Curating Video Art 101

published in Photofile No.74, Sydney, 2005

Please memorise this list if possible. You will be tested on this at the end of the semester.

1. When a video artist shows you something in slow motion, it really isn’t all that beautiful. In fact, it looks dumb.

2. If a video looks like a Calvin Kline ad from 15 years ago, tell the video artist to get a haircut: it’s better for them, plus we won’t have to look at their messy hair in their ‘counter-style’ video.

3. Skateboarders actually aren’t interesting at all, so don’t think it’s ‘cool’ to incorporate them in your exhibition.

4. It possibly might not be important where artists came from or what nationality their parents are. Plus, photos of parents are quite painful to look at, so try and avoid selecting videos featuring such images.

5. The gorgeous wailing of Muslim women on a soundtrack is not art. Buy some CDs and listen in private if you are seduced by such music.

6. Video installations are just rooms with junk around a monitor. Save everyone time and money and just project the video with some comfortable seats. Artists you suggest this to might cry, but be firm.

7. If you want to curate an exhibition on ‘the everyday’, just get yourself a proper job and don’t bore people with such a dull concept.

8. Be careful of video artists who talk about ‘the cinema’. Like you, they probably haven’t seen many movies, so don’t think they can advise you.

9. Things like ‘really long static shots’ I’m afraid aren’t revolutionary because despite the recent resurgence of ‘real rock’n’roll’, it is not 1972.

10. It might make you feel good to think that people who watch movies are ‘passively consuming entertainment’ but this has been scientifically proven to be a myth.

11. When it comes to sound and music, please do not attempt to make any decisions. Leave this to a professional, as you may get hurt.

12. Funny thing about video – it always looks better when the lights are turned out. Most galleries have many switches within easy reach on their walls, so please turn them off.

13. I could say something about turning up the sound but I don’t want you to electrocute yourself. Please contact your nearest professional and make sure they turn the volume up extremely loud. Give gallery staff ear-plugs if they complain. Or just kick them where it hurts – this will stop their complaints.

14. There is nothing important about September 11th despite what many people say. Please refrain from saying things like “since 9/11 everything has changed” and so on.

15. We do not live in any special sort of era. In fact, everything is quite boring, so don’t mislead people into thinking that ‘something is going down in the world’. I will be subtracting marks from any curators who attempt this ploy.

16. If someone is doing something personal with their video art – it isn’t personal. At all.

17. I know we covered this last semester, but my contract requires me to specify in each learning module that artists are not special people. So please do not treat them as if they have some glorious insight into the world. If you feel overcome with maternal/paternal instincts, breed – don’t curate.

18. If you wish to incorporate ‘interactivity’ in your exhibition, please bend over.

19. An artist using a pop song in video art is like anyone either enrolling in a DJ course or wearing an iPod in public: tragic.

20. Bioethics is best left to Current Affairs, Woman’s Day and people who think one day robots will rule the world. To pose such ‘big questions’ is inane, and artists who think they’re suddenly connected to ‘big issues’ require medication.

21. ‘Funny’ video art works usually aren’t funny. In fact, like most video art, they’re sad.

Text © Philip Brophy. Image © a video artist beloved by curators worldwide.