A Study of Queer Affect and Relation in Curatorial Practice and Writing

Wilson, Sean Elder (2023) A Study of Queer Affect and Relation in Curatorial Practice and Writing. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Sean Elder Wilson PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Dec 2022_Final Award Feb 2023.pdf - Accepted Version

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This thesis develops a recent impulse in feminist and queer curatorial theory to propose affect, relation and emotion as important dynamics within the development of curatorial studies and, more specifically, curatorial writing within times of crisis.

Initially situated within a time where the so-called ‘crisis of care’1 has dominated curatorial thinking, witnessed across both art, political and social institutions, this research became quickly entwined with the realities of its unfolding during the now-ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

This research proposes that affect and relation might trouble the assumed neutral or institutional nature of the figure of the ‘curator’ specifically through reflexive curatorial writing. Key concepts from queer theory including distance and proximity2 are important anchors within the thesis’ engagement with writing as a reflexive method, particularly as it pertained to the isolation of Covid.

The first chapter defines key terms as well as expands on the idea of the curatorial within an institutional sense as being insufficient for an expansive sense of relation. The second chapter instead situates bodies and proximity as central figures of importance within the research. The final chapters look specifically to curatorial writing as a site where affect’s circulation might bring us closer towards transformative ways of understanding pleasure, love and trust within the curatorial. Drawing from previous curatorial practice and projects, writing in this thesis becomes a central site of curatorial affect, with a capacity to develop both analytical and synthetical engagements with curatorial knowledge and queer theory, as well as to transform being-affected into affective action. This contribution both offers alternatives to and challenges more conventional curatorial writing, and more widely, heteronormative forms of knowledge production.

1 Noor Alé,, “Curatorial (Mis)care in an Age of Ongoing Crises,” Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, 2021. Available Online: https://www.banffcentre.ca/bici/curatorial-miscare-age-ongoing-crises (last
accessed 27.06.22).

2 Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology, First Edition (Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books, 2006).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
20 December 2022Submitted
3 February 2023Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Curatorial, contemporary art, affect, relation, liveability, curatorial writing, art writing, art, curating
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2023 11:22
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2023 11:22
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14315

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