A performance of curators by Khairuddin Hori: Trading Craft

Trading places?


An artist often has tremendous respect for curators, and vice versa. The exhibition title hints that art making and art exhibition/event organising is a craft.

“Trading craft is a collaboration and collusion, an experiment of strategies of curatorial production and a moment of play, expanding on expectations of the nature of the roles we perform. ” (extracted from exhibition/performance blurb)

[The comments here are limited to the ‘documents’ of the performance that took place. The real art, I believe, is more textual and not possibly explained or displayed here.]

The gallery entrance is ‘shielded’ by a large mirror, possibly forcing the viewers to come to terms with our presence; my own disheveled Saturday self was appalling indeed. With no visible wall labels, and given the specific context of the exhibition, it almost felt as if we are gate-crashing a private party – a party for the arts community – or a distant relative of the arts community. The space was obviously segmented, possibly with different intervention or performance spaces by the respective curators turned artists. To the right, the tiny rectangular window is covered by a large wall-to-wall canvas, with an image of Goya’s “Wonderful Heroism! Against Dead Men! peeping from underneath a whitewash. An information counter lie next to it, with the text (whitewashed but barely discernible) “Who says painting is dead?” (or something like that). A couple of brilliant watercolour studies of canons of modern art such as Duchamp’s La Fountaine, Mondrian’s Lozenge, hang modestly in the centre wall of the gallery. A scaffolding with bits of postcards stuck to it reveal remnants of the audience’s participation during the opening night. Perched on top the 2 metre scaffold, are 2 monitors with no images playing on it. To the extreme left of the gallery, we have a large tent, with IKEA spotlights and a desk with two chairs conversing to each other (honestly, that’s what it felt like).

Guest Book Entry

(What was written in the guestbook, and rewritten here)

Is trading places, between artist and curator necessary? Does the viewer yearn for reality-tv-style spill-all relations between artists and curators (the organisers of an art exhibition, definition and job scope varies from institutions to institutions)? The exhibition, a subversion of the relationship artists have with curators are barely revealed in the exhibition but more so in the catalogue. Khairuddin Hori surprises by pulling relatively big names such as Wong Hoy Cheong, in curatorial positions to put their heads on the chopping board – is the intention to expose art-making as wacky, performative and theatrical or to suggests the difficulties of art making? Or that curators should step off their ladders/scaffold/plinths to relook at art, sometimes?

The conversation between curator and artist is a curious, arduous one. Some liken it to a power-play or struggle, some say it is having afternoon tea with your best friends. Like any other spoken conversations, they are private, possibly disjointed if taken out of context. To the audience, how the work is made may not be important, but what the work looks, feels, means is. Hence you may not get a sense of what is made in this exhibition, which is why I feel gutted for missing the performance/live action. A far comparison, it might have been as interesting as watching our Singapore’s 12 young Members of Parliament dancing to hip hop during Chingay. Which I too had sorely missed.

4.0 of 10 stars. Catalogue available, with details of the curators/artist involved.

April 23 till May 4, 2007


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