March 02, 2013

Between curatorial and urban practice

Panel discussion, LSE

In recent years arts practice has shifted towards new modes of collaborative production while digital platforms continually offer new ways to distribute and engage with the arts. As performing and visual arts organisations are transforming relationships with audiences, more varied roles have emerged for curators beyond exhibition making and collections management. Curating has evolved to embrace audience-generated content. Many curators see their role more and more as a cultural producer.

The panel examined an evolving definition of contemporary curation, and its relationships to the cities and people around them. Is an architect who arranges and designs spaces or the city a curator? Is a curator an architect of sorts producing spaces of exchange and remediation? What about the work a writer or researcher does in ‘curating’ arguments and ideas? Finally, how does the increasing importance of the everyday, of the street, and of shifting political geographies of art practice mark curation today?

For the last 4 years, LSE has been hosting an annual Literary Festival, designed to explore the links between the arts and social sciences,providing a space for thought, discussion and analysis which is unique in London, encouraging interaction between authors and academics on a global stage. This Festival forms part of the LSE’s prestigious public lecture programme, which in the past few months alone has seen 6 Nobel prize winners speak at LSE, including Aung San Suu Kyi and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The 5th LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival took place from Wednesday 27 February-Saturday 2 March 2013, with a programme of events exploring the theme of ‘Branching Out’, partly in celebration of the Festival’s 5th Anniversary, traditionally marked by wood, but also as a homage to the 300th anniversary of the birth of Denis Diderot, who developed the figurative system of branches of human knowledge. Key ‘branches’ explored include ‘Narratives’, ‘Innovation’, ‘Changing World/Revolution’ and ‘Uniting the Branches of Knowledge’. The Festival included talks, readings, panel discussions, film screenings and performances, as well as creative writing workshops and children’s events.

All events in the Festival were free and open to all- attracting a vibrant mix of students, alumni and members of the public. Over the last four years speakers have included Andrew Motion, Ben Okri, Colin Thubron, Lionel Shriver, Elif Shafak, Michael Rosen, Claire Tomalin, Jonathan Powell, Jeanette Winterson, AS Byatt and many more. The 2012 Festival brought thousands of people to LSE, and on top of this the Festival events were audio recorded and put online as podcasts for free download. LSE rich media downloads, including podcasts, now add up to around 2 million each month. LSE events have nearly 27,000 followers on Twitter and over 50,000 likes on Facebook. The Festival was featured as a highlight across the UK media in the run up.