Independent Space

Curatorial practice, properly understood in the Contemporary has moved from the position of keeper of artefacts to that of producer of discourse and content.1Producing, rather than showing. In all the projects discussed here ‘works’, ie. artefacts, have been shown, but they have been the structure around which a discourse has been offered to viewers. And the artefacts are also the structure around which a conversation has taken place between curator and artist. The artists have not so much been asked ‘for work’, as ‘to work’. Independent curating owes a major debt to the involvement of artists-as-curators and countless independent galleries, project spaces and institutions.

The Portuguese art critic and curator Ricardo Nicolau suggests that todays smaller visual arts organisations suffer ‘a remote-controlled colonisation’ through a perceived pressure to ‘transform themselves into imitations of larger spaces. It is arguable that independent spaces adhere to codes and strictures employed by large museums,2To be on the inside; to be in the conversation. To feel as if one is a part. Is this un-resistant? Is this un-critical? thus replicating patterns that are unsustainable: a-list artists, major budgets and mainstream discourse, all suggesting the existence of a level playing field.

However, independent spaces prospered despite everything, and many were able to sustain innovative programs on often relatively minute budgets. The spaces mentioned here were the product of extensive collaboration between artists and curators, and those many others who offered their contributions in the form of labour, advice, photography, and texts.3At a time when ‘immaterial labour’ is a widely discussed concept, what place can be found to discuss truly franchised labour; the pleasure of authorial multiplicity? Perhaps in the recollection of past work. Our friends in Berlin who direct Autocenter in Kreuzberg when asked why they persist in making exhibitions, simply state: ‘because we like to’.4The traceable root of action; the narcotic source. A reminder of the illogical logic behind a practice. This seems, at first, a rather solipsistic and weakly theorized stance, but is actually revealed as being the bottom-line of why we all do what we do. Beyond justification, theorisation and positioning, we are left with the dumbness of ‘liking’,5The Dumbness of Liking’, perhaps also in the sense of ‘the silence of liking’. Allow work to happen, and the silence will be broken – discourse will follow. something true and impregnable, something understood.