Sensitive artistic curation


Curating is important for art exhibitions to have that added benefit. In the third and last article of a small series on curating, RODERICK CAMILLERI answers some questions about his experiences as a curator.

Part 1: Interview with Marika AzzopardiPart 2: Interview with Christian Attard

STOM: Do you think the private sector should be encouraged to contribute more to the organization of exhibitions? How could the sector help?

CR: I think that in Malta the contribution of the private sector leaves a lot to be desired. Businesses and foundations could strengthen approaches to increase philanthropy and support for the arts. We know that art and culture play an important role in the diversification and growth of social well-being and economies. Contributor earnings and benefits such as reputation, engagement, and visibility could be promoted by policy makers to encourage private entities to subsidize artistic endeavors.

In addition, policy makers can call on non-governmental actors to help bridge the huge gap between public and private funding. Boosting this sector would ensure the sustainability and productive development of art/culture.

This can be done by improving our capacity building through a wide range of measures, including the creation of specialized agencies to encourage collaborations between artists and companies, as well as raising public awareness of cultural investment. and artistic. Another possible way to boost this area is through tax relief.

‘Agħti Kbir Alla’ at Spazju Kreattiv, curated by Roderick Camilleri.

This strategy has proven to be an effective way to engage individuals and businesses to fund artistic/cultural events and support in various countries. This can be complemented by specific strategies such as VAT exemptions or reductions on cultural/artistic services or activities/goods.

As mentioned previously, this sector is necessary to support the sustainability of our cultural/artistic practices and stimulate the creation of various artistic activities and productions. Exhibitions, workshops, artistic collaborations and a myriad of other ventures could generate a stronger network in the field of contemporary artistic production/activity, thus improving the sustainability of art.

STOM: Topics like sex, religion, controversial political figures, abortion, euthanasia and other gray areas have been deemed too sensitive in the past. Do you envision an event like the 1997 Royal Academy Sensation exposure who transgressed morals, particularly in the choice of the possible place in Malta? For example, video art related to the history of ecclesiastical pedophilia in a place like a church or a cathedral? An anarchist exhibition in the room under the parliament? A dogmatic communist-themed exhibit at the Chamber of Commerce?

CR: Yes, I believe that artistic production should have plenty of room to represent, articulate and/or critique different current issues without fear of censorship. I think exhibits that challenge the status quo, which nurture reflection and critical thinking, are of the utmost importance in fostering open discourse and a healthy liberal system.

'AMuSE Final Exhibition', MSA, Palazzo de La Salle, Valletta, curated by Roderick Camilleri.‘AMuSE Final Exhibition’, MSA, Palazzo de La Salle, Valletta, curated by Roderick Camilleri.

I would like to visit such an intriguing dialectical context in particular established places hosting and discussing current inherent challenges and social issues. This might create some controversy but it would be a strong, healthy and creative friction that would certainly renew critical thinking.

I also believe that the creation of events and exhibitions should also consider a range of factors required by our contemporary context and social discourse. The creation of artistic content should not generate events simply to shock or create friction in the name of controversy.

In a growing and developing society, various factors such as target audiences, context, and political correctness of content should be kept in mind. Some might consider or regard such a question as a specific type of censorship, but I think it would not be fair to frame it as some sort of repressive maneuver.

The creation of artistic content should not generate events simply to shock or create friction in the name of controversy

If we were to take 1997 Sensation as an example, one could argue that what happened over 25 years ago would certainly have had a different reception or outcome in today’s contemporary society, even in a liberal country or city and progressive like London.

This is because today we view and perceive certain expressions and articulation of content very differently and may associate certain forms of content as inappropriate, particularly if such content may affect vulnerable minorities.

Detail from 'Human Matter Exhibition', Roderick Camilleri as co-curator, at the Malta Society of Arts.Detail from ‘Human Matter Exhibition’, Roderick Camilleri as co-curator, at the Malta Society of Arts.

In a world where our perception of society and its underlying mechanisms is constantly changing, greater awareness of fundamental civil and human rights is changing our conception of how to disseminate information and messages. Even words, nomenclatures and concepts are changing due to the transformation of our worldviews and perspectives.

For example, in today’s context, specific works such as those by Marcus Harvey at the Royal Academy’s 1997 Sensation exhibition, which featured the portrait of child serial killer Myra Hindley, could be seen as less appealing or effective, if not downright pugnacious and controversial, than it was in the late 1990s. created with children’s fingerprints and fueled many protests, even from the victims themselves.

I imagine that in the current context, such institutions would be more respectful of the victims who may have suffered from certain inflictions and would be more attentive to the way in which this sensitive information is presented without imposing censorship.

Roderick Camilleri runs the 'AMuSE Final Exhibition' event in Malta.Roderick Camilleri runs the ‘AMuSE Final Exhibition’ event in Malta.

I believe that the success of an artistic event is not measured simply in terms of visitor attendance or the shocking treatment that such works create. Moreover, I am not one to believe in the current naive ideological romantic idea that creativity is always good or productive.

STOM: Do curators have an ethical or social responsibility? Can they be overtly political in their curation, especially on an island like ours where you read too much into things?

CR: Yes definitely. Curators have a number of ethical and social responsibilities. It is not possible to achieve a universal ethical code of conduct, since particular curators in specific disciplines may be called upon to perform responsibilities that other curators in other areas of practice would find contrary to the ethical or incongruous. However, it could be said that curators are expected to be precise in their research and analysis, especially in the case of particular institutions and museums.

In particular, in contexts related to particular projects, commissioners must refer to codes of ethics that deal specifically with particular practices. They must also ensure that content creation aligns with a liberal value system that respects and protects vulnerable groups/minorities.

In the case of museums/institutional collections, curators must review and verify objects in their collection and assess collection attributions, adhere to their institution’s acquisition and disposal policies, and ensure accountability and undertake due diligence to ensure that the content presented to the public is authentic. They must control and verify the attributions and provenance of the collections and provide access to reliable information.

When it comes to political views, I believe that a healthy society that promotes freedom of speech and expression should give ample space not only to conservatives but to all types of creatives to disclose and express their political views.

This is very important, especially for projects related to social and ethical aspects related to particular practices and events. I think it must not only be made possible but also deemed necessary to maintain a critical and vigorous vision of our society, and to contribute to social justice.

Such an approach considers different facets, especially contemporary ones, nourishing a mature context to develop or improve a reflective, constructive and critical approach. One cannot imagine having a healthy context for creating contemporary art if such an environment is restricted or suppressed.

'Organic Muses - Accademia Europea delle Essenze', Savigliano, Italy.  Organized by Roderick Camilleri‘Organic Muses – Accademia Europea delle Essenze’, Savigliano, Italy. Organized by Roderick Camilleri

Unfortunately, I believe that some conservatives are not comfortable enough to express overtly political content. This can be due to different contributing factors. It can also be reflected in artistic criticism and analysis where nobody really offers artistic criticism or analysis or production.

However, on a positive note, it is fair to say that in our current local art landscape, there are a number of emerging art projects that put forward subtle critical and political viewpoints rooted in current themes. In fact, in recent years, I have curated several exhibitions that present such an approach.

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