Curatorial Practices GISP - Creative Arts Council grant application

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Short Description of Project:

The project we are proposing is an exhibition of the media's representations of the "war on terror," which while not explicitly tied to the War on Iraq, will most likely revolve around the current war. The project will be an exhibit that we will curate with works by students from both Brown and RISD, as well as from local artists and artists in the greater Northeastern area. We would also like to include a few pieces by well-known practicing artists in the New York area. The exhibit will be held in May at a space that has yet to be decided.

Through this exhibition, we would like to address the idea of a "war on terror," which is a complicated concept that addresses the idea of a permanent war, or continuous warfare. The definition of "terror" is open to interpretation, as is the identification of a "terrorist." The media's representation of "terror" is closely linked to the interplay between constructed images including pop culture and war, which exist in our society today. Pop culture is undercutting reality, creating a fabrication of narratives, such as that of the "War on Terror." Through this show, we would like to present art that deals with our perception of America's current international political state and the mediated images that we are using to understand it. As a result, the exhibition will include a majority of pieces involving appropriated image material and recontextualization of that material in the space of the exhibition.

There are a number of issues that we hope will unfold through our exhibition. We would like to look into the discourse of war and power that comes with the use of the term "War on Terror." Calling something a "war" today, whether it be the "War on Drugs," or the "War on Poverty," or the "War on Terror," give the government an unruly amount of power. The connotations around the word "war," including power, fear and violence, have very specific consequences in our society today. The saturation in the media of the "War on Terror" and the current state of war in Iraq has created an interesting reaction among citizens, desensitization to the abundance of material and the means of representing it. For example, we would like to include works by well-known practicing artists such as John Kessler and Jeremy Deller, who are both currently working on art that addresses some of these issues.

We will also take up the technologies of representation and distribution of such material, and how the increasing technological advances change our interpretation of war and terror. For example, the use of cell phone cameras to capture the London Underground bombing in 2005 and the relation between the "Nokia Effect" and the "War on Terror." Finally, we will look at the structural theory underlying networks and how such theories can be ties to the omnipresent threat that is networked and untraditional. The networks that are deeply ingrained among terrorist groups today, and the idea of assymetrical warfare, is closely paralleled by the series of media networks, such as Fox, CBS, and CNN, that filter and mediate our understanding of terror. These networks instill a constant sense of fear among American citizens today, which is ultimately becoming dulled and recontextualized in terms of popular culture.

While the majority of the works will address the topics above, we would also like to include some alternative works. For example, counter-images that give us a less traditional view on war could clarify through juxtaposition. We have been looking into such works as Deb Scranton's War Tapes, a documentary based on footage shot directly by soldiers, as an example of such work. Furthermore, we would like to address misrepresentations or simulations, as well as just representations of the "War on Terror." By incorporating these into the diverse body of work, we hope to offer a well-rounded and informed opinion on media and the "War on Terror."

Using the context outlined above, we are seeking out both commissioned and existing art, as well as art that is currently in the process of completion. We will be approaching student artists at both Brown and RISD, as well as local Providence artists and artists from the Northeastern area who are creating art that deals with the media and its representation of war in contemporary society. As mentioned above, we are also interested in approaching artists such as Jeremy Deller, John Kessley, and Deb Scranton. We feel that this is a possibility because of liaisons in the New York art world and in the Brown community. Ultimately this experience will be a dialogical process with the artists, and a learning process for ourselves

Shane's edits 

We are proposing an exhibition of art that addresses the media representations of the "War on Terror." While not explicitly tied to the current war in the Middle East, the show will focus on contemporary notions of warfare and its physical, psychological, social, political and cultural manifestations.

The exhibition will include work by Brown and RISD students, Providence based artists and artists working in the greater Northeastern area. We would also like to include a few pieces by established practicing artists in the New York area (we feel that this is a distinct possibility given our liaisons to the New York art world). We are seeking out both commissioned and existing art, as well as art that is currently in the process of completion. The exhibit will open in May in a space (likely in downtown Providence) that will be confirmed in the near future.

Through this exhibition, we hope will explore the idea of a state of "permanent war" or "continuous warfare." The media's representations of "war" and "terror" are, one may argue, constructed through the interplay of a multitude of images circulating in our culture, ranging from popular iconography to declassified military video recordings. Through this exhibition, we will strive to present art that examines our mediated perception of America's current international political state within a global context and the artistic tactics that are being used to confront, shift or circumvent the power of these images. We expect that the exhibition will include many works that use appropriated and recontextualized material from our visual culture.

There are a number of issues that we hope will surface in the exhibition. We hope to offer a diverse group of work that, as a whole, questions the effect of mediation on our perception of the "War on Terror."

First, we plan to select works that explore the discourses of war in society -- such as the ubiquitous phrases "War on Drugs," "War on Poverty," "War on Terror," etc. -- and how these discourses create and enforce power structures.

Second, works in the exhibition will hopefully address the media saturation of the "War on Terror" which has, to some degree, desensitized us to images and discussions of war.  (We would like to include works by well-known practicing artists such as John Kessler and Jeremy Deller, both of whom are currently working with some of these issues.)

Third, we will select works that explore the technologies of representation and distribution that "show" us war, and how increasing technological advances have changed our interpretation of war and terror (for example, the "Nokia Effect," in which cell phone cameras are used to document events such as the 2005 London Underground bombings).  

Fourth, we hope to exhibit works that look at the structural models underlying contemporary representations of warfare, including network theory, and how such structures are implicated in the creation of a national or even global "omnipresent threat." Networked structures underlie terrorist organizations, asymmetrical warfare and the media networks (Fox, CBS, CNN, etc.) that filter our understanding of war and terror.

Finally, we hope to include works that provide alternative or counter-images of war that oppose those delivered by mainstream media. We have looked into works such as Deb Scranton's War Tapes, a documentary based on footage shot directly by soldiers. Additionally, projects could address misrepresentations or simulations of the war, which subvert dominant representations.

What is the ultimate goal/aim of this project?

The ultimate goal of the exhibition is to bring together artists and audiences from the Brown and RISD communities, as well as the larger Providence and North Eastern areas. The exhibition will create a dialogue among these different audiences about the "War on Terror" and the media's depiction of current wars  the War on Iraq, a universal issue that will serve as the link between these groups. The War on Iraq is a very pressing and current issue that has impacted all of our years at Brown, and is still present today. This exhibition deals directly with our vision of the War in Iraq as a pressing issue that has impacted all of our years at Brown, and of current warfare in general, which is mediated for us by the media. The pieces in the exhibition as a whole will serve will come together to  a comparative look at artists' interpretations of the "War on Terror," and because of the unique backgrounds of each artist, will hopefully offer the viewer a more diverse understanding of the effects of interactions between war and media. Similarly to the goals of the Creative Arts Council, our proposed exhibition will bring together a general audience of artists, students and local citizens and use contemporary art to address larger world issues that are currently impacting our society.

The exhibition is the final step in a series of studies and projects in curating that are taking place throughout the semester in our GISP, Practices in Curating. As the role of the curator becomes prominent in the production and exhibition of art internationally and locally, more critical analysis of the theory behind this practice becomes important. This course offers a critical examination of curatorial practice with special emphasis on the selection and presentation of exhibitions in contemporary art, the programming of public galleries and the commissioning of art for public and online spaces. The course includes a series of weekly seminars in the theory and practice of contemporary curating, which ultimately address the role, influence and strategies of the curator in various venues of contemporary art practice. The GISP is based on a class proposed by Mark Tribe for the future Creative Arts Center, and he is our advisor this semester.

How will you learn/benefit from this project?

Although our GISP readings and seminars are beneficial tools to learn about curating, experience is ultimately the most important aspect of such an art-based practice. Therefore, a large part of our time this semester will be centered on the planning and execution of this event. By choosing a theme and a space, and collaborating with local artists, we hope to learn the techniques of curating. As seniors and juniors interested in entering the arts after graduation, this is an incredible opportunity and a valuable experience for personal and academic growth in the arts and art administration.

Who is your intended audience?

Both the space and the theme of the exhibition, Media representations of the "War on Terror," appeal to a wider inter-disciplinary audience. The exhibition will take place within walking distance of Brown and RISD's campuses, but will most likely take place at a local, non-university venue. While the audience will primarily be students from the local high schools and colleges, we would like to hold the exhibition off-campus so that it is more inviting for local Providence and Northeastern audiences as well. Furthermore, we hope that the subject of the exhibit will attract art and art-history students, but also those interested in semiotics, political science, history and international relations.

Explain why this proposal merits a grant over $1,000:

We have carefully reviewed the projected costs of this project, and because of the many aspects of this exhibition, $2000 is a reasonable forecast for the budget. Most importantly, we want to make sure that we produce an exhibit that successfully addresses such pressing and substantial issues and also does justice to the artists who have loaned us their work or produced work specifically for our show. After analyzing our own goals and the costs of such an event, it seems that there is no way to cut the budget further without sacrificing quality.

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  1. Feb 20, 2007

    Anna Hermann says:

    I like Shane's revision, so I began my own edits with his text so that we have m...

    I like Shane's revision, so I began my own edits with his text so that we have more of a progression. I made very few, and somewhat minor edits in red. I just thought it most important to address the exhibition in a way which expresses that it IS happening, not we will try to do this or we hope to find this.  Just to come across as confidant as possible without being overly assured.

    Otherwise, I think it looks good in terms of being concise and explaining a theme that we ourselves are still in the process of defining.  Lets try and pull the finalized draft together tonight (Tuesday) so that we can email it to Chira tomorrow.  Thanks Shane and Taylor.