For me curating not only means assembling works of art that address a given theme, but also setting a theme oneself and initiating a productive dialogue among the individual exhibition contributions. Ultimately, curating means communicating artistic work.
However, "setting a theme" does not mean working without reference to what is happening in the world. Artistic works should not serve as illustrations of one’s own theories and ideas – that would be rather like the zero point of curatorship. Instead, setting a theme and then curating an exhibition about it demand precise prior observation of what at any given time can be deciphered from artistic production. With this knowledge one can set a theme – as if in a moment of crystallization – in relation to which different works can then be assembled.
But that alone, as already indicated, is not all that is required of the curator. The idea of exhibitions is to establish a productive dialogue between the various works which, ideally, will shed light on different facets of a theme in a wide variety of media. This can be achieved if, for instance, circumstances allow lines of sight to link individual exhibits – as when one is lucky enough to work in the flexibly adaptable space of a venue like the PHOENIX Hall in Dortmund. If one succeeds in getting the works to offer mutual commentaries on each other this dialogue can give rise to more and different insights than that which a work could individually articulate on its own.
I have been artistic director of the Hartware MedienKunstVerein since 2005. Founded in Dortmund in 1996, the HMKV’s strong thematic focus on the realm of media art has made it a unique institution in Germany.
Nonetheless, media art here is not viewed as a technologically determined genre. Rather, today this heterogeneous field is characterized by a specific form of contemporaneity which allows for the use of a broad range of media. The contemporaneity of media art is constituted by its thematic and conceptual exploration of our highly media and technology saturated present, or of the growing media-driven condition of the world, which due to its increasing dependence on new technologies is undergoing radical change. The exhibitions at the HMKV are characterized by their broad definition of media art and by the way they consciously position media art in the context of contemporary art.
Inke Arns (2007)