“As a community we shape our lives through communication with others.” – Ben Kinmont
The understanding of our interaction with others and that reflexivity to see how it shapes our lives was both the interest and the method of making for Constant Consumer. The naturally loose structure of how the curatorial premise for both Storefront’s Blend: Discourse by the Cup and Constant Consumer developed mirrors and justifies the end conversation I desire to have from the show. ‘How is it that the daily moments of intake, of consumption, in our lives affects our larger understanding of value? Or is it that our larger beliefs in value informs the decision we have in seeing and choosing objects because we have a sense of their preciousness? Or rather is it, the answer to the previous two questions is, “yes”, and that a conversation needs to be had where both signified and signifier are acknowledged as equals?”
When thinking about how this entire show/class/experience panned out I can not help but wonder where the moment of “worthwhileness” was best exemplified. It is important to realize that this show functioned in an institutional structure, that the class was already promised a highly visible prized exhibition space. This is pointed out in terms of acknowledging the situation that we curate in, the conversation that was being spoken even before the first day of class. From a certain perspective, one could say that the act of the student’s consumption of the course was what brought value to the course. For after all, if no one was around to take the class or chose not to take the class, the meaning would be void because the purpose of the class could not be fulfilled. The monetary value, the time spent, the physical structure of a classroom space and its availability all influence and enforce the perception that the time spent in the class room and projects derived from the class room are valuable.
This perception of value was then reinforced through the conversations we had with one another. A clear example of this was the time spent on the coffee and the concept of coffee. It was not that all these things were not already valuable before our conversation, but rather that by having a conversation (many conversations) it became more important to the whole group. With the combined incentive of caffeinated conversation and the supporting structure of a class we were able to continue the larger project to a more-full exhibition.
Constant Consumer came about through the effort a many, many conversations. While this is certainly not different in terms of other exhibitions, it was particularly interesting in gauging how individuals involved in this project engaged in dialogue on the project. There was moments where the concepts of the show was made evidently clear by the satisfaction of a full personal conversation, while at other times it was stifled by the endless unreliable chains of constant email updates. The ways that planning this one exhibition permeated the whole of the semester was incredibly interesting, as it greatly expanded beyond a “normal” class project.
In someways this curatorial blog post only adds to that endless dribble of insular dialogue. While there is certainly value in writing and posting and doing, it seems somewhat lackluster in comparison to other more pressing task at hand. If we moved from the era of “art for art sake” could that not tie into curatorial practice as well? If curating is not asked to “curate for curating sake”, that one could argue, implicitly suggests exhibitions as a way for the space to move outside of itself, then should not the parts make up for the sum? The requirement of the blog post, where viewer engagement can be measured down to the the quantifiable number of clicks on a page, becomes a self-indulgent task. The act of sharing is reduced to this little box on this little screen, and one can not help but think, ‘this probably is going no where’.
Nonetheless though just like our endless mode of consumption, one seems to push through, to keep-going, to keep taking in terms of curating. I keep pushing through the requirements needed to complete the course and finish the exhibitions. For example, as part of my role as the main contact for the Eating Prosthetics portion of Constant Consumer, I needed to figure out the final resting place of the long 8 foot by 2 foot table that was built for our exhibition installation. This ended up with a new experience renting a truck in the city, pushing back the inherent fear that results from zipcar deadlines and crashing into pedestrians. (Parallel parking a truck of Monroe and Wabash was not the most pleasant experience). I keep, keep-going, this meaning that even though the class is over and there are no immediate consequences apparent with not finishing assignments like this blog-post. (Although, I could potentially be threatened with a no credit for the course). And finally I keep taking. Curating in its core is asking of others to connect, whether this is through an email response or through an understanding of the larger curatorial premise, we want to convey a message to someone else. All this is to say I find that the curatorial process of Constant Consumer was challenging and interesting just like the overall message of the curatorial exhibition.
When posing the three subtopics underneath the larger umbrella Constant Consumer it seems already there that a split in our understanding of what it means to “constantly consume” was already inherently skewed project to project. Constant Consumer: The Ritual of Everyday Consumption, Constant Consumer: Eating Prosthetics, Constant Consumer: The Ways Our Daily Consumption Consumes Us all attempted in their own way to get somewhere while also being in that insular circle of consumption themselves. Whether any of us really where able to get the heart of the matter is highly debatable. As a whole class a combined group we may be closer to the point of the project, but without a larger discourse around the topic I do not believe that we could critically assess whether the final exhibitions/ final reflections really begin to scratch the condition of the daily consumer.
Overall this experience has been a gratingly positive one. It would be untrue of myself to say that this was one of the most successful exhibitions that I have put together. However, I’ve learned a lot. Not so much in the technical side of curating necessarily, but on the inter-personal side of curating specific to a course within the institution. I learned about the difficulties in attempting to have a foot in both world and the unstated biases of others and myself. The Constant Consumer through the course Curatorial Practice became as much about the the world and those who partake of it was about the class – appropriate, difficult, and an overall enriching experience.