Curators: more or less subjects :Spectatorship, passivity and fabulation

Desclaux, Vanessa. 2016. Curators: more or less subjects :Spectatorship, passivity and fabulation. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My research intends to critically expose the political, economic, and ethical conditions in which curatorial practice is operating in the current context. I attempt to examine the question of authorship within curatorial practice, in order to challenge the distinction between an administrative, scholarly practice carried out in the name of an institution and an authorial and entrepreneurial practice that is exemplary of late capitalism. I thus intend to challenge the figure of the curator that has been disciplined by and is expected to function within current political and economic conditions. I will endeavour to disrupt the stable roles and functions associated with the figure of the curator and instead uncover multiple subject positions, which collapse professional templates and fail traditional oppositions between activity and passivity.

I therefore begin with a reflection on the condition of spectatorship inherent to curatorial practice, and propose that the curator is the quintessential spectator. This is outlined in order to dispute the ideological deadlock regarding spectatorship and to address fundamental notions of vision and attention within curatorial practice. I will then propose to re-evaluate the notion of passivity in order to question assumptions regarding power and activity, putting forward examples that show the paradoxical qualities that passivity encompasses in the context of curatorial practice. Spectatorship and passivity fundamentally contribute to reconfiguring the possibility for a different approach to the production of subjectivity within and through curatorial practice. Through the notion of fabulation I finally intend to redefine the production of subjectivity in the context of curatorial practice. Fabulation stages an inquiry into the differentiation between artistic and curatorial practices: not to erase differences or flatten out competencies but to rather affirm a different distribution of positions, and inhabit a multiplicity of figures.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Curatorial practice, curator, passivity, mystique, fabulation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 October 2016

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Date Deposited:

10 Nov 2016 15:27

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:42


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