[ISEA2011] Paper: Jasmin Stephens – Interdisciplinarity and Exhibition Making: Some Forecasts


Artists who are working across both intellectual and artistic disciplines are increasingly challenging conventional exhibition formats such that exhibitions now lag behind these artists’ aspirations. With practices that are performative; inflected by technology; participatory; take up user-generated content; posit continuities between physical and virtual spaces; and arise out of a distributed rather than a singular sensibility, they are working in ways that collapse the traditional distinctions between production, presentation and reception of their work.

Once discrete sites, the studio, laboratory, gallery and museum have become the spatial coordinates for an expanded field of relational energies. These energies are unwieldy and dispersed in character, however, and do not observe opening hours. While compelling they are extremely difficult to curate into exhibitions. Nevertheless, artists of all persuasions continue to want to be in exhibitions no matter how critical they may be of the art world’s institutions and audiences are drawn to this enduring cultural form.

This paper argues the need for curators and institutions to attend to the specific needs of interdisciplinary work by pursuing synthesised theoretical frameworks; adopting a more transactional view of audiences; and committing  adequate budgets so that the technological and durational requirements of artists can be met. Curators should continue to borrow from the protocols of cultural forms such as games arcades and theme parks as well as taking on board the presentation strategies used by other artforms. Only, however, if they are interrogating them so as not to forego the qualities traditionally associated with curating. The form of the exhibition is culturally loaded and highly codified but with scrutiny, evolving exhibition formats can continue to do what exhibitions do best which is to link the display of artists’ work to branches of philosophy such as aesthetics and ethics by stimulating curiosity and enjoyment, engendering contemplation, and fostering a sense of history and society.

  • Jasmin Stephens is an independent curator who is currently researching how artists are challenging conventional exhibition formats and how exhibitions are evolving to accommodate their aspirations. She is on the Board of ANAT, Australian Network for Art and Technology, and was recently a Visiting Curator and Asialink Arts Management Resident with Singapore Biennale 2011. Prior to this she was Curator/Exhibitions Manager at Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth, and Senior Manager, Education and Access, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Recent projects include the Bon Scott Project (2008); Yellow Vest Syndrome: recent west Australian art (2009); the sound exhibition Come Hither Noise (2009); Newell Harry, Lloyd Triestino (2010); and Pierre Bismuth (2010).   

Full text (PDF) p. 2312-2314