Distributed Curatorial Working Group


Session Title:

  • Working Groups

Presentation Title:

  • Distributed Curatorial Working Group



  • ‘Container Culture’ is an exhibition of art works that travel from different port cities in Asia-Pacific in standardized containers to San Jose to be presented alongside each other; almost like a conference of containers. In an ironic reversal of the tendency of conventional travelling exhibitions to convert every new space into an empty container, this exhibition invites curators and artists from each of these port cities to convert a container into a culturally-specific space. The exhibition conceptually draws on and hopes to deliberate on some of the following notions:

    a) Ports – as liminal spaces that have traditionally and still negotiate the relations between countries – and this draws on and elaborates a whole set of related concepts of commerce, exchange values, customs procedures, border anxieties, legal trade vs illegal traffic, etc..

    b) Containers as Spaces- as instantiations that mimic the white cube as an empty ‘container’ even while potentially enabling the subversion of the white cube’s immobility by their portability.

    c) Transportation – the notion of artworks traveling in space and time between countries and hopefully bringing some of the culturally specific elements of one place to another – and of course the related concepts of location, cultural specificities, speed, proximitiy and distance.

    d) Networks. Transporting shipping containers from one port city to another maps a network of economic relationships. By specifically curating new media installations, Container Culture investigates the effect of virtual networks to create real cultural connections.

    Some Issues to Deliberate on and Discuss at the Summit:

    1. One of the original intents of this project was to enable a model for and instance of distributed curating where a single curatorial concept would be differently realized, locally presented and then subsequently travel or become connected to a final destination where the separate realizations of the concept would be presented side-by-side. However, the logistic difficulties and different funding levels of the projects in each city meant that several aspects of the original plan had to be abandoned. Despite the fact that we were not able to realize the original plan, the project as it has evolved is equally interesting. It will be useful then to begin to look at what other models of distributed curating could be evolved in the future. What are the peculiar challenges and possibilities of such curatorial projects? How does one negotiate the specificities of location in the development of such projects?
    2. The original concept of the project also focused on engaging different aspects of the container; its vocabulary of standardization, its spatial restrictions and its portability. What are some of the specific ways in which some of the projects have engaged the specificities of containers as exhibition spaces?
    3. An important decision in the project was where to place the containers. While the original idea was to place it in the Caesar Chavez plaza and exploit its openness and public accessibility, due to several reasons we could not use this space. We eventually are now working to show it in the South Hall; an interesting space that has the sense of a huge container albeit a differently shaped one. What are the strategies to work with temporary exhibition spaces? How do and should these spaces connect to the more permanent ones?
    4. What are some of the curatorial issues of each of the containers? What are the issues and concerns of the various works in the containers from the different port cities? How do these works benefit from or resonate with the other works and containers in this exhibition?


  • Working Group Members:

    • Deborah Lawler-Dormer (Manager): Executive Director, Moving Image Centre, Auckland, New Zealand
    • Soh Yeong Roh (Manager): Director, Art Center Nabi, Seoul, Korea
    • Alice Ming Wai Jim (Critic/Curator): Art Historian/Curator, Centre A, Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    • Steve Dietz: Co-Chair, Director, ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
    • Gunalan Nadarajan: Co-Chair, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Penn State University, College of Arts and Architecture, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
    • Zhang Ga: Professor, New York Institute of Technology, New York, New York, USA
    • Ellen Pau
    • Johan Pijnapple
    • Yukiko Shikatas