Tuesday, September 4, 2012

various artists: new weird australia / fallopian tunes: gloss & moss (nwa)

Ours is a curator culture. That’s pretty clear by this point. Everyone’s doing it: not just galleries, festivals, labels, and websites like this one but, most of all, you, your sis, and the guy/gal behind this little doozy: on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Spotify, Pinterest, and all their myriad siblings and offshoots. Confronted by the information ocean, taste is the hottest commodity around. Presumably that’s why the activity of curation is increasingly being outsourced to mathematics too? Algorithms mean $$, people! YouTube and Amazon are the paradigms here. It’s all about getting ‘relevant content’ into that sidebar. Hells yeah I like catz! And I think I’ll have that new Sound Studies Reader while I’m at it.

Not everyone’s comfortable about such developments, of course. This recent piece on Pinterest and the curatorial manufacture of desire (I’m paraphrasing!) includes the following little screed from Choire Sicha, co-editor of The Awl: “As a former actual curator, of like, actual art and whatnot,” he writes, “I think I’m fairly well positioned to say that you folks with your blog and your Tumblr and your whatever are not actually engaged in a practice of curation. Call it what you like: aggregating? Blogging? Choosing? Copyright infringing sometimes? But it’s not actually curation, or anything like it…” Ironic really, given The Awl’s own mission statement: “We believe that there is a great big Internet out there on which we all live, and that too often the curios and oddities of that Internet are ignored in favor of the most obvious and easy stories. We believe that there is an audience of intelligent readers who are poorly served by being delivered those same stories in numbing repetition to the detriment of their reading diet.”

Sicha can put the curator on a pedestal all he likes, enforcing this supposed distinction between “actual curators, of like, actual art and whatnot” and the rest, but the fact remains: The difference between such activities will always be one of degree rather than type. Etymologically, the word ‘curator’ derives from the Latin curare, meaning to ‘oversee’ or ‘care for.’ Curation is fundamentally an act of gathering, on the one hand, and of love, on the other — whatever the scale, whatever the format.
But curation is always also creation. It’s just that what’s being created here isn’t ‘content’ so much as connections. Connections matter. A compilation like this one, for instance — jointly curated by Matthew Spisbah of Melbourne label and collective Fallopian Tunes as well as the band Yolke, and Stuart Buchanan, one of the founding members of Sydney’s independent radio-station FBi 94.5 and now of the increasingly formidable New Weird Australia — is the product of a whole series of prior curatorial and connective acts...

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