TEXT BY 撰文 x BOWEN LI 李博文
TRANSLATED BY 翻譯 x MICHELLE YU 余小悅
An artist is by definition the one who creates. And, by extension, the one who becomes – however much these two combined resemble the definition of a new god. A shapeshifter shifting shapes. She is not to be satisfied with the role and position given to her, but is to fight for always new territories, to claim not only from others but also from among the artists themselves. This is perhaps also why the idea of a “super artist”(as the counterpart of the super curator) still remains unheard-of – she always already possesses the potential of being super.
An artist’s ambition of becoming the curator after a murder, on the other hand, is nothing novel. “Kill the middle man”, has been for ages the motto par excellence in many business, big or small. (In a sister form of art, cinema, for instance, directors yell out “screw the producer” while the actors go “fuck the director”. Zhang Yimou’s long-term suffering as a result of his producer’s greed is also very recently revealed. The recent and unprecedented commercial success of Chinese firm Alibaba is also based on this: things are cheaper online because things are of low quality, and/or are free from the touch of the middle man.) So if it is no longer a must, no longer a role active, essential, irreplaceable, what did the curator do? One of the biggest mysteries – not in, as it is mysterious for the exteriority of the field, but only – of contemporary art.
On the most basic level, the curator curates, that is, the curator takes care of and for the artist, first and foremost, as parasitic as can be. It is perhaps still urgent (but what does “still urgent” mean, now that in this publication a certain murder is anticipated?) to acknowledge that, there are still places where artists are not forced to speak for themselves – and this necessarily means for the artists to speak also for the artworks, as if the artworks are mute, dumb, incapable of, if not communication, at least expression – where artists consciously or unconsciously follow the doctrine of Matisse, cutting the tongue out, so that the art can successfully, for however brief a moment, become the only language used. That is, so that the artist can become the artist proper, if there ever is such a thing. It is perhaps still urgent to acknowledge that, translatibility in its most radical is always already involved in any speaking-of-the-artwork, with tongue, pen or paintbrush, in which the visual and even the verbal demand justice in, of and for itself. To promise to you a truth in painting. Not every artist is Gerhard Richter, anticipating sincerely an art that is “better” than the artist, beyond the artist, leaving therefore the artist’s own word questionable and inadequate; but not every artist is Luc Tuymans either, speaking with formidable elegance of formidably elegant paintings that are in fact his own, as if he is his own historian, archivist, voluntarily or not. What is at stake here is dissymetricality itself, between roles and between languages.
UK art education today, as has been previously addressed here in this quarterly, leaves the impression that it trains and encourages artist to talk and speak, almost excessively and forcefully. To crack a mouth up, to undo, tear open and make hole in a silence. As if, after J. L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words Regarding Art becomes a core course. Artists or future artists alike reckon it is only appropriate and necessary to talk about and speak of their works, to perhaps compensate for their insecurities or declare to themselves and others the significance of this art that is created anew today. To me, very personally, as a former small time performance artist of some sort, it is nothing less than lamentable, simply because of that it takes place anew, before it is questioned anew. But fortunately, the universalization of this specific situation is taking a very slow pace, and there are still a good number of artists worldwide practicing in a way that reminds of the ecstatic silence of that specific caveman, and all those that follow in the history of art.
Hence curator’s job of speaking for them. Absolutely not, however, as their representative, because the curator does not create; but as their agent. For those who cannot or is unwilling to speak, that is, in short, for those who do not wish to surrender to Logos, she is to speak for them as both the agent of the artist and of the Logos. Which is always a problematic thing, and not even in most cases positively so. Another dissymmetry: Logos and its radical other – the later helplessly clings onto the former. The logic of the parasite is flipped upside down.
And, on the other hand, the interests of the institution. Artists, caught in their own practices practically do not have time or energy to deal with the interests of the institution, be it a museum, a gallery, an exhibition or even a collection that could be both picky and greedy. Even if they do – and this availability or ability is immediately suspicious on all levels – actively, they should be freed from the given limits, for, as the myth has it, the artist works in – and out of, one might even add – freedom. Considering and attempting to link the interests of the artist and that of the institution, as the middle man proper, the curator is the buffer, locus of negotiations, bargains, deals. Before she is territorialized – which is not strictly speaking a goal, not even a necessity – she is first and foremost deterritorialized as the locus of others’ interests, provisional, temporary, but essential, because the expression and projection of desires onto others pertain to, in a minor way, a certain truth of art. In other words, the ugliness is reserved here in the senses of the curator. The curator’s art is ugly by nature, according to the aesthetics of the day.
And the interests of the curator herself. A body territorialized by her own desires proper, playing God. It is ugly enough and well-known enough a fact, I do not think I should go into it in-depth here.
Before the actual but unlikely outbreak of the war between the artists and the curators or even before the actual but no less unlikely replacement of the curator by the artist – unlikely since they are very much mutually dependent – we have been speaking for long now the urgent and important differentiation between and among the two parties. Take names that are somehow esoteric for instance, in passing: the legendary bohemian Jack Bilbo, artist, bodyguard of Al Capone and author of a number of autobiographies, was also a gallerist and produced exhibitions of works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Renoir, Courbet, Klee, among many others. Henry Darger drew and died.
Really briefly, we have shown at least three interests that are at work in the body of a curator. By no means do these interests co-exist in harmony. It is the struggle of the interests that distorts this body, but the political economy of different interests, on the other hand, perhaps is exactly the task of the curator. Finishing: if the question today is, as it is radicalized above, the artist’s murder of the curator before her own becoming-the-curator, I am not attempting to argue that it is ridiculous as it apparently is. I find it most interesting – in all sense of the word – just as interesting as the curator’s murder of the artist. The guest editor of this issue responded, in a meeting, to the question of “how about curator becoming artist?” by stating everybody wants to be the artist because it is hip, hot, awesome – so the curator should not be allowed. My wonder was simply that, do you not realize that in fact curator is the hip, hot, awesome thing today, as your arrogation has it? I am also reminded now of a recent dinner, during which one of the most respected female curators in the world today jokingly called herself and a number of artworld professionals including one of the most esteemed gallerists in China “failed artists”, all trained initially as artists and later became something else.
這本出版物在前幾期的專題裡討論過現今英國藝術教育的問題，而英國藝術教育給人的印象就是要鼓勵並加強藝術家說話和交流的訓練，這幾乎是過分的，強迫性的──敲開藝術家的嘴，讓他們吐出話來，打破沉靜。我們幾乎要想像，在J.L.奧斯汀之後，某種《有關藝術的以言行事（How To Do Things With Words Regarding Art）》一定會在教育機構中大賣。出於不安全感，或出於宣稱作品的新的意義的需要，藝術家和藝術學生們通常把這種面對藝術作品時進行的解釋視為是合適的、必要的。對我個人來說，作為一名短暫從事過表演藝術實踐的人，這種言說的必要性是讓人惋惜的。因為，絕對地新穎的創作在被懷疑前早已一次又一次地發生。幸運的是，英國狀況並沒有以一種驚人的速度在全世界快速地發展開來。世上仍然有相當多的藝術家如幾千年前的那位特殊的山洞住民一般，在進行藝術創作的同時保持緘默。
再次，策展人需要照料自己的利益。一個被自身欲望所領地化的人扮演著上帝的角色。如此醜陋又人儘皆知的事實，我想也不必再作深入探討。在藝術家與策展人的戰爭面前，在藝術家取代策展人這一現實發生之前，我們已經討論了兩個陣營之間緊迫而重要的“職業責任劃分”。一些比較簡短的例子：放蕩不羈的傳奇人物傑克·比爾博（Jack Bilbo），既是藝術家，艾爾·卡朋（Al Capone）的保鏢，自傳作家，同時又是畫廊主，曾舉辦畢加索、梵高、雷諾、庫貝爾、克雷等人的展覽；而亨利·達格（Henry Darger）則畫完畫就死了。
“It was commented that artists can do without curators and writers etc, but not vice versa. Of course power structures are problematic but it is ridiculous to even speak of art today without recognising that visibility structures produce the work we examine . Art as we know it is produced by a complex web of actors and the further we go towards recognising and utilising this the better.”—Dr Becky Shaw, artist, research tutor at Sheffield Hallam University.