An alert mind was all that Ruth Noack asked students to bring to her curatorial class “Thinking with works of art”. And while they were certainly alert – many questions were asked during the few short hours I spent with the class – they also brought with them a wide range of professional experiences, from working as co-ordinators in big institutions to running their own off-spaces. More than one person said they wanted to strengthen their own curatorial practices after unfulfilling stints working in a gallery. As has often been my experience with the Summer Academy so far, today it was clear the students really appreciated having the opportunity to take time out of their regular lives and focus on their own creative practices.
The class started by continuing the student introductions from the previous day, which quickly turned into an impromptu lesson on curatorial jargon. Ruth gently encouraged her students to describe what they meant by certain phrases they used; thereby encouraging them to be self-reflective about their choice of words. She explained that many curators and arts professionals now use particular words and phrases as readymades (for instance, exhibitions always “subvert binaries” or “question power-structures”) and that, for her, jargon obscures what’s actually interesting about a concept. When writing reviews, I often find myself negatively comparing what the exhibitions says it does with what it actually does – so I really related to what Ruth was saying.
Beyond this Ruth talked about her life as a freelance curator, introducing some of her recent exhibition projects, such as the exhibition Sleeping as a Vengeance, Dreaming of a Life, which came from a study group she lead at DAI, but also opened up about the precocity of working in the arts without institutional support. This lead to a conversation on how, when and why to say no to projects that had everyone offering their own experiences about how they deal with balancing fulfilling projects with projects that pay well.
Yesterday evening I went with some Summer Academy students and staff to the Almkanal for an early evening swim. It’s only a short walk from the fortress, and I can’t believe it’s taken me two weeks to make my way over there. Even if (like me) you’re not a big swimmer it’s still fun because the water runs really fast so all you have to do is jump in and float along until you find a good spot to get out again. If you haven’t already tried it out, I recommend going tomorrow before the Kunstverein opening (where you can see what Ai Akwara and his students have been up to in their painting and singing class) and before the big storm on Thursday!
31 July 2018
by Chloe Stead
Chloe Stead is a writer and critic based in Berlin. Her criticism has been published by frieze, frieze d/e, Spike Art Quarterly, Sleek, Art + Australia and AnOther Magazine. Her fiction was featured most recently in Pfeil Magazine #8, published by Montez Press.
She holds a BA from Goldsmiths University of London and an MA from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg.