Curating as practice led research
Curating can be a form of practice led research and this is perhaps the most interesting approach. Having developed my own practice as a curator through the 1990s using ‘new media’, it has by necessity been a process of learning about technology through my practice and what it can do to enhance the presentation of content; in some cases of course the technology is the content in its own right. Learning on the job during the 1990s was the only way to develop given that artists were also experimenting with new forms and with it new ideas. In 20 years, we have gone from artists having to write their own code by necessity to artists choosing whether to use proprietary packages or to write their own code. And of course, social networking and creativity has changed the landscape as is pointed out in the introduction to Taxi to Praxi in terms of the growth of the internet.
A curator, to my mind, is not someone who provides pre-determined themes and concepts to an exhibition and is given the task of defining a field. This is very autocratic and certainly not an open source approach and yet a role that is repeatedly given to curators in the art world. To me, and central to my practice, a curator is someone who facilitates environments for development of artistic practice, inputs into concept development and assists artists to make the most of their ideas as they put them into practice. A curator becomes part of a creative team that brings an idea into fruition. Once this is achieved a curator then works with the artist(s) to define the themes of an exhibition or an event. It was and is my hope that media arts would be developed and defined by those people who choose to work in that way at any one time and not to be defined by nominated experts.
Media arts curating is open source at its best and should not at this stage be subsumed into the broader arts, as its defining ‘open source’ qualities are likely to get lost in amongst more prevalent methods of working. I have been Director of SCAN (www.scansite.org) for the last 5 years and this open source approach to curating alongside participative and collaborative working on projects is at the heart of what my organisation does. Whilst art for arts sake is not necessarily an inappropriate way of working, open source curating usually opens up debates through art that can be extended to other aspects of culture and society.