Curating at the Intersection of Social Reproduction and Social Justice

My dissertation is located at the intersection of capitalist critique, socially engaged curating, and feminist care theories. Following feminist scholars, I argue that care has historically been rendered invisible and structurally devalued despite its essential social function. Curating through its etymological origin in the Latin curare (to care) thus has to continuously renegotiate its relationship to care, while recognizing its troubled history with this gendered, racialised and classed concept. Therefore, curating, care, and its capitalist framework can be regarded as a conflictual triad that amplifies many contradictions of the fields once they intersect. The main objection of my research is to draw together various strands of interdisciplinary scholarly work on social reproduction, curating, and feminisms. For my curatorial practice this discourse provides context and an imperative to practice otherwise. Not only to provide visibility for care – as a structurally invisibilized sphere – but also to enact care as a curatorial method is my objective.

This theoretical setup frames my own relational curatorial practice, which I realized as Artistic Director 2019/20 of M.1 Arthur Boskamp-Stiftung in rural Northern Germany. Here I ask: In which ways can artistic and curatorial practice counter the logics of the care crisis, and the structural invisibilities of care-work? In which ways can curating as a relational practice create a platform for representation, encounter, and exchange for local caregivers? After introducing the curatorial formats and “caring infrastructures” that I aimed to institute during my time as Artistic Director, I critically reflect on what it means to practice relationally in a rural context.

Out of this reflection comes the identification of a gap within the curatorial care discourse, which is a focus on “care as method”, rather than focusing on curatorial approaches to care as a theme. Yet, how to practice curatorially “with care” without reproducing the ambivalences and oppressive mechanisms associated with care?
In this section of my thesis I therefore aim to define principles, strategies, methods of how to put care into practice curatorially, given the ambiguities and contradictions inherent to the field. Derived from my own practice, and in reference to other curatorial methods of care in different parts of the worlds, this chapter includes practice-based propositions of how to practice “care as (curatorial) method”.

Lastly, my dissertation summarizes, reflects and concludes on how such a site-specific, radically relational approach to curating – as a method of care – can serve as a transformational practice, as “a road-map for an otherwise” (Hobart/Kneese).

Sascia Bailer is a curator, researcher, writer and editor working at the intersection of care, feminism and social transformation. She is conducting her practice-based curatorial PhD at the Zurich University of the Arts & University of Reading, and recently completed her Artistic Directorship 2019/20 at the Arthur Boskamp-Stiftung in Northern Germany with a focus on „Care“. In October 2020 the Arthur Boskamp press published Bailer´s publication “Curating, Care, and Corona”. Her article „Care for Caregivers“ will be published in the anthology „Curating with Care“ (Routledge, forthcoming 2022). She is co-editor of the anthology „Letters to Joan“ (2020, HKW) and of the artist books „Re-Assembling Motherhood(s): On Radical Care and Collective Art as Feminist Practices“ by Maternal Fantasies (Onotmatopee, 2021), and „What We Could Have Become: On Queer Feminist Filmmaking“ by Malu Blume (Onotmatopee, 2021). Sascia Bailer has worked internationally within the arts, including MoMA PS1, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. She holds an MA from Parsons School of Design and a BA from Zeppelin University.