The question that remains: an account of a debate
by Ananda Carvalho.
Text written for the project Art Book.
In August 2013, I attended the ART BOOK debate: readings, appropriations and concepts in contemporary art, an event to advertise this book you have in your hands, held at the Node Center for Curatorial Studies, Berlin. Albert Minter and Sarah Linda Cooper, who were among the guests, reflected on the complexity of the concept of contemporary art, the role of the curator and the production of publications in the same temporal context in which the artists are producing.
German critic and historian Albert Minter, presented a reading of the ART BOOK Encyclopedia based on the published reflections of his book Art of the 21st Century. He considered the themes that characterize the production of contemporary art, relating them to the artists presented in this encyclopedia. Among them, the difficulty in establishing criteria for temporal classification, languages, or “theories”, such as in the work of the painter Edgar Kessler: the object of performance in the self portraits of Malala Ahmed; the reflection on the classification of the works of Arthur Orthof and José dos Reis, the references to the documentation and process by means of impossible projects of Elliot Ford; the dissolution of authorship by the anonymous production of So and So; the idea that anything can become a work of art in the ready-mades of Sarah Glade or the works about ‘nothing’ by the twins Hamona & Hillary, among other examples.
I preferred to account my doctorate research about the curatorial procedures in exhibitions of contemporary art in Brazil. I observed that even if the contemporary art production discusses the problematic concerning the space, the authorship, the participation, the ephemeral and the process - as mentioned by Albert - most of the exhibitions still present a curatorial explanation text (at times, descriptive; other times, hermetic) at the entrance. The truth is that, while researching, I came across very few curatorial notes that deconstructed the traditional exhibition model of the “white cube” and/or the “black box” in the last decade in São Paulo, the Brazilian city with the greatest number of art exhibits.
Last, the American curator Sarah Linda Cooper presented her experience at the Creamier, another type of encyclopedia in which 10 curators of different nationalities selected 100 emerging artists. She discussed her own position as a judge, the criteria for selection, often subjective, and the responsibility of giving visibility to the artists. Sarah ended her talk asking “What are the differences between the published encyclopedias and the great exhibits of contemporary art at the biennials?”
The panel ended with questions about the procedures of the curators in relation to the range of languages of contemporary art. Seizing the opportunity of her question, minutes before the end of the seminar, I questioned the criteria to choose the artists in the ART BOOK encyclopedia. I stated that, up to the moment, I could not understand the reason for the choice of these artists and not others. It caused a sharp discomfort in the audience, especially in the first row, where part of the team who produced the ART BOOK was seated. I did not mind and my question persists. Now, with the encyclopedia published, the reader may voice their opinion.
* Ananda Carvalho is an art critic, University professor, doctorate student and master in Communication and Semiotic from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC-SP). She was a judge at the Temporada de Projetos 2013 at Paço das Artes, attended the residency Ateliê Aberto #5 at Casa Tomada and collaborated at the Canal Contemporâneo, all instutitions of São Paulo.