Monday, December 29, 2003

Curatorial responsibility


Something came up over the weekend, and the concept of Record Store Clerk as curator was branded into my brain. Now upon doing some research, it seems that it was really long weekend. The article was written in August and published by the Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately the LATimes' archives aren't coughing up anything useful, but I was able to track down this quote:

"Like their counterparts at book and video stores, record clerks shape our experience of culture as decidedly as any critic, curator or culture-industry executive.- Link (scroll down.)

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Curators oversee collections... They acquire items through purchases, gifts, field exploration, [and] intermuseum exchanges... Curators also plan and prepare exhibits. ...Most curators use computer databases to catalogue and organize their collections. Many also use the Internet to make information available to other curators and the public. Increasingly, curators are expected to participate in grantwriting and fundraising to support their projects.
Most curators specialize in a field... Those working in large institutions may be highly specialized. ...Some curators maintain the collection, others do research, and others perform administrative tasks. ...In small institutions, with only one or a few curators, one curator may be responsible for multiple tasks, from maintaining collections to directing the affairs of museums. - Link

Unstated in all of that is that curators choose. Like an editor, or dictator, they make decisions about what belongs and what should be taken out back and shot. Although being comprehensive is a valid curatorial method (ie everything belongs! You're all saved!!) sometimes it can get overwhelming. (And you end up needing really really large buildings to house your show).

Back in the day, having a bond with your local record store clerk (radio DJ, bookstore clerk, librarian, etc.) was worth its weight in gold. You'd bring one record up to the cash, and they would suggest something else ("if you like that, you really should hear this!") If they got it right (and invariable they did) you'd be back the following week like clockwork.

Now if you go to a museum or gallery here in town, there isn't that same "you gotta try this" sensation. It is much more like being at a discotheque; you come you dance, you have a drink or two, and then you go home. If you're lucky the music doesn't suck and if you're really lucky you're not going home alone.

The Art curators in Montr�al are a tight ass bunch. If we go the bureaucratic route (see the USBLS definition above) the Montrealers who curate, write grants and fundraise for the bulk of their time. I can't think of a single person here in town, involved in Visual Arts, who is even trying to shape your experience of culture. On the other hand, I can come up with about half a dozen who aren't in the Visual Arts who do shape your experience of culture.

When was the last time somebody told you "you gotta see this!"? I thought so. So as a public service these are the shows happening in town that you gotta see. OK?

On vous pisse � la gueule - Centre de diffusion en art subversif - 1126 de Maisonneuve E.,
Guglielmo Marconi - Mus�e des Ondes �mile Berliner - 1050 Lacasse
C'est ma place (publique)! - Monopoli - 372 Ste-Catherine O. #516

Let me know what you think. Or better still tell somebody else what you think.

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