Curating the artist-run space: exploring strategies for a critical curatorial practice

  • Daniel Pryde-Jarman

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The once distinct roles of artist and curator have blurred dramatically in recent decades owing to a blending process in both directions, which has led to a turn towards the concept of the curator as producer and author, and the development of the hybridised figure of the ‘artist-curator’. Within my practice-based curatorial research at Meter Room and Grey Area, the 'artist-run space', as both form and content of space, is used as a critical framework for artist-curatorship.

    Artist-run spaces play a significant role in the cultural ecology of the UK, and this project explores the power relations involved in the production, distribution, and consumption of work within the field, in terms of both a cause and effect of a contested relationship with institutions and commercial galleries. Artist-run spaces are initiated for a number of reasons, but this project specifically focuses upon those spaces that identify with terms such as ‘independent’, 'alternative', ‘not-for-profit’, ‘DIY’, ‘self-organised’, and ‘critically engaged’.

    Using strategies for the development of a critical practice, such as Chantal Mouffe’s theories on ‘counter-hegemony’ and ‘agonistic space’ (2007), and Gerald Raunig's concept of 'instituent practice' (2009), this project explores how curatorial practices within artist-curator-run spaces might offer different ways of working, and be used to contest hegemonic structures within the field. I explore the role of critique within curatorial practice, specifically in relation to the struggle for autonomy, the production of subjectivity, and strategies for negating or resisting cooption by the New Institutions of post-Fordist neoliberalism.

    Three curatorial strategies were developed from experimental projects at both spaces, and then explored at Meter Room over a 2-year period. These strategies sought to occupy institutional structures in new ways: through the re-functioning of 'void' space, blending studio and gallery functions within a Curatorial Studio, developing a paracuratorial practice referred to as Caretaking, and re-approaching the concept of a collection-based institution through processes of layering works and their vestiges within an Artist-run Collection. The practice-based research culminated in a 5-month durational project in collaboration with five other artist-run spaces based in the West Midlands region, which explored a strategy for the creation of a new speculative artist-run institution as a dialogical process of instituting values through a critical curatorial practice.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSteve Dutton (Supervisor) & Jill Journeaux (Supervisor)


    • Art museum curators
    • 21st century
    • Exhibitions
    • History

    Cite this