7 responses: St Paul St curatorial symposium

Vera Mey at the St Paul St curatorial symposiumSpeakers L-R: Charlotte Huddleston, Wystan Curnow, Anthony Byrt, Kelvin Soh, Dane Mitchell, Vera Mey

With 120 registrations, the recent St Paul St Curatorial Symposium was clearly a case of right issue, right timing. And with addresses from Documenta's Ute Meta Bauer, Sydney-based curator Wiebke Gronemeyer and representatives of several NZ public galleries, the event promised some robust discussion around issues in local and contemporary practice. But did it? 

Before the energy in the hothouse dispersed to the regions, we asked a dozen local attendees to share their lasting impressions of the symposium; be it an observation, a highlight, a criticism. Below are 7 the responses that managed to meet the CIRCUIT deadline.

"Highlights for me were: Wiebke Gronemeyer's very personal, earnest rigorous journey to situate curatorial practice within the field of social sciences, philosophy and art theory; Ute Meta Bauer's conscious imperative of not losing sight of recent histories; Wystan Curnow's astute comments and command of language; and Anthony Byrt's reflections about the difference between art writing and curatorial practice."

- Mercedes Vicente, Curator Contemporary Art, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth

“Curators should remember "expertise is a powerful and dangerous tool"  / ""Why do curators talk about knowledge production? Let's critically engage w the idea of producing"

- Emma Bugden, Curator, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, live tweets quoting talk by Wiebke Gronemeyer

"Obviously we as an 'arts' community need a lot more conversation about what 'curation' is and where it is headed, especially within the local and global - what are the centres and where are the peripheries? The Eurocentric conversation seems often redundant but where are the new voices coming from?"

- James Pinker, Artist, Curator, Auckland

"A younger, more spirited group of curators than last year's "Curatopia" at Victoria University. Perspectives were diverse and local as well as international and academic."

- Ema Tavola, Curator, Auckland

"The curatorial symposium was a most interesting start to conversations/debates that should be held yearly. Having Ute Meta was a great asset, her rigour and openness gave the seminar a shape that was supported by Wiebke Gronemeyer. Demanding questions are seriously needed to be asked regarding curatoral practice here in New Zealand, as hyper-capitalism being the dominent strain of governance is changing the rules of art production/education and access. 'The Ungovernables' was an unfortunate title for one of the seminars, as it paradoxically was a trap that cast the speakers as outside the domain in which they actually function, which is inside the system. All praise to St Paul St."

- Peter Wareing, Artist, Educator, New Plymouth

"Curating is a relationship, practice, evolving form. Cultural production is not necessarily productive. High fives and discourse" 

- Vera Mey, Assistant Director, St Paul St Gallery, Auckland

"Conversations focussed specifically on curating are rare in New Zealand, so it was a luxury to spend a whole day exploring curatorial issues, and in such great company from around the country and abroad. Although it is often said that the role of contemporary curator has evolved significantly from the traditional job description of back-of-house collection care, this role has not gone away but, rather, is part of an expansion of roles, so collections are still a big part of curatorial work in collecting institutions, and the basis of much exhibition development. With a longer programme, it would be nice to broaden out from the exclusive focus on contemporary art, to explore collections and the related area of more historically-minded exhibitions. More please." 

- Andrew Clifford, Curator, The University of Auckland Centre for Art Research, National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries