Curation Confusion

The Archive Series by David Garcia Studio, 2007

The Editor and the Curator (Or the Context Analyst and the Media Synesthete). Tomorrow Museum’s post adds a bit of heft to a subject we’ve blathered on about with increasing frequency these past 18 months or so (and we’re linked within it, so apologies for the circular nature of this post). The TM post notes the increasing prevalence of the term ‘curator’ in the digital realm, in job ads and blogs and culture in general. ‘When did curate stop meaning, as the OED says, “to look after and preserve” and start describing the retweeting of links and SEO optimization?’

The point that ‘we are all curators now’ has been made frequently in the past, but so far there hasn’t been much in the way of analysis as to what this should actually mean. TM points out that in the old days, there was another term for this: ‘editor’, a profession that seems in danger of being ousted by the sudden influx of those with curatorial tendencies. The danger is that ‘curators’ seem to have lost sight of useful skills like semiotics in the headlong rush to present something, even if that something is little more than a cut and paste collection of other things, held together by a loose strand of thought (ahem).

TM’s conclusion is that all this curating is another form of making, a new collage culture that can, if done the right way, push forward our understanding of objects, events or things. ‘Like remix culture, having a collage mind is essential in making something standout on the web.’ All too often, though, the collage mind is little more than a mental memory dump. Editors imply a selection, semioticians imply a subtext, curators imply an object but maybe what we’re really looking for are collectors.

By chance we recently found Public Collectors, a site ‘founded upon the concern that there are many types of cultural artifacts that public libraries, museums and other institutions and archives either do not collect or do not make freely accessible’. That’s the tumblr, the main site is Public Collectors, where you will find such singular pursuits as the Vanilla Ice Museum, a collection of (very nsfw) Adult Comics from Mexico, Bibles Stolen from Hotels and the Documentation of Swiss Medicine Chests. The above image is from Archive Series, by David Garcia Studio.


Archigram, Computer City Project, Dennis Crompton, 1964

The Archigram Archival Project. Where to start? A fantastically in-depth collection of the imagery generated by Archigram between 1961 to 1974. Marvel at works like the Soft Scene Monitor: MK1, ‘a prototype home access unit to communications, audio-visual entertainments and information technology’, or this house conversion in Primrose Hill, or the ‘Bottery‘, a ‘speculative proposal for replacement of architecture by series of small mobile robots allowing free use of amenities in the landscape in L.A.W.u.N. (Locally Available World unseen Network) anti-building and pro-landscape series’, and nearly 200 others, as well as the group’s publications and their many shows.

By translating this oeuvre into the contemporary website format, those behind the AAP (Kester Rattenbury, Murray Fraser, Clare Hamman and designers Filip VIsnjic and Pierpaolo Di Panfilo) have outblogged the image blogs, flooding a genre reliant on constant visual stimulation with imagery that is simultaneously avant-garde, archival and inspirational. It’s a mental short circuit to be presented with so much at once, especially when so many of these projects are predictive of the myriad complexities of the modern condition.


The below image is by Jan Mankes / a set of creepy found images; amazing that no-one has made an art monograph out of these yet. Give it time / digging around: Your Old Crap Website, unpicking old corporate web strategies in a rather fish-barrel-shotgun like way. Interesting, nonetheless / more negativity: The World’s Ugliest Statues and Awful Library Books / from Spacecraft Films, a masterful view of Apollo 11 as the main engines ignite in ultra-slow motion.


wallpaper’s Handmade in Italy exhibition / COS has a ‘weblog’ called Things / X-Plane is available on the iPad / Archiseek is stuffed full of interesting information and archives, such as these grand Victorian houses, originally published in The Architect magazine in the latter half of the C19th / Hatetris, Tetris for masochists / Enough Plumbers, Mario for multiple personalities / Indicajive, photography by Aysha Banos / The Fortune 500 Cover Legacy / The Rotarian magazine started looking great in about 1930.

Jan Mankes, Landschap, links bomen, in het midden een takkenbos (1917)

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