Documentation and Curatorial Practice as Political Engagement

Visiting Professor Adonis Volanakis, or

How are contemporary artists and curators documenting in ways that are politically engaged? In the context of rapid global socio-economic changes and urgent political conditions, what is the relationship between: 1) developing effective documentation methodologies; 2) curating projects that produce audio-visual archives and dialogical forums for dialogue, debate and other forms of exchange and 3) addressing the needs of undocumented/ underrepresented populations?

Can artistic documentation and curatorial practice be generated so that they become ethical forms of cultural/political activism and frame the ephemeral and the ineffable? In what ways do such projects support precarious, “undocumented” groups such as immigrants and refugees, and how might they unintentionally exploit, damage or endanger them through the act of artistic and curatorial documentation?

This class aims to develop students’ practical documentation skills and expand their notions of curatorial practice while simultaneously raising consciousness around what it means to make images, amass artistic archives, and provoke curatorial dialogues that politically matters.

We will explore the temporal space of documenting with active reading, drafting, sketching, improvising, experimenting, and journaling in order to find intersecting tools for preservation, recording and crystallization of the ephemeral. We will invite international visiting artists, activists and curators to share (in person and via skype) their methodologies and their documentary archives.

We will investigate current case studies of artistic / activist models such as the 2016 Documenta Exhibition in Kassel, Germany and Athens, Greece, Tania Brugera’s “Immigrant International” Project sponsored by The Queens Museum, The Vera List Center for Art and Politics Award programming focused on Syrian film collective Abounaddara, among others–seen in response to world events such as US/Latin American and European Union xenophobia and economic instability, and the refugee issues.

Students will research examples of “engaging” curatorial and documentation practices to consider how they might critically inform their own work or their desire to create dialogue and response. This class will benefit artists, curators and cultural producers who are actively generating, subverting or intersecting forms of documentation, the archive and curating in their practice, and also those who wish to work within educational/cultural institutions, participate in community organizing, or serve within civic or non-governmental organizations.