Breakthroughs: on Difference, Laziness and Belonging to public programmes
is a platform that collects curatorial perspectives on practices and methods against the tokenisation of minorities and voices of difference in public cultural programmes, in institutions (mostly in a western context).
With the aim to challenge the sometimes lazy curatorial methods typical of contemporary art institutional spaces that often still uphold the gender division as the organising principle of cultural production, this platform or anthology of best curatorial practice features conversations with international, institutional and independent contemporary art curators, producers, programmers and directors, on the themes of curating, tokenisation and feminist and queer methods for a more ethical, inclusive, representative, meaningful, impactful, active curating.
A kind of ongoing archive-- a toolkit for ethical and alternative curatorial methods that can truly articulate positions of difference.
At the start of the research, the term Difference
originally carried female-identifying, non-binary and queer perspectives, which in most instances of public programming are rarely given a voice1
. Starting from there, the research has then naturally adopted an intersectional approach, given its own nature and entanglements and therefore refers to elements of female-identifying, queer, trans, POC, working class, migrant neuro-diverse and disabled voices in the context of cultural production and programming.
The idea of Belonging
is at the core of this research, as an objective for curators and world-makers, aware that it's not enough to achieve 'representation' in public programmes in order to understand how institutions can be part of an entire constellation helping people to live a healthy and fulfilling life, and to participate in society and in an effective way2
And while, as curators, creating a sense of belonging is key, Laziness
is certainly a feature to let go of. It's documented that most of the institutional art exhibitions so far have narrated the 'postcolonial Others' as long as they speak of their Otherness, therefore being tokenistic and curatorially lazy3
. Even after Black Lives Matter that is still an issue. At the 2014 Whitney Biennial as well as at the reopening of Tate Modern in 2016, there was a lack of poc and queer artists, despite decades of campaigning by organisations such as Iniva. Things are getting better though, and it's with this spirit that Breakthroughs collects epiphanies and other lightbulb moments as tools and suggestions to consider in practice in order to go in the right direction.
More on findings, challenges and on how the contributions were created here
Launched at the start of 2023, the Breakthroughs
platform is curated, produced and edited by Stella Sideli
, in collaboration with Irene Campolmi
and collectively with all the listed participants.
is part of a research and development grant generously supported by Arts Council England. Graphics by Eva Duerden
1 Katz, J. and Söll, Ä. 2016, Queer Exhibitions/Queer Curating, in On Curating, Feminist Thought, Issue 29, pp. 2-4
2 Archey, K., 2022, After Institutions: Care and Change in Times of Crisis, Studium Generale Rietveld Academie, (link)
3 Reilly, M., 2018, Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating, Thames and Hudson UK