Barefoot curating: contemporary art and the role of the freelance curator

Smith, D 2016, Barefoot curating: contemporary art and the role of the freelance curator, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Art, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Barefoot curating: contemporary art and the role of the freelance curator
Author(s) Smith, D
Year 2016
Abstract Barefoot Curating: Contemporary Art and the Role of the Freelance Curator, examines the role of the freelance curator in contemporary art with initial focus on the context of Australia though ultimately further afield. In doing so the research endeavours to account for the conditions that challenge the viability of the role within an overall industry of art. The importance of this research lies in the significance of the freelance curator as one who is capable of bringing to bear new perspectives within a sector that is contained and arguably constrained within institutional structures that include funding bodies, public galleries, universities and commercial interests. The problem is significant because it highlights the degree to which new knowledge may be inhibited within a sector that claims newness and difference as a key objective while simultaneously perpetuating cultural tendencies that disavow access to or interest in broader cultural discourses, even at the expense of its own sustainability. Through considering a range of factors, including projects enacted beyond the national context the research embraces the possibilities of working in remote, unusual and under-resourced contexts with a view to developing new cultural knowledge derived from the experiences associated with these settings.

The practical application of the research can be seen in the light of emerging geo-political issues associated with such factors that include climate change, resource management and population displacement, which comes into focus through the question of what role if any might art play in changing our prospects as a species especially in the face of pressing global challenges. In answer the research articulates the concept of ‘Barefoot Curating’ being both a practical and philosophical response to developing art projects in under-resourced contexts.

The research centred on the analysis of three curated projects enacted respectively in institutional, commercial and independent contexts. A two-part methodology was applied consisting of ‘Arenas’ and ‘Critical Measures’. ‘Arenas’ frames the overlapping agendas of ‘subjectivities, ‘contexts’ and ‘economies’ as the requisite factors upon which exhibitions rely. ‘Critical Measures’ outlines the critical perspectives that were brought into play to enable and refine the curatorial work, outlined under the sub-headings of ‘makers’, ‘practice’, ‘knowledge’, ‘audience’, ‘space’ and ‘change’.

Through conducting the aforementioned research, a growing awareness of the limits impeding the viability of freelance curating in Australia led to a reappraisal of both the freelance curatorial role and more broadly the systems with which curating interacts. In responding to the problems confronting freelance curators, working with expanded cultural contexts including inter-cultural projects is suggested as a means forward, both for curating as a profession and as a means of imparting new cultural knowledge at a time of transition within the Australian art sector.

The larger implications of the research pertain initially to the viability of freelance curating within the visual arts sector in Australia, which in turn has implications for artists also and the emerging cultural landscape. Secondly, the implications of Barefoot Curating as a mode of practice become apparent when considered in light of the unprecedented human population levels globally and the challenges for cultural practitioners at a time when cultural values and actions are capable of impacting and even destabilizing the future well-being of people generally.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Art
Subjects Art Criticism
Fine Arts (incl. Sculpture and Painting)
Art Theory
Keyword(s) Barefoot Curating
Curating Contemporary Art
Curating Biennales
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Created: Thu, 13 Jul 2017, 12:13:26 EST by Denise Paciocco
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