The Curatorial Condition
208 pp., 5 x 8 in, 33 color illus., 11 b&w illus.
- Published: November 15, 2022
An analysis of the relations created by the curatorial—relations that also constitute it.
In spite of the heightened interest in the curatorial since the late twentieth century, the structural conditions and potentials underpinning its special sociocultural status have yet to be defined. Taking this as a starting point, in this book Beatrice von Bismarck outlines the curatorial—that field of cultural activity and knowledge which relates to the becoming-public of art and culture—as a domain of practice and meaning with its own structures, conditions, rules, and procedures.
Von Bismarck focuses on the relations created by the curatorial—relations that also constitute it. By concentrating on the dynamic fabric of relations between human and nonhuman participants, she carries out a shift within the discourse on the curatorial: rather than foregrounding partial definitions of the activity of curating, the subjectivization of the curator, and the presentation format of the exhibition, she emphasizes the interplay of all these factors. She proposes a conceptual framework geared toward highlighting the activity, the subject position, and the resulting product as always already dynamically interrelated in its genesis, articulation, and function. Not least, this situates the curatorial condition in the context of key parameters of societal developments over the last half century.
Over decades as a curator, scholar, and theorist, Beatrice von Bismarck has played a central role in defining the field of the curatorial. In this book, she develops a rigorous framework for understanding its structures, conditions, and relations, offering an invaluable resource for navigating this arena of theory and practice. Locating the curatorial firmly in the realm of collectivity and becoming-public, she also provides a conceptual bulwark against the forces of individualization and privatization that have come to dominate so much of the cultural field.
Andrea Fraser, artist and professor, University of California, Los Angeles
We have long needed a book that both brings together the many explorative activities of artists, curators, and theorists and provides us with an array of conceptual tools of analysis and encounter. Finally, we have it. Lucid, generous, and expansively illustrated, The Curatorial Condition takes the greatly expanded field of the curatorial as one of diverse knowledge production.
Irit Rogoff, writer, curator, and professor of visual cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London