Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance (Book)

To stay relevant, art curators must keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation as well as the aesthetic tastes of fickle critics and an ever-expanding circle of cultural arbiters. Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance argues that, despite these daily pressures, good curating work also requires more theoretical attention. 

In four thematic sections, a distinguished group of contributors consider curation in light of interdisciplinary and emerging practices, examine conceptions of curation as intervention and contestation and explore curation’s potential to act as a reconsideration of conventional museum spaces. Against the backdrop of cutting-edge developments in electronic art, art/science collaboration, nongallery spaces and virtual fields, contributors propose new approaches to curating and new ways of fostering critical inquiry. Now in paperback, this volume is an essential read for scholars, curators and art enthusiasts alike.


Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance proposes that the concept of curating is a complex field of enquiry. By drawing together artists, curators, architects and cultural theorists, it proposes new approaches to curating and ways of developing critical enquiry about this increasingly expanding field. Focusing on pertinent issues in curating contemporary art and performance, the book's four parts examine forms of thinking in contemporary curating; curating and the interdisciplinary; as intervention and contestation; as a form of reconsideration of conventional museum spaces and as a problematic in 'emerging' practices. Beginning with a contextual 'map' of recent thinking on curating which examines some of the issues that have emerged in curatorial discourse over the last ten years, the volume then investigates curating as a research process and a form of collaboration in considering contemporary photography and video. The relationships between writing and curating, reception and encounter is proposed as part of a way of thinking as a critical spatial practice, and cross-disciplinary issues are considered in curating science / art exhibitions. Historical and contemporary perspectives examine issues of gender and marginalisation and diversity; and the particular issues relating to curating and practices such as animation, site-specific dance and computer-based work are discussed.

Judith Rugg is research coordinator and reader in fine art theory at University College for the Creative Arts in Canterbury.

Michèle Sedgwick is an employment lawyer with an interest in cultural theory and discourse.

Chapter 1: 'The Curatorial Turn: From Practice to Discourse' – Paul O'Neill
Chapter 2: 'Curatorial Strategy as Critical Intervention: The Genesis of Facing East' – Liz Wells
Chapter 3: 'No Place like Home: Europa' – Sophia Phoca
Chapter 4: 'Critical Spatial Practice: Curating, Editing, Writing' – Jane Rendell
Chapter 5: 'Exhibitions and Their Prerequisites' – Chris Dorsett
Chapter 6: 'Curating Doubt' – J.J. Charlesworth
Chapter 7: 'A Parallel Universe: The "Women's" Exhibitions at the ICA, 1980, and the UK/Canadian Film and Video Exchange, 1998-2004' – Catherine Elwes
Chapter 8: 'Thoughts on Curating' – Richard Hylton
Chapter 9: 'Oscillating the "high/low" Art Divide: Animation in Museums and Galleries' – Suzanne Buchan
Chapter 10: 'Generator: The Value of Software Art' – Geoff Cox
Chapter 11: 'Who Makes Site-specific Dance? The Year of the Artist and the Matrix of Curating' – Kate Lawrence
Chapter 12: 'The Movement Began with a Scandal' – Alun Rowlands

'Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance addresses the growing body of work addressing curatorship as an activity that sits at the interstices of knowledge production and art practice. […] One of the distinctive aspects of the volume is the emphasis upon detailed case studies of curatorial projects that emphasize the complexity of the terrain within which curators are operating. It will make a valuable contribution to debate in this area.' 

The University of Brighton Joanna Lowry

'[This] will prove to be a key reference and a significant contribution in encouraging debate in the way we examine spatial concerns within the field of contemporary art practice for both Fine Art students' final year shows and established practitioners.' 

Director of Studies in Fine Art, University College for The Creative Arts, Canterbury Richard Davies

'One conclusion to be taken from the collection of essays gathered [here] is that, by subverting conventions of thinking about curating, and through introducing different rhythms of art practices, one continually questions both the nature of contemporary art and performance and the curating of their artifacts. ' 

Leonardo Reviews John F. Barber

'These essays on curation came from a series of symposia hosted during 2004 and 2005 by the University College of the Creative Arts in Canterbury. The contributors are artists, academics, writers, theorists and curators who examine various perspectives on curating contemporary art and performance and the relationships between them. ' 

Arts Research Digest

They [the contributors] are an extremely interesting group of people – several of them artists with long trajectories and significant involvements in crucial historical art projects and exhibitions ... All the essays are considered, reflective and specific; particularly, the material on curatorial instances is extremely useful.' 

Contemporary Theatre Review Claire MacDonald
Related Titles