ArtReview’s Power 100 list is out, so that’s going to be a day wasted in listicle chatter. This thing isn’t any less flawed than those page-view friendly rating slideshows ArtINFO puts together twice a month but it does include one listing we think is worth raising an eyebrow over. That eyebrow goes to dOCUMENTA (13) Artistic Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who nabbed the number one slot this year. Her position warrants the rating, but given what we’ve seen recently, how she got there is anyone’s guess.
Let’s begin with those strange dOCUMENTA press photos ranging from her her peeping out from behind a tree to sporting a bizarre maniacal grin. Those were, um, weird. And now that’s she’s made several appearances in New York, at Creative Time, the New Museum, and Cooper Union, to name just a few, we can say with some authority that that weirdness wasn’t out of character. Her frenetic energy and statements about everything from neuroscience to journalism seem off the charts.
We witnessed her battiness firsthand at the New Museum on Sunday, when what was supposed to be a discussion between Christov-Bakargiev and art historian Terry Smith on his new book Thinking Contemporary Curating turned into the Christov-Bakargiev show. As far as stereotypes go, art types are expected to be a little odd, but Christov-Bakargiev seems to be on another planet entirely. A few of her stranger outbursts, below.
On the Brain
“I don’t agree with the fundamental premises of neuroscience, which I find are anti-philosophical… They just say philosophy is of the 20th century. There is a political danger in neuroscience.”
“One thinks not in a vacuum but only in reaction and in relation to other people thinking with, so if you are not here, we cannot do this, so we can be brain-damaged. So, thank you for being here.”
“I try to develop the right-hand side of the brain and use the left-hand side as little as possible.”
“I would never use the word ‘curator’ to define myself and I didn’t call anyone who worked on dOCUMENTA a curator…I actually tried to liquidate this word ‘curator’.”
“Caring and curating are actually with the same letters except that you have to take out the ‘u’ and the ‘t’ in order to make ‘caring’ from ‘curating,’ right? So then I was thinking about ‘ut’, what is ‘ut’? The reverse of ‘tu’, which is ‘you’. But ‘ut’ in Latin is “for”…”
“The narcissistic disorder of many so-called curators like myself, brings me to have never written that much about other exhibitions that have inspired me. It’s true…I don’t know, like some disease.”
“I don’t know if it was an exhibition; you tell me!”
On the Professionalism of Practice
“I think it’s part of the problem because the professionalism, for example, in the field of journalism, indicated the collapse of journalism. Now we have embedded journalists and embedded photographers who are basically lacking true powers and therefore professionalization doesn’t always mean a good thing.”