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Işık Barış Fidaner

Again, this impenetrability is not simply a matter of ‘complexity’, but of reflexivity: the new opaqueness and impenetrability (the radical uncertainty as to the ultimate consequences of our actions) is not due to the fact that we are puppets in the hands of some transcendent global Power (Fate, Historical Necessity, the Market); on the contrary, it is due to the fact that ‘nobody is in charge’, that there is no such power, no ‘Other of the Other’ pulling the strings – opaqueness is grounded in the very fact that today’s society is thoroughly ‘reflexive’, that there is no Nature or Tradition providing a firm foundation on which one can rely, that even our innermost impetuses (sexual orientation, etc.) are more and more experienced as something to be chosen. How to feed and educate a child, how to proceed in sexual seduction, how and what to eat, how to relax and amuse oneself – all these spheres are increasingly ‘colonized’ by reflexivity, that is, experienced as something to be learned and decided upon. Is not the ultimate example of reflexivity in today’s art the crucial role of the curator? His role is not limited to mere selection – through his selection, he (re)defines what art is today. That is to say: today’s art exhibitions display objects which, at least for the traditional approach, have nothing to do with art, up to human excrement and dead animals – so why is this to be perceived as art? Because what we see is the curator’s choice. When we visit an exhibition today, we are thus not directly observing works of art – what we are observing is the curator’s notion of what art is; in short, the ultimate artist is not the producer but the curator, his activity of selection.

Ticklish Subject, page 336.

In the contemporary art enterprise, the curator seems to play a role uncannily similar to that of Christ: is he not also a kind of “vanishing mediator” between the Artist-Creator (“God”) and the community of the public (“believers”)? This new role of the curator in the last decades hinges on two interconnected processes. On the one hand, works of art themselves have lost their innocence: an artist no longer just spontaneously creates and leaves to the other the interpretation of what he does – the reference to the future (theoretical) interpretation is already part of his immediate artistic production, so that the temporal loop is closed, and the author’s work is a kind of preemptive strike, dialoguing with, responding in advance to, its future imagined interpretations. These potential interpretations are embodied in the figure of the Curator; he is the transferential subject for the artists themselves – he does not simply collect preexisting works, these works are already created with the Curator in view, their ideal interpreter (more and more, he even directly solicits or employs artists to execute his vision). On the other hand, it is a fact that, at today’s large exhibitions, the broad public no longer has the time to “slow down” and really immerse itself in the vast collection of works – the problem here is not so much that they do not get what is going on, that they need some explanation, but that today’s artworks can no longer be directly experienced with the intensity that bears witness to a strong impact of the work itself. So, for this broad public, the Curator is not so much the interpreter as the ideal passive viewer who was still able to “slow down,” to take time and experience all the works as a passive viewer. The public then plays the intellectually well-versed spectators who, while having neither the time nor the ability to fully immerse themselves into the proper passive experience of the work, exchange witty quasi-theoretical remarks or opinions, leaving the direct experience of the work to the Curator as the Subject Supposed to Experience the work of art.

On Belief, page 163.

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