voti-agent on Mon, 14 Dec 1998 20:13:16 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> VOTI ACTION


Dear Dr. Anderson:

We wish to express our opposition to your treatment of curators Thelma
Golden and Elisabeth Sussman. The recent restructuring of the curatorial
departments at the Whitney Museum of American Art is indicative of a
managerial approach that has been slowly developing in a number of major
art museums. Beyond our wish to show support for fellow curators Golden
and Sussman, we see your recent actions as signals of a pervasive
disrespect for curatorial practice, and as signs of aversion to some of
the most aesthetically and intellectually challenging experiments in
contemporary art. 

Curators at many institutions today are caught in a kind of double bind.
Art museums pride themselves on their proximity to an academic
environment, positing scholarship as one of their highest goals. Yet due
to shifts in the infrastructure of funding, museums have also adopted
corporate management models - with the corollary effect that curators are
treated as expendable workers. Contrary to both of these models, curators
do not have the job security and intellectual support enjoyed by
professors in the university system, nor do they enjoy salaries comparable
to corporate employees. As a result, they are forced to stand on
increasingly shaky ground, while serving as the primary source of ideas
for their institutions' exhibition programming. The door is then open to
all kinds of abuses. 

We find your actions in regard to these particular individuals to be a
form of intellectual gentrification, if not censorship. The fact that
Thelma Golden and Elisabeth Sussman presided over the controversial 1993
Biennial Exhibition, one of the most stimulating and contentious
contemporary art exhibitions presented after the gutting of the National

Endowment for the Arts, or that Golden then went on to curate "Black Male:
Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art," are
coincidences that hardly escape us. Since when did exhibitions that set
attendance records and raise genuine intellectual questions become a
failure? Of course no one is required to subscribe to the aesthetic
options of these two curators, but to admit that they are part of an
important debate, itself linked to a vibrant focus of artistic
experimentation, is surely necessary for a public institution that seeks
to represent artistic practice today. To sidestep this debate over
politics and identity in a multicultural, globally integrating society is
to set a timid, unproductive, yet perhaps more easily manageable agenda
for the Whitney. This troubling direction reflects a broader conservative
trend, the mistaken return to an outdated conception of cultural history. 

We feel it is imperative to mark our opposition to your actions, lest they
be misperceived as the innocuous restructuring of an organization like any
other in the private sphere.  Curating is an eminently public activity and
must remain so, if the visual arts are to continue to generate the
curiosity, the enthusiasm and the commitment that sustain our efforts as
professionals in this field. 

Sincerely yours,

Mónica Amor
Zdenka Badovinac
Bart de Baere
Wayne Baerwaldt
Carlos Basualdo
Daniel Birnbaum
Francesco Bonami
Dan Cameron
Christophe Cherix
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
Lisa Corrin
Jordan Crandall
Amada Cruz
Okwui Enwezor
Robert Fleck
Douglas Fogle
Jesús Fuenmayor
Bettina Funcke
Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt
Hou Hanru
Susan Hapgood
Jens Hoffmann
Brian Holmes
Udo Kittelmann
Aleksandra Kostic
Maria Lind
Rosa Martinez
Laurence Miller
Viktor Misiano
Akiko Miyake
Louise Neri
Michelle Nicol
Hans-Ulrich Obrist
Kathrin Rhomberg
Liisa Roberts
José Ignacio Roca
Yukiko Shikata
Nancy Spector
Barbara Vanderlinden
Peter Weibel
Octavio Zaya

Friends and members of the Union of the Imaginary (VOTI) - a permanent
forum for the discussion of issues pertaining to curatorial practice in
the context of contemporary society

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