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Title: Curatorial practice as reflexive inquiry : a case study of an art museum exhibition
Authors: Stretton, Jennifer Ann Rosalind 
Keywords: Collaborative curation;Reflexive inquiry;Exhibition
Issue Date: 2018
Abstract: The exhibition Beauty & its Beasts: has the female stereotype changed?, which forms the focus of this case study, was held in the Durban Art Gallery, 30 March – 28 May 2017 and extended to 31 July 2017 (Appendix 1). The gallery has a colonial and patriarchal history and the exhibition sought to overcome public associations with this past by inviting engagement from traditionally marginalised sectors of society. To this end, Giddens’s view of reflexivity is applied in this study to curatorial practice as reflexive inquiry into public and community issues around feminism.
Collaborative curation was seen as promoting reflexive inquiry, and involved the conceptualisation of feminist themes, selection and sourcing of artworks, the planning of gallery space for maximal visitor engagement with the exhibition, and the elicitation of public response.
The methodology detailed the ways in which these curatorial interventions provided avenues of curatorial inquiry. The gallery space was seen as an ethnographic field in which the experiences, attitudes and beliefs of visitors could be observed. The use of a mannequin on which visitors could pin notes recording their responses allowed privacy and therefore authenticity. As a result visitor responses showed strong engagement and were often confessional and cathartic. It also became evident that visitors experienced the exhibition in richly varied, intersectional ways. Intersectionality spoke of a differently positioned and located community for whom a variety of influences, such as sexuality, spirituality, subjection, gender, class, race, age, motherhood and belonging, all connected with feminism. With hindsight, the collaborative and reflexive planning of the exhibition had taken an intersectional approach to curation, using themes such as Abjection, Dolls, The Usual Suspects, Smoke and Mirrors, Spirituality & Ritual, Who’s Looking at Whom?, Unspoken, and A Mother’s Love.
The inquiry concluded that an intersectional approach is appropriate for the curation of exhibitions dealing with controversial and unresolved social issues. Further, the study bore out the notion of reflexivity through collaboration. Recommendations are made for extending the study through community research and the archiving of exhibition data as a curatorial resource.
Description: Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the Masters of Fine Arts Degree, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa. 2018.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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