‘How do you preserve the work of a curator?’ It’s a question that has long interested pre-eminent information age exhibition-maker Hans Ulrich Obrist. A new digital destination, created in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture and For Your Art, attempts to answer it.
‘We strive to create an oscillation between the exhibition and the respective venue,’ says Obrist. ‘The exhibitions change places, but each place also changes the exhibition. This website is, at last, an ever-evolving archive for my exhibitions on the move.’
‘Ways of Curating’ – the virtual ‘venue’ for Obrist’s work – is an experiment in idea organisation. Intended for researchers and the curious, the site is navigable both chronologically and thematically.
'Ways of Curating', by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Google Arts & Culture and For Your Art
Browsing in a conventional ‘Timeline’ view, visitors are accompanied by multicoloured scribbles drawn across the screen in the curator’s handwriting. We visit a student Obrist in his 1991 ‘The Kitchen Show’, in which he welcomed people into his home in an attempt to ‘organise an exhibition in an unspectacular setting’. We follow him through his vast exhibition network as creative director of the Serpentine Galleries, and flick through the paper scraps of his ongoing ‘Post_’ project, which collates handwritten notes from renowned art world practitioners.
If choosing to search thematically, visitors can scroll between conventional categories like that of ‘Architecture’ and ‘Literature’, along with those with more nebulous titles, like ‘Rules of the Game’ and ‘Protest against Forgetting’ – themes that provide a framework in which to piece together Obrist’s pervasive curatorial philosophy. ‘It is important that such work – similar to the work of artists – is preserved’, says Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture, on his reasoning for supporting the project.
More than just a personal preservation tool for Obrist, this is an artful way of approaching public archiving. Acting as both database and toolbox, the information layered into ‘Ways of Curating’ is available to all, and has the potential to grow, adapt and change with Obrist’s shifting vision.