With mixed feelings I rushed to PS1, to see its September 11 show. The promise was indeed intriguing and somehow relieving: in a lavish shower of commemorative events, PS1 curator Peter Eleey wrote in his statement on the show that “the exhibition considers the ways in which 9/11 has altered how we see and experience the world in its wake.” The public commemorations seemed to be unthinking. Perhaps art would present a rich alternative.
Yet, I went to the show with some trepidation. I’m getting more and more uncomfortable with contemporary art curatorial projects: less for professional reasons, while working with an artist often invited to group shows, more personal reasons, as a viewer. Following Sontag, I might decry interpretation. Yet, I must add an important qualification. Art critics are not the problem. Curators are.
I find contemporary art all too often trapped in labeling, paradigm-itizing and contextualizing; as if the death of universal values art had been addressing for centuries became conclusive with the need of pinning down the reading of art and awarding more or less random collections of artworks under common thematic, paradigmatic labels.
It does not mean that I don’t appreciate interesting juxtapositions of artworks, revealing their unexpected meanings, which have been proposed by some curators of group shows. The issue starts when these juxtapositions are radicalized, with artworks only used as a mere illustration of a curator’s statement. The art curator becoming the artist, placed somewhere between film director and writer, seems to me to be a corrupted idea. I’m sure many curators would disagree with me, and I would like to underline that it doesn’t apply to the profession in general. Rather, I address the . . .
Read more: “Nine-elevenism” and My Discontents