As we gear up this week for the Unit X exhibition at Mount Street it seems appropriate to reflect on what our Inspirer series speaker Gass Pendergast talked about at the start of Unit X. Gass is the programme manager at Castlefield Gallery with prior experience at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and came to talk about his experience of and perspectives on curation. Castlefield Gallery was set up in 1984 by artists who were interested in supporting emerging artists.
“My kid could do that” or “I don’t understand it” – these are two statements that Gass has heard visitor’s utter whilst he has invigilated exhibitions.
“It is good to work front-of-house if you want to do curating as you get to see how people behave around the artworks.”
Gass asked the inspirer audience to consider what makes a great exhibition.“An exhibition is where many different publics intersect.”
Too many exhibitions, he explained, rely on what he termed “bad choreography”, where the works rely on overlong explanatory panels. People should be encouraged to view the work and then read any labels for additional information and not the other way round. Gass talked about the fine line as a curator between offering information that is useful and saying too much.
“I don’t want to explain it all away, to tell people what it is they should feel. I don’t like the word ‘interpretation.’”
Gass’ top tips were:
- For curation to ‘nudge people in the right direction’ and to ‘serve the work’.
- To learn how to install artwork if you want to be a curator.
- To apply for arts funding as the Arts Council can give you help and feedback and you might surprise yourself.
- To put on your own shows and invite curators – to get your work out there!
- To bring your different skills sets together through collaboration.
- To support each other.
- To learn to talk about what you do.
- To attend previews and get to know other people on the scene.
You can find Castlefield Gallery at 2 Hewitt Street, Manchester, M15 4GB. The gallery is open Wed-Sun between 1pm and 6pm.