Curating Critical Pedagogies

Curating Critical Pedagogies is a Belkin Art Gallery International Research Roundtable devoted to critical practices in contemporary art and curating. The program will bring participants together for a 5-day closed workshop as well as studio visits and conversations with Vancouver-based artists, curators, academics and critics. This is not a public event but a chance to come together to work through inquiries surrounding public engagement in art and exhibitions. We are also opening up the discussion through a two-part public event series - "Curatorial Conversations” - that will provide opportunities to work through inquiries surrounding public engagement in art and exhibitions (details below).

Our Roundtable will examine the pedagogical role of the academic art gallery. Situated within the university, the campus gallery is understood as an ideal space for experiments in curating that foster critical practice. However, since the 1990s, curators and artists have increasingly employed pedagogical models in an effort to operate self-critically and to connect with larger socio-political concerns. This "educational turn" in curating often includes the use of open educational models as exhibition platforms that invite public engagement. As educational practice is increasingly mobilized in contemporary art exhibitions, one is left wondering: What are the best practices in curating and how should the academic gallery situate itself within this context?

We will gather international artists, curators, critics and educators to critically examine the use of experimental educational formats in the practice of art and curating. By challenging the standard framing and mediation of artworks, these programs are an attempt to critique the politics of artistic production and circulation that is increasingly determined by the market. Although this turn in curating presupposes a transformation of the art institution towards self-reflexivity, it is necessary to examine the specificities of these practices and consider whether they do in fact challenge the politics of display. Although some of these earliest initiatives include influential experimental schools organised by artists, the widespread turn towards experimental pedagogies within the gallery itself can often be highly mediated, creating seemingly generic social encounters that institutionalize critique.

Roundtable questions include: What is the relationship between critique and the institution? Can the gallery serve as a site of critical and discursive practice? What does it mean to operate self-reflexively? Can one contest the institution, such as the university or museum, by occupying it differently? Is it possible to mobilize "emancipatory pedagogies" through institutions that have traditionally mediated a particular kind of knowledge? How are publics perceived and produced through artistic models of engagement? These questions will be explored by practitioners working in a range of institutions whose practices engage alternative models of pedagogical engagement. Participants will present their own projects and, by way of discussion and participatory exercises, will collectively explore these research questions. Institutional and artistic practices in Vancouver, including initiatives developed at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, will be considered as case studies.

The topic of institutional pedagogies is significant and timely given the critical debate occurring internationally around the structure of education and approaches to research and learning, addressing both post-secondary and gallery contexts. The potential for art to foster the co-creation of knowledge and provide a site for experimentation is often undermined due to a lack of broader institutional support, or its instrumentalization by the museum. Although there have been some exhibitions and publications produced on the educational turn, incisive and critical writing on the subject is scant. Rather than reiterating well-known narratives provided by established curators or educators who champion their own institutional mandates, this project seeks to engage a diversity of practices in the field, posing questions that are critical and foster the production of new models. Research will be shared publicly in the form of public presentations, a publication and website, providing a catalyst for critical practices in the field long after the Roundtable. 


Dr. Shelly Rosenblum