Conceptual frameworkk

“sciences [...] are constructed by a common move - the translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment and exchange.”

Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto

We often reduce art to a problem of codes, and curating to a practice of translating these codes. Whether it is in the production of an exhibition, accompanying an artistic practice, or in the 'mediation' between institution, artist and the public, what the art system demands from the curator is that they 'translate' the artistic and make it readable. As if it were an 'exact science' at the service of symbolic consumption, the curator is required to interpret, organise, exhibit, communicate; in short, simplify the complexity and heterogeneity of the sensible. Following the criticism that feminism would make of science starting in the 1980s, in its quest to 'translate' the world to single and universal language, it is time to accuse curators of reductionism. There are increasingly more courses, workshops and professional fora offered so that specific bodies can learn the techniques and tools necessary to carry out this 'translation', reducing the potential of mediation to disciplinary control.

In this laboratory, we propose that another translation is possible; one that denies the possibility of perfect communication, of total access, of a unique code. On the one hand, we will distance ourselves from the usual association between translation and word, translation and text; focusing on how artists and other forms of life resist the translation of the sensible into a mere discourse. What type of translations does drawing do? And embroidery? And a flower? How does a body translate? And a micro-organism? We will ask ourselves these and other questions in a dialogue with artists and other curators, visiting exhibitions, looking at images together and through occasional readings. Issues of identity, language, transmission and representation part of DSS2016EU's programme, specifically the Lighthouse of Voices, will be approached not as stable categories but as the result of chains of translation. On the other hand, facing an idea of curating as an individualistic and meritocratic practice, this laboratory proposes experimenting forms of collective curating; we want to move from the usual identification between curator and author - a single voice, a privileged voice -, and experience curating as an organ that speaks in several voices. Likewise, we will avoid issues related to a supposed ontology of curating; questions such as What is curating? What is its origin? What are its limits? What is its specificity? are ruled out deliberately, as they are considered to be a false problem. More than understanding curating as a discipline with clear origins and limits which are sometimes surpassed, we propose thinking about the curatorial as a field in constant formation, with a focus on praxis.

And in the same way that feminism demanded another science, another interpretation, another translation, we demand a practice of curating committed to partial, situated, temporal positions. In the words of Bruno Latour, “no translation could last long enough to keep the aggregation of interest from falling apart”. The curatorship that we propose avoid subjecting heterogeneity to instrumental control and assumes that translation is always a movement of temporal links and dispersion.

Aimar Arriola, Tamara Díaz Bringas, Sabel Gavaldón.

February 2016.