foster new artistic and curatorial strategies. As a key element of the project tools are developed that visualise a process, usually hidden behind the scenes. Those tools bring the discourse to the foreground and create a basis for debate and new questions instead of providing a single answer.

The debate interventions took place in London, Summer 2007 at various galleries and in Spring 2008 in Vienna at the Kunstverein Das Weisse Haus. As a tool canvas bags printed with counterpositioned comments of artists and curators were introduced and functioned as trigger for debate. Visitors, invited to a private view, could choose between both sides and thus, by carrying a bag, became the object of discussion themselves. Comment walls were installed to give the audience the possibility to actively engage in the debate and leave or interfere with comments.

For the guest curator project of trickhouse.org three artists and three curators have been asked to respond to key texts concerning the notion of expertise, authority, authorship, collaboration, intermediary, curator as artist, roles and competition. Six posters then have been designed in collaboration with a graphic designer, which visualise again the debate. These posters are free to download to be distributed by the audience in places such as art institutions, galleries, artist spaces, universities, public space and so on to take the discourse out of a "panel discussion" situation. The aim is to show the process behind which informs the way art and exhibitions are produced, displayed and seen in these spaces.





Since such a notion of collaboration is also based on an idea of the inside and the outside (if you are inside, you are part of an existing discourse that is to be agreed with and fostered), it will increasingly be the outsider who will manage to add critically to established power relations of expertise. Although the outsider will be understood as someone who, lacking knowledge of its structure, does not threaten the internal system, is precisely this condition that allows him or her to become fully immersed in its depth, in the manner of dilettants who, as a means of what Claire Doherty terms “circumnavigating predictability”*, neither worry about making the wrong shift nor prevent friction between agents in given force fields.

*(Claire Doherty, “The New Situationists”, in Contemporary Art – From Studio to Situation, Black Dog 2006, p. 11)

Markus Miessen, Die Gewalt der Partizipation, Springerin Band XIII Heft1, p 45, Winter 2007, Vienna // Filip 7, Winter 2008, Vancouver, Canada

Project Bibliography/extract:

O’Neill, Paul (2007). Curating Subjects; De Appel  

Verwoert, Jan (2006). This is not an exhibition from: Arts and its Institutions:

Current Conflicts, Critique and Collaborations. Edited by Möntmann, Nina;

Black dog, London

Hoffmann, Jens (2006). The Curatorilization of Institutional Critique from

Institutional Critique and After: Soccas Symposium Vol. LL by John C. Welchman.


Grammel, Søren (2005). Ausstellungsautorschaft, die Konstruktion der auktorialen

Position des Kurators bei Harald Szeemann. Eine Mikroanalyse. Frankfurt am Main/Revolver

Doherty, Claire (2004). Contemporary Art - From Studio to Situation, The new Situationists




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