Curator Mirjami Schuppert: “curatorial ethics is a contested concept”

Curator Mirjami Schuppert: “curatorial ethics is a contested concept”

Curator Mirjami Schuppert is convening a workshop on curatorial ethics in collaboration with Void Gallery in Londonderry. Mirjami spoke to us about curatorial ethics and the goals of the workshop. 


What constitutes curatorial ethics? 

That’s one of the central questions of the workshop: what do we mean by curatorial ethics? It’s a broad topic, that’s why I’ve invited speakers who approach it from a range of perspectives. For instance, nynnyt, a Finnish curator duo, approach curation, as a practice, through feminism and intersectionality. Nanne Buurman, owing to her academic background, deals with the topic more theoretically. Irit Rogoff is likewise an important researcher and writer. Annie Fletcher, Director of IMMA, brings extensive institutional experience to the conversation. 


How did you become interested in this topic? 

For the practical part of my PhD in curating I worked with The Finnish Museum of Photography on a project called Archive Play. That project allowed me to study the role of the curator as a facilitator of artistic interventions. That’s where my interest in curatorial ethics began, although I didn’t deal with the topic explicitly in my thesis. 


How has interest in curatorial ethics developed over recent years? 

Curatorial ethics isn’t a particularly popular topic of discussion because of its contested nature. We often engage in discussions of curatorial ethics without actually using those words, for instance when we talk about diversity and representation in an exhibition, we’re also inevitably engaging in a discussion about curatorial ethics. The various dimensions of curatorial ethics are constantly debated in contemporary art.


What about the audience? How can ethical considerations be conveyed to the audience? 

They’re not necessarily very visible. I’d like to think that an ethically carried out project contributes to the overall quality, but it’s difficult to quantify. Aspects like fair compensation might not be visible in an exhibition, however you’ll probably be able to tell if a curator has discussed with the artists about how they would like their artwork to be presented in relation to other works. Ethical considerations that underlie an exhibition won’t necessarily be evident to the audience. You can’t really tell for example if a curator has required all materials to be sourced according to sustainable principles and practices. Then again, it might not even be relevant from the perspective of the audience. 


What are you hoping to have gained and learned from this workshop? 

I hope the workshop will encourage further conversation. The idea is to create a space for the invited speakers and participants to discuss. I hope the workshop leads to new guiding questions that lead to new lines of enquiry and debates. After the workshop, the discussion will be continued in a special issue of OnCurating


The event was originally supposed to take place as an in-person event in Londonderry but has subsequently been moved online. Has this changed your approach? 

Moving the event online definitely changes the nature of the workshop. It’s great that it enables an international audience and it’s tempting to open it up into a webinar format for a greater audience numbers. Despite moving the event online, we don’t want to compromise the workshop format and we want to retain the capacity to facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas. 


The curatorial ethics online workshop takes place on Friday 19 March. To find out more about Mirjami’s work, click here


Image: Hertta Kiiski

Text: Volter Rechardt

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