There are a whole swathe of ways you can curate an art exhibition. But curating as a profession is a relatively recent development in the labour market so there is not a great deal of analysis of it or a broader understanding of what it is. All the way from childhood through to about the age of 25, I associated curators with those who cared for the lawns at cricket grounds. The broadcast media would consult them during times of impending rain, with large television audiences tuned in in the hope of watching Australia play the West Indies or take on the English for the Ashes. Curating as an artistic expression was barely solidified in the artworld let alone the vast population like me who were watching the cricket and hoping the rain would stop soon.
So in the interest of sharing approaches to this new-ish profession, I’m going to describe one of the styles of curating. Also, because I currently have a curated exhibition on show at the public gallery where I work, I’m going to tie it into the theme of that show. The exhibition is called Eye Score: The Audible Image and is about the conversion and translation of sound into visual languages. In that spirit, this is a treatise on one style of curating I’ll call The Compilation Record.
A compilation record is the act and outcome of compiling a list of songs produced by a group of artists, often with a theme running through the work or setting the tone of the record. It could be the most popular songs in a year, it could be romantic songs or it could be a genre, like a punk rock compilation. The record can be played through different electronic media (stereo, computer, turntable) and staged in different spaces (bedroom, nightclub).
To some degree, curating is like this. Or, one of the styles of curating is like this. A curator will choose a selection of artworks that share a characteristic that can be expressed as a theme. This can be done with a single artist, if they have a significant enough body of work, but it is more commonly undertaken with a group of different artists.
Herein lies the compilation.
Because you listen to a compilation record in a linear fashion, one song after the other, you have to curate the order of the songs carefully. Because you experience a curated exhibition with less concern for linearity, you have to curate the positioning of the artworks carefully.
*LUCAS, Matto, (detail of) Eye Score opening night photos (2015), photography, (c) Courtesy the artist.