What do curators do? It's a bit like asking what musical conductors do. If you are outside the specialism, you don't really know. But you can tell that it makes a difference.
Richard Thompson's curating of the 'Meltdown' South Bank festival has been much applauded. But the evening of political song was a flop. He didn't get that political song is something very different from social commentary, protest, satire. It's about mass movements, and needs to energise - it's about anthems.
Rude Britannia at the Tate Britain has a range of guest curators - lots of great material - but add it all together, and, sadly, you get less than the sum of its parts. The absurd, the erotic, the satirical ... ok, but what's the common thread?
If you want to enjoy it, do what I did - go with an eleven-year-old. His sense of wonder and delight that farting, bums, bad words and bawdiness can be celebrated in the hallowed walls of an art gallery was wonderful. His favourite? The slightly hidden away ante-room of sexual vulgarity. And above all that tin of beans from which a frankfurter kept popping out. Kenneth Williams (who was on a nearby video screen, his dialogue from Carry On Up the Khyber dubbed into Pashto profanities) would have approved.
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Andrew Whitehead's blog
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