Revised Assignment for Week 8: Warhol to the Post-Pop Diaspora

Murakami installation at Versailles

Murakami installation at the Palace of Versailles (2010)

Assignment: Short Curatorial-Style Project

We’ve mentioned the question of artworks, museums, and histories of presentation and technical mediation for access to art and artefacts. This assignment will help you think through the steps needed to understand, interpret, and communicate interpreted meaning when studying the specific genres and types of works that we are investigating.

Each student will be responsible for a short curatorial presentation of an assigned work by one of the artists in this week’s unit.

Learning Objective:

Learning how to develop interpretive frameworks for “remix” hybrid combinatorial works by following the “curatorial method” for a researched presentation of a work or related group of works. The point is learning the questions to ask and how to follow up with appropriate research (not having pre-formed answers). This short project will help you learn the method of using a work or artefact as an interface to the system of meanings and expressions (vocabularies, genres, material media forms, and encyclopedic symbolic values) from which it was generated and received, and enable you to be a better researcher, interpreter, and analyst.

How to Think Like a Curator

Curating doesn’t mean “selecting.” The role and function of the curator has evolved in museum and historical professions as “taking care of, being charged with responsibility for” (from Latin, cura, care, safekeeping) any artefact (objects, books, artworks) valued by a society. Although making interpretive selections for museum exhibitions is part of the public-facing role of curating, the main professional-cultural function is a combination of archival, research, interpretive, and communicational activities–being responsible for an artwork or artefact in all aspects, especially as trustee of an artefact’s significance by keeping it accessible and renewing its contexts of meaning. (Thus curators are concerned with preservation, research on the historical context and materials of the artefact, establishing knowledge about the artefact in the artist’s career history and in the social history of its reception, developing interpretive contexts for communicating the meanings of the artefact for the public and other scholars). So the curator’s method is to understand all aspects of a work and keep its meanings and value alive and growing through many researched contexts–from a work’s own time through its reception to our own time–as the foundation for communicating its meaning and value to a public (which includes artists, scholars, students). Curators necessarily think dialogically, and are always aware of their own points of observation in time and place.

Steps in the assignment:

Using the methods we’ve studied, do a short curatorial presentation (3 paragraphs) of your assigned work covering:

1. Materials and physical description (mediums, dimensions), genres and hybrid genres it may be aligned with or implementing.

2. The history of the work (when made, and position in artist’s career), and where the work is currently located (this is part of the value chain of work).

3. Interpretive contexts:
Investigate/research the dialogic context/situation in which it was produced (what were/are the larger conversations that the artist and the community were participating in). How are “remix” principles being used (combinatorial principles at the levels of the vocabulary of visible forms or concepts at the encyclopedic level)?

What can you find out about its reception, and how it has accrued the meanings that it has for us now (a shorter description of the work is very closely contemporary with us).

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About Martin Irvine

Martin Irvine is a professor at Georgetown University and the Founding Director of Georgetown's graduate program in Communication, Culture & Technology. He is interested in a wide range of interdisciplinary topics, including media theory, semiotics, cognitive science approaches to language and symbolic culture, computation and the Internet/Web, philosophy and intellectual history, art theory, contemporary music, vintage guitars, and all things post-postmodern.