Gaskill, K. (2010) In search of the Social - Toward an understanding of the Social Curator. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Since the 1960s contemporary art has seen a paradigm shift occur that has rejected the individual perspectives of modernity and begun to consider the value of connective and participatory aesthetics. New process-led and technologically-based practices have shifted the emphasis away from the art object and onto the art process, rendering the approach to making art a much more connected and relational one. In parallel, the curatorial role has radically shifted since it was first popularised in the 1970s. With less emphasis on the archival and more on the mediation and dissemination of practices, the role has risen to the forefront of the contemporary art arena, yet the actual methods of curation have not evolved in relation to the practices they curate, revealing an acute lack of curatorial convention for exhibiting and disseminating process-led practices.

Employing the term Social Practice to actively define this ever-evolving body of process-led works, this research is situated at the juncture between the social outputs of reciprocal artworks and the curator’s role in exhibiting them. In establishing curation as a practice and situating it at a well-founded and clear point of perspective, this thesis argues that a clearer understanding of curatorial practice will in turn formulate an active and more integrated way of working. Focussed on the curation of media and performative practices specifically, and through four practical case studies: Becoming Electric, Fast and Slow Networks, Scatter Projects and Turnstile, in curatorial and exhibition practice, a dynamic form of curatorial practice is made manifest. This Social Curation seeks to contextualise fully the potential of exhibitions as structures of communication and exchange, maximising social interaction and engagement across curatorial approach, process and outcome.

This thesis engages performative and participative approaches in its development of a research bricolage, revealing through practice how curation can function in an open and relational way. It contributes to methodical innovation through its use of a real-life initiative to test and ground the research strategies, and to the fields of artistic and curatorial research through original and responsive strategies towards evolving exhibition formats. Overall it has sought and revealed the means to both situate and question new ways of thinking and methods of working within the dynamic of the everyday.

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