Sofia Landström – practicing researcher, educator and writer

Exhibitions are a tool, not the result. Art should open up for a democratic dialog and rethink the ‘ordinary’ exhibition practises. Martha Rosler: “art make difference to a social movement only when it is made in cognizance of those movements.” . Exhibition making can be a model of resistance, a tool and not the result.

Articles and Interviews

BELOW YOU CAN FIND MY ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS .

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Oktober 2017

Hon är en av Indiens mest unika moderna konstnärer. Men under sin livstid var Nasreen Mohamedi relativt okänd utanför hemlandet. Först på senare år har hennes personliga och upplevelsebaserade konst uppmärksammats i Europa och USA.

 Text: Karin Annebäck och Sofia Landström

Inför en konferens om konstnären Nasreen Mohamedi i Delhi 2009 samlades hennes vänner och elever för att diskutera minnen. De talade om en excentrisk och egen person. Lågmäld, men inte blyg och alltid elegant. Vid sin död 1990 var hon en relativt okänd konstnär utanför Indien. De flesta av hennes konstverk, småskaliga teckningar i blyerts och tusch, fanns kvar i hennes hem och ateljé.

Först efter en retrospektiv utställning i Bombay, nuvarande Mumbai, 1991 säljs de och hennes konst har på senare år börjat visas på större utställningar internationellt. Under sin livstid stod Mohamedi utanför etablerade konstriktningar och grupperingar. Men konferensen nästan 20 år senare och flera soloutställningar, bland annat på det prestigefulla brittiska konstmuseet Tate Liverpool 2014, visar att hennes konstnärskap idag har fått en tydlig plats på både den indiska och europeiska konstscenen. Hennes konst rör sig, precis som hon gjorde, över kontinenter….

Forts. i tidning

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Issue 3, 2015 /CELEBRATION – Parallel Magazine

Occupation and women self-organisation as a feminist strategy

During the spring of 2015 various occupations appeared around the UK, in London students at various universities went in to occupation to protest against cuts on courses and redundancies towards lecturers,. It was a protest against the privatisation of education and the raise of tuition fees, which in the long run will have a negative effect on the diversity of universities.

On the 16th of March, news spread around the University of the Arts London that management had decided to cut around 580 places on foundation courses, courses that provides students with the opportunity to further their education, and their creative development. These courses are free for all Home students under 19 and the last free course that can help students to develop ideas and thinking, without putting them in to heavy dept. These cuts is a sign from the government and from the management, that they are undermining student’s access and right to free education. The cuts of Foundation and teaching positions at UAL is a consequence of the governments budget cuts to further education, budget cuts that will lead to a loss of 400,000 students studying at colleges according to The University College Union (UCU). In the long run this will damage diversity, both when it comes to class, gender, race, abilities and religion within the UK education system. We at UAL went in to occupation with this in mind, not only to fight the cuts at our own school but also to fight on a broader level, for free and democratic education and against the £500.000 cuts to Widening Participation outreach and a range of measures to democratise universities.

On the evening of March 19 we gathered for a meeting at London College of Communication (LCC), to discuss the news and our further actions. We decided that occupation was the best way to make our voices heard. Even though the biggest one was going to take place at LCC, we decided to occupy the reception of Central Saint Martins (CSM) since this building is considered to be the hub for UAL and the public and media face of the University. The building itself is the face of the neoliberal capital of UAL, if we wanted to make an impact we needed to go there.

As we entered CSM, we were a majority of women. Some of us had never been politically active before and some of us were used to occupations and sit-ins. In relation to other occupations around London happening simultaneously, ours was the only one that was female dominated from the start. We didn’t think much about it at the time but in retrospect I think it played a major role for how the environment became within the occupation. The UAL occupation can be discussed from various angles which will lead to different conclusions, but the feminist angle is interesting in this case, since it can provide an opportunity to understand how women over decades and places have used occupations and demonstrations to protest and create spaces. We, a mixed group of people, were in occupation for three weeks, sleeping, eating, creating and planning together. This environment creates a realm that can rarely be found in todays society.

Women’s groups have created spaces for other women and themselves. Because space is power and if you can disrupt space you can also disrupt power. That’s what we did for three weeks in our school and that is what women groups have done as a feminist call for action over multiple decades. Because space is never given to the less privileged, let it be women, students in a neo-capitalist education market or workers fighting for minimum wage, it has to be taken and created in order in order for its purposes to be re-formulate. Occupations is not a feminist strategy, but it can be used for feminist purposes and for women to form their own purposes and agenda. Spaces, like occupations, can be described as cathexes of transformative desire, integrating individuals into a shared conceptions of reality and political power. Spaces of the people are functional spaces that become focal points for organizing otherwise dispersed political energies. An occupation is a temporary political space that facilitate change by creating a distinctive place where people can come and develop new ideas, identities and practices. The strategy encapsulates the interplay between feminism, women’s identity and practice – discourses that are dialectically linked to structural and ideological implications where women attempts to recognize and further, deal with their oppression. This strategy is connected to the general, current politics; financial crisis, neoliberalism and conservative waves, these aspects have lead to a re-invention of occupations as a strategy for political change, a re-invention that has been seen since Occupy Wall Street in 2011. These spaces create platforms for political emancipation and self-organisation, a powerful and tested political tactic. Women have seen that political organisation within a particular and well-selected space is a temporary political and cultural space creates a space not given under ordinary circumstances.

So how have women used occupations over the decades?

In the 1970s many feminists used sit-ins as a strategy for change, one of the most famous ones is the Ladies’ Home Journal sit-in. It started March 18, 1970, when at least 100 women marched in to the Ladies’ Home Journal’s office to protest the way the magazine’s mostly male staff depicted women’s interests. They said that the magazine was “irrelevant, unstimulating and demeaning to the women of America.” and demanded an all-female editorial staff which would dictate the content. Their occupation began at 9.15 in the morning with a group containing Media Women, joining members of Redstockings, the West Village-One consciousness-raising group, New York Radical Feminists, Older Women’s Liberation, NOW and Barnard College students. As a group the demonstrators made concrete suggestions on content and came with a mock-up for a potential cover and 20 pages of gathered ideas for particular articles for the magazine, it was called “Women’s Liberated Journal”. Outside the building, from the office windows, you could see a banner reading “Women’s Liberated Journal”, a banner the occupants put up in correlation to the occupation. The then editor in chief, John Mack Carter, refused to resign, but agreed to let the demonstrators produce a section of an issue, he also promised to look in to the possibility of an on-site day care center for the workers at the magazine. The issue that they were promised was released in August the same year, written entirely by feminist women. They were paid $10,000 (equal to approximately $57,934 in 2011) and the money was used to found the first women’s center in New York City. A few years later in 1973, Lenore Hershey became the editor-in-chief of Ladies’ Home Journal.

That women organize themselves is, as we can see, not new. Where there is a political protest women find ways to gather and establish feminist issues on the over all agenda. During the Arab Spring, women formed an important role in the larger context. Women’s involvement in the Arab Spring went beyond direct participation in the protests to include leading and organizing protesters and cyberactivism. Women face discrimination in the Arab world and many activists hoped the Arab Spring would boost women’s rights. The discrimination against women lead women_to spark the Arab Spring, many women’s rights activists hoped the revolutions would lead to more democracy and thereby more women’s rights even though they did not explicitly push for women’s rights during any of the demonstrations. Since older males dominate most conventional media networks, cyberactivism gave women their own voice both domestically and abroad. On social media, women could find ways to organize and participate as organisers, journalists and activists. The Egyptian activist Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video on the 25 of January 2011, National Police Day, that urged the Egyptians to protest the regime in Tahrir Square. Her video went viral and is one indicator of women’s role in a larger political context. Young women benefitted from the rise of social media, as it enabled them platforms to protest and gave them a space to spread their message without state-run filters, women could by this engage more people in the revolutions by reducing distinctions between social and political networks. Even though Internet access remains low in some of the Arab Spring counties, the activity online reached out to key groups around the world, journalists, power brokers and academics. Women split their messaging evenly between raising domestic awareness of their causes and sharing information about the Spring with other countries. Their updates ensured the West’s 24-hour news cycle with first-hand sources and Bahraini activists Maryam Al-Khawaja and Zainab Al-Khawaja, Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy, and Libyan activist Danya Bashir were called the “Twitterati” (a portmanteau of Twitter and literati) because their Twitter accounts of the revolutions were praised by international media outlet. But the Arab Spring was not the upraise of women’s organisation in politics, just before the Arab Spring women’s rights groups in the region were fighting for rights set forth in the United Nations’ Conventio n on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the most comprehensive women’s rights treaty, and are using it to demand government action.

These events and organisation should never be compared nor measured against each other but can provide an understanding how self-independent organisation amongst women can create change, in various ways around the globe. These are a selected example that can provide a small understanding of women’s collective organisation, but never paint the full picture. Occupations and women-organisation can be concluded and celebrated as a trans-generational/global negotiation of space, re-invented when necessary to appropriate a space not given but taken over generations and places. This strategy calls for feminist action, an action that burrows beneath the surface to confront the subterranean aspects of dominant political vocabulary. It is a call from a feminist perspective to form a future based on anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal analysis and intervention. They can provide an alternative model for linking form a singularity in to a common and potentially pave the way for change that will transform women’s lives in general. The collective lives of women focuses on the collective which disrupts the notion of individualism, untroubled by a gendered society, as well as remind people, and institutions alike, of their dispositions and ways of thinking. The strategy could be summarized as a women self-organization that realizes short-term projects for long-term interests. The principles of collectiveness are co-extensive to an integrated oppositional thinking, a politics of collaborative alliances and expansion of politics to a common consciousness. Collectivism for women demonstrates a resistance to recreation of, and infiltration into, patriarchal hierarchies, and try to radically shift the focus to a participatory, inclusive environment where the discussion is based on the people present in the space and not the outcome of mainstream knowledge production.

Coming back to the occupations in London, we stayed in occupation for three weeks, a variety of people came and went, it was a dynamic place for a diverse group of people but it came to an abrupt end. On Tuesday 14 April, our university took on legal actions against 15 of us, me together with 14 of my fellow protesters were taken to court for trespassing. This, in one way showed the lack of respect the management have for student’s opinions, but it also shows how influential and scared the power can be of students sitting in an office creating their own space.

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Skärmavbild 2015-03-04 kl. 09.07.28Researcher and columnist at Parallel Magazine (from July 2014 – onward)

Why is it important for women to be able to do bad art?

Sofia Landström, Researcher and columnist

Men have dictated the rules for art and art practice since the beginning of art history. They have been allowed to try, to fail and to create without boundaries. Men have been able to create new art forms, isms and new aesthetics.

Women on the other hand have been shoved in to the realms of feminist art or ‘the other story’ in art. When they do something it has to be perfect and well put together, it has to be thought trough and conceptualized, there is no room for failure.

Art made by male artists becomes interesting because men’s life and experiences is the norm in our society. We consider what they do to be good because it is normative and in the framework of what we know. It can therefore get presented without any doubts or questions. Women’s experiences of the world is different, different oppressions, different struggles and they have therefore done a different kind of art than men, but because it deals with other questions it goes outside our set framework and can therefore never be ‘great art’ in mainstream art history writing. The fact that men can be great genius, innovatory artist is undoubted but that women can be great artists is still questionable.

Through out history, men’s art have been able to be more playful that women’s, maybe that’s why Picasso could invent cubism or why Duchamp did not even have to paint and still be called an artists bcd in the days when that would have been impossible for a women artist to do the same. Women’s art always need to be ready, finished and polished. Or be shocking. Within our gender role there is no place for fun or imperfections. We either have to be perfect of scandalous. The Madonna or the Whore. Nothing in between, not even in art.

This is why we need to allow women to do ‘bad art’. We need to encourage girls and women to create with out pressure, there is no good or bad art, there is only the idea of what good art is, a notion decided by male artist’s and male critics which have been forced upon us over hundreds of years. We need to step out of those ideas and say no to just being called Feminist Artists because we are more that that. The male dominated art history writing have forced us in to one little box called feminist art just to protect their own geniuses. If they would acknowledge our broad spectra and our innovations and not just call all of us ‘Feminist Artists’ they would have to put us into mainstream art history and not just the feminist art history. In order to encourage the women’s rights movement and encouraging women’s art we (art history) have to make an effort to analyse what they do on a deeper level then limiting our selves to their gender or bodies. We should make art outside of those presumptions. When we do art it not just a feminist act, its also new, ground-breaking and unique. Imagine how many –isms the world have missed just because they pushed us in to one tiny box?! Let’s change that! Let’s do ‘bad’ art!

It’s time to create a new history, a women’s history that is not defines by men’s terminology or men’s ‘isms. It’s time to create room for women’s stories as a consensus and show that art women do is too diverse to be put under one label. We as feminist has to take a stand, when we do exhibitions with women artist and just call it a feminist show we are following in the foot steps of the white male historians who put us in that box. We have to create terminology and dictionaries that shows how broad and diverse the art women do is. Feminism is about equality, so why should we don’t have an equal terminology for what we do? Men ‘created’ cubism, expressionism, minimalism, abstract art, impressionism etc etc. I’m sure the only thing women have done is not just feminist art (?!) I think women are smarter and more creative than that, art history have just forgot (or denied) to talk about that.

As a radical feminist I want women to have their own terminology that is based on a new system, not created by a male dominated history writing! I believe that this default labeling is restrictive to the understanding of women’s art, and to the future of women’s art history and belies the complexity and diversity of art created by women. Much like we would never label both Picasso and Damien Hirst as cubist artists just because they are white men, we have such a broad spectra to describe men’s art, why do we label both Tracey Emin and Georgia O’Keefe as feminist artists and nothing else just because they are women?

I want a new system, a new terminology and a new set of rules. I want a new idea of good and bad art, I want a new take on what women have done for art history, they are so much bigger than just feminist artists. They are feminist icons but they art goes beyond that and I want to be able to describe it!

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Forget fascists for a moment as Sweden’s Feminist party make history in the EU

By Sofia Landström

May 27 2014

– See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/forget-fascists-for-a-moment-as-swedens-feminist-party-make-history-in-the-eu/#sthash.rwV4KuMB.dpuf

On Sunday, the European elections took a historical turn when voters took a lurch to the right. Press across Europe reported on how nationalist parties gained a stable body of supporters and changed the demographics of the EU through a startling percentage of conservative, right-wing wins.

But European voters did not only vote nationalist, they also voted for a counter-movement: feminism.  A quieter historic moment was taking form. The European Parliament’s first independent feminist party entered the political arena.  Swedish party Feminist Initiative made history, with a final percentage count of 5.3% gaining a chair in the parliament for member Soraya Post.

Feminist Initiative’s journey started in April 2005. Rumour had it that a new feminist party was taking shape on the Swedish political landscape growing around Gudrun Schyman, the former leader of the Left Party. By 2008, the organization was formally a political party that competed in both the Swedish national election of 2010 and the European Parliamentary election of 2009. In the EU election, they gained 2.2% of the vote, but a did not make it into either the European or Swedish parliaments.

The feminist movement seemed defeated. Feminist Initiative disappeared from the political scene, becoming increasingly quiet. Perhaps feminism was not as strong as some may have initially thought – maybe even Sweden was not ready for a feminist political party.

Five years on, and nationalism and racism were taking grip of European politics. In Sweden, the media declared 2014 as the ‘super election year’, with both European elections and general Swedish parliamentary elections taking place in the same year. With this, the battle between the parties began. Who would take the fight against racism and nationalism? Whilst the larger parties began to look increasingly similar, Feminist Initiative was building it’s own agenda, selecting Soraya Post as its first name for the EU election. Her background of a Jewish father and Romani mother gave her a historical name on the election folders – the first Romani topping the lists on a ballot. With this, Feminist Initiative made their agenda clear: they wanted to be the party to fight discrimination, nationalism and racism.

After a threat of extinction, Feminist Initiative was back on the map. A counter movement started to take shape in Sweden that could be seen everywhere: particularly on social and print media. The feminist spring was coming. But the party were not invited to participate in national television debates, and were not taken seriously amongst their political peers. Would a vote for Feminist Initiative be considered a protest vote? Despite the doubts, something had started to simmer. Voters had started to take notice of this flowering movement and wanted to be a part of it. Feminist Initiative’s membership increased from 1500 in October 2013 to around 6000 in February 2014. Two weeks before the election, Feminist Initiative’s membership increased by 200 new members a day, totaling 14000 on the day of the election. In an opinion poll, one in four women were considering voting for the party.

The first election forecasts arrived on Sunday evening. The last three months had been one massive campaign, with the production of a feminist record and the creation of a feminist anthology – all designed to draw artists, writers, authors and journalists into Feminist Initiative’s feminist and anti-racist campaign. Sunday was the peak of the feminist spring, and the party was everywhere. Standing as an MEP candidate, Soraya Post urged people to vote for equality, women’s rights and anti-racism, and she was heard. Feminist Initiative won a seat in European Parliament, gaining 5.3% of the vote. The party made history – not only for being the first independent feminist party ever elected to the European Parliament, but for standing for politics drastically different to the current trend.

Feminist Initiative’s win is a small victory in a bigger battle for women’s rights and equality. Just hours after the election, Soraya Post was included in a list of right wing extremists by The Sun Newspaper, with the headline ‘Neo-Nazis, gun carriers, arsonists…and now MEPs’. But despite Soraya Post’s principally equality focused politics being thrown in amongst a list of extremists, Feminist Initiative’s win represents hope in an otherwise dismal election. There remains a lot to be done, but the confidence of Swedish voters is a big step towards combating attitudes of racism and nationalism. On September the 14th, the date of the next Swedish general election, we will know if Feminist Initiative establish themselves as a party to count on.

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Editorial team at Curating.info February 2013 – August 2013

Curating.info Conversations: Sofia Landström interviews Antonella Croci and Federico Florian

Curating.info, May 22, 2013

Like André Malraux’s musée imaginaire, which imagined the tearing down of museum walls to open its holdings to a broader public, the Internet has enabled unprecedented global access to major works of art. The tools to locate and collect images of art on the web are becoming increasingly popular and being developed rapidly. The potential of these new technologies is enormous and will be part of many major shifts with art practice.  KAPSUL, a project of Kadist Art Foundation, was designed by and for curators and other art professionals, and represents one of these shifts.

To advance the practice of contemporary art curating for the world online, Curating.info and KAPSUL got together to create a contest highlighting the global expansion of this new generation of technology.  Curators were invited to use KAPSUL to create their own Museé imaginaire, bringing artworks from digital sources together to form cohesive collections. A jury of internationally-recognized curators reviewed the submissions, evaluated the curatorial strength of the proposal, and rated how the contestants were able to use the technology and
assemble artworks on the web to reach beyond the limits of the “real world”.

Antonella Croci and Federico Florian’s exhibition I CLOSE MY EYES IN ORDER TO SEE was announced as the winner. Their curatorial use of technology and the web were addressed on a metalevel, and showed how network-enabled curating can create new expansiveness for thought. We asked them about their exhibition and their thoughts behind it.

Your submission I CLOSE MY EYES IN ORDER TO SEE won both the titles of Jury’s Choice and Crowd Favorite: what about your exhibition do you feel interested both the public and the jury?

A.C.: There are maybe two aspects behind this. On one hand, there is the variety of the choice. Artists from all backgrounds and different stages of their career can meet together in one occasion: an imaginary exhibition. On the other, its impossibility of realization could be charming. Since there are no limits due to the exhibition space, the production of the pieces, their transport – and, of course, the budget that goes with it – we just enjoyed ourselves by putting artworks that we would really wanted to see in an exhibition. Wouldn’t that be amazing to take a walk in Münster “with” Cardiff & Miller, observe Carsten Höller’s reindeers for a while and, finally, run into one of Tino Sehgal’s performances – perhaps dance a little bit with This Variation?

The Internet has enabled unprecedented global access to works of art, and KAPSUL is in many ways tearing down museum walls to contextualize artwork to a broader public. What do you think this mode of collection and exhibition offers to curatorial practice?

A.C.: Even before the Internet, there were projects based on the attempts of creating new interconnections with people from considerable distances: I’m thinking about Eduardo Kac’s Ornitorrinco, the first telepresence work linking Rio de Janeiro with Chicago via the telephone network.  Artists, curators and critics have always been fascinated by the idea of being everywhere and nowhere, to be connected to the other side of the world – the boom of the Internet, starting from 1995 has just expanded this phenomenon. KAPSUL respond to this need forconnection. First of all, it is a platform and therefore a good instrument allowing users to create an exhibition just with a few “clicks”. Secondly, the research tool helps in discovering works connected to the ones that you have in mind. The results of the searches are sometimes confusing – just like Google – but, among the confusion, you can find interesting surprises.

The most interesting thing about KAPSUL is that you can visit the exhibition from wherever you are. The spectator doesn’t have to read someone else’s review about an exhibition that he wasn’t able to visit.

F.F.: The Internet has hastened the process which André Malraux theorized after photography became an accepted medium for reproducing artworks: we do not need physical museums any longer with material artworks, we just can create galleries through the reproduction of images! The power of such an imaginary museum is the juxtaposition of the visual material, which is ideally infinite: everything is possible in a virtual exhibition, even exhibiting a 3 ton sculpture next to an immaterial work of conceptual art. A platform like KAPSUL pushes to dare, innovating the traditional ideas of curating. I also think that a virtual exhibition platform leads curators to deepen the philosophical and critical side of curatorial practice: the Internet cannot substitute the real and material fruition of art indeed – that’s why theory and critical researching play a crucial role in conceiving a virtual show, more challenging and decisive than the choice of the images.

Was there anything in particular you had to you think about when you arranged an exhibition over the web — when you assemble artworks and concepts?

A.C.: Just like “regular” exhibitions, we started to work with a concept map and we created a selection of works bearing in mind the idea of this kind of exhibition and that we had no restrictions at all. All kind of pieces could be presented, from installations (i.e. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s Tapis de lecture) to sculptures demanding the presence of the artist (Kris Martin’s Ibi sum) and evocations of performances (Bas Jan Ader’s In Search of the Miraculous). “Exhibitions” on Kapsul could be real on a conceptual level and immaterial on a physical one: artworks demanding the participation of the audience are, in this case, intangible. One could wonder about their legitimation since they are supposed to be ineffective without the spectator: in this case, we chose to insert them on the list because of the past exhibitions they took part in.

Is the virtual room something you have worked with before in your practice? What do you think is the biggest difference between working in digital art spaces and real galleries?

A.C.: We have never worked in the “virtual room” before: that was totally new for us. At the beginning, I personally had the tendency of considering KAPSUL as something between an academic project and a regular proposal for an exhibition. Often, as a young curator, you have to present a theoretical show and it can become real at the end of a curatorial course or a residence for curators. For I CLOSE MY EYES IN ORDER TO SEE we have forgotten, on purpose, all the worries concerning the transport, the design of the exhibition, and the actual feasibility of the production of new pieces. Everything that you can imagine or remember is allowed.

How did the I CLOSE MY EYES IN ORDER TO SEE concept develop from idea to exhibition?

F.F.: We started questioning what kind of concept could best fit an online exhibition that focused on the idea of the imaginary museum. We ended up thinking that a show about immaterial works, living only inside people’s minds, could be the most proper for a non-physical and virtual venue like the Internet. The idea came from Maria Loboda’s work, The Sound of a Jade Figurine falling onto a Chondzoresk Rug, a mental sculpture that can exist exclusively thanks to the spectator and just in his head. Then we selected the other artists to feature – 22 in all – making in-depth and focused research. Once we approved the list of works, we dedicated ourselves to the writings and the explanatory texts – a very important aspect for us, because we wanted to make the concept clear and direct. I CLOSE MY EYES IN ORDER TO SEE is a sort of hymn to personal imagination: the viewer – and the KAPSUL visitor – can become the artist, shaping his own individual work just thinking and imagining.

You also work collaboratively. How did that start, and what benefits come from working in a pair while curating an exhibition?

F.F.: Actually we started working together for the KAPSUL project. Working as a pair has great benefits: Antonella has a more specific curatorial background, while I am a journalist and an art writer. Curating an exhibition together allows us to combine our diverse skills in order to achieve the best result. We behave as a team.  After winning this competition, how will you continue your practice?

F.F.: We have just presented a curatorial project for a show about Italy – the country where we currently live – and its cultural crisis. We have many ideas for exhibitions to curate together in the near future, but they are still in their infancy. For sure, we want to keep on curating together in parallel to our individual projects.

Antonella Croci holds a MA in History of Contemporary Art and another one in Contemporary art and its exhibition from the Sorbonne University, Paris. She also earned a BA in Art History (Sorbonne University) and another one in Communication and Management in the Art Markets (IULM University, Milan). She co-curated the exhibition Échos at the Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris and has been Assistant Curator and Exhibition Coordinator at ART for The World for exhibitions in Geneva  (Switzerland), Marseille (France) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). She currently lives between Milan and Paris.

Federico Florian holds a BA Degree in History of Art and a MA Degree in Aesthetics. He is a Milanbased editor, art writer and curator. He currently works as an art contributor to the magazines Klat, Domus, Arte e Critica, ArtSlant, Rolling Stone Italy.

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REVIEW: EVERY CURATOR’S HANDBOOK (curating.info)

Review: Every Curator’s Handbook – http://pai.sthlm.in/images/Every_Curator’s_Handbook.pdf
by Sofia Landström, Tuesday, April 16. 2013

This compendium offers hands-on professional insights wherein different authors from different points of view share experiences from their professional careers as curators. The reader gets a specific and detailed overview of what a curator’s work might look like beyond theory.

“Every Curator’s Handbook” deals with multiple curatorial issues from collaborations to funding. With first-hand experiences and reflections from past projects, both emerging and established curators narrate the text in an accessible and educational way. It’s notable that the aim of this project is to create a resource that deals with the practical questions within the typical curatorial career, and takes a step back from the usual theoretical issues which are always present in the background of any art-related field. This compendium welcomes emerging voices that expands from the Western point of view to Armenia, Latvia, and Ukraine in addition to the participants from Europe and North America.

This seventy-page publication contains twenty short articles which deal with specific experiences or projects. One of the first articles, written by Haizea Barcenilla discusses how every curatorial project (even if it’s not considered collaborative) is an actual collaboration between the involved participants, from artist to institution. In this text, “The Difficult but Enriching Paths of Collaborative Practice”, she relates hands-on experiences from collaborations that worked out well and those that didn’t. Her point of view is that curatorial work today is becoming more and more collaborative. Barcenilla argues that the profession is becoming more open for dialogue, and the possibility of producing something enriching increases dramatically as collaborative work increases. With this text, Barcenilla sets a particular tone for the rest of the compendium: she, as well as the other authors, focuses on curatorial work as a profession and a field rather than explaining what defines a curator or who a curator is.

Overall, in this compilation, the authors all articulate how hard it is to define what a curator is and what the right path is to become one — there seems to be no right or wrong answer. In the article “In Conversation with Curator Richard Julin” by Anne Klontz, she speaks with the renowned curator Richard Julin, who recounts a traditional story on how to become a curator. Julin explains how he worked as a freelancer in the field of contemporary design in Stockholm and worked his way up in the hierarchy, a common way to get in to the profession. His career story, by describing the conventional way of becoming a curator,opens it up for other articles in the compendium to describe more unconventional ways.

Indeed, what makes this handbook intriguing are the various career choices described in the articles, everything from Richard Julin’s quite traditional career path to more progressive ones. Hilary Jack and Paul Harfleet’s article is one which describes a more progressive and challenging way of how they became noted in the curatorial field. They set up their own artist led space called Apartment in Manchester after they finished their Master’s course in Art in 2003. Apartment was a spontaneous initiative, run from a bedroom on the sixth floor. They describe how their urge to set up something provocative and startling made Apartment a well-attended institution on the cultural map, and made them into curators. Even though Jack and Harfleet never considered themselves to be curators, they soon found curating to be a major part of their CVs when the Apartment project closed down in 2009. Since then they have taken part in commissioned curatorial projects, thanks to their previous work in the Manchester apartment — something they never foresaw when they started in 2003. Essentially their innovative ideas and eagerness to start something made them into curators.

Ultimately, the best reason to read this book is because it tells stories like Jack & Harfleet’s, putting curatorial work into a practical context. “Every Curator’s Handbook” does not aim to be a theoretical or research based book., This is a field in constant evolution, and this book provides a wide range of ideas within curatorial practice and creates a bridge between old and new ways of working.

On the whole “Every Curator’s Handbook” gives readers an insider view of international curatorial practice from East to West, and it gives the reader a wider understanding of the many directions in curating. One flaw is that the texts are often quite short, which does not leave enough space to provide answers to the many questions the reader might face. There are many good examples of exhibitions and projects that are hands-on in this book, showing potential for providing many valuable insights for anyone interested in curating, but the texts often only scratch on the surface. What this publication clearly demonstrates is that there are many ways to be a curator today (another reason why it would be impossible to cover everything 70 pages). It might not be a fully comprehensive handbook then, but as a book providing many interesting narratives and examples of real work in the field, it’s perfect.

__________________________________________________________________________

Writer at Konstpretton.se, May 2011 – March 2012

All my articles in Swedish; KONSTPRETTON

Example of one of my articles:

BETONGVÄGGAR RUNT VIBRERANDE KREATIVITET

18 Jun 2011 – KONST: CHICAGO Gästinlägg / The Zhou B Art Centra

Det ser inte mycket ut för världen, fönstren är trasiga och flaggorna hänger sorgligt ner för väggarna utanför. Området är dystert och jag skulle antagligen inte åka hit efter klockan åtta en torsdagskväll. Nej, utanför är det inte särskilt vackert men tittar du in upplever du en ny värld.

Innanför väggarna på detta fyravåningsruckel öppnar sig en värld av kreativitet och konst. Byggnaden innehåller ett stort antal gallerier, ateljéer och öppna studios. Det är en fantastisk känsla att strosa omkring, upp och ner för trapporna, prata med alla konstnärer som gömmer sig i varenda vrå. Platsen heter The Zhou B Art Center och gömmer sig i ett sydligt hörn av Chicago. Centrat bildades 2004 och är nu ett av Chicagos hetaste konstdestination. Det startades av bröderna Zhou för att underhålla och värna om stadens unga, nya konstnärer. Vilket de gör på ett alldeles strålande vis.

Den tredje fredagen varje månad öppnar alla rum, gallerier och ateljéer upp. Nya verk visas och processen blir synlig för allmänheten. Människor strömmar till centrat för att ta del av det allra nyaste, hetaste och för att träffa inspirerande människor inom konstvärlden. Det är som om byggnaden blir elektrisk. Den lever och frodas, och konstnärerna med den. Att en gammal fabriksbyggnad kan bli så livfull är ett mirakel som från början känns omöjligt.

Bröderna Zhous byggnad bjuder på mer än bara konstnärer och gallerister. Det finns festlokaler, öppna studios, en danssalong och ett café, där man allt som oftast stöter på en och annan konststudent som tagit sig hela vägen in från School of the Art Institute of Chicago för att få inspiration och kreativitet till sina egna arbeten. Det känns helt naturligt att finna dem här. Det är det mest effektiva sättet att få inspiration, att se andra arbeta och verka. Hade jag varit konststudent så hade jag med största sannolikhet suttit där också. Jag hade ägnat mina dagar åt att vandra runt, prata, diskutera och influeras, det hade varit min favoritplats och jag hade antagligen inte gått hem förrän stängning.

Att arbeta i en miljö som denna är ett effektivt sätt att få människor att ”komma till konsten”. Om de vet att allt är samlat på samma plats finns det ingen stress över att inte hinna. Här är fyra våningar som innehåller allt. Som besökare kan man uppleva allt från konstnärens skapande till galleristens utställningar under ett och samma tak. Det borde vara ultimat för både de verkande och besökaren. Om några konstcentra vore möjligt i alla städer i Sverige skulle det bara vara positivt för kulturkonsumtionen. Vi borde inspireras och sluta klaga på kulturlivet i våra svenska städer; det är dags att börja verka. Jag fascineras av att arbeta under detta tak och mina vänner har blivit så förälskade i byggnaden att de åker med mig minst en gång i veckan för att se allt nytt. Det är någonting att sträva efter, att få folk att komma tillbaka.

The Zhou B Art Centra är nu min arbetsplats och jag känner mig lyckligt lottad. Vernissagekvällen är fylld av människor och alla som arbetat med utställningarna strålar. Genom dörrarna strömmar besökare från alla USAs hörn (samt en och annan europé). En fransos som bär hatt och har en cigarr i bröstfickan deklarerar att han ska åka hem till Marseille och starta någonting liknande. Han har förälskat sig i betongväggarna som är fyllda med konst. Precis som alla andra.

Sofia Landström

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