This theme includes research into museums, galleries and exhibitions which works from a range of perspectives, including theoretical, historical and creative artistic viewpoints. Curatorship is explored both as a scholarly practice, and a creative one. Other projects explore the politics and poetics of siting art within different contexts: institutional, urban and the landscape.
Trends in Contemporary curatorship was explored in Susan Hiller’s acclaimed series of colloquia, 'The Producers', which brought leading international curators to Newcastle to debate current issues. The Hatton Gallery, located in the Fine Art Building is available as a research resource and has been the base for projects such as Infallible organized and curated by Roxy Walsh, This Will Not Happen Without You and A Secret Service curated by Richard Grayson. These, and Jujiakan (San Francisco) curated by Atau Tanaka approach curating from an artist’s perspective; Richard Grayson is recognized for his constructions exploring subjective belief systems in contemporary art and ways in which they might constitute new models for ‘alternative’ practice.
Working from a historical approach to curating, Frances Spalding challenges preconceived views on Piper through historical and critical curatorship, comparing his early embrace of abstract art and modernist ideology with his eventual move away from the ‘aesthetic totalitarianism’ of High Modernism to re-engage the local and particular. All of these projects attracted wide audiences, with an estimated 250,000 visitors at the Sydney Biennale.
Chris Whitehead’s studies in museum history establish groundbreaking theoretical platforms from which to view display as a form of narrative interrelated with local, national and international circumstances and politics. Ongoing research in contemporary museology includes Enquire, funded by DCMS and DfES and Artists’ Insights, funded by the Arts Council of England.This is policy-relevant research which focuses on the impact upon young people of participation in gallery education activities.
Notions of display as complex text with material, spatial, political and creative dimensions also underpin much practice-based work, e.g. Brigitte Jurack’s work Supermen created by her group Foreign Investment, Atau Tanaka’s sonic installations or Lisa Autogena’s computer-based installations.
Such work connects with research in which the siting of art, or the artist’s response to site in relation to the semantics, poetics and aesthetics of place and the politics of placement are primary concerns - issues explored through Vee Pollock’s work on the politics of siting contemporary art in relation to social inclusion agendas, published in a high profile geography journal. Wolfgang Weileder ‘reconstructed’ Milton Keynes Gallery in the town’s central square, generating vigorous debate about the role of the gallery within urban geographies, public space and the everyday experience of city dwellers.
Other work for the public realm by Irene Brown, Andrew Burton and Richard Talbot has involved interaction with potential audiences at early stages as a developmental tool. Notions of the artist as ‘socio-anthropologist’ or ‘tourist’ are explored by Andrew Burton and Brigitte Jurack who, travelling across the world, produced ‘souvenir sculptures’ making photographs and drawings of the ‘overlooked architecture’ of marginal spaces from which she developed sculpture and creative text.
The group continues previous initiatives, including The Producers' series of talks and publications organised between the University and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. This series has become a key reference point in contemporary curatorship. Our staff have been actively involved in curatorship e.g. Frances Spalding’s curatorship of Piper in the 30s and Richard Grayson’s curatorship of the 2002 Sydney Biennial, documenting and theorising historical and contemporary curatorship and display and in producing art works which engage with the conceptual, institutional and physical nature of the museum. The interest in siting, already implicit in museum, gallery and exhibition display practices, carries through into work in the sphere of public art by creative practitioners and critical studies concerning the links between public art, notions of community participation and consultation and instrumental cultural policy.