About the Research Network for Studies in the Curatorial

 Curatorial Studies is an emerging international academic field exploring the cultural functions of curating and its relation to knowledge production in exhibitions, museums, and display culture. The aim of the network is to enhance research in curatorial studies by bringing together scholars from an interdisciplinary field, based in both universities and in museums. The interdisciplinary scope of the network will combine knowledge from practice based and academic research and cross-fertilize research into vital aspects of the changing roles of curating in contemporary society. Temporary exhibitions increase in cultural importance, while the traditional role of museums as institutions of Bildung institutions transforms; even museums with impressive and well known collections follow the call for ever changing exhibitions. Exhibitions shape new constellations of art and cultural artefacts and thus construct new narrations, also in new platforms aiming at new audiences/public. Understanding the changing role of curating calls for new research.  

 The objectives are to

  • strengthen international collaboration and research in critical curatorial studies
  • initiate and strengthen research collaboration in the curatorial between scholars in both universities and in museums
  • organize knowledge exchange activities, conferences, explorative workshops and seminars on the change in the curatorial in contemporary society
  • publish findings in both print and web observing open access principles
  • prompt future research projects and education initiatives in curatorial studies potentially across institutional and disciplinary boundaries

Key research questions in studies in the curatorial

Curatorial Studies is an emerging international academic field, forming a particular line within the broader field of museum studies. Critical curatorial studies explore the cultural functions of curating and its relation to knowledge production, exhibitions, museums and other institutions, audiences, art and display culture. Previously, a curator was defined as engaged in traditional museum practice (acquring, conserving, researching, communicating) and exhibition making. Today, however, the exhibition aspect is emphasized and the curatorial presents an expanded field of strategies where theory and practice entangle and encompass vital social and cultural conditions. In the art world, the term “curator” is now increasingly in use for an “exhibition-maker” - (in Danish this new role of curator is defined “kurator” and distinguished from the traditional curator, “museumsinspektør”) - and new educations in curating emerge.

While the spatialized discourse of objects remains vital, curating also partakes in expanded cultural practices. The curatorial engages in producing exhibitions for audiences to view as well as in changing aesthetic experience, in framing cultural conditions in museums and social space, and in investigating constructions of knowledge and ideology.

In critical museum studies the museum is defined as “one of the most central and indispensable framing institutions of modernity” (Preziosi); the museum’s collections of cultural heritage create narratives shaping dominant ideas and perceptions of time, space, history, subject formation and nation formation. In the past decades, however, the role of museums has changed and so has the importance of exhibitions. The exhibition is today the primary site of cultural exchange; part spectacle, part socio-historical event, and part structuring device, exhibitions establish and administer meanings of art and cultural heritage (Greenberg and Ferguson).

As exhibitions gain in importance, so do curatorial strategies why new research and definitions are called for: What constitutes the curatorial? What sort of knowledge is produced in curatorial strategies? How can we rethink the role of the curator in regard to material objects, to art practices, audiences, platforms, sites and institutions? How do exhibitions engage their users? How do curatorial strategies inform museums in contemporary society and what sort of conservative, or maybe critical and transformative potentials can be traced in exhibition cultures? The research network will primarily investigate these questions in relation to three major themes: 1) Interventions: contemporary artists in cultural history museums (and vice-versa), 2)

Participatory practices and strategies, and 3) Museum edification: challenges of curating in contemporary society. In order to support cross-fertilization in critical thinking, each subtheme will be focused on in interdisciplinary set-ups in seminars, exploratory workshops and conferences for members of the network to meet in discussions face-to-face. The network seeks to enhance the research field and set the ground for future research projects within curatorial studies, thus it is designed carefully to include both distinguished researchers as well as young doctorates.

State of the art

With the specific focus on the curatorial the network aims at securing a platform for new research in the emerging field and developing a new phase within the field of critical museum studies. Two decades ago, the so called “New Museology” gave rise to important research initiatives, also in DK, with networks and publications such as Dansk Museologisk netværk, the journal Nordisk Museologi, and Ingemann and Hejlskov Larsen’s Ny dansk Museologi, 2005.

Dansk Center for Museumsforskning, Danish Center for Museum Research (museumsforskning.dk), founded in 2011, marks a milestone in connecting representatives from departments in Danish universities engaged in museum studies, thus mapping a very broad field. In Denmark at present, actual research in museum studies is scattered as documented by the Danish Center for Museum Research (report by Villadsen and Drotner, 2012).

The Research Network for Curatorial studies will thus mark a point of departure from the state of the art of the research field in DK in two important aspects: 1) the specific focus on the curatorial (exhibition aspects) to be investigated in collaboration by 2) researchers and curators from both universities and museums.

The network will support a growing research interest in the curatorial, also discernable in the increasing number of doctorates engaged in projects related to the key questions of the curatorial research network. It will give priority to interdisciplinary collaboration and trans-institutional research collaboration in order to found possible future research and education, including doctoral studies.

The network favors collaboration with teams in Nordic research institutions in order to consolidate curatorial studies in the area and prepare for future collaborative research. The Research Network for Studies in the Curatorial will thus strengthen the Danish research field with potential international impact.

PI Malene Vest Hansen and Co-PI Anne Folke Henningsen