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Curating is Working With People. People like Grace Samboh

On a slow Thursday, I would like to share highlights from the conversation with Grace Samboh, the co-teacher of the last week’s curatorial course. We sat down for a cup of coffee on Saturday and chatted about her experience at the Summer Academy.


Grace Samboh giving a Global Academy lecture


Right from the first moment, I was interested in Grace’s story. Her practice is based in her native Indonesia both physically and conceptually, however, she engages in international exchange and teaching whenever there is an opportunity and there is a sense in it. In 2015, she collaborated with Ruth Noack for the first time, teaching a Roaming Academy class of the Dutch Art Institute. This year, she came to Salzburg to provide knowledge and support to the curating class.

Her two-week experience was an intensive one, working with a rather diverse group of people, some of which did not have any curatorial experience. “I actually really liked the class,” she said, adding that five out of thirteen students were artists, in fact. “We also tried to see it not as a problem, because the whole idea was to think with artworks or through artworks, which we eventually did.”

Without any firm plans, in the beginning, Grace and Ruth developed the course embedding a trip to Vienna into it. The class was divided into groups and one of the challenges that presented itself was the collaborative work. “I don’t think it’s common in western context for people to not be allowed to be individual - you’re just expected to function in a certain way together,” Grace said and added that the trip, which was designed to be the individual research time, ended up being a group activity after all.

The Open Days presentation of the class was the presentation of the invented “Collection” the students gathered and presented in the “storage” - the classroom equipped with old, wooden lockers - giving short tours to the interested visitors through the display. As the crown of their joint effort, in which the students decided on the structure, works, and modes of display. And while a good portion of time went on different negotiations, the storage idea came up quickly. “I was seriously impressed, that was like 1.5-hour conversation and they have come up with a structure. And everyone agreed - not bad!” Comparing the experience of teaching here and in Indonesia, Grace said that the two were “very different.” While here she had more freedom in making decisions, back home she was performing within a pre-made structure, filling a predefined position, trying to make the most of it.

While she talked, Grace often referred to the dynamics, the emotional state of the class and students, mentioning moments of frustration as well as moments of collective joy. This is when I came to understand her words “Curating is working with people, so it is about talking and it is about managing relationships.” And, indeed, this intangible, intellectual effort in learning and gaining insights is what was the purpose of the curating class after which many experiences and several friendships emerged.


Grace Samboh  
Last night, I shortened my zombie experience but will see the entire movie this weekend. Happy to hear Ghalya Saadawi and Tony Chakar speak tonight
Tomorrow is Friday! <3
03/08/17 16:57 Summer Academy 2017

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