The agency of encounter: performative curatorial practice for architecture and design

Watson, F 2015, The agency of encounter: performative curatorial practice for architecture and design, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Architecture and Design, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

Title The agency of encounter: performative curatorial practice for architecture and design
Author(s) Watson, F
Year 2015
Abstract Architecture and design exhibitions have predominantly focused on displaying finished outcomes (in the case of design) or communicating a work by representation (in the case of architecture’s ‘absence’). This research is situated within the context of the challenges inherent in exhibiting architecture and design ideas. It addresses the need for a specialised curatorial practice that focuses on embedding inter-disciplinary collaboration in the conceptual stages of the curatorial process.

The PhD is a scholarly reflection upon my practice over the past decade as an architectural and design curator. Through the process of examining my collective projects in relation to my community of practice, I have located my work within the context of ‘performative curation’ where experimental mediation methods for encountering design ideas and process are tested, as distinct from exhibiting finished works or artefacts.

I have identified that performative curation is implicitly linked to the notion of ‘rapid curation’ – i.e., projects developed outside of the convention of the long lead-times within the traditional museum context. Through reflection, I have discovered that a key factor in the process of curating design ideas is an ability to embrace compressed timeframes and risk and, at times, to accept the possibility of failure within the exhibition environment.

The research acknowledges that terms such as ‘performative’, ‘process’ and ‘participatory’ have a particular tension within current visual arts discourse but it actively seeks to re-focus the terms within the explicit context of mediating the ideas of architecture and design to audiences. Here, the curatorial role is not in the didactic model of curator as ‘custodian’ or ‘expert’ and is aligned with the notion of curatorial dramaturgy with the intent to create a shared space of encounter with audiences and, in doing so, reveal the value of design ideas to the society to which it is responding. In this context, the curator is ‘tuned to’ the relationship with the outside world and frames the content within the wider cultural and socio-political realm.

The research has defined and examined six key curatorial moves identified as being integral to this collective body of work: Design as Exhibit (Curator as Space-Maker); The Prosthetic (Curator as Interloper); The Non-Representational (Curator as Commissioner); The Mediator (Curator as Translator of Process); The Advocate/Activist (Curator as Agent), and Event as Performance (Curator as Dramaturge).

The contribution to knowledge is articulated through the proposition of performative curatorial practice as it explicitly relates to the curation of architecture and design ideas. Additionally, the contribution is demonstrated through the reflective examination of the six identified curatorial moves. Here, my intention is to reveal the experimental mediation frameworks for further examination and exchange within my curatorial community. As such there is an important opportunity for a more considered and progressive model for the education of specialised curators of architecture and design – a model that lies outside the traditional museum, is not focused on the visual arts, and is not simply an ‘expanded practice’ stream embedded within architectural and design education.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Architecture and Design
Subjects Architectural Design
Keyword(s) Architecture
Curatorial practice
Exhibition making
Design ideas
Performative agency
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Created: Wed, 30 Mar 2016, 15:09:04 EST by Keely Chapman
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