Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNotes de lectureToutes les notes de lecture en ligne2018Harald Szeemann: Selected Writing...

2018

Harald Szeemann: Selected Writings ; Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions

Maria Bremer
Harald Szeemann: Selected Writings
Harald Szeemann: Selected Writings

Los Angeles : Getty Publications, 2018, 406p. ill. en noir et en coul. 24 x 17cm, eng

Index

ISBN : 9781606065549

Sous la dir. de Doris Chon, Glenn Phillips, Pietro Rigolo. Trad. de Jonathan Blower, Elizabeth Tucker

lire aussi

Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions
Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions

Los Angeles : Getty Publications, 2018, 406p. ill. en noir et en coul. 31 x 25cm, eng

Index

ISBN : 9781606065594

Sous la dir. de Philipp Kaiser, Glenn Phillips, en collaboration avec Doris Chon et Pietro Rigolo. Préf. de Thomas W. Gaehtgens

lire aussi

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1Since the acquisition of Harald Szeemann’s extensive archive, the Getty Research Institute has fostered academic and curatorial research on the Swiss curator (1933–2005). From the seven-year-long engagement with his holdings stem a touring exhibition, complemented by a meticulous reconstruction of Szeemann’s 1974 show “Grandfather: A pioneer like us”, as well as two newly published volumes: an exhibition catalog, edited by Glenn Phillips and Philipp Kaiser with Doris Chon and Pietro Rigolo, and an English translation and re-edition of selected writings, supervised by Chon, Phillips and Rigolo. These novel outcomes aim to re-interrogate Szeemann’s relevance for both fields of contemporary art and exhibition history. In exhibiting a figure which has come to stand for the very invention of the curator as an independent exhibition-maker; in studying, translating and publishing his archival holdings, it is the relationship between the curator’s biography, his exhibition practice and writings that takes center stage. Taken together, these operations challenge us to reflect on the reasons driving his current reconsideration. To the historian’s eye, what Szeemann’s vast holdings capture–beyond the contingencies of his life–are crucial changes in the art field, during decades of expansion and professionalization. Even as it connects him to these structural transitions (strengthening his image as the pioneer of independent curatorship, a profession which emerged in the 1970s along with the rise of the temporary exhibition format), the catalog insists on the idiosyncrasies of Szeemann’s position. Under the title “Museum of Obsessions”, the publication gathers eight original essays along with an impressive apparatus of plates and a series of interview excerpts. Highlighted is a specific timespan in the curator’s career, one that follows his tenure at the Kunsthalle Bern, and the artistic direction of documenta 5. After supporting the process-based and post-minimal tendencies of the 1960s, in the 1970s and 1980s Szeemann developed a series of research-based essay-exhibitions at the relative margins of the art field, that included subjects ranging from family to cultural history, and the historical avant-gardes. While freelancing for his fictional “Agency for spiritual guest labor”, he looked at the present through an increasingly anachronic lens. Focusing on these years of emotional engagement and exhaustion across and beyond institutional infrastructures, the catalog grounds Szeemann’s specificity in the cosmos of “intensive” artworks, attitudes, exhibitions, and themes which grew around his persona, ideally enclosed in the conceptual place of a “Museum of Obsessions”. Mainly, the essays revolve around his impossible museum (Chon), the exhibitions “Grandfather – A pioneer like us” (Mariana Roquette Teixeira, Phillips), “The bachelor machines” (Rigolo), “Monte Verità: The breasts of truth” (Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev), as well as “Tendency towards the Gesamtkunstwerk: European utopias since 1800” (Megan R. Luke). While scholars Chon, Teixeira, Rigolo and Luke proceed with philological rigor, at once providing fresh insights into the curatorial strategies and histories of ideas and gender entangled with the exhibitions’ themes, curators Christov-Bakargiev and Phillips play the game of professional self-reflection, respectively reactivating Szeemann’s profile as both visionary documenta leader and outsider, and the genealogy of male pioneers he created with his personal manifesto, the “Grandfather”-exhibition. Thereby, the registers of philology and homage are entwined in the volume, while the conversation around the Szeemann-myth–whose facets have long been reflected upon in discourses of critical curating and curatorial studies–is largely left out. Beyond Beatrice von Bismarck’s essay, which proposes to consider the curator’s distinctive practices of self-referencing and authoring of exhibitions, in connection with immaterial labor forms in the knowledge-based economy, rather than his individual personality or interests, relatively little attention is given to Szeemann’s involvement with the trends of globalization, biennalization, and re-nationalization. Although the curator worked with large-scale and market-driven formats, as well as with national exhibitions in his later career, only Kaiser’s essay specifically attends to this period, elaborating on the monumentalizing aesthetics and the ahistorical regime of his sculpture exhibitions. Szeemann’s struggle for an expography freed from academic constraints, rearranged and enacted as his signature feature reverberates through his use of language as well.

2Incongruous, errant and esoteric; circular, apodictic, whimsical and yet disconcertingly earnest, his writings range from catalog essays to interviews and poetry. Translated with great attention to detail by Jonathan Blower and Elizabeth Tucker–with special emphasis not only on Szeemann’s neologisms, but also on the subtleties of his Swiss-German use of German–the edition of Selected Writings supports the focal points set in the catalog. Besides including the manifesto-volumes “Museum of Obsessions” and “Individual Mythologies”, which were published in German with Merve in 1981 and 1985 respectively, only a thin selection of further writings, collected under the slogan “From vision to nail” accounts for the later life of Szeemann’s exhibition enterprise. What this take on the Swiss curator interestingly points at, although perhaps unintentionally, is the widespread reinforcing of affective economies today. In particular, Szeemann’s case shows to what extent “intensity” shifted from representing a political attitude of resilience, to fuelling both the neoliberal creativity imperative and nationalist rhetoric. And yet, returning to Szeemann’s paradigm of unconditional dedication today, following these publications’ valuable inputs, might help reformulate the question whether and how affect could be made viable in the current regime –beyond economic mobilization, and exploitation.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Maria Bremer, « Harald Szeemann: Selected Writings ; Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions », Critique d’art [En ligne], Toutes les notes de lecture en ligne, mis en ligne le 27 novembre 2019, consulté le 16 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/critiquedart/37442 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/critiquedart.37442

Haut de page

Auteur

Maria Bremer

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Le texte et les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés), sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
  • Logo Les Archives de la critique d’art
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search