In a recent Artforum the very distinguished critic Claire Bishop has an interesting review of the combined Lithuanian/Cypriot pavilion at this years Venice Biennale. Some artists are suspicious of the curator as artist, but in a way that development was inevitable. Bishop’s description of the work of curator Raimundas Malašauskas strongly recalls some thoughts posted on this blog about large forms:
“The Lithuania/Cyprus pavilion is either an unforgettably atmospheric nonpavilion that sets new standards for post-national, site-specific representation in Venice, or an obfuscating haze of fictions without any core or substance….The exhibition will only make sense gradually, over the next few months or even years, as you talk to others who experienced it, joining the dots of its aleatory, fictional existence. The organizing premise will get no clearer, of course, but as a set of disconnected, peripheral experiences the show will start to acquire a more tangible character.”
Artists might resent their role as parts in a curator’s more comprehensive work, but they can hardly avoid that fate. Overproduction in culture as everywhere means that there is a surplus of artists, and it’s ever harder to establish important distinctions between them. As people like Thomas Friedman keep saying, to compete one has to move higher up the value chain—and the higher one gets the less able to claim any particular skill. One day we will see an artist as a museum director, or understand an administrator to be a kind of artist—like Chairman Mao. Looking on the bright side, any object, any person and any human capacity can be a legitimate material for art—if that is a good thing. But this “non-pavilion” seems, as least from a distance, to be a good work, and the curator is definitely an artist. Especially attractive is Bishop’s recognition that what matters about it is “character” and “atmosphere,” in other words feeling rather than meaning. It seems to be in the avant-garde of art, of exhibition design and of curating—but then all three are the same, in effect.