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Sasha Burkhanova

Published date
21 May 2019

The (co-constitutive) ethics of a contemporary art curator: towards the modes of (ethical) practice

College: Central Saint Martins
Supervisors: Dr Joanne Morra, Dr Lucy Steeds

Introduction

This practice-based PhD examines a contemporary art curator as an ethical subject, and regards ethics from the viewpoint of philosophy and curatorial practice. Criticising the notion of ‘professional ethics’, understood as a set of generalised, externally provided principles that govern one's action, this PhD establishes an alternative perspective on ethics as co-constitutive with the practice of curating (which I coin as ‘co-constitutive ethics’).

Context and background

‘Co-constitutive ethics’ is conceptualised as an ongoing investigation into how one becomes a curator and what actions facilitate such becoming, while dwelling on the relationship of entanglement between a curator and her ‘others’, both emerging through the art process (and not existing prior to it): artworks, artists, audiences, concepts. ‘Co-constitutive ethics’ corresponds to the modes of practice that are developed when one aspires to measure the distinct possibilities and limitations of one’s position as a curator; to assess the transformations that are inherent in one’s practice — and interrogate the techniques that one develops to facilitate them. ‘Co-constitutive ethics’ is developed by taking specific ethical theories and claims proposed by Michael Foucault (“technologies of self” [1998]), Karen Barad (“entanglement”, “intra-action”, [2007]), and Rosi Braidotti (“sustainable ethics” [2006]) — and placing them within the context of contemporary art curating.

My own curatorial practice, integrated in the research methodology, develops around the question: ‘What are my ethics’?’ — that takes into account the reality of curatorial work on the overlap of the prescribed, institutional code of practice, and one’s own position. Within the framework of this PhD, I aim to create an appropriate setting for monitoring and investigating the phenomenon of curatorial practice on the intersection of these two ethical systems that are likely to be in conflict with each other — while aiming to establish a new perspective on professional ethics for an art curator that emerges from within these conditions.