“‘Democratising’ Curating: Speed, Sexuality and Selfies” presented by Coomasaru


Session Title:

  • Archiving Media Art: Rapid Response Art History - Tools and Techniques for a Fast-Changing Art World

Presentation Title:

  • ‘Democratising’ Curating: Speed, Sexuality and Selfies




  • Democratisation and internet-based curating: for many commentators, seemingly two things that come hand in hand. ‘Democracy’ in this context is often a byword for ‘accessibility’ – similar to, and yet also distinct from, democracy as a system of governance or a theoretical model for politics. In trying to think through the stakes of what it might mean to ‘democratise’ curating using the internet’s more collective and collaborative platforms, this paper will consider potential disruptions of power hierarchies or concentrations traditionally implicated in the role of the curator. To do this, I will focus on selfies and sexuality – in order to tease out the fraught politics of subcultural capital, voyeurism and exhibitionism.

    Selfies have often been decried by the press for their narcissism, in a climate where pornography and new technology are considered a threat to heterosexual reproduction. Sexuality is often seen as disruptive to social systems by its capacity to become ‘excessive’ or ‘queer’. What does it mean to think about this kind of agency in relation to ‘democracy’, which has recently come to be understood by contemporary philosophers as means of frustrating the status quo and structures of power? The internet – like excessive sexuality – is often associated with speed; in fact, this characteristic marks it out from conventional museums which move at a much ‘slower’ institutional time. Using the International New Media Gallery’s partially user generated selfie exhibition as an example, this paper will consider whether rapid collecting and sharing of photographic self-representation has more in common with activist protest – and what this might mean for thinking through the potential stakes of internet-based curating.

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