The Art of Curating Spring 2012 - Outline

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*MCM 1700R - The Art of Curating (CRN:24029)
Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
Spring 2012


Instructor Information

Name: Mark Tribe
Email: Mark_Tribe AT brown DOT edu
Office Location: 155 George Street, Room 101
Office Hours : Tuesdays 5-7pm and by appointment
Campus Box : 1957
Web Site:

TA: Olivia-Jene (Liv) Fagon
Email: Olivia-jene_fagon AT brown DOT edu

Course description

It is sometimes said in contemporary art circles that curators are the new artists. Curating involves a wide range of activities, including research, selection, commissioning, collaboration with artists, recontextualization, presentation, interpretation, and critical writing. This production seminar considers curatorial practice as a form of cultural production. Particular attention is paid to questions of spectatorship, materiality, and institutional context. Readings include Pierre Bourdieu, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Claire Bishop. Students produce curatorial projects, give presentations, take field trips to visit exhibitions, and attend the Brown/RISD Curatorial Lectures.

Course Meeting Time and Location

Tuesdays 1:00pm - 4:45pm (note end time: Banner is incorrect)
Granoff Center for Creative Arts N430

Field Trip

Students are invited to participate in a Saturday field trip to New York City, date TBD.

Lecture Series

Students are required to attend Brown/RISD Curatorial Lectures on the following dates:

Tue, Feb 28, 6:30 pm: Giovanna Borasi
Curator of Contemporary Architecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal
RISD Architecture Dept, 231 South Main St

Thu, Mar 15, 6:30p pm: Pablo Helguera
Director of Adult and Academic Programs, Museum of Modern Art, New York
RISD Museum, Metcalf Auditorium

Thu, Apr 5, 6:30 pm: Spencer Finch
Artist (RISD MFA Sculpture '89)
RISD Museum, Metcalf Auditorium

Thu, Apr 12, 6:30 pm: Robert Blackson
Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, Tyler School of Art, Temple University
RISD Museum, Metcalf Auditorium

Course Goals

1. Develop an understanding of contemporary curatorial practices and related theoretical positions.
2. Produce curatorial projects that interrogate or extend key concepts and strategies articulated in class.
3. Develop skills of critical analysis and communication.


A course packet is available as a PDF or in print form at Allegra, 102 Waterman Street at Thayer: 401-421-5160 or Packets are ordered and then printed for next day pick-up. Allegra is closed Saturday and Sunday, so keep this in mind for the first reading!


Nota Bene: Assignments are not considered complete until they have been adequately documented on the wiki and linked-to from the student work page and from your personal wiki page. Late assignments will not be accepted without prior permission from the instructor.


Each student will give a presentation (using Google Docs)  on a curatorial project select in consultation with the instructor. Possible presentation dates are listed on the syllabus, and will be selected early in the semester. Presentations should be linked from the student work page and your personal page and should be no more than 20 minutes long. They should include a detailed description along with interpretation and critical analysis of the project, and should make reference to relevant readings and other course materials.

March 6: Granoff Exhibition

Working as a group, curate an exhibition of work by Brown and RISD students in the Cohen Gallery and possibly also other spaces in the Granoff Center. The work should be carefully selected and installed, and the exhibition should include object labels, wall texts, signage, and an online catalogue. The goal is to demonstrate the highest standard of conventional professional curatorial practice.

April 3: Curious Propositions

Create a proposal for a Walking the Line project in the form of a 10-minute Google presentation. Your proposal should answer the following questions:

  1. What is the title of your project?
  2. What is your project about?
  3. Why are you interested?
  4. Why should we care?
  5. What form will your project take? Will it be an exhibition? A guided tour? An event? A radio program? A performance series? A book? A website? A Twitter feed?
  6. Where will your project be realized?
  7. What art works, artifacts, events or other material will you include in your project?
  8. Who is your audience?
  9. How will you reach out to them?
  10. What challenges will you face?
  11. How will you surmount them?
  12. How much will your project cost?


  • Show, don't tell. 
  • Include lots of images to illustrate your points, and keep text to a minimum. 
  • Don't read what's on screen. Instead, write up notes for each slide and print them out.
  • Rehearse your presentation to make sure it is no longer than 10 minutes.

May 1: Walking the Line

Working in groups of three, undertake a project that blurs the boundaries between curatorial and artistic practice. Document your project on the wiki, including a 750-1,000 word statement.


Student performance will be assessed in three areas:
1. Quality of curatorial work;
2. Relevance of curatorial work to the concepts and strategies explored in the course;
3. Participation in discussions and critiques.

Attendance and Punctuality

The participatory nature of this course makes attendance particularly important. Plan to attend all course meetings and to arrive on time. Please contact me in advance if you won't be able to make it to a class due to an unavoidable conflict or medical emergency. Students with multiple unexcused absences and/or frequent lateness risk failing the course.

Course Application

Please complete the online course application by midnight on Jan 31, 2012.

Syllabus | Resources | Student Work | Mediography| Main Page of Mark's Wiki

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