Curatorial practice is repeatedly re-living the age of its importance. Curator being a scholar, entrepreneur, storyteller, fundraiser is continuously expanding his role. It’s no longer just about being an expert, making exhibitions, establishing a dialogue with the audience. It is about evolving and taking over a role of creator of new narratives and grantor of accessibility.
Curatorial activism nowadays is addressing the issues of excluded narratives and methods, making the ethics of curating a very powerful tool. It is not limited to working with artists just by the collaborative and communicative approach. The context in which the artworks are being displayed is also a form of resistance. A white cube can feel quite alienating. Sometimes architectural style, associated with traditional exhibition spaces, manifests exclusion. And occasionally it’s just hard to focus on specific forms of art, when there is an overload of diverse media. Curators are more and more responsible in making art public. Ethical curation helps to build a fair and representative art world, which is able to break beyond the institutional walls.
Robbie Schweiger is a curator working a lot with the phenomenon of site-specificity, which he always takes into consideration while developing his projects. Currently he is working with the theme of context once again. The Full Moon project is reframing video art, which is usually exhibited in the gallery or museum space and moving it to cinemas, thus making it possible for general public to get in touch with art in an alternative way.
Robbie, could you tell us a few words about your background and about your curatorial practice? How would you describe your approach to curating?
During study I did a one-year internship at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam as assistant curator. After I finished my studies, I knew I wanted to go back to curating and started to initiate freelance exhibition projects and did research for and worked on projects at different art/cultural institutions.
I like long-term collaborations with artists and colleagues in which concepts can be developed together over a longer period of time. I like to keep these ideas open for different perspectives and outside influences that shape the project. No finished narratives. And no predetermined results. Not shunning incoherence, complexity and polyphony. Showing the porosity of knowledge production, rationality and control, stressing the multiplicity of truth, identity and reality.
Do you visit a lot of exhibitions to inspire yourself and become familiar with new curatorial practices (if there are as such)?
I always give myself a hard time for not attending more events. I think I do this on purpose though, as it can easily get too much and distracting. There is so much, it can make me insecure. I get most inspired by reading and friends, artists, colleagues around me.
One of the many characteristics of your practice seems to be the phenomenon of site-specificity. You obviously worked a lot with the context during your exhibitions First Person and Dell’Uomo. Could you comment on it?
I like to collaborate with ‘sites’ as well. For me it is interesting when the work(s) and the exhibition engage in a dialogue with the site and become one with the context, an assemblage of artworks and space. I cannot imagine a situation in which the project’s site and its specific characteristics would be disregarded.
Did you have a reference point from other exhibitions you knew or was this a new experimental approach?
I can’t name specific other exhibitions right now, but this approach is not new. The nice thing is – it is different on every specific site.
Currently you are working with the theme of the context once again, reframing the video art, which is usually exhibited in the gallery and museum spaces, and moving it to the cinemas thus making it more available to the general public. What is the idea behind the Full Moon?
Why not watch video art like cinema films: focused, relaxed and as part of a fun night out?
We love video art ourselves, but in museums or galleries it sometimes feels a bit like a punishment: there is one uncomfortable wooden bench with smudgy headphones, you always fall in halfway and you rarely have time to watch all the videos from start to finish. In addition, museums are almost always closed in the evenings – when you have the time and fancy going to the movies. We believe this is a shame. Artists often work for years on videos, which can then only be seen for a few weeks and then disappear in depots. Artists, museums and galleries have hard disks full of beautiful works, but they are rarely shown. A missed opportunity, because not much is actually needed.
So the site ‘cinema’ creates different conditions for watching video works, simultaneously altering the works and how they are being perceived.
How do you curate the selection of the video art works?
Depends. Sometimes I see a work that blows me away. It reminds me of another work. I share it with my Full Moon partner, it reminds her of another work, and we have a new Full Moon edition. We also keep a list with works we saw in different places. Cross-connections naturally arise. We have also had certain themes or collections as a starting point.
Who are your partners and where do you plan to hold the Full Moon in the future?
Freelance curator and writer Marian Cousijn is my Full Moon partner. We curate the program together at cinema FC Hyena, the nicest cinema in Amsterdam. We are really happy to have The Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK) as a partner. We work with museums, galleries, academies, and other institutions. We also work with artists that make new work for Full Moon, and for the fifth edition later this week we work together with artist Wael el Allouche who will do a lecture-performance in which he creates a live video together with the audience and the characteristics of the space. The coming months we will participate in different festivals in Amsterdam. For now we have a program till May 2020 at FC Hyena. We will see afterwards.
Do you plan to expand the geography of the project? Any franchising plans?
Yes, why not! It is not so difficult. Any town with a cinema would do.
Can you try to predict an impact of Full Moon?
People really like it and it is picked up by the media and other institutions that want to work with us. It is a different way to get in touch with art. Going to the cinema is somehow easier and more fun than going to a museum. We hope people get used to taking the time to watch video-works outside the cinema too.
Learn more: http://www.fullmoon.art/
Also published on Medium.