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Dorothee Richter

Curatorial Talk

11 October 2019 18:00 - 19:30
Zurich University of the Arts, Room 4.T31

ZHdK, Room 4.T30


With some own curatorial projects one could argue that Curating is a new discursive formation, as defined by Michel Foucault, which has rapidly developed since the 1970s. As any other discursive formations (medicine, discourse on sexuality etc.) it contains and differentiates attitudes and positions. This new profession has as its main tasks the production, the distribution and the reception of cultural meta structures through the combination of cultural products like art works, display, mise-en-scène, comments, different media, spatial aspects and architecture, everyday objects or other cultural artefacts and therefore specific social situations. It results in exhibitions, art projects, publications, film or theatre programmes, sound projects, digital media or projects in public space, one project often consists of a media-conglomerate. As in different fields the yearning for a material aspect was put forward recently for curatorial research, for example by Wiebke Gronemeyer, when she claims to propose a perspective on curatorial practice (as an  activity of knowledge production whose particular modes of hosting, exhibiting, and producing a contention with art have an intrinsic social dimension) entails proposing a “material turn” for curatorial practices. In contrast to this I will discuss curating along Foucault’s theory on discursive formations, as presented in The Discourse on Language (1969), where he formulates a differentiated structure of rules, effects and methodological demands. Any curatorial project does not only present different art works or artefacts but also puts forward ideas on subjectivity, on community, on culture, on identity, on agency, on gender, class and race; it is involved in politics of display, politics of site, politics of transfer and translation. In this perspective curating as discursive formation entails of course a material side, a discursive side, an institutional side and so forth. And of course ‘knowledge production’ would always mean a process in which “truth” is produced through acts of consecration, if this has a hegemonic or anti hegemonic effect, or oscillates between these poles should be discussed throughout. Knowledge is seen as something that is produced in a specific set of (power) relations. Rather than regarding ‘knowledge production’ as a given value in and of itself, understanding what kinds of knowledge are produced in different contexts and for whom becomes the foundational question for critically engaging with global cultural transformations in the present and imagining cultural spaces for the future.

Dorothee Richter
Professor in Contemporary Curating