_curatorial practice as counter-hegemonic commitment

Second Annual Conference of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies

Cultural Hegemonies in Spaces of Diversity, Universität Regensburg, 7-9 May 2015

Lecture titled Curatorial practice as counter-hegemonic commitment


In his seminal text The Exhibitionary Complex, first published in 1988, sociologist Tony Bennett looks at the function of the exhibition in modern societies and shows how the exhibition came to present a mode of production of knowledge and power, ultimately seeking to empower its public through education, however mostly in line with the state’s hegemonic claims. This text gains particular importance when it comes to thinking about the political responsibility of curatorial practice with regard to how it can also produce anti-hegemonic aspirations and thereby foster the diversity of artistic and cultural production, which this paper aims to address.

After the fall of the Berlin wall and other political events in 1989 that brought about the changes in the geo-political landscape in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, a set of curatorial practices emerged that took upon themselves the task of trying to dismiss, or at least circumvent, the ways in which dominant cultural production from the West threatened to submerge the more political and activist forms of cultural production that arose in Easter Europe. An important reference is the curatorial practice and critical thinking of Slovenian curator Igor Zabel (1958-2005) who advanced a new definition of the position of art and other fields of cultural production defined by the processes of integration as well as of differentiation that were effected by the deep social, economical, and political transformations after 1989. The still on-going large-scale art project Former West is a contemporary example that to this day seeks to articulate a curatorial responsibility in terms of a counter-hegemonic production resulting from these transformations, for which it experiments with merging educational, performative and discursive curatorial formats.

This paper aims to outline this counter-hegemonic commitment of curatorial practices to contemporary cultural production by articulating the relation between curatorial practices, the production of hegemony and anti-hegemonic aspirations both in theory as well as in practice, particularly with regard to Biennials and large-scale exhibitions and curatorial projects.

More information here.