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Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. Interview on KNPR Radio

 Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. Interview on KNPR Radio

Posted on January 12, 2019

Photo by Fredrik Nilsen/Courtesy of Pat Meza
Mundo Meza, Merman with Mandolin, 1984. Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 111 in. (182.9 x 281.9 cm). Collection of Jef Huereque. Meza’s “Merman with Mandolin” is featured at UNLV’s Barrick Museum in “Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.” The little-known but influential artist, who inspired the exhibition, died more than 30 years ago.

KNPR Radio interviews interim director of the Barrick Museum in Las Vegas, Alisha Kern and Las Vegas based arist, Justin Favela.

To listen to the interview, click here

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Recipient of the 2019 CPPC Travel Award for Central American and the Caribbean

 Recipient of the 2019 CPPC Travel Award for Central American and the Caribbean

Posted on March 27, 2019

The Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) and Independent Curators International (ICI) announce Pablo José Ramirez as the recipient of the 2019 CPPC Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean.

Pablo José Ramirez (b.1982 Xela, Guatemala) has been selected as the sixth recipient of the CPPC Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean. The award supports a contemporary art curator based anywhere in the world to travel to regions in Central America and the Caribbean to conduct research related to art and cultural activities, generating new collaborations with artists, curators, museums, and cultural centers within regional networks.

Starting this Spring, Pablo José Ramirez will travel to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Roatán Island in Honduras, Belize, and Livingston Island in Guatemala to learn about the history and culture of Garifuna. Ramirez’s investigative proposal exists in three parts: The construction of what is understood as ethnicity and race from the history of the Garifuna people and their visual and performative culture, the relationship between colonialism, creation and resilience, and the study of movement in which the nomadism between the Caribbean and Central America allowed certain encounters between Mesoamerican indigenous cultures and Hispanic mestizo cultures in the region.

Pablo José Ramirez’s proposal was selected between 76 applications from 32 different countries. The selection was made by a jury of professionals that includes: Mónica Espinel (Independent Curator and Writer, New York), Karen Grimson (Curatorial Assistant for the Department of Drawings and Prints at The Museum of Modern Art, New York), Julián Sánchez González (PhD student in Art History at Columbia University). In their selection, the jury considered the immediate and the long-term benefits and impact of each proposal for the places, institutions and artists visited, as well as projects that favor new understandings and readings of the artistic production of the region.

In selecting his research proposal the jury chair, Mónica Espinel stated: “Pablo José Ramirez presented a compelling proposal that seeks to reenact the voyages that led to the creation of mixed ancestry Garifuna enclaves in the Caribbean and Central America, including trips to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. We believe Ramirez’s desire to research the historical conditions and nomadism that led to the development of the Garifuna’s material culture and performance will bring much-needed attention to ethnic and racial considerations that resulted in the formation of present-day and traditional Garifuna culture.”

Pablo José Ramírez is a curator, art writer and cultural theorist. He holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths, University of London. He has published extensively and has been member of different curatorial advisory boards and juries for institutions such as Gasworks, The Visible Award, MADC, TEOR/ética, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros among others. Ramirez is the former Artistic Director at Ciudad de la Imaginación (Quezaltenango, Guatemala, 2010-2014). Following that, he has been working internationally as independent curator and researcher. Currently Ramirez is working on a project for Tate Modern related to sound and community, to be commissioned by Tate Exchange for 2019- 2020. In 2015 he co-curated with Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Anabella Acevedo and Rosina Cazali the 19th Bienal de Arte Paiz (Guatemala City, Guatemala) and is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of the curatorial experimental journal Infrasonica, to be launched in 2019.

Jury Bios:

Mónica Espinel: (b. Bogota, Colombia) is an independent curator and writer based in New York. She is the editor of Carmen Herrera’s catalogue raisonné, in progress. Selected curatorial projects include Black Milk: Theories on Suicide, Marvelli (2004), Then & Now: Abstraction in Latin American Art, Deutsche Bank (2010), Memory Leaks, Creon (2010), Rituals of Chaos, Bronx Museum of the Arts (2012), The Skin I Live In, Curatorial Lab, SP-Arte (2013) and Hybrid Topographies – Encounters from Latin America, Deutsche Bank (2018). She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Florida International University, Miami and an M.A. in Art History from Hunter College, New York. She participated in seminars such as ICI’s Curating Context, Instituto Inhotim; 13th Istanbul Biennial, Mom Am I a Barbarian, Istanbul; and the Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course, Gwangju, Korea. Her writing has been featured in artist catalogues and ArtNexus, Arte al Dia, Flash Art and Artforum.com.

Karen Grimson is a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Drawings and Prints at The Museum of Modern Art, where she works primarily on exhibitions and acquisition proposals of art from Latin America overseen by Inés Katzenstein. After completing her Art History degree at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA, Argentina), Karen joined MoMA’s Department of Drawings in 2011, and has since been involved in organizing the following exhibitions: Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955-1972; Mike Kelley; Joaquín Torres- García: The Arcadian Modern; and Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil. She currently manages the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, a committee devoted to supporting cross-departmental acquisitions of art from the region, and is working on the forthcoming exhibition Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction—The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift.

Julián Sánchez González is a Ph.D. Student in Art History at Columbia University. He holds an M.A. in Art History from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, and a double B.A. in History and Political Science from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. His broader academic interests investigate the relationship between self-taught and trained art in the development of Global Modernisms during the second half of the twentieth century as well as the Black Atlantic Diaspora. His current research project analyzes the influence of alternative spiritual practices in art production from 1970s Latin America and the Caribbean. Previously, Mr. Sánchez worked with the Museos de Arte y Numismática del Banco de la República in Bogotá and the Art Museum of the Americas – Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. His writing has been published by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, Oxford Art Online, and the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá. His work has been generously supported by the Fulbright Program, the Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia, and the Fundación COLFUTURO.

The Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) was founded in the 1970s by Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo A. Cisneros and is one of the core cultural and educational initiatives of the Fundacíon Cisneros. Based in New York City and Caracas, the CPPC’s mission is to promote scholarship and enhance appreciation of the diversity, sophistication, and range of art from Latin America. The CPPC achieves these goals through the preservation, presentation, and study of the material culture of the Ibero-American world – ranging from the ethnographic to the contemporary. The CPPC’s activities include exhibitions, public programs, publications, grants for scholarly research and artistic production. The CPPC’s website (http://www.coleccioncisneros.org) offers a platform for debate concerning the contributions of Latin America to the world of art and culture.

La Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) y Independent Curators International (ICI) anuncian a Pablo José Ramírez como ganador de la Beca CPPC para viajes de investigación en Centroamérica y el Caribe.

Pablo José Ramírez (b.1982 Xela, Guatemala) ha sido seleccionado como el acreedor de la sexta Beca CPPC para viajes de investigación curatorial en Centroamérica y el Caribe. La beca apoya a un/a curador/a de arte contemporáneo residiendo en cualquier parte del mundo para viajar a regiones de Centroamérica y el Caribe y realizar investigaciones relacionadas con el arte y las actividades culturales, generando nuevas colaboraciones con artistas, curadores, museos y centros culturales dentro en la región.

A partir de esta primavera, Pablo José Ramírez viajará a San Vicente y las Granadinas, a la isla de Roatán en Honduras, a Belice y a la isla de Livingston en Guatemala para investigar sobre la historia y la cultura de Garifuna. La propuesta de investigación de Ramírez se divide en tres partes: la construcción de lo que se entiende como etnicidad y raza a partir de la historia del pueblo garífuna y su cultura visual y performativa, la relación entre colonialismo, creación y resiliencia, y el estudio del movimiento, en el que el nomadismo entre el Caribe y Centroamérica permitió el encuentro entre las culturas indígenas mesoamericanas y las culturas mestizas hispánicas en la región.

La propuesta de Pablo José Ramírez fue seleccionada entre 76 solicitudes de 32 países. La selección fue hecha por un jurado de profesionales que incluyó a Mónica Espinel (curadora independiente y escritora, Nueva York), Karen Grimson (Asistente curatorial del Departamento de Dibujos y Grabados del Museo de Arte Moderno de Nueva York) y Julián Sánchez González (Estudiante de doctorado en Historia del Arte en la Universidad de Columbia). En su selección, el jurado consideró los beneficios y el impacto inmediatos y a largo plazo que cada propuesta traería a los lugares, instituciones y artistas visitados, así como proyectos que favorezcan nuevos entendimientos y lecturas de la producción artística de la región.

Al seleccionar su propuesta de investigación, la presidenta del jurado, Mónica Espinel, declaró: “Pablo José Ramírez presentó una propuesta convincente que busca recrear los viajes que llevaron a la creación de enclaves garífuna de ascendencia mixta en el Caribe y América Central, incluidos los viajes a San Vicente y las Granadinas, Belice, Guatemala y Honduras. Creemos que el deseo de Ramírez de investigar las condiciones históricas y el nomadismo que condujeron al desarrollo de la cultura material y el desempeño de los garífunas llamará la atención a las consideraciones étnicas y raciales que dieron lugar a la formación de la cultura garífuna actual y tradicional”.

Pablo José Ramírez es curador, escritor de arte y teórico cultural. Tiene una maestría en Teoría del Arte Contemporáneo por Goldsmiths, University of London. Ha publicado numerosos artículos y ha sido miembro de diferentes consejos curatoriales y jurados de instituciones como Gasworks, The Visible Award, MADC, TEOR/ética, la Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, entre otros. Ramírez es el exdirector artístico de Ciudad de la Imaginación (Quezaltenango, Guatemala, 2010-2014). En años recientes ha trabajado internacionalmente como curador e investigador independiente. Actualmente, Ramírez está trabajando en un proyecto para Tate Modern relacionado con el sonido y la comunidad, que será comisionado por Tate Exchange para realizarse en 2019-2020. En 2015 co-curó con Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Anabella Acevedo y Rosina Cazali, en la 19 Bienal de Arte Paiz (Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala) y es cofundador y director artístico de la revista experimental curatorial Infrasonica, que se lanzará en 2019.

La Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) fue fundada en la década de 1970 por Patricia Phelps de Cisneros y Gustavo A. Cisneros y es una de las principales iniciativas culturales y educativas de la Fundación Cisneros. Su hija, Adriana Cisneros de Griffin, es la presidenta de la Fundación Cisneros, y Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro es el director y curador jefe de la CPPC. Con sede en Caracas y Nueva York, la misión de la CPPC es promover una mayor apreciación de la diversidad, sofisticación y variedad del arte de América Latina, así como el estudio del arte latinoamericano. La CPPC alcanza estos objetivos a través de la preservación, presentación y estudio de la cultura material de Iberoamérica, desde lo etnográfico hasta lo contemporáneo. Las actividades de la CPPC incluyen exposiciones, programas públicos, publicaciones, becas para la investigación académica y la producción artística. El sitio web de la colección (www.coleccioncisneros.org) fue creado para ofrecer una plataforma de debate sobre las contribuciones de América Latina al mundo del arte y la cultura.

Thank you!

Posted on April 20, 2019

Thank you for submitting an application for ICI’s Curatorial Intensive. We will review your submission and contact you if we need clarification.

Photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

 Photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

 Photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

 Photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

 Photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

 Photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

Posted on April 30, 2019

Check out some photos from the 2019 Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans!

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PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT: 2019 Curatorial Intensive New Orleans: Public Symposium

Video of Curator’s Perspective talk with Nicolas Bourriaud

Pouarri Tanner by Ayesha Green

 Pouarri Tanner by Ayesha Green

Posted on August 14, 2019

Image: Ayesha Green, Pouarri Tanner, 2018. Pen and watercolor on paper. Collection of Pouarri Tanner.

Dunedin-based artist Ayesha Green, of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungunu was selected by the host for our 2019 Auckland Curatorial Intensive, Remco de Blaaij, to catalyze current ideas and issues that arts communities in Auckland are addressing today. For each Curatorial Intensive ICI invites the hosting curator to put us in conversation with an artist in the region. ICI, in turn, requests the loan of an artwork from the artist to present in our New York space—a material touchstone for our local community to consider how these contemporary concerns do and do not resonate in our home city. Pouarii Tanner (2018) hangs in our New York space for the fall of 2019.

Ayesha Green (Kai Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu) is an artist based in Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand, she was recently awarded the prestigious Aotearoa New Zealand National Contemporary Art Award in August 2019. She graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Elam in 2013 and completed a Graduate Diploma in Museums and Cultural Heritage in 2016. Recent exhibitions include: Elizabeth the First, Millers O’Brien (2019); Living Portraits: Mata Raurangi, Auckland Art Gallery (2019); Two Oceans at Once, ST Paul St Gallery (2019); Māori Girl, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, (2018), EAST 2018, Hastings City Art Gallery (2018), (Un)Conditional, The Melbourne Art Fair, The Physics Room and The Suter Gallery (2018).

“Pouarii Tanner (2018) is part of a long-standing series of what seems to be simple portraits of friends and family of Ayesha Green. However, beyond this simplicity lies a complex understanding of indigenous whakawhanaungatanga and whakapapa; the shaping of relationships, connections and networks between people. Sharing her own record and adventure of tracing her Māori identity, Green offers a contemporary visual insight that is able to counter the representative nature of portraiture, instead advocating for the research potential her paintings provide for maker and viewer to learn about contemporary indigenous life in Aotearoa New Zealand. Pouarii Tanner, depicted in this portrait is a creative instigator who co-organises Te Arerenga Project, a residency project in Rarotonga that stimulates creative thinking and production in the Pacific. Ayesha Green stayed there in July 2017.”

Remco de Blaaij, , Director of Artspace Aorteara

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Posted on August 19, 2019





Posted on October 10, 2019

ICI 2019 Benefit & Auction

Bid until Monday, October 21

Register, browse and bid on Artsy now.

ICI’s Live & Silent Auction is up on Artsy, where the bidding continues until Monday October 21, 2019.  On the occasion of ICI’s Annual Benefit & Auction, ICI is proud to once again benefit from the generosity of artists who have consistently shown great confidence in ICI and support for its programs.

John BaldessariAlex BecerraAmoako BoafoDaniel Boccato,LaKela BrownChristoMira DancyBrock EnrightAl FreemanDalton GataJoel GreyJeff KoonsYayoi KusamaRobert MapplethorpeDuane MichalsEduardo NavarroElle PérezPaul PfeifferAlexis RockmanRachel RoseMarina RosenfeldCindy ShermanDavid ShrobeJessica StockholderAndra UrsutaPablo Vargas LugoOmar VelazquezGrace WeaverWilliam WegmanRichard WentworthNeil WinokurNate YoungSarah Zapata


On the occasion of its 2019 Annual Benefit & Auction, ICI has assembled the inaugural Benefit Auction Curatorial Committee, composed of some of ICI’s closest collaborators: Magali Arriola, Director, Tamayo Museum, Mexico City; Matthew Higgs, Chief Curator, White Columns, New York; Barbara London, Independent Curator; Larry Ossei-Mensah, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit; Tumelo Mosaka, Independent Curator; Paul Schimmel, Independent Curator; Franklin Sirmans, Director, Pérez Art Museum, Miami. The Benefit Auction Curatorial Committee has provided advice and assistance in the creation of a unique Benefit Auction, adding their voices and endorsement to the generosity of artists who support ICI’s mission and programs.

Since 2013, we have honored the generosity artists by developing collaborations with galleries, collectors, and others to maximize the power of each donation; we were among the first non-profits to collaborate with Artsy; and since 2013 we have always offered artists the choice to receive up to 20% of the sale of their donated works.

The Live Auction will be led by Gabby Palmieri during the ICI Benefit & Auction. To attend and for more information about the event, see here.

Image Caption: Mira Dancy, Sliver of Moon (detail), 2019, Acrylic on canvas, 32 × 22 in

Hyperallergic highlights “The Conditions of the Archive: FESTAC 77”

 Hyperallergic highlights “The Conditions of the Archive: FESTAC 77”

Posted on January 23, 2020

Hyperallgeric highlights The Conditions of the Archive: FESTAC 77 as a must-attend event. Curator and scholar, Oluremi Onabanjo will be in conversation with visual artist and photographer, Marilyn Nance who captured the most extensive archive of the influential festival.


Image Caption: This photograph of 23 year old artist Marilyn Nance was made in January 1977 in the sculpture garden of the art school of the Yaba Institute of Technology (*Now Yaba College of Technology) in Lagos, Nigeria. Nance is wearing a tee shirt that she designed and marketed proclaiming that « OKRA IS AN AFRICAN WORD »

Comradeship: Reading Zdenka Badovinac in New York

Posted on February 14, 2020

Carlos Kong, a core participant of the Comradeship Reading Group, reflects on the program and the publication, Comradeship: Curating, Art, and Politics in Post-Socialist Europe.

Comradeship: Reading Zdenka Badovinac in New York

For the past year, a group of New York-based curators, artists, writers, gallery directors, and art historians have assembled to host monthly public discussions at ICI on the writings of the influential Slovenian curator and museum director Zdenka Badovinac. Our gatherings have assumed the name of the “Comradeship Reading Group” after the volume of Badovinac’s collected writings entitled Comradeship: Curating, Art, and Politics in Post-Socialist Europe, published by ICI in 2019. The reading group sessions have delved into the wide-ranging topics covered in Badovinac’s writing. Her essays not only chart her forward-thinking institutional practices over the past decades as director of the Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana since 1993, but also bear witness to the challenges of curating in rapidly changing world, from the collapse of communism and the Yugoslav Wars through the post-socialist and globalized present. The experiment of our reading group was two-fold, to immerse ourselves in the specific historical and geopolitical contexts of Badovinac’s curatorial practice while rethinking her critical insights in relation to our current work as cultural producers within the artistic landscape of New York. And true to our name, reading Zdenka Badovinac in New York produced gestures of comradeship, establishing new channels of dialogue while opening future prospects of curatorial collaboration.

Comradeship: Curating, Art, and Politics in Post-Socialist Europe anthologizes essays that Zdenka Badovinac wrote on the occasions of exhibitions, lectures, symposia, and as collaborations with artists. In doing so, the book allows for readers to grasp critical ideas that emerge directly from Badovinac’s curatorial, institutional, and writing practice. From a set of catalogue essays associated with her path-breaking exhibitions at the Moderna Galerija, Body and the East (1998), Form-Specific Art (2003), and Interrupted Histories (2006), Badovinac presents her guiding concept of “self-historicization,” where “art can become an instrument of its own historicization.” By attuning to the local histories and political imaginaries embedded within artworks produced in Central and Eastern Europe during and after state socialism, Badovinac’s curatorial practice performs the “self-historicization” that it advocates. The numerous case studies of her essays—such as on the role of a museum of contemporary art today, on institution building in during political conflict, on the art historical positioning of avant-gardes in Eastern Europe—offer a method for conceiving our responsibility towards reframing artistic practices that lie outside of art historical narratives presented in Western institutions. Her writing enabled our group to view history as an incomplete project—continuously contested, interrupted, and utopianly reimagined—and curating as a collaborative act for voicing history’s new narratives, articulating distinctive points of connection, and creating different structures of communality.

As the Comradeship Reading Group comes to a close, I think of the ways that Zdenka Badovinac’s writing enabled us to see the New York’s art ecosystem and our roles within it with new eyes, as both contrasts and similarities were productively revealed between her curatorial context in Ljubljana and our readings of it in New York. And when I think of the many conversations, alliances, friends, and modes of comradeship that emerged throughout our reading group, I can hear Badovinac’s evocative questions: “Is it our task to correct existing histories? Or is it instead to establish alternate forms of cultural production that allow for more utopian arrangements to come into view?”

Appointment Press

Posted on March 3, 2020

Amanda de la Garza (Londonderry ‘13) has been appointed Director General of Visual Arts at the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City, Mexico (MUAC). Read more of her appointment at Artforum.


Rachel Reese (New York Spring ‘14) has been appointed Director and Curator of Cress Gallery of Art at UTC in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Read more of her appointment at Art & Education.

Eric Golo Stone (New York Fall ‘12) has been appointed the Artistic Director of the Künstlerhaus Stuttgart in Stuttgart, Germany. Read more of his appointment at Artforum.

Victor Wang (New York Fall’ 11) has been appointed Artistic Director and Chief Curator of M WOODS Museum in Beijing, China. Read more of his appointment at Artforum.

Exhibition Press

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Diana Campbell (Inhotim ‘12) curated the fourth edition of the Dhaka Arts SummitSeismic Movements on view February 7 – 15, 2020 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Read recent press of the Dhaka Arts Summit at Frieze.

Serubiri Moses (Dakar ’16) is co-curating Greater New York, MoMA PS1’s survey of contemporary art opening this fall of 2020 in New York City. Read recent press of Greater New York at The New York Times

Ulya Soley (Bangkok ‘18) curated a group exhibition, How shall we dress for the occasion?, presented in New York City by Protocinema, an arts organization founded by Mari Spirito (Inhotim ‘12), on view January 11 – March 22, 2020. Read a recent review of the How shall we dress for the occasion? at Artforum.

Research Press

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Nic Brierre Aziz (New Orleans ‘19) has been awarded the Warhol Foundation Grant for his research on the migration of black Haitians and its influence on the art and culture of the places they traveled both as slaves and as free people, as well as Lauren Schell Dickens (New Orleans ‘15) for her research on Filipino art and notions of nationhood, identity, migration, immigration, colonialism, and economic pressures. Read more of Warhol Foundation Grant on Artforum.


Posted on April 21, 2020

Introduction to The Paper Sculpture Project and instructions on the proper use and reading of the introduction

This introduction was written by Mary Ceruti, Matt Freedman, and Sina Najafi, the curators of The Paper Sculpture Show in 2003. It was originally published in The Paper Sculpture Book, that accompanied the exhibition. The publication itself functioned as a compilation of detachable pages, each with a design for a paper sculpture to be made (or not) by the reader.


When the initial version of this project was presented in Cabinet magazine in 2001, it was noted that few readers were actually willing to sacrifice their magazines to build the sculptures. (A notable exception was an artist who, while stuck for several hours in a stalled subway car under New York’s East River built all the projects. This artist has been invited to participate in the current show.) The present format is specifically designed to be taken apart and asks the readers, as urgently as is politely possible, to actually build these projects. Exhibition visitors are further requested to leave behind their completed projects for subsequent visitors to admire or criticize. By making the success of our project explicitly dependent on the collaboration of our viewers, we have raised a series of questions. None of these questions has any clear answers, nor does it seem to us that clear answers are desirable. Therefore, we propose to construct the remaining portion of this curators’ essay as a kind of unresolved paper model of a paper.

We will present a series of propositions, queries, and points of debate. In the interactive, slightly unpredictable spirit of the exhibition itself, we happily leave the final organization of this introduction to the reader. Just as the ultimate conformations of the sculptures are up to the assemblers, the ultimate conclusions are to be reached by the reader. The seams of this essay (and those of most of your sculptures) will probably remain visible. Not all the tabs will be tucked in neatly, nor will all the glue drips be carefully wiped away. It is in the nature af this project that multiple resolutions of a fairly specific schematic plan are possible. What to make of this confusing freedom? This is the heart of our inquiry. We will now present a series of emphatic and absolute statements regarding the questions raised by this exhibition. If you disagree with a particular proposition, rest assured that you will find its counter-argument presented with equal fervor shortly thereafter. It is your prerogative to select and assemble the arguments you favor into the catalogue essay of your own design.


PROPOSITION I. No One Reads Introductions By Curators

It is true that hardly anyone, including ourselves, ever reads curators’ introductions. You, dear reader, are one of the exceptions and you are now free to stop. To help you decide whether you wish to abandon us at this point, we would only point out that this problem of reading or not reading that which has been written anticipates the larger challenge set by the project—to build or not to build the sculptures—and poses its own paradoxical question.

SLOT A: Does an Essay Lying Unread in a Catalogue Make Any Noise

Insert either TAB 1 or TAB 2 into SLOT A

TAB 1) Yes. Read the next paragraph and then stop.
It is completely unnecessary for you or anyone else to read this essay for it to do its job. It is a surprising and dismal truth, but catalogue essays are not written to be read. They lounge impressively at the front of the exhibition catalogue, radiating credibility and creating critical elbow room for the artists whose images are shortly to follow. The essay writer, often the hired gun of the gallery, is there simply to lend legitimacy to the entire enterprise, like the wine and cheese and the clean white walls. “Images without text are embarrassing,” writes Boris Groys, “like a naked person in a public space.” (1)

TAB 2) No. Read this essay.
The unread essay is silent and even slightly absurd. If it is not read, then its ideas are not shared between the writer and the reader and is by definition a failed and useless thing. This book is not simply a catalogue for a show; it is, redundantly, also a book. And it is also, to be twice redundant, the show itself. The show cannot clothe itself in what Groys calls a “textual bikini,” for the essay itself is far too modest to provide much cover; it is transparent and skimpy and potentially reversible. You cannot fully experience the contingent nature of the show without embracing the compelling ambivalence of the essay. Everything contained herein is part of the show and fails or succeeds along with it. In any case, this essay has no interest in establishing a market value, for there is no market value to establish. We have nothing left to sell you once you have acquired the book. Indeed, you really don’t have to buy anything at all. The artworks are free for the taking in the gallery, providing you build them first and leave them behind for the duration of the exhibition.

If you wish to continue reading the curators essay, do so only for curiosity’s sake. No polemic will be unloaded on you and only a couple of famous intellectuals will stick their noses in to lend the project greater heft. We are on your side, the side of the viewer, the side Baudelaire took over 150 years ago when he launched the field of art criticism. This alliance with the public was abandoned in recent decades when the professional art critic, in search of friends and patronage, jumped the fence and became the lapdog of the art world. We will not drape the artworks coyly in words. We are old-fashioned exhibitionists who strive only to provide you with as clear an idea as possible of the impulses that drove us to organize this exhibition, and of the thoughts that occur to us now that we contemplate the project as a whole.

PROPOSITION II. You Must Build These Projects

In a sense, most art exhibitions are dead by the time the first viewer steps into the gallery. Whatever was done to make the works on display good or bad, interesting or not, was accomplished by the artists, possibly aided and abetted by the curator, before the art moved into public view. Opinions may vary as to the success or failure of an exhibition, but essentially all opinions are autopsy reports. Here, on the other hand, the viewer is not merely an onlooker but to a significant degree also the maker of the show. Viewers construct the works according to the directions of the absent artists. Even more importantly, the show develops as the built projects accumulate in the exhibition venue. How well or how poorly viewers construct their projects and engage in the de facto collaboration with other visitors will determine the amount of pleasure and instruction subsequent visitors derive from the show. Far from being dead, the exhibition is constantly being born and reborn. This proposition, however, is more controversial than it might at first appear. It can be argued that the sculptures should not be built at all. You can assemble this argument or its counter-argument as you see it, using the following information.

SLOT B: The Unmade Paper Sculptures

Insert either TAB 3, TAB 3.1, or TAB 4 into SLOT B.

TAB 3) … An Utter Failure.
The worst-case scenario is that no one builds anything and the exhibition space remains bare. Such emptiness would announce the visitors’ indifference, if not their outright hostility. No conventional show leaves a trail of its own failure. A painting cannot tell you if the last person in the gallery looked at it for five enraptured minutes or sneered and turned away in an instant. In any case it is a cliché of museum culture that works of art attract the attention of each viewer for an average of less than ten seconds. Given this, The Paper Sculpture Show makes what could be considered unreasonable demands on its visitors. The simplest sculpture in this show might take five minutes to complete. You may say without fear of contradiction that you enjoyed the latest Impressionist blockbuster at the Met even if you only caught the most fleeting glimpse of a single water lily between fifteen jostling shoulders. You cannot, however, say you fully experienced The Paper Sculpture Show unless you built a paper sculpture.

TAB 3.1) … A Different Kind of Failure
The unbuilt sculpture, besides falling to contribute to the evolving installation, denies the visitor the exhibition’s most exquisite experience of all: the opportunity to experience the creative activity of the original artist. Not to build a sculpture is to deny yourself the evanescent and powerful palpitations of creativity; the jittery, risky, high-wire joy of making something new and shiny out of something old and familiar.

Not building the sculpture also denies you the opportunity to face one of art’s most metaphysical conundrums: can we identify an exact moment when the artist’s raw material magically transubstantiates into a plausible and compelling work of art? A long Jewish joke about irrational fear involving kreplach, the dumpling delicacy, is relevant here, though somewhat tedious. (2) The joke teaches us that the moment at which something in the process of creation becomes the thing its creator intends is deeply mysterious. Even if we think that this moment does not exist, our claim to distinguish art from non-art paradoxically relies on such a moment having existed. This is true of art as well as kreplach. Here in the Paper Sculpture project, however, the problem is admittedly more complicated. Did it become art when the original artist completed his or her design, and does it remain art despite all of your well-intentioned but unprofessional tinkerings? Or does it only become art the moment you finish building your version of the work, which after all was the originating artist’s intent?

The fact that you follow the guidelines set by another is irrelevant; you are the ultimate creator of your artwork. Borges’s Pierre Menard heroically attempted to rewrite Don Quixote word for word, hilariously finding that the same words that flew into Cervantes’s seventeenth-century Spanish mercenary’s mind were much more difficult to generate from the perspective of an early twentieth-century French intellectual. It can hardly be as challenging for twenty-first-century art lovers to re-imagine the creative experience of twenty-first-century artists. We acknowledge that if this book lasts for 300 years, future builders may find it more difficult to put themselves in the minds of the artists. But we are not sure of this. Only time will tell.

TAB 4) … A Success
Is not necessary to touch even a single piece of paper to appreciate work of the artists. The book is beautiful. The gallery installation is beautiful. Look at all the unbuilt works lying there in your lap or laid out in front of you on the table. So elegant! So intriguing! In some ways, the participating artists’ ideal viewer is one who chooses not to build any sculptures at all, but simply to look at the untouched designs and dream of what they would be if completed. As dream-designs, they are perfect, and hold limitless possibilities of beauty and profundity. It is only as they begin to take actual form that they, like all works of art passing from the artist’s head through his or her hands, begin to be compromised by the harsh limitations that talent and circumstance place upon every human endeavor. Visitors who wish to avoid the poignant sadness and icy intimation of mortality that accompany the completion of any work of art are advised not to embark on any of these projects. Perhaps you can learn this hard lesson only by trying and failing, but our only interest is to save you from yourself.

And in any event the physical appearance of these projects, weather they attract you or not, is really beside the point. What is more important, as we have argued, is that you have the opportunity to understand the intentions of the artists as clearly as possible, and you need not construct the artworks to reach this understanding. This understanding will always be incomplete, though just how incomplete is up to you and the project you are contemplating. Some of the artists will help you with precise and thorough instructions. Others will intentionally frustrate you with projects whose subject is the very impossibility of retracing another’s footsteps, of recreating any experience or moment in time.

SLOT C: The Completed Paper Sculpture Is …

Insert either TAB 5 or TAB 6 into SLOT C.

TAB 5) … A Success
If you build it, it is good. There are no bad paper sculptures. The mere act of sitting down, cutting out a project, and assembling it is all we ask of you. Do not worry about making the perfect sculpture; you cannot fail to make a positive contribution to the exhibition. Simply by building the work, you make it yours, whatever yours means. In so doing, you memorialize an encounter as sincere and demanding as you are likely to have with a work of art any time soon. And remember, every interaction between a work of art and a viewer is incomparable; no one viewer has a privileged response that is uniquely valid or “correct.” Probing the notion of “good” versus “bad” acts of construction reminds us of an underlying question which may trouble some readers. Are these artworks kits with instructions to be slavishly followed in order to recreate a mere approximation of the absent original work of art? No. Each project is a potential original, and each new “creator” brings a specific personal history to the problem of making a new work of art. By this standard, the more “original”—that is, the less “conventional”—your construction techniques are, the “deeper” and more profoundly analytical your “reading” of the instructions becomes, and the more successful and “true” your resulting artwork will be. The more you suppress your distinctiveness by submitting yourself to the fascistic superego of the directions, the more conventional and less interesting your sculpture will be. The artist who produces work according to a codex can only be mediocre. Imagine the instructions for the paper sculpture projects to be the equivalent of the nineteenth-century French academy. Your hapless inability to follow the rules prefigures the birth of modernism.

TAB 6) … A Failure.
There is no perfect work of art; therefore all works of art are to some degree failures. The closer you come to the completion of your project, the more palpable your failure will be. It follows from the contention of TAB 4 that not building any projects shields the viewer from the sadness that accompanies the completion of any work of art. Therefore, the built sculpture emphatically embraces that sadness. If you have completed a project, then you have inevitably fallen short of your goal, whatever that goal was. Even if you cannot quite articulate what your goal was, you are reminded of your limitations by the inadequacies of what you have just built. Some of you may be quite charmed by your projects, but look closer. Did you cut everything just so? Is everything tucked in properly? Aren’t some of the sculptures that others have built much nicer? We are not relativists. We do not believe in art as therapy. We have standards. Is your work up to snuff? Probably not.

And what if you think you did the best job here? So what? Who have you helped? Isn’t artmaking ultimately a selfish and antisocial act? Maybe if you had spent less time selfishly perfecting your project and more time selflessly contributing toward the Common Good, the world would be a better place. Even the most egotistical artists (well, perhaps not the most egotistical artists) have pangs of doubt as to the ultimate morality of their calling. Like sensitive football players, self-aware artists periodically torment themselves with questions of legitimacy: “Who am I helping? I struggle to construct a work of beauty that cries out against the gathering clouds of war and injustice and it ends up on a rich man’s coffee table. What am I but a small-scale manufacturer of luxury items?”


Now that you have mastered the two propositions, chosen the appropriate tabs, and fit them snugly into their slots, you have in effect written, or at least edited, the catalogue essay for this exhibition. By the time you have reached these final few words of the essay—your essay—everything should be in place. You should feel the confidence from the above diatribe radiating in your bones. You should have convinced yourself of the logic and sincerity of your position and the uniqueness and quality of the exhibition you are promoting. The “Stockholm Syndrome,” in which the captive begins to sympathize and identify with the causes of his or her captors, holds true for hostage situations and for catalogue essay writing, two situations perhaps not as dissimilar as we would like to imagine. If you cannot fully endorse the exhibition at this point, then there is something fundamentally wrong with your essay and you must go back and rework it, possibly from the ground up. If you have, on the other hand, become fully enamored with the remarkable attractiveness and importance of The Paper Sculpture Show, then you have accurately and thoroughly completed your essay. You may reward yourself by reading the kreplach joke now. (3)


(1) Boris Groys, “Critical Reflections,” Artforum, October 1997, p. 80.
(2) Wait. Do not read the kreplach joke yet. Save it until you have finished reading the essay. Then read it and let its aftertaste linger in the mouth of your brain.
(3) A mother tells her rabbi that her son has a deep dread of kreplach. The rabbi advises her to show the boy exactly how she makes the kreplach so that he can see for himself all the ingredients and labor that go into them and realize that there is nothing to fear. The mother decides to follow his advice. She leads the boy into the kitchen and shows him how she rolls the dough and cuts it into little pieces.
“This is the same dough that I use in your favorite pancakes. Ummmmmmmmm! It’s nothing to be afraid of, is it?”
“No, Mamma.”
Next she shows him how she chops the meat for the filling. “Yummy meat. It’s nothing to be afraid of, is it?”
“No, Mamma.”
Then she spoons the tasty meat onto the squares of his favorite dough. “It’s nothing to be afraid of, is it?”
“No, Mamma.”
Then she starts to cover the filling with the dough.
“See, I fold over one corner of the dough like this. And I fold over the second corner like this. Oh, so easy! Then I fold the third corner. Nothing to it! Now I take the last corner …”
And the boy screams, “Ahhhhh kreplach! Kreplach Kreplach!”

The kreplach joke appears in Paul Hoffman and Matt Freedman, Dictionary Schmictionary! (New York: Quill Press, 1983).

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“Unsafe Safety” – Maayan Sheleff’s reflection

 “Unsafe Safety” – Maayan Sheleff’s reflection

Posted on May 7, 2020

Maayan Sheleff, an alumna of the Curatorial Intensive in New York in 2010, reflects on the questions generated from a Zoom conversation with her cohort, as they relate to her own practice and PhD studies in her text, “Unsafe Safety”. Sheleff writes from Tel Aviv, Israel. To read “Unsafe Safety” click here.

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Alumni Seminar

Alumni Seminar

 Alumni Seminar

Posted on May 8, 2020

Following the COVID-19 crisis, 13 alumni from one of the first Curatorial Intensives held in 2010 participated in a seminar via Zoom. Dialing in from Mexico City, Lansing, Belgrade, Dublin, Lagos, New York City, Columbus, Toronto, Plovdiv, Portland, Porto, Wilmington, and Tel Aviv, the discussion included: David Ayala-Alfonso, Steven L. Bridges, Maja Ćirić, Oyinda Fakeye, Michele Horrigan, Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, Frances Loeffler, Mack McFarland, Katy Reis, Legacy Russell, Maayan Sheleff, Paula Silva, and Margaret Winslow. Read more about what they discussed here.

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Unsafe Safety