The Curious Curator

Reckitt, Helena. 'The Curious Curator'. In: Resilient Communities. Italian Pavilion, Biennale of Architecture, La Biennale di Venezia, Italy 9 November 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This contribution to a panel discussion ‘Resilient Communities’ proposed the figure of the ‘curious curator,’ as a rejection of the ‘coping curator,’ who suppresses her own feelings and downplays systemic problems, identified by Jenny Richards in the 2016 published discussion “Taking Care: Feminist Curatorial Pasts, Presents and Futures.”

Qualities of such an approach to curatorial work, and to cultural labour more broadly, include:

- Transparency; recognition that all forms of organising entail protocols and rules, and that suppressing them is a form of denial that actually fosters exclusivity.
- Puncturing the hype around professional roles, breaking down what actually constitutes cultural labour, and ‘acting as or ‘occupying the position of’.
- Recognising facets of culture that have been historically devalued, from the background work of maintenance and care, to personal voice, feelings, and anecdotes.
- Paying attention to, and attempting to rebalance, what is treated as productive and reproductive work.
- Seeking to identify and unlearn internalised bad habits, recognising that change must come from herself before it can be enacted in the world.
- Resisting demands to perform as a visionary iconoclast who ‘knows’ what a situation requires before time is spent carefully listening and observing.
- Inviting others to be a part of the research process, and adapting their perspectives and methodology according to those conversations and contributions.
- Valuing long-term sustained commitment - to issues, individuals, and groups, thus risking becoming outmoded as they ‘age’ along with the artists whose work they champion.
- Taking the time that a project needs and resisting the hyper-productivity and speed demanded by the exhibition and biennale circuit.
- Challenging the equation of business with value, asking what is needed, rather than always providing what is asked for.
- Operating in utopian and performative ways that resemble the world they want, rather than those they have inherited.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Talk)

Additional Information:

The discussion was held as part of the public events programme for "The Body of/at Work" by Elena Cologni, across in person and online formats. Speakers in addition to Cologni were Valeria Facchin, Gabi Scardi, Elke Krasny, Margherita Vanore, Merel Visse, and the curator of the Italian Pavilion, Alessandro Melis.

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9 November 2021Completed

Event Location:

Italian Pavilion, Biennale of Architecture, La Biennale di Venezia, Italy

Date range:

9 November 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Apr 2023 11:55

Last Modified:

04 Apr 2023 11:55


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