25 January 2016
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The use of the word almost infuriates me, but I’ll settle for exasperation. Truthfully, I revere and savor the human animal’s ability to compose, orchestrate and weave a tapestry of written communication. That fluidity of language is part of my fondness. Words often are resurrected, twisted to become something new, become stars in the culture, live another life as part of the vernacular, and slowly or speedily enter the linguistic arena.
Today’s online world is very much influenced by the stir of language’s invention and re-invention. That word that pierces me as though a razor is moved with tenacity across a surface is curate (curated, curation, curator, curating). It sears my soul.
For many years I was involved in the visual arts as an administrator, artist, collector, curator, editor, educator, gallery director, researcher, student, and writer. For decades I juggled those various roles and continue some today, which makes me a participant and observer in the art of the twentieth and twenty-first century. My time as a curator was a particularly labor intensive and deeply rewarding experience.
So you can imagine my dismay that curator has become so much less than it was. Not only is there a watering of its meaning, but its usage has become overly excessive (almost losing its meaning). Recently, while reading The New York Times, I thought about this irritation and how long the word has been creeping into the popular culture with its new definition.
Nowadays the use of curate can refer to content curation, news aggregation, video curation, curation of social content. The word has reached the status of a cliché or jargon or media speak or even self-proclaimed moniker.
I researched the word’s etymology, and I found some distance. Its history begins in Ancient Rome, where civil servants were called curatores. Its meaning morphed into spiritual guide in the late fourteenth century. Then in the twentieth century a curator became a person who worked in museums to arrange and organize exhibitions. By the first decade of the twenty-first century with the waning of print journalism, the rise of online blogging begins a quick trajectory. Then the phrase “journalist as curator” emerged (first used in 2009 by Jeff Jarvis). From there it was adopted in many fields with the phrase “content curators.” Now it appears regularly. For example, The New York Times uses “curated by” in reference to the content of their online store. REALLY!!!!
(Note: I am a devoted reader of the Times. It has been my newspaper and cultural icon of choice since I was a junior in high school, and that is a VERY long time ago. On only a handful of occasions I have missed a Sunday, but that was only due to travel and locations. Literally, I must page through the Sunday edition. But no longer read the weekly print paper, reading the digital version.)
So curate and its variations has become oversimplified with its excessive appearance across the online landscape. It’s used haphazardly to create a professional ambiance, when mostly it is not there.
During my years as a gallery director, I curated many exhibitions of graduate art students and professionals as well as art faculty. Each exhibition took inordinate hours, days, months and even years to develop, organize and implement. The juxtaposition of the work against the act of curation and the actual exhibit is far more work intensive than is realized by the viewer.
So when I read that this person and that person or this commercial or that blog says: “curated by” or “guest curator,” I am bemused and nonplussed. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but it has gotten in my crawl, so to speak. I seem to be perfectly fine with other reinvented, reused and newly-coined words. But this one has grabbed me in a way that I must let go. And, of course, there are others.
In the Lens section is an image taken last week at Longwood Gardens, an internationally-recognized horticultural center that I frequent. My grandson accompanied me, and each of us were fascinated by abstractions that seemed to appear.
No curation, no tactical effort, simply we meandered in a place that we have visited together for years. We just flowed with the spaces and enjoyed that we were two of few on a blustery winter’s day. We didn’t care. The conservatory embraced our visit with scores of nature’s abstract and transcendent beauties.
Tip of the Week:
On occasion I enjoy sharing upcoming exhibitions, not only for their content, but because some offer an opportunity to submit photographic works. Since abstraction was my theme for Challenger’s Choice this week, I wanted to introduce you to a juried exhibition whose theme is the abstract photograph. Held at the Northern Virginia Alliance of Camera Clubs (NVACC), the center is a nineteen-year-old organization created by Joseph Miller, Dave Carter and Ed Funk. It’s meant to promote communication and cooperation among area camera clubs. Their annual abstract exhibition is in its sixth year. From their website:
“Since May 2011 when the First Annual Joseph Miller Abstract Photography Exhibit was held, this yearly artistic exposition has continued to grow in popularity as well as success, and in the process, has become the premier Spring event in the greater photographic community. The Fifth Annual Exhibit received a total of 469 submissions from 115 photographers representing 10 NVACC clubs and its affiliates, along with additional entries from non-affiliated photographers across the United States. The 2015 Joseph Miller Exhibit once again displayed a dazzling variety of talent, skill, creativity and imagination in photographic artistry, and continues to stand as a testament to an ever-increasing interest in and love of abstract photography due in large part to the efforts of its founder and namesake.”
Deadline for submissions is Friday, 26 February 2016. There is a $25.00 entry fee. Click here to go to their site, and get more information. Exhibition dates are 07 May-30 May, 2016.
View other entries from this week’s challenge:
As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog. My photographs for the mobile photography challenge are taken with an iPhone 6.
If you’d like to join this Mobile Photography Challenge, please click here for details and history of the challenge. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming challenges:
1st Monday: Nature.
2nd Monday: Macro.
3rd Monday: Black and White.
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Panorama, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.