Ammerländer Heerstraße 114-118
26129 Oldenburg
Building A3, Room A3 1-102


Katja Molis, M.A.


Becoming a Curator? Forms of Subjectivation in New Curatorial Training Programmes in Germany

In my PhD-project, I focus on the subject-form “curator” as well as on current practices of subjectivation of curators in the field of fine arts. In a praxeological perspective, I will inquire how curatorial practice is communicated and defined within new curatorial training programmes and which relationships to the self are accentuated in this process, i.e. which new and old techniques and forms of subjectivation are influential. Following Michel Foucault, I understand subjectivation as a process of a permanent interlacing between technologies of power and the self, of self-governing and governing through others. The project's goal is to show, how the subject-form “curator” and the field of curatorial practice are constituted today and how they change – furthermore, to focus on the potentially ensuing effects on the field of fine arts and the positioning of curators.

The “curator” can be described as a new subject-form, which, in the second half of the 20th century, emerged from other forms, such as the “custodian”, the “gallerist”, the “critic” and the “artist”, and since has taken further developments and alterations. At the crossroads between institutions, sponsors, artists and visitors, the curator functions like a regulator of in- and exclusion, deciding about questions such as: 'What can be considered as art?' 'Who is presented as an artist and to what kind of audience?'  This powerful position in the field of fine arts and the still very strong effects of distinction, which museums and exhibitions yield, make curators particularly interesting for analyses in the fields of cultural studies and subject theory. One has to ask: What are the ways of governing the self and others, suggested to curators in the process of their subjectivation? Which conceptions of the self do they practically acquire and in which ways?

Since the 1990s, a continuing professionalisation within the field of curating can be observed – at first abroad and since 2009 increasingly in Germany, too. Next to network meetings and workshops, master degree courses and further education courses in curatorial practice are offered. The new presence of issues such as project-management, marketing and sponsoring is striking. These changes tie in with those, museums and the art field experienced in the last decades. Many museums were partially privatised and re-structured for marked-based acting. Works of art, artists, collectors and curators are more and more globally connected and permanently on the move. At the same time, concepts like “curator”, “to curate” and, with them, curatorial practice extends to other social and cultural fields and do not remain limited to museums and exhibitions. The PhD-project will provide an exploration about how the subject-form “curator” is (re-)constituted against the background of the aforementioned changes. By means of four case studies, different formats of (further) education in curatorial practice will be investigated in a combination of discourse analysis, qualitative interviews and participant observation. This can clarify the demands, which the subject-form “curator” and their variants pose on currently upcoming curators and which techniques and practices of the self are connected to it. In addition to that, it can be shown, in which ways individual curators use given scopes of interpretation and how they not only contribute to the reproduction, but also to the transformation of the subject-form.

(Changed: 20 Apr 2022)