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The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics

ISSN: 2472-7318

CURATING THE CONVERSATION: 

AN ABBREVIATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

by Maria Novotny, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Ames Hawkins, Columbia College Chicago

This bibliography aims to locate some scholarly histories, practices, and purposes of curation. While not comprehensive, we view this short bibliography as a methodological reorientation for the discipline of rhetoric and composition. Curation in rhetoric and composition is not new. For instance, scholars have begun to critically situate and apply curation to technology’s influence on the production of information literacy platforms (e.g. Kennedy). Curation also frequently appears when discussing archival projects (e.g. VanHaitsma), and recently has been deployed as a method to facilitate community literacy (e.g. Jacobi). Veering a bit more broadly, technical and professional communication scholars have begun pedagogically-focused research projects seeking to build students’s digital literacy through curatorial practices (e.g. Duin, Tham and Pedersen). Other pedagogical approaches suggest the technical communicator as a curator of activist syllabi, offering accessibility and usability advice (e.g. Bivens, Cole, and Heilig). Clearly curation has and continues to be taken up as a useful term to describe many rhetoric and composition practices. Noting such connections, our objective for this bibliography is to offer a new understanding of the potential of curation. Specifically, we share how the two of us have come to curation as a relational and publicly engaged practice, one which we argue has yet to be discussed in rhetoric and composition scholarship.

As shared in our collaborative curator statement, the two of us met while curating our own projects — These Are Love(d) Letters and The ART of Infertility — at a 2015 academic conference.  What emerged from that meeting was a shared methodological stance as to how we understand and use curation in our work. We understand that others in rhetoric and composition may use the term curation more metaphorically to describe selection and arrangement processes pertaining to crafting, organizing, and producing written work. Others rely upon curation to articulate how they analyzed rhetorical content in an archive. We, however, approach curation in terms of the physical, relational, spatial, and temporal practices usually connected with and to the selection, arrangement, and engagement of visual, performative, and multimodal art as commonly understood with respect to a museum or gallery setting.

As curators our bodies move, arrange, and position materials for public display. Such engagement requires that we work collectively within and alongside communities by collecting pieces from particular communities and/or working with curatorial communities to arrange and assemble opportunities for curatorial display. In turn, this process allows for curation to be a method for facilitating opportunities for public pedagogy. This sort of embodied curatorial engagement and practice emphasizes the importance of relationality and community-centeredness that adds to and extends current conversations about curation currently existing in the field.

Our experiences, then, of doing curatorial work are informed not just by institutional spaces where we do our work, nor the communities we work alongside to showcase their work, but our own bodies and the stories we carry. This, we see, distinguishes us from other curatorial approaches in the discipline.

Maria’s curatorial work originated out of her dissertation project at Michigan State. There, she was interested in developing a project that examined how members of the infertility community wrote or created multimodal pieces about their reproductive losses. As a patient, Maria understood that many infertility experiences go unseen. Art, however, can transform those invisible losses into material realities. As she developed relationships with her infertility community, Maria wanted her dissertation to not just offer a rhetorical argument but contribute to some of the commitments she shared with her community. What resulted was The ART of Infertility, a traveling patient art exhibit which she co-directs and co-curates with Elizabeth Walker. The project frequently exhibits in public art galleries. Such a locale is intentional as it serves as a form of public pedagogy, inviting the general public to witness the challenges of living with infertility. In this way, Maria understands curatorial work from an embodied and relational framework as she literally carries and arranges physical pieces of patient artwork for public display. In her current position, as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she draws on her curatorial knowledge to train graduate students in their Public Rhetorics & Community Engagement program who are committed to public scholarship.

Ames works at Columbia College Chicago, a college of communication and media arts in an urban center. Ames’s connection with curation was nurtured within this institutional context where Ames has co-created and co-taught a range of courses focusing on art activism. Through this work both in and beyond the classroom, Ames began to better understand the rhetorical power and impact of repetition and accumulation in large-scale socially engaged arts practice. These experiences inspired a wide range of creative and scholarly work motivated by a desire to create new knowledge through scholarly practices that incorporate creative process as a research methodology, curation being just one of them. The result of this work has been the publication of a range of critical-creative scholarship, in both print and digital formats, such as These are Love(d) Letters, a work of literary nonfiction, and “Exhuming Transgenre Ties,” a multimodal digital piece. Ames is a multimodal composer who uses writing and art to explore the interstices of alphabetic text, image, and sound in order to theorize the power and pleasure of queer(ing) form. Ames’s practice of queer rhetorics is a lived practice of queering scholarly forms.

Knowing our own orientations to curation, we offer you an abbreviated, interdisciplinary, and — yes —curated bibliography arranged to understand curation as a relational, engaged, and community-centered practice. Curation’s history and origin in museum studies, art, and art history influence our decision to construct an interdisciplinary bibliography. For those new to this particular orientation to curation or interested in its uptake in your practices, we hope this bibliography will inform your orientation to curatorial work. Our attempt is to offer scholars a glimpse into how we have made sense of curation as critical-creative scholarship, both in rhetoric and composition and more broadly as a practice that may facilitate socially-engaged action. As such, you will notice that we have included pieces from this special issue — a move we see as extending the conversation.  And, as with any project seeking to do interdisciplinary work, there are categories and entries that no doubt overlap. We acknowledge our inability to make visible these overlaps, and invite you all to weave together your own orientation to this curated landscape.

Curation: Origins, Criticisms & Evolutions

  • Balzer, David. Curationism: How Curating Took over the Art World and Everything Else. First ed. Toronto: Coach House, 2014. Print. Exploded Views.
  • Bhaskar, Michael. Curation: The Power of Selection in a World of Excess. London: Piatkus, 2016. Print.
  • Davida, Dena, Gabriels, Jane, Hudon, Véronique, and Pronovost, Marc. Curating Live Arts: Critical Perspectives, Essays, and Conversations on Theory and Practice. New York: Berghahn, 2019. Print.
  • Obrist, Hans Ulrich., and Raz̤ā, Asad. Ways of Curating. First American ed. New York: Faber and Faber, an Affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. Print.
  • Rugg, Judith, and Sedgwick, Michèle. Issues in Curating Contemporary Art and Performance. Bristol, UK; Chicago, USA: Intellect, 2007. Print.

Performance, Display, and Interactivity in Curation

  • Acord, Sophia. "Beyond the Head: The Practical Work of Curating Contemporary Art." Qualitative Sociology 33.4 (2010): 447-67. Web.
  • Brophy, Sarah. "Cripping the Museum: Disability, Pedagogy, and Video Art." Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 8.3 (2014): 315-33. Web.
  • Edmonds, Ernest, Zafer Bilda, and Lizzie Muller. "Artist, evaluator and curator: three viewpoints on interactive art, evaluation and audience experience." Digital Creativity 20.3 (2009): 141-151.
  • Fleming, Natalie and Conor Moynihan. “Exhibiting Illness: Curatorial Encounters with Disease, Care, and Diagnosis.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Greenberg, Reesa., Ferguson, Bruce W, and Nairne, Sandy. Thinking about Exhibitions. London; New York: Routledge, 1996. Print.
  • Guy, Georgina. Theatre, Exhibition, and Curation: Displayed & Performed. London: Routledge, 2019. Print. Routledge Advances in Theatre and Performance Studies.
  • Jackson, Cody A. “Multimodal Un/Composition’s Queer Performativity: Curating Queer Zines and a Politics of Impossibility.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Kreps, Christina. "Indigenous curation, museums, and intangible cultural heritage." Intangible heritage. Routledge, 2008. 207-222.
  • Lambke, Abigail. “Kansas City Hear I Come: Sonic Curation for Civic Impact.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Sayre, Henry M. The Object of Performance: The American Avant-garde since 1970. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1989. Print.
  • Specht, Steven M. "Artists' statements can influence perceptions of artwork." Empirical Studies of the Arts 28.2 (2010): 193-206.
  • Tyburczy, Jennifer. Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2016. Print.

Curated Sites of Social Action

  • Bishop, Claire., and Perjovschi, Dan. Radical Museology, Or, What's Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig, 2013. Print.
  • Hawkins, Ames and Joan Giroux. “Trans/feminist Practice of Collaboration in the Art Activism Classroom.”  Composing Feminist Interventions: Activism, Engagement, Praxis, edited by Kristine Blair and Lee Nickoson, WAC Clearinghouse Press, 2018, pp. 355-371.
  • Jackson, Rachel and Phil Bratta. “Decolonial Directions: Rivers, Relationships, and Realities of Community Engagement on Indigenous Lands.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Jacobi, Tobi. "Against Infrastructure: Curating Community Literacy in a Jail Writing Program." Community Literacy Journal 11.1 (2016): 64-75. 
  • Kester, Grant H. Art, Activism, and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage. Durham [NC]: Duke UP, 1998. Print.
  • Lossau, Julia, and Stevens, Quentin. The Uses of Art in Public Space. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. Print. Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies; 10.
  • Novotny, Maria. "The ART of Infertility: Finding Friendship & Healing After Reproductive Loss." Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine 4.1 (2019): 19.
  • Soto Vega, Karrieann. “Sounding Out a Rhetoric of Resistance: Curating Plena in Diasporican Activism.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Vänskä, Annamari, and Hazel Clark. Fashion Curating: Critical Practice in the Museum and Beyond. 2018. Print.
  • West-Puckett, Stephanie and Genoa Shepley. “Radical Museology, Radical Pedagogy: Curating Beyond Boundaries.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).

Socially Engaged Curatorial Projects

Curatorial Ethics

  • Grosvenor, Ian. "‘Can art save the world?’ The colonial experience and pedagogies of display." Paedagogica Historica 55.4 (2019): 642-649.
  • Jones, Amelia. "Feminist Subjects versus Feminist Effects: The Curating of Feminist Art (or is it the Feminist Curating of Art?)." OnCurating 29 (2016): 5-20.
  • Listengarten, Julia, and Keri Watson. "Staging representations: Reflections on performing activism in a visual art and theatre collaboration." Scene 6.1 (2018): 29-50.
  • Reilly, Maura, and Lippard, Lucy R. Curatorial Activis : Towards an Ethics of Curating. London]: Thames & Hudson, 2018. Print.
  • Reilly, Maura. "Curating Transnational Feminisms." Feminist Studies 36.1 (2010): 156-73. Web.
  • Sant, Toni. Documenting Performance: The Context and Processes of Digital Curation and Archiving. London; New York, NY: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, an Imprint of Bloomsbury Plc, 2017. Print.
  • Schneider, Barbara in collaboration with visual artist Ashley Prior. “I’m Cleaning Out My Attic.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).

Digital & Technological Impact on/and Curation

  • Bivens, Kristin Marie, Kirsti Cole, and Leah Heilig. "The Activist Syllabus as Technical Communication and the Technical Communicator as Curator of Public Intellectualism." Technical Communication Quarterly 29.1 (2020): 70-89.
  • Constantopoulos, Panos, and Costis Dallas. "Aspects of a digital curation agenda for cultural heritage." 2008 IEEE International Conference on Distributed Human-Machine Systems. Athens, Greece: IEEE. 2008. 
  • Dallas, Costis. "Digital Curation beyond the "wild Frontier": A Pragmatic Approach." Archival Science 16.4 (2016): 421-57. Web.
  • Duin, Ann H and Isabel Pedersen. Building digital literacy through exploration and curation of emerging technologies: A networked learning collaborative. Proceedings for the Networked Learning Conference, May 2020, Kolding, Denmark.
  • Duin, Ann, Jason Tham, and Isabel Pedersen. Building Digital Literacy through Exploration and Curation. Spring, 2020.
  • Hammer, Steven and Greg Sieber. “Listening Objects.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Hawkins, Ames and Phil Bratta. “Believing in Change: The Aesthetic Value of Repetition and Accumulation to Socially Engaged Practice.” Con la Red / En la Red: creación, investigación y comunicación cultural y artística en la era Internet (With the Network/In the Network: cultural and artistic creation, investigation and communication in the internet era), edited by Lidia Bocanegra Barbecho and Ana García López. University of Granada and Downhill Publishing, 2017, pp. 313-333.
  • Kennedy, Krista. Textual Curation: Authorship, Agency, and Technology in Wikipedia and Chambers's Cyclopædia. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina, 2016. Print. Studies in Rhetoric/Communication.
  • Sabharwal, Arjun. Digital Curation in the Digital Humanities: Preserving and Promoting Archival and Special Collections. Waltham, MA: Chandos, 2015. Print. Chandos Information Professional Series.

Curation and Research Practice

  • Campbell, P. G. W., and J. Linden. "Expanded Practice and Curation as Creative Process: An Introductory Assemblage." REPERTÓRIO: Teatro & Dança 19.27 (2016): 11-20.
  • Graham, Beryl. "Tools, Methods, Practice, Process… and Curation." Art Practice in a Digital Culture. Routledge, 2016. 201-210.
  • Gubrium, Aline., and Harper, Krista. Participatory Visual and Digital Methods. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast, 2013. Print. Developing Qualitative Inquiry; v. 10.
  • Loveless, Natalie. How to Make Art at the End of the World: A Manifesto for Research-creation. Durham: Duke UP, 2019. Print.
  • McCarthy, Seán, Lori Beth De Hertogh and Vanessa Rouillon. “The Role of Curation in Tenure and Promotion Documentation.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).
  • Novotny, Maria and Elizabeth Horn-Walker. “Art-i-facts: A Methodology for Circulating Infertility Counternarratives.” Interrogating Gendered Pathologies, edited by Erin A. Frost and Michelle F. Eble, Utah State University Press, 2020.
  • VanHaitsma, Pamela and C. Book. “Digital Curation as Collaborative Archival Method.” Peitho 21.2 (2019): 505-531.
  • Vinson, Jenna and Urmitapa Dutta. “Participatory Curation: Who Has the Power to Exhibit in a Collaborative Community-based Project?.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics 4.1. (2020).