Curatorial Strategies

The work of the curator is predominantly a research process, involving critical reflection, investigation, and discovery. The evolution of site-specific art and site-oriented approaches to curating have seen an effacement of the distinction between curator and artist. "The contemporary curator’s approach varies from being a collaborator, co-producing the artwork via the medium of the exhibition; to being a cultural critic providing textual/visual annotation; to laying a semiotic base for transcultural translation in the practice of art that myst be nothing less than critical at the site of its production as well as within the global contemporary."1

Since the 1960s curatorial strategies have been influenced and shaped by “Ahistorical” (Artempo) approaches, Cabinets of Curiosities, artist's interventions into non-art museums, post-colonialism, transnationalism, globalism, multiculturalism and indigeneous cultures, institutional critique, the notion of a gesamtkunstwerk, art historical revisionism, the recurating exhibition histories, collectives, dispersion and activism.

The expressed aims of FRIDAY EXIT to embrace curatorial experimentation and divergent artistic practices might contribute toward a demystification of the role of mediation in exhibition-making. An effort has been made to promote exchange and a non-hierarchical method of working between the group and participating artists. Self-organised exhibitions, open-calls and collaborative structures informed by a collective curatorial methodology ensure an experience beyond the gallery frame or the art institutional setting. ‘Hosting’ exhibitions, performances, screenings and discussions allow the works themselves to determine their significance in the space and the involvement of students committed to a democratic, co-operative and reflexive curatorial approach to exhibitions could safeguard an identification of the significant, critical and meaningful in contemporary art.

FRIDAY EXIT emerged out of a cultural landscape dominated by institutions, where even OFF spaces are affected by an institutional condition. The alternative to the institution in Vienna is found in more than twenty independent, artist-run exhibition spaces including Mo:e, Ve.Sch, Ausarten and HHDM Hinter Haus des Meeres. These spaces support the emergence of curatorial practice as a paradigm for experimentation, and FRIDAY EXIT neatly fits into a call for collective cultural action. The terms of practice maintained by Secession, MAK, TBA21, Kunsthalle Wien, 21er Haus, Kunstraum Niederoesterreich and das weisse haus, reveal the structured elements of an institution. There is still scope for curatorial experimentation within the institution; however the independence of OFF spaces allows a constant repositioning of the artist, audience and curator. In order to maintain a constantly changing, evolving, and experimental approach, FRIDAY EXIT has from the outset purposed to renegotiate its strategies each term. For the first term, the founding members of the collective extended an open call to students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. A program of eight events curated by the collective took place during the first two months including Lucas Zallmann’s works on paper and Konea Ra’s sound intervention in Wishful Exit; an installation and performance by Julie Gufler and Lea von Wintzingerode titled SUPERFRONTAL; Jürgen Kleft’s documentation of the research and design for a tent; Paran Pour and Miriam Bethmann’s Greek themed evening called Weiße Rosen Für Athen; Andreas Perkmann Berger and Rainer Stadelbauerm’s light installation AUTONOMIE DER LINIE ODER ZUR AUTONOMIE DER LINIE; a group exhibition curated by Eva Kadlec; and Richard Nikl and Ivan Pérard’s installation L+H+C. The first term’s focus was on interdisciplinarity and collaboration was evident in the collective’s selection of proposals from respondents to the open call already associated with the Academy. The second term opened with an exhibition interrogating the function of the curator, ‘hosted’ by Jessyca R. Hauser, Mads E. Hvidtfeldt, Olivia Jaques and Marlies Surtmann. A team of ‘hosts’ involved the collective in the co-authoring of exhibitions. The second term marked a shift in approach from a passive selection of proposals during the first term’s open call to an active involvement in the selection of artworks according to a theme or concept devised by small teams. During FRIDAY EXIT’S third term, the exhibitions were presented as group formations, where any relationship between objects in the space would either be accidental or indicative of a shared ideology and broader strategic remit. The open-call was expanded to other institutions beyond the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna including HUFAK – Off-space at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Friedl Kubelka School, Film School Vienna, and the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden. This decision to expand the network of artists involved in FRIDAY EXIT beyond the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna is crucial for the collective’s emerging autonomy and constant renegotiation of its relationship with the institution. The fourth term was marked by a move of FRIDAY EXIT from the Bauernmarkt location in the first district to Thelemangasse in the seventeenth district in close proximity to an already established OFF space, mo.ë contemporary. Four exhibitions were formulated based on a set of priorities considered by the collective to be evident in the submitted proposals of artwork.

Both the Bauernmarkt location and the new premises in the seventeenth district are distinctly experimental art spaces yet share vague resemblances to commercial galleries like Christine König in Schleifmühlgasse and Galerie Emanuel Layr on der Hülben. With some extraordinary exceptions, many of the off-spaces in Vienna adopt a white wall, polished concrete aesthetic and FRIDAY EXIT is no stranger to this form. The constant changes in approach however, suggest that the collective is committed to curatorial experimentation and a quest to break new critical ground. Vienna has been host to some exciting curatorial experiments that are interesting precisely because of their negotiation of unconventional space. The museum in progress founded by Prof. Kathrin Messner and Josef Ortner in 1990 has forged its way into public space primarily through interventions in print media, on billboards and the facades of buildings. The public location of art spaces like VALIE EXPORT: Kubus EXPORT- Der Transparente Raum have the potential to impose an experience of contemporary art on a broad public. Jasper Sharp’s series of installations in the Theseus Temple at Volksgarten offer an experience of contemporary art to an unsuspecting public. Large numbers of tourists flood through the park in the summer and enter the austere temple; many unexpectedly happening upon site specific installations of contemporary art. The risk of FRIDAY EXIT becoming an institution itself is heightened by a tendency to draw its public almost exclusively from the Academy of Fine Arts.  The establishment of FRIDAY EXIT at Bauernmarkt in Vienna’s first district was a response to the need for collective co-operation, curatorial experimentation and self-organisation. The relationship that FRIDAY EXIT has to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna will remain significant despite any attempt to distance itself from the institution. Efforts made toward delimitation will be thwarted by an inevitable involvement in the institution. It is nevertheless, mutually beneficial for the institution and the self-governed collective to be constantly renegotiating the terms of their relationship. Art is absorbed by the conditions of its display and acquires value in terms of cultural representation through an affiliation with the institution. The relationship between institution and collective offers opportunities and access otherwise unavailable to students, emerging artists, curators and performers. 

The work of the curator is predominantly a research process, involving critical reflection, investigation, and discovery; ultimately exposing particular ideological and political inclinations. Co-authored and co-operative group exhibitions open a new discursive space through complex, divergent, and dialectical relations between the curatorial collective, artists and collaborators. Disparate interests existing in the collective must be accommodated, making way for multifarious ways of engaging in a potentially trans-cultural discourse. The single-authored exhibition is a complex expression of persuasion thinly veiling a politicised attempt to uphold established artistic and cultural identities. Any hidden curatorial components of an exhibition are revealed, exposed and evaluated through a polyphonic exchange, inter−subjective practice and a generalised shift toward relational group work. A democratic approach to making decisions about which artworks are exhibited sees the convergence of artistic and curatorial practice and a destabilisation of institutional bonds. FRIDAY EXIT occupies a critical position in the Vienna art scene in its persistent focus on curatorial experimentation and can measure its success by looking at the public it engages.

1 Kapur, Geeta. ‘Curating in Heterogeneous Worlds’ in Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson (ed.) Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. p. 186