art's most recent fad spills onto the world. it is presented as a symptomatic cultural matter, but the presentation reveals exactly what it hides. npr correspondent scott simon writes this piece & opens thus,
How do I love thee? Let me curate the ways...as verb, word, cipher, "curate" did not just "hit the spot." it had to happen at a time when art has lost its aura and becomes as redundant as information. the public must be guided through the art noise. only he/she who has the expertise can "heal" art by giving it an aesthetic order ("curate" comes from curare, "to take care of") .
art is materia prima. huge quantities of generic artfair art, supplied without qualitative differentiation is just artstatic. aesthetic commodities need to be processed, cogitated, conceptualized & publicized. art needs arthoodication (a complex task performed by art experts). at this juncture, to curate means to make something better than it was (artmaking is secondary to its presentation).
on this point, übercurator hans ulrich obrist is very clear:
exhibitions have become the medium through which art becomes known (...) exhibitions are the primary site of exchange in the political economy of art, where signification is constructed. (a brief history of curating, p. 6)curators present an "order," i.e., the exhibition: the embodiment of the curator's deferred presence. they produce cultural spectacles (not unlike the phenomenon of the human voice, a kind of medium for a non-present subject). not really present and yet, the curator's exudation becomes -the more- manifest: a disembodied "order of things" given in absentia. in an age of virtuality, who doesn't want a part of that?
simon quotes a john mcwhorter, who gets it backward:
John McWhorter, the distinguished linguist, told us he thinks curate abuse is "part of the rejection of elitist categorization in American life ... one can claim to 'curate' the mundane and take on the implied prestige of the art expert.only that this "rejection of elitist categorization in American life" is exactly the campaign's goal! elitism (i.e., arthoodication) is sold to the masses as a democratic (repressed) desire. said differently, you end up "loving" what you really (hate) want & cannot have.
one last but crucial point: though he plays as the artist's ventriloquist, the curator is another puppet. there is always someone behind, pulling the strings. this ventriloquist really is camera-shy. guess who?
curators of the world, curate!* (while the market rules).
* let's abuse (instead of avoid) the c__ metaphor. the best way to get rid of a bad metaphor is to wear it out.