Curating Project

Originally I was thinking about comparing news networks for my curating project but I think I’m not going to do that anymore. I had work the other day, then I got off. When I did I went to the bar where I worked and had a few drinks with some co-workers. I was speaking to this older dude, I think he was born sometime in the late sixties or early seventies, and another guy who was born in 81. We were comparing the TV shows and general environment of our early years . . . some obviously earlier than others. We were loosely examining how things have changed, primarily in our discussion, how video games have advanced and how alcohol and woman are treated in television. The late sixties early seventies guy was talking about Andy Griffith, the eighties guy was talking about the cartoons he was into, I was listening along with adding tid bits here and there to fuel our discussion. This conversation gave me an idea on what I could do for my project. Both of these guys have collections of some of the shows they had watched growing up and throughout their lives. I thought it might be a good idea to do a cultural analysis through looking at these shows from a theoretical standpoint, kind of like what I was looking for with the Rocko’s Modern Life thing. I would examine things such as language, clothing, camera effects/lighting, music, setting, etc. etc. From the characteristics of these shows I hope to gain a bit of insight into the age in which they were created, of course keeping in mind these images are rooted in pop culture, a fact that must be remembered when undergoing analysis. For my own benefit it might be good to also examine some of the fringe cultures that co-existed with these shows, video game systems, etc. of the day to give a broader, while at the same time, more definite context by which I can examine American culture. This is going to take a lot more TV watching than I’m used to, but I’m hoping if I space out well enough I can get through it with some good results.


Unframed Artists Gallery

Unframed Artists Gallery

I’m curating the Unframed Artist Gallery on Huguenot Street. We pretty much got everything set and ready to go for the galleries opening on April 5th. The whole experience has been an interesting one, I’ve never curated an event before. It was a pretty involved process and took a lot of planning and scheduling. It started with a meeting where the owner and a board of gallery members, as well as newcomers such as myself, got together to decide when shows would begin and what themes each would have. Each show is centered around a theme; for the April 5th show titled Art Speaks which deals with word and image. The next show examines art that references the Hudson Valley. These themes give the artists who intend to contribute work to the gallery a basis to work from. The theme operates as a tool of curation since it narrows down what type of artwork will be submitted/accepted.

After this meeting where which shows we’d have, as well as other administrative stuff was discussed, the process of putting out a call to artists was undertaken. The call to artists was about a page long describing the show, what we as curators were looking for in submissions as well as the shows purpose. Once the call to artists went out it was a matter of waiting along with constant PR. We had a drop off date for artists to come and drop off their work. It was then up to the curators, myself and a woman named Vivien who was helping me out, to get the works organized so we could hang the walls. The organizing process was a lot of fun. We linked works together based on content, color scheme, aura, size; we pretty much mixed and matched traits inherent in a variety of different works until they synchronized in some cohesive way on the walls. My way of going about organizing things on the wall was by the energies I felt they emitted, kinda like Feng Shway (Yea . . . that’s not how that’s spelt). The Mrs. in charge, Michelle, shifted some of my decisions, but for the most part I had a pretty good feel for my first time. There were things she taught me that I hadn’t been completely aware of while hanging such as, how to hang and why certain works should be placed at a certain level on the wall for the viewers vs others works. An example is a photo realist drawing of a glass of waterthat is having water being poured into it. It looks like a photograph, the work is so accurate and expertly undertaken it would have done it an injustice to place it too high on the wall where it would not have been able to be viewed as directly. Michelle asked me to move it to around eye level which was definitely a good decision.

Along with organizing all the art I asked my friend John to join me so we could organize a few nights of live music. This too was a curatorial practice. We had to get together bands that would fit the vibe that we were going for each night. Along with getting bands we have to create an atmosphere through activities and decoration that also illumines the vibe we’re going for. So far so good, but this is still in the process of working itself out.

Although the paintings in the gallery are pretty much all set in their spaces on the wall there is still some more curating and planning to get done. What I’ve learned from this experience so far is that in a gallery setting the responsibilities of curating lay in the hands of the curator, but none of it can occur without a communal effort and cooperation from the artists and others who are willing to help make whatever the event is come to light.

Curated Collection Progress

I’m gradually refining my ideas for my curated collection, but I’ve already settled on highlighting several novels in the western fiction genre, some which overlap with my research paper on Louis L’amour’s works. L’amour produced a very entertaining (if you’re into the genre at least) series called the “Sackett” novels, chronicling the journey of a family who comes from the Welsh area of Great Britain during the age of exploration through several generations, eventually ending up in American West. L’amour also wrote some works of a more versatile nature, though continuing the western theme. My favorite one of these is his exciting and thrilling novel, “Last of the Breed” about an American Air Force pilot of Native American descent who is shot down flying over Russia during the cold war. In addition to L’amour, I’m currently working my way through a Zane Grey novel (probably his best known), “Riders of the Purple Sage”. This novel has inspired films and even the name not one, but two western music groups. The book follows adventures of man at opposition with Mormons in late 1800s Utah. Yet another work that I have already read and will probably add to my curated collection is Clair Huffaker’s page turner “The Cowboy and the Cossack”, which tells the story of several Montana Cowboys commissioned to drive a heard of cattle across the steppes of Russia. Finally, thanks to the other David in this class, I’m going to start working through a short western novel by Richard Matheson. Matheson is probably best known for his very well written novela “I Am Legend”, and his television writing for shows such as “Kolchack: The Night Stalker”. Knowing his reputation for very engaging writing, I’m looking forward to the possibility of including his book as well.

Curating Reality: How Reality TV Works

It is hardly a secret that reality TV has captured the attention of audiences across the world. “By definition, reality TV is essentially unscripted programming that doesn’t employ actors and focuses on footage of real life events or situations.” Consequently, such footage becomes more a product of the producers and editors than the work of the individuals on cast.

Today, the shows that fall under the category of reality TV are actually edited exhibits of particular concepts that was originally (in most cases) created by the producer of the show. According to an article online, “the first season of MTV’s ‘The Real World’ was shot over three month period, ostensibly 24 hours a day—this would add up to about 2,610 hours of footage. But only 13 half-hour episodes aired.” In other words, the recordings that are being revealed to the public are highly controlled and serve a purpose relative to the vision of the producer.

Thus, what is exposed to audiences as “reality” is actually a collection of scenes that have been carefully selected by the people working behind the curtains. It is not uncommon for footage that has been captured days apart to appear as one scene or situation. From the placement of cameras to the cutting and pasting of the most “relevant” situations, the ultimate creation becomes a curated reality as seen fit by the creator.

For my final paper I am going to explore this concept of “curating reality” in extensive detail. My surface-level observation in considering shows such as “The Jersey Shore,” “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and “The Real World” suggest that the producers of these programs use a process of curation to determine a version of reality. However, seeing as reality is ultimately a subjective concept these  “versions of reality” can be detrimental to an individual’s self-developed understanding of the world around them and the position they hold within it.

Curation: Pros and Cons

As I’ve mentioned before, prior to this class, I really didn’t have a clue as to what “curation” or a “curator” actually was. For my art class, each week we have to watch an assigned video, typically a documentary on a specific artist, and come up with a creative response to it. This past week, we watched “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.” In a nutshell, Jean-Michael Basquiat’s story is the textbook definition of “rags to riches.” At 17, he started off as nothing more than a graffiti artist who was living on the streets of New York City and living off of cheese doodles. Two years later, after both his work and his charming personality began to give him a reputation, his art was being sold in galleries worldwide, rewarding him over $200,000+ in just one showing. Basically, the young African American artist and former street dweller flourished for the following six years. The next two were met with a combination of drug use and negative criticism from the art world, bringing both his career and his life to an end. 

What struck me at the conclusion of this documentary was the true influence of curators, and in turn, curation, on Basquiat’s life. It was his own unique and unintentional act of curation that ignited his fame – his specific choices of color, of drawings, of random words or phrases, and even the obscure surfaces on which he chose to express himself all came together to form the style he remains famous for today. Beyond that, if it weren’t for the many art curators who took a liking to his work, it never would have traveled beyond the walls of downtown Manhattan. Curators ranging from NYC to Los Angeles to Western Europe all made the executive decision that Basquiat’s art was something they wanted to add to their collection – that despite its daring newness and countless differences from popular art at this time, it would nonetheless add to their gallery. 

In contrast to the curators who brought him success, it was also curators that brought about his demise. After getting caught up in the party life, befriending celebrities like Andy Warhol and Madonna, his work began to subside. More and more museums and their curators began expecting brilliant work from Basquiat and at a faster pace, and in the end, he couldn’t deliver. Before he knew it, less and less figures in the art world were interested in him, with any work that he did produce being harshly criticized. The amount of time between his art shows was steadily increasing, and he eventually overdosed at age 27. 

While this summary sounds a little depressing, the documentary is not as much so, and is actually pretty amazing and I recommend anyone to watch it in their free time. This was my first real look at a genuine act of curation, as well as people who actually do it as a profession. While curation obviously does not always present itself and results such as this, I just found it pretty interesting that such a process could have such a tremendous effect on one’s life. 

The Brooklyn Museum

Over spring break, I got a chance to visit the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. I had never been there before, and was excited to see what was in the museum. I really liked how the museum was curated overall. When you first walk in, you don’t really get a sense of how big the building is. I wandered off towards the left, where there was an exhibit on African Americans in America. The exhibit was really well but together, and was spaced out over a couple of rooms. The exhibit consisted mostly of art, and had one video portion which featured singing. Beside each piece of art was a card explaining who made the piece, and a little bit about the history surrounding it.

From that museum, I went randomly up to the 4th floor. There, I found a lot more art. When I got off the elevators, there were three huge, beautiful stained glass windows, along with an explanation of who made them, a little bit of information about stained glass. Then, there were rooms that displayed furniture from the early part of the 1900s. What I liked about this collection is that the curator did not choose furniture just from America, but chose to display furniture from places like Italy and Paris. It was really interesting to be able to compare the styles.

Another exhibit that was great was the Egyptian exhibit. It was set up so you would walk through basic things like wall hieroglyphics first. Then, you moved on to some sarcophagus and masks and big statues. At the very end was a mummy on display, and others in their respective sarcophagus. I loved this exhibit because I really had a thing for ancient Egypt when I was younger. So I walked through each room, and just kept getting more and more excited. The curator really built up anticipation the way the exhibit was laid out. I really enjoyed my trip, and thought that the curators did a great job.

Bodies: The New York Exhibition

After visiting the New York State Museum over Spring Break I became interested in exploring the other exhibitions within New York. Amongst the more recently erected museums is one called Bodies: The Exhibition, which is a collection that was organized and curated in order to provide an intimate and informative view into the human body. With over 200 actual human bodies and specimens that have been carefully dissected and respectfully presented within the exhibit, visitors are offered a highly dynamic and unique vision into the structures and processes as a way of celebrating the human form.

The museum’s spokesperson and Chief Medical Director is Dr. Roy Glover, a graduate from the Doctorate program in Anatomy from Ohio State University. In an episode of Oprah, Dr. Oz interviews Dr. Glover about his reason for using real body parts. Dr. Glover references the bodies that are displayed in athletic poses as he explains, “[It helps them] understand the body in a dynamic way—what muscles do, how they contract, move the limbs around, how muscles fix the skeleton so other muscles can be effective.” While Dr. Glover’s focus is directed towards the functional and medical aspects of the specimens, the efforts of the museum’s curators Dr. Angelina Whalley and her husband were aimed towards creating an emotional experience for those who come to visit.

Although the bodies and organs have been voluntarily donated by people since 1983, the curation process has only been in effect since 1995. Whalley and her husband invented what is known as the “plastination process” which is perhaps the only reason the use of real human parts became a feasible concept. As a whole, the exhibition (as implied by the website) is separated into the systems of the body. Individual exhibits portray the structures and functions employed by the skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive, and circulatory systems in some ways that expose their specific use and others that represent their purposes in conjunction with other systems.

The newest, most popular exhibit explores the treated body and is called the “Pulse” exhibit. Amongst the things displayed include (but are by no means limited to) a heart that has suffered a heart attack, a spleen that has been enlarged due to leukemia, and a smoker’s lung and brain that had suffered a stroke. Out of the two articles I found that paid specific attention to this section of the exhibition it seemed as though the bodies and organs displayed were organized by disease.

However, Dr. Glover, Dr. Whalley and her husband’s efforts in this section of the experience sought to achieve far more than shock value. Rather, they aimed to expose the inescapable effects that disease, environment and lifestyle choices have on a person’s health.  With this new addition, the experience of the Bodies Exhibition in New York is not only a celebration of the human form, but also a lesson on how to keep the celebration going strong.