Interview to Sebastián Vidal Mackinson, Argentine curator and researcher in the speciality of contemporary arts. He has been recently awarded with the first prize for Young curators - arteBA 2015, with his proposal Europa. Viaje, paisaje, cartografía.
Why do you think that certain facets of contemporary art almost always imply the impending presence of an outlining, contextualising or citing text next to a work of art?
The power of the image and visual aids is important. They possess a volatile and porous feature that perhaps cultivates a certain condescension towards the public insofar as its ability to comprehend an image. Said image is a visual story contemplated in an exhibition space or in a two-dimensional medium. As such, I think that text has a pedagogical proposal which tries to direct one's interpretation. Even so, I find the relationship between the text and image very interesting. The faculty of imagination for both types of discourse in their relationship is one of my most frequent dilemmas when working with the 'exhibition' medium.
In your modus operandi, would it be possible to conceive an exhibition that does not include curatorial text?
Boris Groys states that contemporary art can be understood as a practice of display and it becomes confusing when one distinguishes the figures of the artist, and of the curator. I recognise that this diffuse limit is very much a part of my work. I have an agenda to create an exhibition that implies the arrangement of the pieces in space, setting the works out in relation to their presence, working with the lighting, editing as to engage the different variables that are found in the montage's assembly. I have had two extremely rich and dissimilar experiences. One, in collaboration with Juan Diego Tobalina for his solo exhibition 'La Configuración Verosímil' (A Plausible Configuration) in the L'Imaginaire gallery of the Alianza Francesa; and two, with Federico Baeza as co-curator for 'Soberanía del Uso' (Sovereign Use). Apropiaciones de lo cotidiano en la escena contemporánea (Appropriations of everyday life in a contemporary scene) in Buenos Aires. In both cases I drew a little closer to the concern that I share with others.
Do you think that there are certain aspects in curatorial practice that are in danger of becoming clichéd?
Presently the figure of the curator is a widespread trend. There are proposals that do not reflect on their own format and, as such, the most damaging cliché that I fear is the scant analysis of the concept of image, its various statutes, and the very characteristics of a device, so massive and mobile, as is that of the ‘exhibition’.
At the time of conceiving an exhibition, do you think more of the common art enthusiast, or of the connoisseur?
The common art enthusiast interests me more because all of us are at that level.
What do you think about the increasingly frequent rankings established by certain curators?
I like to look at what they indicate. Curating within the labyrinth of the cultural industry fascinates me.
Can you name a stand-out curator in your line of work?
I have always wanted to be as interesting as Raimundas Malasauskas.
An exhibition that you remember in particular? Why?
Un escalier d'eau, curated by Natalia Valencia in 2013 at the Palais de Tokyo. The approach that governed the choice of the works, the design of the montage work, each one of the pieces, and the manner in which they were exhibited, were very inspiring. It was a medium-sized exhibition of videos and an object that were exhibited in a series called Nouvelles vagues, where there were more than 14 exhibitions. I really enjoy working on the ethereal aspects of the identification and learning process via any type of image such as a child watching a play, a dancer rehearsing, or an actor learning his next role. This mobile, porous and loving quality which occupies the imagination in the creation of knowledge was very well presented. The moments of full absorption, the distractions, the noise, transmission and acquisition facilitated seeing extremely well the moment that when one merges with an image, converses with the same, the endorsement with one's own imagination, and what the image projects.
Interview published in Draft Magazine.