_competing agencies

from host to guest to parasite
– a case study of unitednationsplaza

I gave a lecture at the symposium Hospitality – Hosting Relations in Exhibitions at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig as part of the postgraduate study program Cultures of the Curatorial on December 13-14, 2012.

The practice of a host is not unconditional. Far from, it relies on the often unwritten rules of reciprocal engagement within social space, which are not equally distributed, but which the host as the inviting dictates, and to which the guest as the invited is expexted to conform, or at least respond to as that from which attitudes of withdrawal, subversion or straightforward defiance can emerge.
In this context, talking about hospitality in relation to curatorial practice presents an interesting perspective in order to discuss the specific complexities of agencies and responsibilities at stake in the dialogical relationships between artist, curators, artworks, participants, spectators, etc., all those involved in the communicative space of the exhibition. To outline those relationships and interdependencies is no longer necessarily linked to questions of authorship, as many recent publications show.
Artist and curators are no longer fighting for a deliberation of positions and identities, but rather share a common interest in working towards generating conditions for enabling the communicative space of the exhibition and negotiating their relationships within it as part of it. The probematic reliances as well as dependencies in social, cultural, political, and economic terms are often wrapped within those collective subjectivities that come to define notions like public ownership that diffuse the roles of hosts and guests.
In this context, unitednationsplaza (UNP) presents an interesting example as a case study. Jan Verwoert praised Vidokle’s role as a host during UNP. For Verwoert, Vidokle was a „contemporary host, […] called forth to conjure up names of saints, seasons or rites of passage to celebrate and themes to interpret in order for guests to be invited, audiences to be invoked, thought to be gathered and works to be created“. With other words, Verwoert described Vidokle as a facilitator, generating the conditions for engagement, functioning as a commissioner, programmer, and editor, activities often attributed to the curator. But, and here comes the twist to an otherwise common articulation of curatorial responsibility, the position from which Vidokle speaks is that of the artist, the way in which he wants UNP to be understood is as an artwork, a claim furnished with the aspiration towards artistic sovereignty as the only possible way to imagine art in its potentiality to deliberate social space. Therewith furnishing the communicative space of the discursive, emanating from the concept of the ‘exhibition-as-school’ consequentially means to assume the „role of being a keeper of the building“ as well as being one of the voices that it houses.
UNP presents a particular good example to discuss the hospitable condition as an ambivalent one due to its inherent paradox of positioning curatorial practice in the frame of an artwork, challenging the ways in which is epistemological but also ontological formation can be understood. Dissecting the complexities of roles and agencies involved in UNP will provide ways to understand how the space of the exhibition, and of the discursive as its extension, is a space of interdependency working with the relations involved in the act of enabling, generating, and becoming a space of production in a mode of speculation over how collective subjectivity is a form of consciousness produced through particular forms of material practice relying on the modifications of their roles as host, guest, or parasite.

Conference Outline:
Every curated encounter creates a situation of hospitality. Whoever claims curatorial responsibility can appear in the role of host, while the invited – artists, audiences but also exhibits – can take on that of guest. Implying asymmetries and dependencies these roles continuously change in relation to one another. The economy of hospitality is based on various kinds of resources and currencies – space, time and money as well as attention, power and recognition. Encompassing acts of inviting, offering and welcoming, of showing presence and paying attention, of accepting and reciprocating, but also of refusal, exclusion and control the exhibition generates relations of giving, taking and responding. It can thus also be treated as a paradigmatic situation within the cultural field exemplifying the generous, but often also ambivalent and problematic interdependencies between hosts and guests under the conditions of globalization.

Guests: Stefan Römer, Nanne Burrman, Alice Creischer /Andreas Siekmann, Wiebke Gronemeyer, Jenny Walden, Erik Hagoort, Lorenzo Fusi, Philipp Kleinmichel, Beri žerovc, Jörn Schafaff und Ulf Wuggenig

For more information on the conference program visit www.kdk-leipzig.de