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Emma Gradin

Published date
19 Jun 2018

Slow Works – Deceleration as Curatorial Paradigm

Chelsea College of Art

Curatorial policies currently favoured by public institutions such as Tate, the V&A and the National Gallery rely on sound bite information devised by the curator for ready interpretation, with the aim of making art more accessible to diverse audiences. My own curatorial practice has convinced me that this approach, while justified in its concern for accessibility, tends to speed up and compact the initial encounter with art, shortening the time of ‘not-knowing’, which crucially allows us to appreciate those often contradicting and hard-to-grasp qualities essential to aesthetic experience.

My research challenges the sound bite approach while upholding its concern for accessibility by proposing deceleration as a new paradigm for curation. A ‘decelerated’ exhibition presents visitors not with foregone conclusions based on theoretical argument but with a structured wealth of contextual material informed by artistic practice and process, enabling audiences to cultivate curiosity and engage in self-directed exploration, on their own terms and in their own time. This asserts both the autonomy of the artworks and the integrity of the visitor against the hegemony of expert opinion.

My critical approach builds on research on curatorial strategy and aesthetic experience while taking cues from artistic practice, with special emphasis on two formative sites: the studio and the art school. In keeping with my focus on art making (the nexus of work and experience), my inquiry unfolds along two complementary series of case studies: one consisting of observations and conversations with artists over a sustained period of time; the other analysing visitor behaviour in exhibitions. These inform experimental methods of exhibition-making that encourage visitors to look longer and more closely and posits the gallery as a counter-space to the accelerated temporality of capitalism ruling our everyday lives.


Dr Jo Melvin

Dr Daniel Sturgis