Workshop for Contemporary Art Curators

These 2-day workshops in Tbilisi and Batumi focused on strengthening Georgia’s curatorial infrastructure. We addressed what is often called the “educational turn” in contemporary curatorial practice: the co-creation of participatory platforms that aim to challenge conventional professional/ pedagogical assumptions to produce new forms of local knowledge.  Sponsored by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, GeoAIR residency program and the Curatorial Design Research Lab at Parsons The New School for Design, the workshops encouraged educational institutions (from multi-disciplinary universities to art academies), cultural organizations (from museums to contemporary art galleries to artist residency programs) and local creative practitioners to consider how to expand their methodologies, widen their audience reach and collaborate to create think-tanks/ “do-tanks” that respond to actual local conditions and urgent needs. Presentations by Lydia Matthews, Joanna van der Zanden and Roomservices (Otto von Busch and Evren Uzer) highlighted the cultural politics of production at the intersections of art, design, urbanism, and radical pedagogy, exploring how socially engaged artists’ projects and participatory curatorial ventures overlap by bringing both disparate communities and resources together to enhance aspects of people’s daily lives. Participants were then challenged to co-produce their own proposals for socially-engaged projects and local curatorial platforms.

Their proposals included projects to replace plastic bag usage in markets with eco-friendly hand-crafted bags made from recycled clothing, a local house repair knowledge exchange platform to resist gentrification and poor building restoration practices in Tbilisi, a public art campaign to promote a more optimistic sense of Georgian identity and to fight gender discrimination in the media, a program to combat “artistic brain drain” by providing local visual/performing artists new opportunities including mini “artist-in-residencies” in local neighborhoods to highlight family histories and transform domestic courtyards into temporary public performance/exhibition venues, and a “backstage histories” museum exhibition that invites Batumi residents  to reflect on what “cultural heritage” means to them and contribute objects/activities that they feel compelled to preserve and collectively treasure.


March 11-12, 2012, Tbilisi

Open Society Georgia Foundation Conference Room & Gallery

March 14-15, 2012,  Batumi

Batumi Circus and Press Café


10:00-10:15 Welcome:

Keti Khutsishvili, OSGF Executive Director

10:15-10:45  Introduction:

Lydia Matthews, Moderator

Introduction of Workshop Leaders and Group Introduction by Participants to discover the diverse backgrounds, skill sets and professions of the people in the room.

10:45-11:45 Orchestrating Knowledge Exchange:

Curating as a Social Practice: Lecture by Lydia Matthews

A theoretical/historical framework for understanding the recent proliferation of practices that demonstrate the “educational turn in curating”. These curatorial approaches operate largely outside of an art market system, focusing instead on local issues, civic exchanges and educational opportunities. How are curators, artists, designers and public/private organizations collaborating with one another in order to highlight unique aspects within local environments and generate debates and proposals about issues in people’s daily lives?

12:00-13:00pm Creative Strategies for Locally-Oriented Knowledge Exchange:

Lecture by Joanna van der Zanden

Overview of Joanna van der Zanden’s process-oriented, laboratory-like curatorial projects—including Platform 21 in Amsterdam—which aim to create new forms of social encounters and hands-on collaborative opportunities for local communities to produce and exchange design and craft knowledge together. How can you create new cultural formats where the public at large gets involved in the curatorial process of research, in order to have exhibition spaces function as catalysts to stimulate critical and creative thinking and making? What roles can humor and playfulness have in such practices?

13:00-13:30pm  Discussion/ Collaborative Exercise with Workshop Participants: Joanna van der Zanden and Lydia Matthews, Co-facilitators

Brainstorming exercise in project development: what are some methods for thinking “outside of the box” curatorially? How can you take a site– or a familiar phenomenon, or a controversial local issue– and imagine new ways to create fresh or unexpected programs around it? How can the metaphor of “hacking” become useful for curators?

14:30- 15:30  Craft and Urban Re-Mapping Projects: Co-Design as a Social Practice:

Lecture by Roomservices (Otto von Busch and Evren Uzer)

Overview of Roomservice’s projects in various cities and how they approach collaborative design with an emphasis on urban mapping and handmade craft practices.

15:30- 17:00 Hands-on exercise:

Otto von Busch and Evren Uzer, Facilitators .Exercise to explore the question: what are assets in social artistic practice? Identifying creative resources and networks of local knowledge production in Tbilisi to form a basis for new artistic production scenarios.

17:15-18:00 Wrap up and introduction of online platform tool


10:30-13:00  Mapping Project, Part One:

The Circus as Site for Memory and Action: Lydia Matthews,Facilitator

Group Discussion to identify/map local issues, poignant geographic sites and cultural resources. What kinds of local experiences or places that have been vital in the past (starting with but not limited to “the circus”) are worth actively re-valuing in the present and potentially preserving for the future?

14:00-15:30  Mapping Project, Part Two:

Break out Groups: Lydia Matthews, Joanna van der Zanden and
Roomservices, Co-Faciliators

Smaller groups of workshop participants will be formed to brainstorm about collective curatorial actions and envision the kinds of local networks that would be needed to realize them.

16:00-18:00  Mapping Project, Part Three:

Exchanging Models Proposed by Each Group, and Asking: How
Do We Proceed from Here?: Lydia Matthews, Moderator


Special thanks to:

Nikusha Chkhaidze for acting as our local cultural advisor in co-designing the workshops;  Khatuna Ioseliani, Ani Riaboshenko, Niniko Kiknavelidze and Keti Khutsishvili from the OSGF for their financial and administrative support in making these forums possible; Sophia Tabatadze, Nini Palavandishvili,Theona Kartlelishvili, and Sophia Lapiashvili from GeoAIR for hosting Lydia in a month-long residency in Tbilisi; Dato Gogishvili/ JumpStart Georgia for designing the infographics: Levan Asabashvili/ UrbanReactor for his informative tour of Tbilisi; Irine Surmanidze and Gia Abuladze from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Ajara for their interest and ongoing commitment; and Kellyn Loehr from Parsons’ M.A. program in Design and Technology for designing the workshops’ website.


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