Performing my Passport


27th Annual SAVAH conference
Visual dialogues: South Africa in conversation

University of South Africa, Pretoria, 5-7 July 2012

Conference Paper

Bringing curators from abroad raises the question: Do you support more artists from a particular region by sending them a few at a time elsewhere, or do you support more artists in that particular region by bringing in curators from elsewhere? [Chris Fitzpatrick 2011: 111]

Compared to the decade-long establishment of artistic residencies, international curatorial residencies—as a strategy of contemporary curatorial practice—emerged only recently. This paper investigates how international curatorial residencies engage with the concept of visual dialogue.

Using practice-led research, this case study emerges from my recent curatorial residency at the Bag Factory Artists' Studios in Johannesburg in 2010/2011. Following the Bag Factory's carte blanche and desired "outside view" from a Europe-based art historian, the residency resulted in the exhibition project Alterating Conditions. Performing Performance Art in South Africa at the Bag Factory and GoetheonMain in January/February 2011.

The current rather vague framework of curatorial exchange offers both challenge and opportunity. On one hand, the international "mobility of the studio visit" allows the opportunity to work on a visual dialogue beyond the comfort zone. How could a curatorial residency programme serve as a catalyst of collaborative practice that provides insight into local working conditions and mutual practices? On the other hand, occasionally pursued by cultural institutes or ministries of foreign affairs, dominant models for transcultural dialogue entrench the North-South binary. Above all, shouldn't the cultural producers themselves-both artists and curators-scrutinise the level of responsibility that a visual dialogue entails?

And finally this paper asks: What if cultural producers participating in a conversational dialogue are first and foremost visual arts professionals jointly working in a locational context of the art field, rather than mere representatives of their home country or continent? How could a curatorial dialogue go beyond the imagination of "performing my passport"?

Session 6: Curating and transnational collaboration

Friday 6 July 2012, 4:00-5:30 p.m.

Venue: Conference Room A

Chair: Royce Smith, Associate Professor in Art History, Wichita State University


Kai Lossgott: Trust and Telepresence: Online trans-national collaboration and curation of artists' film

Claudia Marion Stemberger: Performing my Passport

Anitra Nettleton: Exhibiting "Africa" in Africa; an impossible conundrum?


© — Claudia Marion Stemberger 2019