The Curatorial Complex: Social Dimensions of Knowledge Production

Gronemeyer, Wiebke. 2015. The Curatorial Complex: Social Dimensions of Knowledge Production. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My research explores whether and in what ways curatorial practices assume a social function. By analysing how artistic and curatorial practices can activate processes and generate structures that facilitate dialogical spaces of negotiation between curators, artists and their publics, this research argues for an intrinsic social dimension to forms of knowledge production in the curated encounter.

Point of departure for my research are the following examples: (1) Michael Fullerton’s exhibition Columbia (2010), Chisenhale Gallery, London; (2) The Potosí Principle (2010), HKW, Berlin; (3) Unitednationsplaza (2006-2007), a discursive art project organised by Anton Vidokle; (4) Former West (2008-2016), a multidimensional art research project coordinated by BAK, Utrecht.

These examples are discussed on the backdrop of the continuous dematerialisation of practices in the expanded field of the curatorial. Rather than furthering the construction of an opposition between the “curatorial” and curating as exhibition-making, my research elaborates on the differences of exhibitionary, discursive, and performative forms of engagement arguing for a diversification of the exhibition as a medium of practice, not its dismissal. A central claim of this thesis is to perceive the exhibition as a space of action for public engagement beyond spectatorship and the production of sociality beyond hosting relations.

Contextualised by a discussion of terminologies in social theory, such as communication, practice and sociality, this thesis develops a model of practice applicable to curating that operates self-reflexively with regard to the social, political and cultural conditions it is formed by. My research argues against an understanding of curatorial practices as a form of exhibiting and collecting the views and values belonging to a particular society, but claims a notion of practice that fosters the creation of sociality as an embodied form of knowledge production whose material quality is as important as its discursive capacity for emergence and enquiry.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Curating, Curatorial Practice, Knowledge Production, Art Practice, System Theory, Actor-Network-Theory, Exhibition Making, Art discourse

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 November 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Dec 2015 15:12

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:13


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