What Is the Curatorial Doing?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Following the first wave of institutionally-reflexive practices and further successive waves of institutional critique, in the last fifteen years, cultural institutions have reshaped their sociopolitical functions. Alongside these changes, the sector has also been shaken by successive funding cuts and a steady process of corporatisation and privatisation, which are wrapped in catchphrases such as “sustainability.” While identifying the challenges that cultural institutions face today and the latest developments in curatorial practices, Carolina Rito observes the opportunities for new epistemic functions for museums and kunsthalle-sized organisations. In museums, epistemic functions have long been associated with the knowledge produced around the objects purchased, collected, and conserved by the institution. However, according to Rito, the question of knowledge production in curatorial practices needs to be sought elsewhere, away from such collections-based expertise. Her text argues for a curatorial practice that mobilises its own modus operandi (via juxtaposition and spatiality) to create new meanings. Designed as a platform of aesthetic and intellectual exchange, the curatorial activates research questions through discursive and exhibitionary practices and through longitudinal and interdisciplinary projects. It is in the practice of programming itself that research is conducted and advanced. Given the nature of the curatorial, these are always polyvocal processes, with shared authorship, engaging with and generating audiences-in-the-making. In addition, Rito takes the opportunity to reflect upon the research and collaborative affordances of the Public Programmes and Research Department at Nottingham Contemporary—Rito was Head of this Department for three years (2017–2019). Through examples such as the CAMPUS independent study programme, The Contemporary Journal, and the Department’s research strands, the text explores the importance of fostering open-ended and critical programming with a “virtually unlimited social reach,” in spite of the current climate in the sector. Knowledge production in cultural institutions not only also takes place beyond collections, moreover, it has radically changed the way we think of the development of research qualities in curatorial and artistic practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstitution as Praxis
Subtitle of host publicationNew Curatorial Directions for Collaborative Research
EditorsCarolina Rito, Bill Balaskas
PublisherSternberg Press
ISBN (Print)978-3-95679-506-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • the curatorial
  • collaborative research
  • New Institutionalism
  • Curating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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  • Institution as Praxis: New Curatorial Directions for Collaborative Research

    Rito, C. (ed.), Balaskas, B. (ed.), Phillips, A., Downey, A., Cerón, C., Pringle, E., Moon, J. Y., Krysa, J., Bouteloup, M., Birchall, M., Sternfeld, N., Vaughan, S., Mahlouji, V., Toto, A., Guha, P., rakun, F. & Bartolomeus, L., Mar 2020, Berlin: Sternberg Press . 272 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportAnthology or Edited Book

  • Introduction

    Rito, C. & Balaskas, B., Mar 2020, Institution as Praxis: New Curatorial Directions for Collaborative Research. Rito, C. & Balaskas, B. (eds.). Sternberg Press , p. 8-29 22 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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