Uncommon Pursuits, established in the summer of 2018, is a school dedicated to emerging Southeast Asian curators who aspire to gain theoretical and practical skills as they research, write and curate contemporary art in their translocal contexts. Please find more information on our program here.
The word ‘essayer’ derives from ‘essay’ and refers to a process of trying, weighing, meandering and unfolding. How might we think this in regard to the discursive lives of art exhibitions? The past, present and future of exhibitions is by nature essayistic: constructed not only through lengthy catalogues, press releases, critical reviews and interviews, but also gossip, skewed memories and embodied experiences.
This session considers the histories of exhibitions and their publications as forms of knowledge. What of the archive, or rather “anarchive,” which captures or lets slip the many ephemeral experiences generated by encounters with exhibitions? What critical precepts need to be prioritized, from history, location or theory? How or what audience is to be shaped or addressed? And what speculative allowances can we make for the disobedient gaps, holes and the missing parts of an unfolding process?
This session approaches these questions and will also focus on facets of a case study of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale entitled Trade Routes: History and Geography in 1997. The complexities and collapse of this historical exhibition invite an essayistic reading of rootedness, scale and effect, inviting us to reimagine the forms of research and writing demanded from the diverse contexts of producing and consuming curatorial knowledge.