Curating [as] Research


Curating Research (2015) is an anthology of commissioned texts, edited by Paul O’Neill (Director of the Graduate Program, Centre for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York) and Mick Wilson (Head of Valand Academy of Arts, Gothenburg). The contributors collectively draw attention to how the research and curatorial ‘fields’ interweave and how this relationship can thrive in the contemporary world.

Sheikh (2015) discusses ‘the curatorial’ as a ‘specific mode of research’ in which aesthetic tools are used to investigate the presentation of ideas, research results and the outcomes. He also talks about the curator’s ability to influence research culture and production. Asking if the exhibition space could be a site of research provoked comparisons between the laboratory and the white cube gallery, and the suggestion that the curatorial naturally looks to explore ‘other forms of assemblage’ in search of particular ‘practical and symbolic function’.

Nelund (2015) visualises curating research as ‘topics which are investigated through various media, sensibilities and practices. These investigations create a constellation which, in and of itself, can spark reflection and discussion.’

In this ‘spread across several formats’, Maja & Reuben Fowkes (2015) see the curator as offering a more nuanced perspective. This allows you to approach problems from multiple angles and become involved with ‘wider discursive perspectives’ in the process. One thing seems certain, the next generation of curators will spend as much time engaging [in one way or another] with the intended beneficiaries of research (humans, culture and society) as they will in exhibition spaces. Georgina Jackson (2015) quotes Thomas Weski describing this ‘widening the scope of curating’ to include ‘enabling, making public, educating, analysing, criticising, theorising, editing and staging.’

Fowle (2015) also shows this new generation of curators to ‘base their practices on responding to local situations, adapting what they learn from elsewhere to what matters where they are. When this new generation take the reins, perhaps we can start to fathom what a truly international art world looks like and what new forms it can take.’ (2015) talks about these forms in terms of discursive practices – how they’ve changed ‘the form, content and presentation mode of artworks, but also the function of institutions, their exhibition policies and even the role of actors within them’.

Fernandez Lopez (2015) asks What if the Institution was Curated? She suggests a swing towards knowledge and cultural production, experimentation, reflective questioning and social functionality. Institutional systems would look to place ‘municipal interests into visual culture, social innovation and participation’.


Research Impact Pathway, edited (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004)


If the final step to research excellence is impact (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2004) then the invention of more creative methods for collecting and interpreting this evidence is the next tangent this discourse should explore.

Providing sources from the art world, these texts show outputs and activities can stimulate reach, visibility, understanding and outcomes. This book qualifies as a key text, fuelling my proposition for a ‘Curator of Research’ to work with academics to produce multiple forms. It doesn’t however do what it says on the tin, the essays talk more about curating as a form of practice based research than the act of curating research itself. It should really be called Curating as Research.

Betascore: 72


O’Neill, P. and Wilson, M eds. (2015) Curating Research Open Editions: London

W.K. Kellogg Foundation (2004) Logic Model Development Guide. Available at