The curator qua expert is someone who knows in advance what is art and what is good for art. The curator qua listener is trying to find out what a particular piece of art might need. That is, what this latter curator might do is going to be determined by entering into a reciprocal and collaborative relationship with artists. A condition for this possibility is the independence of the curator from institutional and established ties, both contractual and ideological.
In a way, this is to suggest the possibility of the curator becoming a co-producer with the artists. This is dangerous territory, relational aesthetics and all that. We need some analysis of different kinds of collaboration and agency.
For Lacanian psychoanalysts, what defines the analyst is not ownership of the subject- supposed-to-know position. The purpose of analysis is not to impart the analyst’s expert knowledge; rather, it is to provide the conditions in which the patient can disabuse him or herself of the belief in the subject-supposed-to-know. Inasmuch as the investment in a guarantor is the negation of a negation, analysis is a process not only without compensation but also against compensation: the outcome of psychoanalysis is that the patient accepts that there are no guarantees, thus abandoning a model of compensation altogether.
The curator could be imagined as a subject supposed to know. What would be interesting would be to imagine the curator, as someone who knows this and knows that the subject supposed to know doesn’t exist. Of course the artist is not exactly in an equivalent position of the analysand – or is she?
The problem with curation is not that it mediates the reception of art (how could the reception of art be mediated?) but that it so often adopts a position of expertise in a way that implicity asserts an authority over art.
The curator has taken up the mantle of the author after artists have adapted to the death of the author.
What artist-led projects suggest is that the question of the critique of curating is actually a broader question of how art is organised socially. Curators, then, are not the experts of display, reception and interpretation; they are collaborators in art’s social relations.
Dave Beech & Mark Hutchinson: “ Inconsequential Bayonets? A Correspondence on Curation, Independence and Collaboration”, Curating Subjects, de Appel 2007,