Exhibition Essays

Number Nine

December 2002

Curative Acts

Alice Karvelas

The Curative Acts exhibition deconstructed the act of curation in order to examine how art is created and defined. We the curators (Alice Karvelas and Kristelle Plimmer) examined the curatorial practices of selection, categorisation and contextualisation as influences on the definition and creation of art.

Make Art Count (by myself and Alan Cave, a "non-artist") is a self-defining work of "Art" or "Non-Art": according to the number of votes for each it registers in its lifetime, it can be either. Its sole function is to determine if it is, in fact, "Art." Patrons were asked to vote and could see the running total displayed on the piece. Many tried to vote for both categories at once in an attempt to confuse the machine. The final count was 8210 for Non-Art, and 8321 for Art, overturning the opening night count which went to Non-Art.

Hanging Projection by the Curators drew attention to how the gallery space intersects with and contextualises art work. The light sculpture was made visible only by its intersection with the wall of the gallery and appeared hanging from a hook. This references an earlier conceptual work in which an entire film was projected into thin air.

In Window we curated a gallery window by the simple act of placing a white tape line on the floor around it. A Curatorial Spectacle, a collaborative work realised by Kristelle's design and metalwork allowed viewers to distort their viewing of the objects in the show, and "curate their own show" through rose-tinted curators' glasses.

David Boyce's conceptual photography work Directions alludes to both the involvement of the viewer and of the curator. The work is self-curating; it views itself from the wall outwards to the viewer, and references Joseph Kosuth in providing a set of instructions as an artwork.

Jonny de Painter in his work Play the Art Scene depicts the process of the creation of art as a board game. The track of an artist/artwork is laid with wry hitches and bonuses: "Can't play guitar," "Goes with wallpaper." Curators are at the end of the game, surrounded by wine and cheese.

In Artist's Statement Generator I designed a computer program to generate and print a variety of different artist's statements, increasing in complexity through the show, and attachable to any work in the show. Adventurous art patrons edited and personalised the generated statements. This work highlights the influence of artists' and curatorial statements on the definition of a work as "Art" and the establishment of its meaning.

Questioning significance in art was a central premise when we created the show. In There are Limits by the Curators, a self-important rope (red, extra thick fake fur) slung between imposing bollards fenced off a long section of the gallery containing one artwork. The work was visible only with great difficulty through the binoculars helpfully provided. Only the bravest ventured across the rope during the exhibition to inspect more easily the work behind it, a small plaque saying "This artwork is of absolutely no significance whatsoever."

In Boundary Setter and Curatorial Merry-Go-Round, a Curators' collaboration, we explored categorisation in an interactive way. The viewer could place a long, flexible, moveable dividing rope between the art and non-art sections of the show. The spinnable Curatorial Merry-Go-Round categorised the contents of the gallery according to where it pointed. Its heritage lying in Greimas' semiotic square, the wheel combines the qualitative descriptors: authentic, inauthentic, artefact, masterpiece, with the quantitative: art, non-art, chaos, anti-art, curation, arcadia, ego, engineering. The random combinatorial act of spinning the wheel to define a piece pointed to enabled us to observe and deconstruct a process of art creation, curation and definition in the context of this exhibition.