Curatorial Ethics: We don’t need a Manifesto

An excerpt that discusses the ethos of Dog Park from Bruce E. Phillips' Curatorial Ethics: We don’t need a Manifesto, which features in the recently released On Curating issue covering the Curating Under Pressure symposium in Christchurch, 2015.

Another pertinent issue that was raised in my World Café groups was the importance of being sensitive to context—meaning to acknowledge the implications of various forms of practice within different situations of crisis. This discussion was also raised in the symposium in an intriguing panel discussion of the Christchurch artist-run spaces The Physics Room, Dog Park and North Projects. In this discussion they revealed the political pressure that was placed on them to ‘serve’ the public during this crisis situation by creating moments of community unification and civic wellbeing. In this post-quake period, projects like those run by the place-making initiative Gap Filler popularised the idea of art being fun entertainment that encouraged people to inhabit the quake ravaged downtown. This ‘pop-up’ trend was celebrated by city officials, and it became even more politicised when the wave of transitional rhetoric become synonymous with the government’s controversial re-build plans.

The Physics Room, Dog Park and North Projects’ response was that they didn’t want to encourage art that profited off a disaster situation by creating earthquake-inspired exhibitions, but rather to create a space that offered artists stability and a place for slow thinking when everything was rapidly changing around them. This vastly different understanding of the role of art, the needs of artists and the function of artist-run spaces continually butted up against the pop-up feel-good model, and it caused constant frustration for them as they failed to attract much needed funding and legitimisation.

Pages 94-99.