March 15, 2015

Literary Curating. Ingo Mittelstaedt, Eli Cortiñas, and Sam Smith at insitu

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. Two posters with page nr. 2 and 3 by An Paenhuysen. On the left: Ingo Mittelstaedt, RE: (Alexander Rodtschenko, Radiohörer (Porträt der Tochter Warwara), 2015, Pigment print, Courtesy the artist and Galerie koal. Original photo: courtesy of Sprengler Museum Hannover. Right: Sam Smith, Last Year, 2015, Reading of a section of the script for L'Année derrière à Marienbad by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Courtesy the artist and 3+1 Arte Contemporǎnea, Lisbon, Portugal 

Have you ever heard about “literary curating”? I'll have to do some selfish self-promoting of my own curating to explain the concept to you because, well, I happen to be the founder of “literary curating”. It’s Google Search that said so. To found something new, you need the right place, the right time and the right people. That's exactly what happened to me. insitu is the right place, 2015 is the right year, and artists Ingo Mittelstaedt, Eli Cortiñas, and Sam Smith are the right people. insitu is a Berlin project space that experiments in curating. The invitation to work with the team pushed me to come up with something different than usual, while trying not to be too creative because I happen to have an allergy for too creative curators. That’s why I bounced off my creativity with minimalism. This results in what I would like to call a mindfuck, which consists of an overdose and an understatement at the same time. I once had a band called Mindfukc (sic) but we, my buddies Zab, Jacob and I, never managed to turn the lyrics into music. With the insitu exhibition, finally the mindfuck has come about.

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. 

Not that literary curating is about singing a song. The insitu team (Nora Mayr, Lauren Reid, Marie Graftieaux and Gilles Neiens) chose the three artists Mittelstaedt, Cortiñas and Smith, and developed the idea to show their work in two separate shows, of which the first one was to be done by me, the second one by the team, exploring different threads in the art work but also different perspectives in curating. In a private blog we started our conversation in which one curator reacted to another curator so that a chain of thoughts about the artists’ work came about. Based on this body of research I wrote a text that starts off with “to be a good artist...” and can be read as a loop. I was inspired by Gertrude Stein and Wolfgang Müller, the philosophers and practitioners of repetition. And two additional thoughts had crossed my mind: Magnús Pálsson’s “The less material there is in art, the more noble it becomes and once it has long since ceased to be visible except as a memory of art, that’s when it is best…” and Truman Capote’s “Suppose you ate nothing but apples for a week. Unquestionably you would exhaust your appetite for apples and most certainly know what they taste like.”

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. Poster with page nr. 1 by An Paenhuysen 

I then asked the artists to fill one blank page each by selecting a work that confirms, comments, opposes, ignores, hyper-affirms, or illustrates the text that I wrote. The decision on who was going to fill in which blank page was based on randomly picking the names. This way Eli Cortinas was on the first, Ingo Mittelstaedt on the second, and Sam Smith on the third one. This is, coincidentally, also the alphabetical order of their names, which was a bummer, because I’m more of a “A to B and Back Again” kind of person... Of course the artists played a little game with me: they all responded with a loop as well. Even Mittelstaedt managed to do so with a photograph. That’s why the level of mindfuckedness in this experiment of literary curating has been increased to a dangerous level: the trick is not to get stuck in one of the loops. Therefore, let me finish by physically guiding you through the literary curating. For you not to go insane in the brain, read carefully:

Phase Nr. 1: In the first minutes of entering this loop of loops, you will have thoughts, opinions, emotions popping up. In this phase the artists give you food for your cultural baggage - Catherine Deneuve, Alexander Rodtschenko, Marienbad - while simultaneously shifting the familiar perspective. Hang on: again and again and again, until you get numb and every emotion leaves your body and even the strongest opinions will fade. 

Phase Nr. 2 is the moment when you capture yourself no longer having a thought, an emotion or an opinion. Indeed, you have exhausted all the emotion but the taste is still there. Clear-eyed and clear-headed you are now capable of analysing that taste. 

This way you will enter Phase Nr. 3. You have internalized the art in such a way that only the essence is left over. You will feel lighter as if you have lost weight, comparable to the 21 grams you loose when dying. At the same time, value has been added, which means there is more. This last phase of literary curating is still in its experimental state. If you feel stuck, call me!  

Exhibition view of Framework 6: Parallelisms, “To Be Continued...”, 2015. Photos: insitu e.V. In this photo Eli Cortinas, Love is worn around the neck, 2012, single channel video, loop. Courtesy the artis, Soy Capitán and Waldburger Wouters, Brussels.

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