The latest issue of Schweizer Kunst concerns itself with curators. I wrote one article in it, which was published in German. Here is the English Version.
On the other side, we have the "Kunsthalle" and contemporary art museum artworld (as most art museums now behave more like Kunsthallen than like traditional museums). This is the "international jet-set-curator" dominated state of affairs where exhibition-makers in somewhat bureaucratic positions create events wherein they themselves generally are more important that the artists and artworks they show. This is usually accomplished in grant and government-funded exhibition spaces and/or international biennials and the like. The defenders of this half of our model often proclaim that they are inherently more ethical as they do not sell objects. This is blatantly untrue. The economy at large has not been based exclusively on retailing concrete commodities. For example 'futures' are bought and sold, wherein one simply purchases the opportunity to buy farm products later. And there are the myriad "financial instruments" that occupy finance investors, all far more abstract and theoretical than any Conceptual Art work. Kunsthallen and the like are doing something similar when they package and "sell" an idea of art, a trendy theory of production or even simply a name. When Neo-Conceptual or Event Artists write extensive plans and grant applications to get funding, that is known in marketing as "selling yourself," and in fact one is doing that. The idea and the artist are also commodities. In this half of the artworld, official bureaucrats work with art and artists who already fit their preconceived notions or are willing to bend to them, thus making them in essence apparatchiks. It is a benign form of quasi-Stalinist organization. Something I have termed being "Consensus Correct."
Most important, though, let us ask the big question. Do we artists and we curators want the situation as it lays: academicist, mannerist and in general of less and less importance to the world beyond our little enclave?
What shall be done? I have only a very few suggestions. For one, there is a collapse of roles? Well then, collapse your own roles, define yourself. In fact probably ones varied plural selves, "each of those creatures called one's self," in E. E. Cummings' words. Be "multiapplicable," depending on and following the nature of your thought. Be an artist, curator, writer, thinker, activator and more. But stay clear-sighted about this. Do not use muddy overlapping simply to avoid facing criticism ,to evade the utmost (and most dodged) question--- that of quality. Namely, do not use slipperiness merely in order to be intellectually lame. When proper interpretation is valued, a more dialectical relationship with experience results. Mikhail Bakhtin has stressed the way that expressions not only reflect controlling interests but more importantly can be made disruptive, thereby unshackling alternative views. This comes about, he states, by developing a "polyphonic"' or "dialogic" form, utilizing varied and not subordinated points of view. A concern for context and meaning permits one as well to allow multiple approaches to retain their quirky individuality.
What can we artists do to improve the situation? First of all, make extremely high quality art. Particularly with well-honed technical abilities. If you do not now have these skills, this is no surprise as they are infrequently taught in art schools any more. This is known as "deskilling" --- so re-skill. Ability can not be denied nor taken away from us and will outlive many an overblown justification. Second, openly criticize the situation. Step on toes. Stop kissing butt. Third, offer and create constructive alternatives, even perhaps to the point of creating your own artworlds, venues and so on. Attempt to add a positive answer to every correct criticism you level. Fourth, encourage others who do the same. Help build critics and curators and especially other artists who pay attention to what is around them, who have independent minds, who are more than simply careerist toadies. Even support your "enemies" (to an extent) if they finally seem to see the light. Just don't trust them behind your back. Fifth, network in a POSITIVE sense, even internationally. Sixth, leave doors open. Tell the truth, be upset about hypocrisy, but be willing to "let it go" if they improve, if the purveyors of pedantry and their groupies gain a conscience or make overtures toward reparation.