Curating under pressure: A symposium on the ethics of curating

Christchurch, Aotearoa, New Zealand
05 Nov 2015 - 08 Nov 2015

Curating under pressure: A symposium on the ethics of curating

Tim Veling, New World, Durham Street, Christchurch, from the series 'Adaptation,' 2011–12. C-type print, 1500 x 1200 mm.,

The conference Curating Under Pressure will take place in Christchurch, New Zealand on 5th to 8th November 2015. A symposium on the ethics of curating in the biennial business.

The topic of the conference will be the ethics of curating, discussed in the context of Christchurch, a city that has experienced a series of major earthquakes since a 7.1 magnitude earthquake on 4th September 2010. In February 2011, another devastating earthquake destroyed parts of what was the second biggest city of Aotearoa / New Zealand. It took the lives of 185 people, caused extensive damage and the city still is in the slow process of recovery.

Christchurch’s SCAPE biennial for public art was due to be staged in 2010 but projects had to be postponed due to the disaster. Half a world away, a biennial had been founded in New Orleans in 2006 precisely because of the catastrophe caused by hurricane Katrina, and the ensuing political and social debacle. In both places two different concepts of what art can do in times of pressure and disaster are at work, but both instances raise questions about the role of art in extreme situations –  whether caused by natural disasters, extreme political pressure, oppressive regimes or terrorist threats. This symposium will consider a range of concepts and contexts, and ask what they mean for an ethics of curating?

The Goethe-Institut, ifa (Institute for International Cultural Relations), Creative New Zealand and the University of Canterbury invite international theorists and curators to a symposium to discuss the role of art in times and circumstances of pressure. The discussion will focus on the role of biennials as the most successful current model of international art exhibitions worldwide, and it will, more precisely, focus on the audience of biennials. Is there a responsibility towards the audience, and if so, how could it be described? What are art’s promises towards the audience? Does art have the power to heal trauma and to build resilience against hardship and disaster? Does art have the power to instigate change – political or social? And if not: What are the consequences for cultural producers, artists, curators and exhibition organisers? What are the consequences for an ethics of curating?

These are fundamental questions, and we invite international scholars and curators to contribute to these discussions in a range of forums including paper presentations, panel talks, and working groups with colleagues and citizens of Christchurch.

The conference is initiated by Leonhard Emmerling, Goethe-Institut, and Elke aus dem Moore, ifa-Institute for International Cultural Relations, and realized in co-operation with Creative New Zealand and the University of Canterbury.

Curating Under Pressure is a free symposium that takes place in Christchurch, New Zealand between 5-8 November 2015. To register, find out more information on the website soon and for press inquiries email Jamie Hanton, Project Co-ordinator, at

Invited Contributors:
Brooke Davis Anderson (Director, Prospect, New Orleans), Russell Brown (Media-Theorist, New Zealand), Sorcha Carey (Director, Edinburgh Art Festival), Zasha Colah (Independent Curator, India), Marina Fokidis (Co-Curator, documenta), Blair French (Curator, SCAPE 7), Miyamoto Katushiro (Architect, Hyogo Province), Rona Kopeczky (Artistic Director, OFF-Biennále Budapest), Azar Mahmoudian (Independent Curator, Teheran), Sarah Murray (Curator, Canterbury Museum), Gabi Ngcobo (Curator/ Director, Center for Historical Reenactments, Johannesburg; Co-Curator, São Paulo Biennial), Rafal Niemojewski (Director of Biennial Foundation), Melanie Oliver (Director, The Physics Room), Elvira Dyangani Ose (Curator, Göteborg Biennial), Alisa Prudnikova (Commissioner / Artistic Director, Ural Industrial Biennial), Lara Strongman (Senior Curator, Christchurch Art Gallery), Shannon Te Ao (Artist / Lecturer, Massey University), Sophie Davis, Sophie Bannan, Grace Ryder (Co-Directors, North Projects), Chloe Geoghegan and Ella Sutherland (Former Co-Directors, Dog Park Project Space), Artists and Activists from Christchurch