Post-Internet vortex

So you wanna be a curator? The Royal College of Art’s Kit Hammonds weighs in on our shifting artscape
Art | 8 October 2014

Patrizio Di Massimo ‘Soft Corners Lining White’, 2014, installation view, Rowing, London. Photo: Matthew Booth. Courtesy Rowing Projects

This article is part of Young Art Week – Defining a generation

Welcome to HERO Young Art Week – our essential, multifaceted guide to the new wave of creatives working at the vanguard of contemporary art today. Across a dynamic week of digital content, we’re exploring what’s happening at the epicentre of this global community: from the ground up, the artists themselves and the key figures witnessing the evolution of the ideas, trends and movements defining this art generation.

The global artscape is in flux and the role of the curator is quickly shifting. It’s a reality that has an endless domino effect of impact on the way young art professionals are approaching their work – and their careers. Kit Hammonds is a tutor in the Curating Contemporary Art programme at the Royal College of Art, and also works as a freelance curator and writer in London. In light of this complex subject we gave him a few points and let the ideas fly. Here, he reflects on London’s changing art scene, the new ‘taste-maker-curator’ and the challenges of working within today’s analogue-digital cultural vortex.

London's art is richest when it has one foot in another world

“All localities have their advantages and disadvantages,” says Hammonds of London’s art scene. “London is undoubtedly one of the leading cities for contemporary art globally and so there is a natural advantage here to the amount of art one can see, the work being made here, and the discourses around art practice. On the other side the cost of living here is prohibitive for many people to afford the basic studio requirements (even the basic living requirements in many cases) to pursue making their work, rather than pursuing a career. London can be a little introverted as well, a little caught up in its own success to look beyond its own borders.

For me, London is a valuable centre, but the interesting works tend to come more from the periphery where artists have forged their own scenes and communities, counter-cultures in old parlance. This isn’t necessarily geographic, there are peripheries within London too, be it South London, which is finally being acknowledged as a creative and important part of the city; certain political or social groups with emancipatory aims; or simply marginalised communities. Common to the most interesting art projects from this peripheries are their connections to other parts of the globe. London’s beating heart is financial but its art is richest when it has one foot in another world.”

Andrew Lacon ‘Reproduction of Sculpture’, 2014. From Eva Fàbregas and Andrew Lacon at Kunstraum, 2014. Courtesy Kunstraum

Eva Fàbregas and Andrew Lacon at Kunstraum, 2014. Eva was a recent graduate from Chelsea MA and Andrew from RCA. Courtesy Kunstraum

'Post-Internet' art

“I am not sure [political changes] fundamentally change how young artists operate, just how older people relate to what they produce. The recent interest in what is very loosely termed ‘Post-Internet’ art is interesting in this respect. The most cohesive definition of this ‘school’ of art is that it involves artists who consider how the work they make can migrate between different media, and is constructed with an awareness of how it will be circulated in galleries, but also through images and social media. This is not something critical for most young artists, its a natural environment in which they and their culture is situated on a day to day basis. So we can expect to see more work that is accessible and sits as comfortably on a free internet site as it would do as a screening in the cinema.

Politics of free resources

“Although global accessibility and distribution is no longer an issue in the developed economies due to free online services, visibility is increasingly a problem. It’s potentially due to the need for more guidance and ‘selection’ due to the proliferation of the media that there has been a growth in the ‘curator’ as a cultural figure – in some ways to bring order to the chaotic and sprawling cultural production online. From an older perspective there is a politics of free resources which sits in contradiction to this return to the individual voice or taste-maker. But for those starting out today the contradictions are not really there. I would say this is the most interesting area young artists can begin to tackle, a redefinition of relationships of producers and audiences, creativity and the rights of individuals and communities. But this is still a very new change in cultural relations. If there was a clear direction it would feel less of a challenge.”

Eva Fàbregas ‘Untitled’ 2014. Image courtesy Thomas Cuckle at Kunstraum

A strong network is a hollow bell without a solid practice

“For artists, and to a certain extent curators, I would advise them to stop worrying about their careers and concentrate on their work first,” says Hammonds. “One of the disadvantages of living in a commercial city is careers, rather than work, sometimes become the focus of success. Ultimately, its the quality of what people produce which is of first importance. A strong network is useful, but a hollow bell unless there is a strong practice to back it up.”

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