Come on Baby Light my Fire: 'Ignite' Curatorial Workshops and Public Forum

Anita Angel

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


    This article provides a critical overview of a series of weekend intensive curatorial workshops (Ignite), held at the Northern Territory University, Darwin, on 19 and 20 October 2002. Run by Darwin’s Contemporary Art Space, 24HRArt, the Ignite program comprised six guest curators and/or artists from diverse backgrounds and experiences: Alasdair Foster (Director of the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney), Daniel Palmer (Melbourne-based writer, curator and lecturer/tutor in photography), Franchesca Cubillo (Acting Program Director in the Gallery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, National Museum of Australia, Canberra), Rhana Devenport (Senior Project Officer, Asia Pacific Triennial, QAG, Brisbane), Norberto Roldan (Philippines-based artist, graphic designer, university student and director/curator for Green Papaya Art Projects) and Gary Lee (Darwin-based Larrakia anthropologist, artist, writer and free-lance curator). Guest speakers presented a series of talks, chaired ‘practical workshops’ and initiated often animated discussion sessions on the roles and responsibilities of institutionally based and free-lance curators – in public museums and art galleries, contemporary art and temporary exhibition spaces - whether in a local, national or international context. This was followed by a public forum on 21 October, held at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, entitled ‘Whose Show Is This Anyway?’, where a number of the speakers discussed key issues raised over the Ignite weekend, successfully re-kindling debate for an extended audience. A range of interrelated and often contentious themes emerged from Ignite, in particular, the role of curator as ‘cultural broker’ between the artist, the audience and art; and Indigenous collections and curatorship. The key themes analysed in this article, many of which are of relevance to the complex and on-going challenges facing curators and art museums in Australia and abroad, include: THE CURATOR - as caretaker or ‘gatekeeper’ of a permanent collection or a ‘culture’, exhibition impresario, researcher, publisher, artist, political/social activist or ‘cultural shaper’; THE SPACE - differences and tensions between the ‘traditional’ museum and art gallery as an exhibition venue, the contemporary art space and travelling exhibitions in a range of venues and geographical contexts; THE EXHIBITION MEDIUM - its possibilities and limitations within the context of a permanent collection, in a contemporary art space, in public spaces not ordinarily concerned with art, and in the international arena of biennials and triennials; INDIGENOUS COLLECTIONS & INDIGENOUS CURATORS - the institutional legacy of colonial patterns of collecting: ‘remedial’ collection management of Indigenous human remains and material culture items; ‘exhibiting cultures’ rather than disembodied art objects; the Indigenous curator as radical re-interpreter of Indigenous art held in public and private collections; whether cross-cultural research and publication has succeeded in bridging the divide between art history and anthropology in the display of indigenous art and material culture; MUSEUMS & MASTERPIECES - whether a distinction can be made between the politics of ‘taste’ and connoisseurship, and the exercise of ‘aesthetic judgement’ in curatorial collection and exhibition.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-
    Journalomj: Open Museum Journal
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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