Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Curating the Sightseeing Tour

An idea that has recently slipped from the art world into business is curation. Curated stores have rapidly become a staple of retail (think Moss and Colette at the top end), but the act of curating, of selecting with intent, has fantastic potential in a world overwhelmed with choices. I’ve already noted Saatchi & Saatchi’s partnership with the curating house Formavision to create exhibitions around the launch of the Lexus LS. Now our content group, GUM, is working with CULT-GEIST on a project called The Sightseeing Tour. This is the first event from 4C – a long-term programme from CULT-GEIST and Gum @ Saatchi – and designed to celebrate the convergence of culture, content, communication and commerce. Anything with that many C’s has got to be good for you! The Sightseeing Tour is a selection of work by 24 young artists inspired by the city and connects urban culture with creativity. There’s three more C’s right there – city and creativity and connection. The Tour includes video, photography, installation, street art and painting, and was co-curated by Samuel Gassmann. First exhibited at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, it now lives online.


Susan956 said...

Hmmm.. Interesting. I had to first orient to a 'curating house'. Formavision make that explicitly clear and I appreciated that.

I was a little confused to be honest on the selection of items for the categories on the sightseeing tour and also the use of the word 'Magma' which to me is either a car or something to do with molten lava and rocks. I honestly didn't understand it's usage in the exhibition.

I liked 'artist as architect' as a category heading however, again, was confused by several selections that came within that. I've not really ever worked in this field but I was reminded, in opening several images, of 'symbolic interactionism'. To me the street signs fell more within this than artist as architect. Signs are symbols of meaning and because they have a pivotal guidance role in a contemporary space they cause interaction. Changes to signs like rabbit ears challenge that interaction and response to the symbols. The man sitting on the toilet with the woman holding the toilet roll was also highly symbolic (to me) and not architecture as such.

Does it matter if categories are vague or confusing? This question in itself suggests there is interpretive meaning and sense-making to be had in this matter.

Personally I prefer a category title that provides a form of advanced organiser that leads one to have a frame of meaning before entering. If the images suit, in the main, the category title you are then able to better discourse them I think.

In this instance I have been led more to discuss the categorisation than the images per se. Curation choices are always interesting.

Some years ago I observed with excitement a US gallery that allowed a blank room and regularly enabled schools to curate that room. To me this is where curation it itself becomes an art form/performance and quite interactive.

Sooooo... would The Sightseeing Tour Mach2 - particularly the online presence - allow for site visitors to re-categorise, swap images over, explain and thus provide interpretive panels. Even if people had to ballot for the right/gift of doing this so that ultimately ten depictions were available..?

How people have approached categories may truly speak to how people view the city scape. And once people work with images and need to consider selection they are both drawn consider the image content..and they really do understand that curation is not as easy as it may appear at first glance.

I like the tube of paint squishing out by the way.. I love to feel that sort of thing in my hands/ those old fashioned shampoo bubbles.

karinangelika said...

Intriguing. I did something in the same ballpark for Saatchi & Saatchi London as a consultant in the late 1990s, for Oil of Olay Colour Collection.

I chose and commissioned five female British and British-based artists, including Tracey Emin, to create works of art and video pieces.

The video pieces appeared on TV, same Wednesday evening time slot, one per week, each piece once only, and had quite a remarkable effect.

The art pieces went on show at the ICA and then travelled Britain, on display at retail outlets throughout the country.

Cool Insider said...

Interesting point there about curating experiences and tours. As somebody working in a heritage and museum based organisation, I certainly agree with the need to integrate, blend and contextualise experiential goods and services to be more closely aligned.

Personally, I feel that restaurants present tremendous opportunities for greater curation of their menus with the decor, ambience, and service standards. Cooking is definitely an art and a science, and often some research and experimentation is needed to create a winning dish. I for one would certainly be keen to read or hear about the origins of certain culinary creations while waiting for their arrival.

One of the

Kevin Roberts said...

Cool Insider – I agree. It could be interesting to learn about ethnic influences, where the food came from, the chef’s inspiration and such. However, there is a balance to be found. Too much information can decrease levels of mystery.

Laurelene said...

Hey Susan! Great to see this is generating debate, I was involved in the 4C Sightseeing Tour project and wanted to tell you a bit more…

I tried to reply to your questions…

What we meant by magma:
The individual complexities, fluidity & energy within the city. The energy that boils up from the individual and the city.

The individual’s own magma, the city’s magma and how the two respond and feed off each other.

The title conjures thoughts of movement and action, as well as calls for a response.

We chose Tomoaki for his comment on Japanese habitats, i.e. architecture. His work is about the interior design of the place where he lives. In Japan, the living space is tiny; they have to live on top of each other. People live with their families much longer than in other cultures. The standard habitat is half the size of a standard apartment in other major cities. I think Tomoaki is making a comment on traditional Japanese architecture and the ways in which people literally live on top of each other…

Nina’s playground is the outdoor city and its signs. She plays with the codes of the architecture. The city is a place where each space has a function – each street, each building, each train station. Even if the structures are permanent and rigid, she plays with the signs to make the city hers.

We wrote the Sightseeing Tour text with Carine Soyer, who is an art journalist in Paris. It gives a sense to the selection while respecting each artist’s issue when it came to think about the city that they live in.

The themes came naturally when looking into the hundreds of entries we received from all over the world related to the brief “how urban cultures inspires creativity”.

The exercise to find titles is a very difficult one. They have to be explicit but also vague enough to embrace the very diverse work within the group.

Funnily enough, the exhibition in the centre Georges Pompidou in Paris at the moment is about the city and the curator used very similar themes.

More to check out on the City: Global Cities, Tate Modern, London until the 27 of August.

We hope this helps!
Thank you so much for your comments and please don’t hesitate to get in touch again for more information!

Susan956 said...

laurelene.. I am very pleased and gratified you responded. I can't devote the time your response deserves just now but I will return to it later. Watch this space (if you will and can :))

Susan956 said...

laurelene.. In coming back and concentrating on your commentary, I am reminded of the breadth of meaning and interpretation. To me these two elements are really the substance of almost everything we do.

One must of course recognise that I have not physically seen any of these exhibits Kevin talks about and so I can only go by what I see here and the online link. This in itself raises questions as to whether people sometimes need 'more' in an online setting in order to come to better negotiate a work. I'm not sure that is the case but I pose it anyway.

Whilst I am all for mystery and not spelling out information ad nauseum, I would have liked to know, as I entered the online space (and perhaps the exhibition offline) what you have told me about Tomoaki above. In the academic field this is called an 'advanced organiser' and helps to gently situate the viewer.

I do not believe offering this spoils open interpretation but rather offers a little context to better understand. You know once you told me that, I could feel my being go..ahhhhhhh..and relax into the knowledge, and then I could negotiate with the images in a more intentional fashion. I felt safe and free - [perhaps] oddly enough.

This is one aspect of different fields informing each other and I think that great.

Your comments about nina were actually quite close to my response in a way. You mentioned 'codes' and I mentioned 'symbols' and symbolic interactionism. These terms may not be familiar to you (again field informing field) but make great sense of what you have so generously explained. I would have re-titled her category just a tad to swing it to these shared understandings we are expressing.

Your comment about Soyer. Hmmm..may I pose, and I trust respectfully, whether the viewer should have the same information you have held? In other words, you negotiated this with Soyer and could thus arrive at:
"respecting each artist’s issue when it came to think about the city that they live in."

Just that much would have helped me enter the viewing with an improved orientation.

Cities are big sprawling places and on that basis I would claim small pieces of advanced information could help the negotiation of the same in image.

I do absolutely concede the enormous task in categorising large amounts of data. I have also done this but, again, in a different field.

What did you think of the suggestion of allowing the online viewing to offer their own categories - even say for a set of 25 images? (Apart from the server load and coding issues etc).

Once again, thank you for adding to the richness of the topic. I've enjoyed our conversation.


Susan956 said...

I regret the typos. In the second last paragraph "online viewing" should have read "online viewers". And I think it also important to add that perhaps a selected number of viewers - based upon an online ballot or similar. I often enjoy seeing what the 'person on the street' or indeed aficionado, does with such potentials.