Appointing Curators and Designers – Activity

Exhibiting work within museums, galleries or other public spaces involves the photographer working with others as part of the process of placing work into an exhibition space. This requires the photographer to relinquish some level of control over the way the work is displayed within the exhibition context. Curators and Designers take on a level of shared responsibility for the work of the photographer.

The level of responsibility transferred from photographer to curator and designer are not fixed and influenced by a number of parameters. A curator at a museum might have to work within the curatorial guidelines of the museum or the sponsors of a specialist exhibition. If the exhibition includes multiple photographers the curator has to consider how the works of the individuals might work together by grouping complementary works or creating tension between different works.

The exhibition for Falmouth Flexible has a number of unique parameters that as a curator needed to be considered. The first was that as the curator would also be an exhibitor which introduces the risk of both positive and negative bias towards their own work. Some that I considered at outset when applying to be a curator. The second unique parameter was the fact the exhibitors would be in control of sourcing the local exhibition venues and local publicity creating distrance from part of the role normally taken by the curator and design team.

We decided  as group to have a vote to select the curatorial team with a number of the module putting their name forward for the role.

My approach to selecting the theme and sub-theme was to base my suggestions based purely on the information provided by my peers and  have the theme and corresponding sub-themes create a context that would bring the different exhibits together under a single umbrella. However given the global nature of the exhibits it is unlikely that visitors will see more than 1 local exhibition within the group exhibition.

My idea was to suggest a short theme title and 1 word sub-themes. My fellow curators had a different take on the approach. For me it was clear that a collaborative solution would be required that combined ideas from each curator. As a group we cycled round a few different proposals based on the different curators initial concepts. 

As a group we found it easy to suggest two sub-themes of the three but the third proved difficult. The first theme title we proposed provided an umbrella did not link to the sub-themes. After a discussion with Gary on our initial proposal we reconvened as a group to consider his feedback. This resulted in a consistent set of themes that linked to the overal theme of “Searching for Meaning”.

The first theme “Who is Responsible” consider man’s role in shaping the environment. The second theme “How we live” explores human relationships. The third theme “Who defines us” looks that our first impression is visual yet on deeper enquiry we find a new meaning.

When selecting exhibits to place within the sub-themes as a group of curators we looked to balance the size of exhibits in each sub-theme and looked to place work for peers who had not provided us with keywords and images to help use define the exhibition.

Working as a curator was a useful learning experience to understand more about the role of a curator so that as an exhibiting photographer I can appreciate the role of the curator and how their input can help enhance the work I am proposing for inclusion in the exhibition.

I discovered through the process that I enjoyed the challenges that a curator has to overcome and in future I might consider hosting group exhibitions and taking on the role of curator/promoter for the exhibition.

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