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Journal ArticleDOI

Modular Form as a Curatorial Practice

01 Mar 2014-Journal of Writing in Creative Practice (Intellect)-Vol. 7, Iss: 1, pp 121-138
TL;DR: The authors discusses a curatorial approach to authorship as a model for thinking about what they describe as an iterative modular poem, a poetic text composed of appropriated segments, and argues that the established paradigms of authorship, creativity and originality are inadequate with respect to contemporary experimental poetic practices to suggest a shift from creating to collecting and curating as a possible alternative model for think about instances of iterative creative writing.
Abstract: This article discusses a curatorial approach to authorship as a model for thinking about what I describe as an iterative modular poem, a poetic text composed of appropriated segments. As a response to contemporary proliferation of literary and artistic works created by iterative means, i.e. through acts of appropriation, remixing and remediation, the article is an attempt at putting forward ‘the curatorial’ as an emerging paradigm of writing for the twenty-first century. The article approaches established paradigms of authorship, creativity and originality as inadequate with respect to contemporary experimental poetic practices to suggest a shift from creating to collecting and curating as a possible alternative model for thinking about instances of iterative creative writing. The argument focuses on Robert Fitterman’s Holocaust Museum (2011) as an example of an iterative modular poem and a text emblematic of such curatorial approach to authorship.

Summary (2 min read)

Modular thinking: An introduction

  • In a development echoing the divergence from an illustrative, single authored narrative of an exhibition that O'Neill (2005) points to, in poetry a propensity to move away from familiar forms of authorship can also be observed.
  • But the tendencies and attitudes that dominate the twenty-first century experimental poetry landscape are such that parallels can be drawn between practices of curating in the context of contemporary exhibition and creative writing.

Iterative thinking

  • Acts of moving, collating and managing information adopted as a creative writing technique, this appropriation poetics, exemplify a wider tendency in writing today and are a manifestation of sensibilities so characteristic of what has been described as conceptual writing.
  • The form of authorship that emerges here relies, to paraphrase Fitterman (n.d.: 6) , not on invention but on the inventory.
  • This article is an attempt at forging an alternative creative paradigm for authoring iterative modular form.
  • To think about creative writing within such a context requires a rejection of the traditional notion of the author as an inspired, Romantic genius creating in vacuum to instead focus on the mode of selecting and organizing -or collating and subsequently curating source material to produce new work.

The curatorial thinking

  • Writing in 2009 Boris Groys suggested that contemporary art can be understood primarily as an exhibition practice and that 'it is becoming increasingly difficult today to differentiate between […] the artist and the curator' (Groys 2009) .
  • As Maria Lind (2010) suggests, the change in attitudes to curating means that any attempt at engaging with the present, at writing or exhibiting today, instead of representing, involves presenting, performing, 'something in the here and now instead of merely mapping it from there and then' (Lind 2010: 65) .
  • Instead, as Lind (2011) The curatorial is an intellectual framework that lends itself to thinking beyond the visual arts context.
  • Juxtaposed, the discourses of conceptualism and contemporary curatorship create a discursive network of creative attitudes today, as they emerge at the backdrop of postproduction culture.
  • But this attitude finds its diverse manifestation not just in the arts and scholarly environments but also in widespread popular culture.

Fitterman 2011a)

  • The world of history here is the space of the event, that which can never be repeated, as opposed to its representation, the photograph.
  • This reference is particularly important here as a means of positioning Flusser's thinking, and my thinking about Fitterman via Flusser, in a particular cultural moment.
  • It is the change in the form of the source text that foregrounds the modular form the appropriated text assumes; it is only through change that its modularity becomes noticeable.
  • Holocaust Museum (2011) imprints a new form into the source text.

Curating the modular form

  • 23) suggested, a curator works in fragments; 'the work of curator transforms the work of the artist into a useful "fragment" in his or her own work of exhibition', into a useful fragment, or, perhaps more accurately, a module, also known as As Paul O'Neill (2007.
  • I would like to suggest that it is the modular rather than fragmentary model that finds its manifestation in the curatorial project and works such as Fitterman's.
  • A fragment implies disparity, assumes lack of cohesion and completeness, the absence always marked by the presence of the whole that once was.
  • Module, then, is the opposite of the fragment; it is that which does not break the consistency and unity of the whole but rather, by means of organization and arrangement, creates a new totality: a new totality of an exhibition or a literary work.
  • The modularity of Fitterman's text is only apparent when the images from the Museum collection are erased and the snippets of text are juxtaposed with other matching units belonging to the same architectural, textual modular system, as a result of the Flusserian change, imprinting 'a new intentional form into them' (Flusser 2000: 23) .

Conclusion

  • As Robert Cook (2013) suggested, a curator is always 'between spaces, discourse and modes of thinking and doing'.
  • In a similar manner, a conceptual writer is always, and at the same time is not, a writer, always negotiating the discourses, modes and methods of their rearticulation.
  • Curatorship conceptualized as such emerges as a category of creative production that operates in an ambiguous creative space of production of meaning that challenges the familiar creative paradigm.
  • To borrow from Terry Smith (2012: 32) , this is a framework for conceptualizing authorship that is 'emergent, imperfectly grasped, but nonetheless an interesting way of thinking about art', and about contemporary modes of creativity more broadly.

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Modular Form as a Curatorial Practice
Marczewska, K.
This is an author's accepted manuscript of an article published in the Journal of Writing
in Creative Practice, 7 (1), 121-138, 2014. The final definitive version is available online
at:
https://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jwcp.7.1.121_1
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Modular form as a curatorial practice
Kaja Marczewska
Published as: Kaja Marczewska, ‘Modular form as a curatorial practice’, Journal of
Writing in Creative Practice, 7.1. (2014), pp. 121-138.
Abstract
This article discusses a curatorial approach to authorship as a model for thinking about
what I describe as an iterative modular poem, a poetic text composed of appropriated
segments. As a response to contemporary proliferation of literary and artistic works
created by iterative means, i.e. through acts of appropriation, remixing and remediation,
the article is an attempt at putting forward ‘the curatorial’ as an emerging paradigm of
writing for the twenty-first century. The article approaches established paradigms of
authorship, creativity and originality as inadequate with respect to contemporary
experimental poetic practices to suggest a shift from creating to collecting and curating as
a possible alternative model for thinking about instances of iterative creative writing. The
argument focuses on Robert Fitterman’s Holocaust Museum (2011) as an example of an
iterative modular poem and a text emblematic of such curatorial approach to authorship.
Keywords
modular form
appropriation poetics
iterative writing
‘the curatorial’

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Robert Fitterman
Vilém Flusser
Modular thinking: An introduction
There are different types of exhibitions. Today, as Paul O’Neill points out, ‘many have
moved beyond the predominantly illustrative, single authored narrative’ (2005: 7). From
monographic to group shows, from site-specific one-off events to new media-based
displays as software or data flow, the typography of exhibitions today encompasses, as
one possible configuration, what Sarah Cook (2008) calls a modular model. The modular
approach to exhibiting relies on a flexible structure of a platform: ‘with the modular
model, it is possible to scale back or drop discrete elements without drastically affecting
its overall coherence’ (Graham and Cook 2010: 155). The module is one of the key,
recurring structural features of exhibition practice; it forms part of an architectural space
of an exhibition as well as characteristic exhibition aesthetics. Companies such as Nimlok
or Modul, for example, offer ‘custom modular exhibition stands’ (Nimlok modular
exhibition stands 2014), while duties of a Junior Exhibition Preparator at Canadian
Museum of Civilisation (2013), a post advertised early last year, involve ‘maintenance of
exhibition modules’. Manifestations of this approach to exhibition management in
aesthetic terms include, among others, a 2014 Richard Hamilton exhibit at The Institute
of Contemporary Arts, London, organized, as the show’s description reads, ‘around a
modular handing system’ (Richard Hamilton at the ICA 2014), or ‘FLUXUS – Art for
Everyone!’ at Museum Ostwall, Dortmund, held in 2012. The latter displayed works and
objects associated with Fluxus in a complex, architectural structure comprising modular

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plywood elements, or ‘Fluxus Modules’, as their creators, modulorbeat, describe them
(Furulo 2012).
But, as articles in this issue prove, the modular model that Cook (2008) devised as a
means of thinking about a contemporary exhibition space can also be considered a feature
of writing, or, as this article will suggest, building on the visual arts analogy, curating
literature. A similar attitude towards organizing content can be observed in curatorial and
contemporary experimental literary practices. In a development echoing the divergence
from an illustrative, single authored narrative of an exhibition that O’Neill (2005) points
to, in poetry a propensity to move away from familiar forms of authorship can also be
observed. Literary strategies engaging in radical experimentation with form are in the
foreground of contemporary poetry. But the tendencies and attitudes that dominate the
twenty-first century experimental poetry landscape are such that parallels can be drawn
between practices of curating in the context of contemporary exhibition and creative
writing. In its literary manifestations, modular form emerges when the familiar approach
to writing a continuous text is abandoned in favour of writing in units, structural modules
used as means of organizing text, modules that, in the process of writing, are arranged or,
as I suggest, curated to create literature. While thinking about writing as curating can
offer a framework for theorizing a modular literary form broadly conceived, this article
will focus on one possible way of approaching modularity, on what I will refer to here as
an iterative modular form; i.e. works in which discrete units of text are composed by
means of appropriation, repeating and repurposing fragments of other texts, collated and
organized in and as modules, to form poetry. What I am interested in is the dynamics of
the authorial practice that governs such iterative modular writing process, where

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authoring texts is a result of conflated possibilities of creative exploration and
information management. Such thinking about creative writing emerges at the backdrop
of a very specific cultural condition. In an attempt at contextualizing the creative attitudes
discussed here, the first half of the article develops an extensive theoretical framework in
which to ground the contemporary iterative modular form as a curatorial practice,
followed by a discussion of Rob Fitterman’s Holocaust Museum (2011) as an illustrative
example.
Iterative thinking
Acts of moving, collating and managing information adopted as a creative writing
technique, this appropriation poetics, exemplify a wider tendency in writing today and are
a manifestation of sensibilities so characteristic of what has been described as conceptual
writing. This preference for borrowed material echoes very clearly in a range of
experimental works published within the last decade or so, with the most familiar
examples including Kenneth Goldsmith retyping private conversations, newspapers as
well as radio and television news verbatim, as poetry in Soliloquy (1997), Day (2000), or,
more recently, Seven American Deaths and Disasters (2013); Vanessa Place repurposing
her own legal briefs, as literature, or tweeting the entirety of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone
with the Wind (1936); Simon Morris retyping Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (1957),
subsequently published as Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head (2009); or Rob Fitterman
appropriating sources from a museum collection in his Holocaust Museum (2011), among
many others. Rather than a manifestation of authorship traditionally understood, these
texts demonstrate a chain of selection of choices governed by the logic of inclusion and
exclusion of content adopted as a creative technique. The form of authorship that emerges

Citations
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TL;DR: In this article, Derrida guides the reader through an extended meditation on remembrance, religion, time, and technology, all occasioned by a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving.
Abstract: In this work, Jacques Derrida guides the reader through an extended meditation on remembrance, religion, time, and technology - all occasioned by a deconstructive analysis of the notion of archiving. The archival concept has played a pivotal role in numerous critical debates - a place of origin, yet of perpetuity, a place of stasis and order, yet of discovery, the notion of archive houses a fascinating complex of diverse, and often disparate, meanings. As a depository of civic record and social history whose very name derives from the Greek word for town hall, the archive would seem to be a public entity, yet it is stocked with the personal, even intimate, artifacts of private lives. This inherent tension between public and private inaugurates, argues Derrida, an inquiry into the human impulse to preserve, through technology as well as tradition, both a historical and a psychic past.

2,260 citations


"Modular Form as a Curatorial Practi..." refers background in this paper

  • ...The act of collating here emerges as a creative act, one that, to borrow from Derrida (1995: 17), ‘produces as much as it records’. The curatorial thinking Writing in 2009 Boris Groys suggested that contemporary art can be understood primarily as an exhibition practice and that ‘it is becoming increasingly difficult today to differentiate between [...] the artist and the curator’ (Groys 2009). Echoes of Bourriaud’s postproduction thinking reverberate in Groy’s allusion to what has been described as a curatorial turn, and a related rise of curator as creator and meta-artist. Groys (2009) argues that today, ‘there is no longer any “ontological” difference between making art and displaying art....

    [...]

  • ...For Fitterman, appropriation and erasure become writing tools, in Flusser’s terms, tools that ‘change the form of [...] objects’ (Flusser 2000: 23), here transforming the photograph into its trace, a supplement into an essence, a space of a photograph into a space of writing, authorship into curatorship. They can be seen to serve as a means of imprinting ‘a new intentional form into them. They “inform” them’ (Flusser 2000: 23; Fitterman 2011b: 161). Holocaust Museum (2011) imprints a new form into the source text....

    [...]

  • ...what Derrida (2003) would describe as the thing of the event, but rather a locus of the decontextualized impression of that event, always inevitably subjective, altering the thing...

    [...]

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TL;DR: Lacoue-Labarthe as discussed by the authors presents a theory of literature in German Romanticism at the intersection of the 19th and the 18th centuries, which he calls The Literary Absolute.
Abstract: title : The Literary Absolute : The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism Intersections (Albany, N.Y.) author : Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe.; Nancy, Jean-Luc. publisher : State University of New York Press isbn10 | asin : 0887066615 print isbn13 : 9780887066610 ebook isbn13 : 9780585091761 language : English subject Romanticism--Germany, German literature--18th century-History and criticism, German literature--19th century--History and criticism, German literature--History and criticism-Theory, etc, Criticism--Germany--History, Philosophy, German--18th century, Phi publication date : 1988 lcc : PT363.P6L3 1988eb ddc : 830/.9/145 subject : Romanticism--Germany, German literature--18th century-History and criticism, German literature--19th century--History and criticism, German literature--History and criticism-Theory, etc, Criticism--Germany--History, Philosophy, German--18th century, Phi

327 citations

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TL;DR: Flusser's philosophical analysis of photography focuses on the structural changes in civilization brought on by the passage from an industrial, text-based culture to a post-industrial image-based one as mentioned in this paper.
Abstract: Flusser's philosophical analysis of photography focuses on the structural changes in civilization brought on by the passage from an industrial, text-based culture to a post-industrial image-based one. Questions concerning photographic criticism, the "apparatus/photographer" complex, and the quantum structure of the "camera program" are discussed in relation to the linear time of history and the circular time of magic. Includes lexicon of basic concepts. Biographical notes.

259 citations


"Modular Form as a Curatorial Practi..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Keywords modular form appropriation poetics iterative writing ‘the curatorial’ Robert Fitterman Vilém Flusser...

    [...]

  • ...Vilèm Flusser: Rob Fitterman, a repetition Holocaust Museum (2011) is a book of images recording a moment in history in which no images are reproduced; the process of its production is informed by acts of repetition and erasure at the same time. While a lot could be said about the aesthetics and poetics of Holocaust in the context of Fitterman’s text, my interests here go beyond the problem of representation ‘after Auschwitz’ to focus on the formal qualities of the project, on Holocaust Museum (2011) as representative of writing as a curatorial practice....

    [...]

  • ...This is pointed to most explicitly in Fitterman’s ‘Replacing Reference to Photography with references to the web in Vilèm Flusser’s “Towards a Philosophy of Photography” (1983)’ (2011), a project in which Fitteman manipulates an excerpt of Flusser’s text to create a short essay of his own, to generate information....

    [...]

  • ...13 As Vilèm Flusser (2000) writes, today, we are inhabitants of a photographic universe:...

    [...]

  • ...As Vilém Flusser (2011: 7) put it, ‘a changing technology changes conscience’. Within the framework, the boundaries between producer and consumer of content are blurred, as is the distinction between creation and copy, readymade and original work. The aesthetic question for the contemporary conceptual writing is, to borrow from Bourriaud (2002: 17), no longer ‘what we can make that is new’, but, instead, ‘how can we make do with what we have’. Evoking this dynamic, Goldsmith (2011), for example, calls himself a collector of language, assembling personal conversations, news, and fragments of information. As Goldsmith (2011) put it, ‘[w]hat we are experiencing is an inversion of consumption, one in which we’ve come to engage in a more profound way with acts of acquisition over that which we are acquiring [....

    [...]

Book
04 Jun 2013
TL;DR: Anywhere or Not at All as discussed by the authors is a major philosophical intervention in art theory that challenges the terms of established positions through a new approach at once philosophical, historical, social and art-critical.
Abstract: Contemporary art is the object of inflated and widely divergent claims. But what kind of discourse can open it up effectively to critical analysis? Anywhere or Not at All is a major philosophical intervention in art theory that challenges the terms of established positions through a new approach at once philosophical, historical, social and art-critical. Developing the position that "contemporary art is postconceptual art," the book progresses through a dual series of conceptual constructions and interpretations of particular works to assess the art from a number of perspectives: contemporaneity and its global context; art against aesthetic; the Romantic pre-history of conceptual art; the multiplicity of modernisms; transcategoriality; conceptual abstraction; photographic ontology; digitalization; and the institutional and existential complexities of art-space and art-time. Anywhere or Not at All maps out the conceptual space for an art that is both critical and contemporary in the era of global capitalism.

196 citations

01 Nov 2013
TL;DR: The ouvrage developpe un regard croise sur la question de la mise en exposition d'œuvres et de dispositifs reposant sur des systemes immateriels, collaboratifs et/ou participatif, a suite de formes d’art plus ancienne comme l’ont ete l-art video, léon et al. as mentioned in this paper.
Abstract: Cet ouvrage developpe un regard croise sur la question de la mise en exposition d’œuvres et de dispositifs reposant sur des systemes immateriels, collaboratifs et/ou participatifs, a la suite de formes d’art plus ancienne comme l’ont ete l’art video, l’art dematerialise et conceptuel, sociologique et relatif a la performance, qui, en leur temps, avaient elles aussi poser questions. Guides par la plume experte du commissaire d’expositions Steve Dietz qui signe la preface de l’ouvrage, les lect...

88 citations


"Modular Form as a Curatorial Practi..." refers background in this paper

  • ...The modular approach to exhibiting relies on a flexible structure of a platform: ‘with the modular model, it is possible to scale back or drop discrete elements without drastically affecting its overall coherence’ (Graham and Cook 2010: 155). The module is one of the key, recurring structural features of exhibition practice; it forms part of an architectural space of an exhibition as well as characteristic exhibition aesthetics. Companies such as Nimlok or Modul, for example, offer ‘custom modular exhibition stands’ (Nimlok modular exhibition stands 2014), while duties of a Junior Exhibition Preparator at Canadian Museum of Civilisation (2013), a post advertised early last year, involve ‘maintenance of exhibition modules’....

    [...]

Frequently Asked Questions (9)
Q1. What are the contributions in this paper?

This article discusses a curatorial approach to authorship as a model for thinking about what I describe as an iterative modular poem, a poetic text composed of appropriated segments. As a response to contemporary proliferation of literary and artistic works created by iterative means, i. e. through acts of appropriation, remixing and remediation, the article is an attempt at putting forward ‘ the curatorial ’ as an emerging paradigm of writing for the twenty-first century. The article approaches established paradigms of authorship, creativity and originality as inadequate with respect to contemporary experimental poetic practices to suggest a shift from creating to collecting and curating as a possible alternative model for thinking about instances of iterative creative writing. The argument focuses on Robert Fitterman ’ s Holocaust Museum ( 2011 ) as an example of an iterative modular poem and a text emblematic of such curatorial approach to authorship. 

Blanchot’s understanding of a fragment that escapes any possibility of completeness, as that which deconstructs, is key to differentiating between the nature of fragments and modules and defining the modular form. 

While their function as text is subordinate to the image (Flusser 2000: 61–62), the act of removal of the photograph reverses the relationship between text and image. 

In its literary manifestations, modular form emerges when the familiar approach to writing a continuous text is abandoned in favour of writing in units, structural modules used as means of organizing text, modules that, in the process of writing, are arranged or, as The authorsuggest, curated to create literature. 

as articles in this issue prove, the modular model that Cook (2008) devised as a means of thinking about a contemporary exhibition space can also be considered a feature of writing, or, as this article will suggest, building on the visual arts analogy, curating literature. 

the writer as a curator assumes the role of the curator as the critical, creative producer of meaning and discourse, the curator after the curatorial turn. 

The aesthetic question for the contemporary conceptual writing is, to borrow from Bourriaud (2002: 17), no longer ‘what the authors can make that is new’, but, instead, ‘how can the authors make do with what the authors have’. 

It is the act of erasure of the image, in the process of which the segments of text are retained on the page that elicits always already modular captions as formulaic, structured units of text. 

A fragment, as Peter Osborne (2013: 59) sees it, is an ‘anti-system’; it assumes a ‘purely negative relation to the absent whole’.