Hans Ulrich Obrist’s book, Ways of Curating, is a marvel for many reasons. He is so widely read and so deeply intertwined with artists and curators through his decades long interviewing activities that he is able to make amazing connections between the history of curation and the current trends. There are many lessons and overlap with qualitative research.
Below is a curated collection of quotations drawn from my highlights in the Obrist text. Taken from various parts of the text, they began to form a new narrative about the bringing together of the arts and science, which was one, but certainly not the whole of Obrist’s discussions.
As he has done in many sphere’s, Obrist suggests ways of creating connections, making sparks fly through juxtapositions, miming, and reorganization. My question to the world of qualitative research is: How might we change the way we bring things together—people, ideas, conferences—to “allow different elements to touch”? What would happen if we did?
Page 1 · Location 33
There is a fundamental similarity to the act of curating, which at its most basic is simply about connecting cultures, bringing their elements into proximity with each other –the task of curating is to make junctions, to allow different elements to touch. You might describe it as the attempted pollination of culture, or a form of map-making that opens new routes through a city, a people or a world.
Page 20 · Location 264
Zones of contact was my working phrase for what Boltanski, Lavier and I were trying to create. I took it from the anthropologist James Clifford, who had written about a new model for ethnographic museums, in which the peoples whose culture was being ‘represented’ by the museum proposed their own alternate forms of exhibiting and collecting. They were taking it upon themselves to recollect their own story and create their history from the inside. This changed the whole historical narrative of the ethnographic museum, which has mostly been a place for one culture to tell the story of another.
Page 23 · Location 305
The current vogue for the idea of curating stems from a feature of modern life that is impossible to ignore: the proliferation and reproduction of ideas, raw data, processed information, images, disciplinary knowledge and material products that we are witnessing today.
Highlight(orange) - Page 39 · Location 526
Though the aim of amassing evidence may sound like a rather scientific way to think about collecting, it is necessary to remember that the hard distinction between science and art which marks more recent centuries was not evident as late as the sixteenth century. The separation of art and the humanities on the one hand, and science on the other, is a fundamental feature of modern life, but it also constitutes a loss.
Highlight(orange) - Page 40 · Location 534
To study the Renaissance is to gain a model for reconnecting art and science, sundered by history.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 152 · Location 1921
Having suddenly been introduced to such an interdisciplinary mixture of people was like a revelation to me. So I thought more about how to connect the arts and the sciences within my own curatorial work.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 153 · Location 1932
So I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of changing the rules of the game for a discursive event like a conference, similar to what I had done in exhibitions. A mischievous idea occurred to me. What if one had all the accoutrements of a conference: the schedule, hotel accommodation, participants with their badges, but dispensed with the ‘official’ elements of panels,
Highlight(yellow) - Page 153 · Location 1937
The idea was to create a contact zone where something could happen but nothing had to happen. And so the ‘conference’ we organized at the research centre, ‘Art and Brain’, had all the constituents of a colloquium except the colloquium. There were coffee breaks, a bus trip, meals, tours of the facilities, but no colloquium.
Highlight(yellow) - Page 154 · Location 1943
the role of the curator is to create free space, not occupy existing space. In my practice, the curator has to bridge gaps and build bridges between artists, the public, institutions and other types of communities. The crux of this work is to build temporary communities, by connecting different people and practices, and creating the conditions for triggering sparks between them.