This post begins by opening up dialogue with myself, inspired by the writings of Xiaoying (Juliette) Yuan, a Media Arts curator, currently living and working in New York, USA.
Yuan’s blog writings are related to her PhD research (she gained her doctorate last year from the Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth, UK) which questions the curator’s role within the processes of collaboration artists undertake with scientists and technologists; and looking into the different forms these collaborations might take.
Statements taken from her work begin to introduce a new line of thought for me, as she asks herself (in terms of technological work / data, social network, AR technology on mobile devices, etc.) to Redefine the meaning of “finished work” // Redefine the meaning of “exhibition” // Redefine the role, position and responsibilities of curators.
To ask myself similar questions, I begin unpacking what it means for me to be a curator of time-based media art works in 2018, what these works are and ‘can be’ and what deems as an ‘exhibition; of these works. But also… where do I fit in as a curator. How is my role defined?
To redefine the meaning of “finished work” within TBMA is a complex and probably extremely long piece of work in itself. The term time-based media is defined in itself by Tate as ‘art that is dependent on technology and has a durational dimension‘. This includes but is not limited to video, slide, film, audio or computer based art work. Tate’s definition then goes to to reveal that ‘Part of what it means to experience the art is to watch it unfold over time according to the temporal logic of the medium as it is played back.’ The “finished work” is defined as a piece of technologically dependent art work which is experienced through audio or visual means and which has a durational dimension.
Defining an “exhibition” of such work therefore depends on how tangible the “finished work” is. The very essence of TBMA work enables them to essentially be installed in any setting where there is a sustainable source of power. Whether this be included in the piece (via human movement or instruction), or appropriated from the setting via an electrical source, this is a key consideration. A ‘white-cube’ gallery setting is not necessary for the work to be experienced. However, the individual “finished work” may have set instructions or limitations for play-back from the artist. An “exhibition” of TBMA can be constructed in any setting where a source of power for the technology for the piece can be harnessed. Considerations being made to the specificity of the piece and artist direction.
The role of the arts curator is that of a mediator between artistic expression and public perception. In addition, I see the curator’s role with TBMA as being a facilitator between artist, technician, and the overall visitor experience. An article on Tate’s website, is a piece written by Bruce Nauman (an American artist whose practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing, printmaking, and performance.) on the role of the curator. Talking specifically about the challenges of handing your work (as an artist) over to a curator, and having to have trust they will do right with it, but also discussing the importance of communication between artist and curator. This communication ensures the consistency of the installed work each time it is shown, and also in selecting the correct space for the work to be seen.
‘Artists working with less traditional forms of art – including video and installation are increasingly realising the importance of providing detailed information to curators to ensure that aspects such as size, placement, and technical specifications for works of installation art, are understood.’ – Nauman.
From a visitor experience angle too, installations and time-based media art works, are often perceived of as less accessible to many people. Galleries use interpretation such as display and catalogue texts to inform the viewer what they are seeing and how best to view it, but the actual installation of the work impacts immediately on how the work is experienced, and it is this experience that is key.
Tate. 2018. Art Term – Time-Based Media. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/t/time-based-media. [Accessed 22 July 2018].
Tate. 2018. Inside Installations: Mapping the Studio II. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www2.tate.org.uk/nauman/themes_4.htm. [Accessed 22 July 2018].