Curating for Dummies-Q&A with Aaron Moulton and Carson Chan

Carson Chan and Aaron Moulton

CARSON CHAN

Describe in a step-by-step way what the curating process is like for you- like If you had to write Curating for Dummies: step one, step two..
1) Identify your interests. I often have mini-obsessions that get formalized into exhibitions.
2) Come up with a thesis. ie. What do you want to convey through the exhibition?
3) Research artists and artwork that would add to this thesis. You're not looking specifically for artists that are doing exactly the same thing as you imagine, but artists that could take your ideas in different directions.


Is curating a creative process?
Yes.


I noticed you both write; curator-writer. Isn't "curator" the broader term (like I would say for me: artist) which includes all the other activities, like writing for example?
I wouldn't say so. A curator is very much the person that makes exhibitions. Some curators are also writers, but they should be differentiated from curators that write gallery texts for exhibitions.

What makes a good show?
If it's able to connect or communicate with people from all backgrounds. A good show should be able to provide something for everyone. It should allow for an immediate response from people who are not necessarily invested in art or exhibitions, while providing more thoughtful insight for those that spend time to experience it.

When is a show bad?


Would you work with an artist you don't like?
Not more than once.

On what grounds did you choose your 4 artists?
I wanted to choose artists that I know Aaron has never worked.

On what grounds do you think your opponent chose his 4 artists?
Aaron chose artists that he has worked with. Two of which I have worked with as well.

How do you feel now about the pool of eight artists you have to work with?
Good!

Why do you think you will win?

Aren't you afraid you are going to curate the "same" show?
There is no chance of this. I'm pretty sure my solution for the show is something that Aaron would not do.


AARON MOULTON

Describe in a step-by-step way what the curating process is like for you- like If you had to write Curating for Dummies: step one, step two..
I would say that for me it starts with a problem and you work to complicate that problem to demonstrate potential or unforeseen complexities rather than simply solve it or literalize it. I like simple or archetypal ideas that often connect with personal or cultural conflicts that I think people can generally relate to. I try to think of ways in which that conflict or problem can be seen from every angle: from the most clichéd and standard to the most esoteric and abstract; all the while imagining a composite sketch of this idea. In this sense the curating process is structuring the elements of a statement. Each position within the framework should be seen as an essential part of that statement.

For me personally, making exhibitions is based on something I want or need to say or feel should be said but don’t feel a text is sufficient or words adequate. Or it is based on a frustration from how other curators have tried to inadequately say something similar. Or it comes from something I feel that other people (artists) are saying already or riffing on trajectories of and I want to see what happens when these various ideas, based on the possibility of connections between them, sing in a forced and off-key unison. I think the resulting cacophonies of disparate practices can achieve a very particular and peculiar harmony. Furthermore, and I know it sounds cheesy but I also try to make exhibition themes keeping my parents or non-art world people in mind during the execution so that hopefully anyone is able to access it or get something from it without much initiation. And yet to contradict myself, I think a visitor is overly empowered in this entire process and so I feel it is also interesting to subvert these power structures in a way that hopefully creates an experience or situation.

Is curating a creative process?
Absolutely. It allows the chance to operate in between artist practices and communicate things that combine ideas in hopefully alchemical, complementary and/or illuminating ways. Without the artist the curator is nothing. Without the curator the artists are isolated within their own context. It is a delicate creative symbiosis that helps both parties grow. I steal a lot from artists I have worked with or admire. 

I noticed you both write; curator-writer. Isn't "curator" the broader term (like I would say for me: artist) which includes all the other activities, like writing for example?
No because not all curators can write and vice versa. I like wearing as many hats as possible as these things parasitically feed into one another in unexpected ways however I do look at them as separate hats.

What makes a good show?
Something that is well-considered, timely, clear but with an allure of curiosity, not overly didactic, necessary, important, useful, etc.

When is a show bad?
Something that is not the above mentioned or that neglects an audience or that has been done for the sake of being abstruse or name-droppy. Or an exhibition strategy that subsumes the artists within gimmickery or self-indulgent curatorial strategies (one can imagine a list of names here). I also don’t like it when you read an exhibition title or press release and it is one of those everything/nothing non-statements. Or when it is a fait accompli where the idea is so formula-based that it isn’t even necessary to see the show as you already know what it will be or the artists are just names in a list.

On what grounds did you choose your 4 artists?
They have practices I am interested in at the moment. They were each in the last show at my gallery and still in the front of my forebrain. I also chose them because they have diverse practices that could operate in this funny crapshoot context.

On what grounds do you think your opponent chose his 4 artists?
Carson is very involved with analogital and architectural practices as it occupies a  large area of his current research.

How do you feel now about the pool of eight artists you have to work with?
Great. It’s a funny challenge like iron chef and it has been amazing to meet all of the people Carson suggested as I didn’t know any of their practices. It has also been great to further collaborate with artists I know well but then have to rethink in a fresh way.

Why do you think you will win?

Aren't you afraid you are going to curate the "same" show?
No.

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