Ways of Curating

Hal Foster writes:

The Surrealists liked to proclaim that everyone who dreams is a poet, and Joseph Beuys that everyone who creates is an artist. So much for the utopian days of aesthetic egalitarianism; maybe the best we can say today is that everyone who compiles is a curator. We curate our favourite photographs, songs and restaurants, or use numerous websites and applications to do it for us. Although ‘curating’ promises a new kind of agency, it might deliver little more than a heightened level of administration, as cultural interests are packaged as ‘curated’ consumption. Often enough this packaging is algorithmically automatic: ‘If you like that, you’ll love this.’ Such ‘curating’ suits a postindustrial economy in which our main task, when it is not to serve, is to consume. And when we curate songs or restaurants, or Spotify or Eater do it for us, what do we actually produce? As ‘cognitive labourers’, we manipulate information, which is to say we curate the given, and this compiling often presumes a good amount of compliance. Who among us considers what is signed over when we click ‘I agree’?

(LRB 4 June 2015)

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