How can highly curated search scale

Don't preach, act! - Curate more sustainably but how?

lateral thinking by Friederike Fast, curator / October 23, 2020

The International Association of Curators IKT has been meeting since 1973 - every year at a different location to get to know the way colleagues work and to stimulate a global exchange. But in the Corona year everything is different and we have made a virtue out of necessity ...

This year's meeting was actually supposed to take place in Westphalia with a multi-day trip to the Ruhr area to present the region's culture. Instead of traveling by car, train or plane from all over the world, this time we have gathered digitally. 218 participants have registered for the virtual meeting. The technical threads came together at Marta Herford.

Important food for thought

Colleagues from the different countries reported on how they experienced the pandemic. Regardless of whether Slovakia, Australia, Jamaica, USA, Afghanistan, Finland or Colombia - the brief insights into the respective situations quickly opened our eyes. While we have been able to receive numerous visitors here at Marta since May, other curators have been affected by persistent lockdowns to this day. But they also presented their art projects that they have realized despite adverse circumstances.

A pamphlet for a change of direction

With his lecture, Till Briegleb gave an essential impetus for the topic of the congress. He demanded: As curators we should not only “preach” methods against climate change and sustainability in exhibitions, but also act on them ourselves. But how can we make our work more sustainable? The journalist formulated six points that could initiate this change: 1) transparency instead of shamelessness 2) cooperation instead of competition 3) content instead of prominence 4) intensity instead of exclusivity 5) local instead of international and 6) creativity instead of conformism.

Curating sustainably

Three curators who stand for sustainable exhibition practice have continued this topic: Thomas Oberender (Artistic Director and Director of the Berliner Festspiele and curator of the exhibition "Down to Earth" in Berlin's Gropius Bau), Lucia Pietroiusti (Curator for General Ecology the Serpentine Gallery in London) and Farid Rakun (member of the Indonesian artist group Ruangrupa and co-curator of the 15th Documenta in Kassel).

A first step towards self-commitment

As curators, we all live with the contradiction that, on the one hand, our projects can focus on topics such as environmental and climate protection in order to create a broad awareness of them, and on the other hand, our work itself by no means always meets the principles of sustainability. As the hosts of the congress, we didn't just want to paint a bleak picture of our present, we wanted to discuss what we can do to reduce our own ecological footprint. An additional survey was therefore carried out over the course of the two days. Even if this was just a playful approach to this topic, it can still be seen as a first step towards self-commitment. These topics will continue to concern us in further webinars and certainly also at the postponed curators' congress in autumn 2021. But even in Marta Herford's everyday life, the question of more sustainable museum work will now play an even more central role.