Between intentionality and reception: the politics of curatorial intervention

Levine, Brett Murray (2017) Between intentionality and reception: the politics of curatorial intervention. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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"Between Intentionality and Reception: The Politics of Curatorial Intervention" critically interrogates the theoretical construct and professional practice identified as curatorial intervention. It does so to determine if, and if so how, the actions of curators mediate the artist–audience exchange. The research proposes that, contrary to the extant structures of classical reception theory, curatorial intervention is an essential third component within the artist–audience exchange. The research argues that historical and contemporary constructions of reception theory have not to date adequately accounted for the role of the curator, and, consequentially, those same models cannot account for curatorial agency. As a result, the research asserts that reception theory cannot effectively position curators as agency participants within the artist–audience exchange. On the contrary, curatorial intervention emerges at the site of the artist-audience exchange as an agency relationship that is a manifestation of the structures and methods of curatorial power.

To verify the efficacy of this model, it was necessary to determine the extent to which artists, curators, and administrators working in the museum sector acknowledged the roles curators played in mediating artists' works within audiences' experiential encounters. To date, the existing models that have sought to position curatorial roles have instead examined declarations of curatorial authorship, which radically shifts intentionality and agency from artists to curators. To the detriment of both, little research has examined how curators mediate the conception, construction, presentation, and experience of works of art in instances in which a declaration of curatorial authorship is not made.

Based on the existing literature, this research is one of the first sustained examinations of the theory of curatorial intervention. It relies upon interviews conducted with artists, curators, and administrators working in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States — ten from each sector — who provide in-depth responses to detailed questions concerning curatorial practice and their individual experiences and perceptions of curatorial intervention. These responses, coupled with analyses of the current literature on curatorial practice and reception theory, provide parameters that frame the research, that enable conclusions regarding the existence or absence of curatorial intervention, and which facilitate the construction of a theory for its operations.

The participant responses were evaluated against existing theory and practice, including a wide range of recent writings that have appeared in the curatorial field. What is noted, generally, is that although most of these writings address curatorial authorship at length, few (if any) address the notion or construction of curatorial intervention.

The analysis models the research findings using a tri-nodal matrix — identified as the TAP Matrix — which examines curatorial practice, and curatorial intervention, against the variables of transparency, agency, and power. The conclusions, based on the totality of the findings contained therein, propose curatorial intervention as the third element of the artist–audience exchange. They offer an alternative model for the visual experience. Instead of intentionality and reception, the research proposes a structure of intentionality, intervention, and reception, thereby situating curatorial intervention as the foundational framework for interrogating the artist–audience exchange.

Item ID: 52482
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: art curators, artist-audience exchange, artists, curatorial intervention, curators
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2018 23:36
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190599 Visual Arts and Crafts not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing @ 100%
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