Photography – in both artistic and applied contexts – has not only become one of the key visual media of our time; it has also created a multidimensional playing field for its practitioners and recipients. For many years now it has been quite normal to see images from the realms of commercial or fashion photography in museum exhibitions and collections, and photography has become an integral part of art-historical discourse. Furthermore, interdisciplinary visual studies no longer distinguish between advertising, media or journalistic images, camera phone photography or artworks from analogue or digital sources. As curators, we must keep abreast of and reflect upon these radical developments and complex interactions. At the same time, however, traditionally popular themes of photography such as the depiction of flowers or animals can also provide fascinating insights into contemporary visual expression if one takes the time to look at them more closely.
My interests extend beyond the realm of photography, however – especially considering that many artists’ work defies easy categorization or definition in terms of media. Spatially extensive approaches, creative interventions and provocations have become common features of art, and not just in the context of museum exhibitions. What is important is not only the medium or material used, but also the issues that are being addressed by contemporary art and culture, as well as the intentions behind the various approaches. I believe that the curator’s role is to accompany the artistic process and contribute ideas. While we may be able to elaborate, comment upon and emphasize particular formal or thematic aspects, we should never present ourselves as some sort of ‘better’ artist. Ideally, however, exhibition organizers (like film-makers) not only enable visitors to sharpen their focus, they can also create whole illusory structures around particular issues – so that art exhibitions become a source of sensual and intellectual pleasure.
(Matthias Harder, 2011)