Vanessa Desclaux

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Vanessa Desclaux's MPhil/PhD Art project

Curators: More Or Less Subjects Passion, Passivity And Fabulation

My research concerns the relationship between artistic practice and curatorial practice, and asserts new concepts of curatorial subjectivity in a contemporary context. I will attempt to examine the question of authorship within curatorial practice, in order to challenge the twofold position that opposes an authorial and creative practice, described as quasi artistic, to an administrative, scholarly practice, carried out in the name of an institution (the museum, the academy). I will thus attempt to propose an alternative set of concerns and questions, with the aim to debate the relevance of an authorial function within curatorial practice and expose multiple subject positions, which could disrupt the opposition between subject and object, rationality and irrationality, activity and passivity.

In the context of my research, I have chosen to isolate the set of operations and relationships that specifically connect curatorial practice and artistic practice, excluding, for the purpose of my analysis, the relationship that both practices entertain with an existing or imagined audience. Through this exclusion, I will attempt to reflect on how the condition of spectatorship nevertheless affects curatorial practice, proposing to consider the curator first and foremost as a spectator, and more specifically as a first spectator. In this context, I understand “first” through a dual perspective: I will claim that the curator encounters artistic practice outside of habitual public spaces, separated from the dispositifs of mediation and display of the exhibition; I will also conceive of the curator as capable of a differently intense mode of attention and engagement.

Against the assumption that curatorial subjectivity can only be grasped through two oppositional models, I will attempt to consider how the passion that fuels curatorial practice’s engagement, the essential passivity inherent to its condition of spectatorship and the fabulation necessary to escape the policed demands of the mediating institution for interpretation and explanation allow me to assert the multiple positions that a plastic curatorial subject can inhabit.