The new Frieze begins its series of artists talking about curating and being curated [sub req] with Daniel Buren’s classic 1972/1992 statement in Harald Szeeman’s Documenta 5, “Exhibitions of an Exhibition.”
I never registered it before, but Buren uses the term “organizer” for curator. Which is ironic, because at apexart several years ago, at the thin wedge of the emerging trend/abuse, they moved away from using the term “curator”–in favor of “organizer.” And the sense I’ve gotten while working on Exhibition Space is that they were seeking to get away from exactly the curator-as-artist/exhibition-as-art pretensions or associations that Buren was kvetching about in 1972.
In any case, now that I’m an organizer, and apparently the worst of Buren’s fears realized, here are some excerpts from his 1992 English translation of “Exhibitions of an Exhibition”:
Exhibitions of an exhibition
More and more, the subject of an exhibition tends not be the display of artworks, but the exhibition of the exhibition as a work of art….
The works presented are carefully chosen touches of color in the tableau that composes each section (room) as a whole.
There is even an order to these colors, these being defined and arranged according to the drawn design of the section (selection) in which they are spread out/presented.
These sections (castrations), themselves carefully chosen “touches of color” in the tableau that makes up the exhibition as a whole and in its very principle, only appear by placing themselves under the wing of the organizer, who reunifies art by rendering it equivalent everywhere in the case/screen that he prepares for it.
The organizer assumes the contradictions; it is he who safeguards them.
It is true, then, that the exhibition establishes itself as its own subject, and its own subject as a work of art. The exhibition is the “valorizing receptacle” in which art is played out and founders, because even if the artwork was formerly revealed thanks to the museum, it now serves as nothing more than a decorative gimmick for the survival of the museum as tableau, a tableau whose author is none other than the exhibition organizer.
Which, in 2003, prefaced his response to the idea, proposed by e-flux and Jens Hoffman, that “The Next Documenta Should Be Curated By an Artist.”:
Could a large-scale exhibition like Documenta be entrusted to an artist? If the tendency remarked upon here continues to hold, my response would undoubtedly be “yes.” For the artist-organizer would erase the faults inherent in the organizer-artist. For example, it would be worth betting that the announcement of an artist-organizer, whoever he or she might be, would cause an immense outcry of lamentations from the choir of the majority of all the other panic-stricken and destabilized artists.
This will be a varied and serious song. Its reasons for being will be intelligent, stupid, and revealing at the same time. They will be founded on jealousy, on the one hand, and fear of the artist-organizer’s positions, on the other. Artists, exacerbated individualists if ever they existed, would show that their corporatist spirit is not as remote as it may seem. One would notice, then, that the critiques suddenly raised by the announcement of the name of an artist-organizer had never been raised by the announcement of any organizer-artist. This a priori predictable reaction already bears within itself the fruits of extremely positive debates, for they reveal a state of fact that has been occulted for over thirty years.