It recently occurred to me that curatorship is philosophy for the material world. For a long time, I have known that the way that we understand the world is through objects. Whether it is an ancient Egyptian monument or through away plastic bottles. Each and every item that survives beyond its immediate use tells a story.
What I have always understood is the Curators have a unique say in whether an item is deemed important or not kept or discarded. Collected or disposable, recorded or overlooked. If we look at objects in the 100-year time frame, everything becomes fascinating. Everything changes, especially in the age we are in. Cassette tapes are collectables, vinyl is coveted and art pieces these days have even become instantly disposable on purchase, even at a high sales price. How is that possible? What does it say about us that defunct technologies are one of the most craved things on the planet? How many people are out there right now looking for white MacBook to reconfigure? It’s wild what objects can tell us, about fashion, about culture, about people and even economies. Objects even have the ability to tell us about resources and extraction industries as mining? Can you imagine in a thousand years from now that someone might be breaking down your old phone to find out the specific configurations of its components and where they all came from? That somehow something as mundane as an old phone might offer an incredible source of information as the 21st-century human condition. That it might tell us of trade routes and lost civilisation. That we can use these things to look back through time. I’d love to say that curatorship is all themes and colours yet it is so much more than that. It’s away of seeing both into the future and back into the past. That the things that we collect now will tell future generation what was important, the things that we valued and the things that spoke to our souls. That beyond pen and paper there was a human story to be told.
It’s so interesting to me that even now the white middle-class male might still be top of the pecking order for art collectables and that despite our technologies and global connectedness women are still a novel feature. That land right is barely a footnote in our planetary evolution. That climate change is hardly on the agenda. Then sometimes I look forward to telling my children that I grew up in the age of plastic. That our generation will be remembered far more for our wasted than for what we valued.
That’s wher the Radical Curator comes in. What if we valued people more than objects? The human story over things? Life over the inanimate? The Earth over resources? After all it the only true resource we have.