DOS – Networked Production and Curation

Networked Production and Curation

An experiment in constructing and designing a group exhibition – Degrees of Separation

Carly Whitaker

* This article was originally written as part of the Degrees of Separation Catalog, it has not been officially published.


Networked production and curation is the use of a network of people to help create and curate a series of artworks. Such a network, either one created specifically or an existing network, is then used to provide a framework within which to formulate, produce, select and arrange a series of objects, actions or instances. In the essay, Organization in the crowd, the authors describe a similar methodology, peer production, as “the production, curation, and dynamic integration of various types of information content and other resources”, which are used within a crowd or group and, through this sharing, accomplish and maintain “network stitching” (Bennett).

Degrees of Separation is a group exhibition which has been specifically designed and constructed using a network to produce and curate; from the selection of the participating artists and the development of a thematic framework for the network, to the production and critique of the artworks and the final curation of the exhibition.

This exhibition was created in response to the sentiment expressed by art critic Mary Corrigall that South African artists do not look at each other’s work. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that we don’t work together or collaborate enough, or that we aren’t critically engaging with each other’s practices? Does it mean that we are working in isolation, removed from other artists?

Interrogation of this statement informed the process that has led to this group exhibition. It was a six-month prescribed process that enabled the participating artists to look at and examine each other’s practice right from the beginning. As artists, we are interconnected – through our various creative media and conceptual foci – which this process acknowledged and with which it engaged.

The thematic framework developed was based on the various themes used by the individual artists – both common themes and those that were infrequent (uncommon) were identified and explored by the group. Common themes were identity, narrative and repetition; while uncommon themes were movement, excess and absence. From there we had to choose one theme from each group and brainstorm, conceptualise and produce an artwork. This process was punctuated by group critiques of each other’s work.

Networked production made the artists accountable and responsible for the general standard of the work, aesthetically and conceptually. We were responsible for ourselves and for the group – we had to account for our choices and understand how they fitted in with the group as a whole. The networked curation happened at various stages of the process. The first was Assemblage’s selection of artists – defining the network – and the outlining of the ‘rules’ for the process. From there, authority and responsibility lay with the artists – allowing them to play with and adapt the rules to see what happened when we did or did not play by them. Assemblage’s defined process guided our production and curation of the show and in turn, the production process became very much part of the curatorial process.

The two words which can be used to describe this process are repetition and excess. Excess can be a state of being, a quality or quantity. It is lots, it is more. There is no limit. Excess refers to a lack of moderation. Repetition is a rhetorical device, a repeated action, sound, stance or colour. Repetition is going over, looping through something – doing something once it’s already been done, and doing it again and again.

The creative process used in Degrees of Separation was repetitive, excessive and demanding of the artists individually and of the group network. An artist’s practice is repetitive, it should be excessive – but what does this repetition and excessiveness mean if done in isolation, independently and without reflection. The directive of this process enabled us to work together – to be repetitive and excessive in a group. It also taught us to voice our practice, to critique our practice in relation to others, and to look.

This networked production and curation has led to the production of a series of artworks which are intertwined and connected through the process, the media used, conversations and concepts. Anthea Pokroy’s artwork blatantly establishes obvious and bizarre connections between the participating artists. She establishes a connection between herself and the group as a whole, and among the artists through her subject matter – categorising and creating an archive. Ross Passmoor’s series of prints, Urban Objects, isbased on the routes travelled by five artists from their homes to the Assemblage Studios. He searched parts of their journeys on Google Maps and used the visuals of street view, combining and isolating aspects. Lois Anguria’s work interrogates her virtual relationship with other artists in the group and within our network, identifying those with whom she has ‘friends in common’. Mandy Johnston’s sculptures emulate our connection through the intricate weaving of copper into organisms and networked entities.

This specific method of networked production and curation has produced a series of artworks which are intertwined and connected – through the process, the media used, conversations and concepts. Individually these works are interesting, but together they speak about something bigger – they represent a conversation among artists, about looking and seeing, about producing and curating within a network.



Works Cited

Bennett, W. Lance, Alexandra Segerberg, and Shawn Walker. “Organization in the Crowd: Peer Production in Large-Scale Networked Protests.” Information, Communication and Society (2014): 232–260. Web.