Latitudes coined the term #OpenCurating to reflect parallel approaches in journalism. In the era of the citizen-journalist, whose cameras with connectivity snatch the scoop from under the noses of seasoned pros, why not formalize the publisher's increased reliance on the reader's input and the public at large for timely content? “Open Journalism” is the industry's adaptation to the inevitable.
Contrary to what the name suggests, #OpenCurating is not a crowd-sourced approach to putting together exhibitions. Instead #OpenCurating exists as an instigator for discussion. Latitudes is approaching the project as a research-based experiment and is pairing with institutions and contributors to support a practice of inquiry. The questions explored with their partners and interviewees ask how contemporary art projects and practices might depart from the established format of exhibition + catalogue.
In 2010, the New Museum – which, by the way, recently launched a fabulous, content-rich Digital Archive and, of course, is the institution behind Rhizome – opened a show titled The Last Newspaper. Latitudes set up an editorial office in the galleries and published a weekly broadsheet that functioned as the incremental catalogue, growing the documentation each week with essays and interviews with the exhibited artists; articles addressed the printed form and the function of the newspaper. #OpenCurating evolved from this project and the questions it raised about more flexible and spontaneous content-creation.
The team conducted its first of ten #OpenCurating interviews at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Beyond Interface gathered Robin Dowden, Director of New Media Initiatives, Nate Solas, Senior New Media Developer, and Paul Schmelzer, the Walker's Web Editor, to talk about the redesign and launch of the Center's blogs and increased use of social media. In a nutshell, the Walker's new website more closely resembles a well-rounded news service, reporting on all aspects of the Center through a variety of content, than a tool designed to simply retrieve illustrated information. Essays exist alongside blog-posts, visitor response alongside videos. In direct opposition to what seems like a universal dumbing down of the museum experience through increasingly infantilizing wall-text, the Walker is raising both the rate and the level of discourse and improving access to its archives and human capital, virtually.
A website can become a rich and meaningful nexus between art institution and public, especially if the exchange happens in both directions and isn't limited to 140 characters. Many websites still conservatively operate as digital replicas of a printed brochure. Social media has occasionally broken down a wall or two, allowing response and even protest, which may or may not be met with an official answer. Yet while these tools encourage reaction, they also make it too easy to do so without much substantive and thoughtful effort and, from the museum's standpoint, are little more than an extension of public relations. Now is a good time to explore how conversation can be deepened as it is being broadened. Be on the lookout for Latitudes' nine remaining interviews this year - they will certainly add to the discussion.
Latitudes is an independent Barcelona-based curatorial office www.lttds.org
Share your thoughts on #OpenCurating via Twitter using the same hashtag.
Download a PDF of the #OpenCurating interview with the Walker Art Center's Robin Dowden, Nate Solas and Paul Schmelzer
All images are courtesy of Latitudes and the Walker Art Center.