Curating, creative undertakings and exhibiting

Curating, currently, is used in a whole range of contexts. There have been references to curating an exhibition, an event, a home’s contents, a book or music collection, the totality of an individual’s possessions, a series of meals, a set of public responses and so on.

Pulling elements from this wide range of understandings of ‘curation’, one can list fragments such as:

  • Taking an overview; creating a context
  • Creating a framework – a set of organising principles
  • Bringing components together in various ways
  • Organising with a purpose in mind
  • Simplifying, analysing, removing extraneous things
  • Creating cross-linkages
  • Combining groups of fragments into meaningful compositions
  • Deciding the relative values of various components
  • Creating access routes, adequate signposting
  • Allowing for flexibilities and interpretations
  • Opening up possibilities for learning and insights
  • Deciding on balances between real/physical; explanatory/supporting; and virtual/imaginary aspects
  • Settling on structures and formats of exhibitions/showings of end-products
  • Working with a range of potential contributors and supporters
  • Finalising administrative and administrative elements
  • Letting others know what is intended; what is happening


In terms of the creative undertaking that carries the collective label of R:2025, I intend it to include:

  • Curating a set of creative activities that are producing ideas, ways of thinking, written articles, artefacts, seminars and linkages to the work of others – all things that can be gathered together and shown, both in a continuous way and as a culmination in 2025-26,
  • Curating myself, or rather aspects of myself – fragments of my life from 2010 to 2025 (drawing on things before 2010 and potentially signposting things after 2025).

The 2010 Framework for R:2025 was developed out of pre-existing interests. It has acted as a guide and a filter for activities from 2010 to now (2017). These activities were deliberately exploratory and expansive. There is a time (around now) when things can start to be gathered together in various ways to begin a process of funnelling down to some possible sets of outcomes. Additional thought needs to be given to the purpose, size, shape, nature etc of things that might get brought together in one or more linked end-products that are on show to a wider public. The remaining eight years of R:2025 is a phase that might thus be regarded as extended curation -recognising that there are overlaps between curation and creative activity, with curation being itself a creative activity and artistic production including aspects of curation.


What are the curating skills that need to be developed in relation to these kinds of ‘exhibiting’ activities?

Conceptualising possible processes and likely end products:

  • Sifting for key ideas and themes
  • Having some directing statement or concept
  • Knowing the purpose(s): the extent to which any exhibiting is about showcasing, historical survey, illustrating, presenting, or research
  • Having broad ideas of potential audiences. What will any audience gain?
  • Being clear about the social context for the work; other factors in play at the time – how this may shape things
  • Seeing how various elements might converge together; getting emphasis and momentum; getting a sense of flow; avoiding confusion
  • Identifying the range of agencies and people who might be worked with


Pinning down the potential:

  • Sketching out the likely When, Where and How
  • Considering the spaces and areas that might be needed
  • Formulating options, models, formats, layouts
  • Imagining any opening ups, closing downs, and related events


Considering potential audience(s):

  • Scoping out who is most likely to be attracted by what
  • Thinking about what different audiences might want to get out of it
  • Exploring the degree of involvement and engagement people might want (as consumers; as producers; as intermediaries)?


Planning and pulling ideas together:

  • Reviewing progress, with an eye for art; with an eye for creativity; with an eye for interest
  • Filtering, selecting, shaping and honing down
  • Making sense; ordering; explaining and trialling
  • Being curious, reflecting and synthesising – joining some of the dots
  • Staying open minded but on-track; not pinning things down too soon
  • Exploring databases, lists
  • Finding supports and fundings
  • Fixing sites, programmes, contents


Developing the context:

  • Testing out descriptions
  • Producing draft articles, essays, frameworks, thumbnail summaries
  • Developing the themes
  • Setting the scene
  • Crosslinking with other activities, events and concepts


Working out the practicalities:

  • Setting out schedules, timelines, flow diagrams, spreadsheets, listings and catalogues
  • Deciding on inputs, processes, outputs, take-aways
  • Developing passion and momentum
  • Considering issues around promotion and publicity (mail, internet, media, listings, posters, flyers, contacts)


Setting things up:

  • Undertaking preparatory work (painting backgrounds; building dividers; sorting light/colour; display cabinets/spaces)
  • Laying things out for early walk-through
  • Reviewing and amending
  • Inviting select viewers/participants and getting first reactions
  • Recruiting volunteers etc who might support, interpret, mediate
  • Tying down details of launch/opening and making sure this goes well


In considering the various activities that make up the overall R:2025 fifteen-year project, the notion of ‘contemporary’ has been a recurring feature. Does this affect the list of fragments (of curating) above?

If there is a contemporary sense to the curating then it is more likely to be:

  • Uncertain, ambiguous, tentative, amendable
  • Personal, undertaken with a concern for identity
  • About journeys made, changes
  • Reflecting on social conditions (past, present, imagined)
  • Multipurpose and multifaceted
  • Explanatory, stimulating, interesting, useful
  • Linked to a range of other things


So, from now until 2025/2026, my next tasks are likely to include sifting out key themes from the mass of material (generated and anticipated) that would be of interest to others, and that sit within some unifying set of concepts/directing statements; Getting clearer ideas of potential intermediaries, collaborators and audiences – and what those people/organisations are motivated by; Working out how various fragments might be articulated to get some flow, narrative, purpose; building momentum towards some products, processes, outcomes – shifting from ideas to objects; staying open and exploratory but getting a sense of tapering towards a final picture.

Enough to keep me busy for a while.


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