Numer 43/2023

Diversity Curating

Monika Żyła

Diversity and curating

At first glance, the two overarching themes of this #43 issue of Glissando seem too broad to be contained in one issue. This collection of essays is not an exhaustive conclusion but rather seeks to demystify both notions and offer counter, participatory ways of approaching them. The first idea was to juxtapose them to see what happens when they get close to one another. The second one is to show that diversity and curating are in fact all around us. Rather than considering them through theoretical and academic lenses, it’s best to let the authors and artists explore them in their own meaningful ways. Diversity and curating may motivate and inform one another in innumerable ways. In its most basic form, diversity is an acceptance and celebration of difference through fairness and access. Curating has the potential to help diversity flourish, and open new ways to mediate between artists, organisers, and audiences that are more equitable and relevant.

In our open call, we listed a wide variety of possible areas and directions through which themes could be approached. Our objective was to inspire a multitude of perspectives, positions, voices and experiences. The response was overwhelming and exceeded our greatest expectations. It proved that there is a genuine need to stay close to the themes of diversity and curating in music and sound art, and a willingness to commit to a discourse that discloses a whole new palette of nuanced accounts, challenges and concerns. The result is a unique collection of articles in which authors approach diversity and curating from a variety of individual, creative, and often very personal angles. The uniqueness and value of each text stems precisely from the authenticity and proximity to real life, offering a broad range of lived experiences, values and contexts that the authors convey with conviction.

The recent rise in the popularity of these ideas makes some people uneasy, but they can lead to remarkable outcomes when writers and artists carefully consider them. This might be the real potential behind combining the themes of diversity and curating: the ability to reconsider agencies, potentials, and desires of communities – both as groups and individuals – to decide for themselves and on their own terms while having access to all the necessary resources they might require to realise their visions. Trust plays a huge role in this process. As we are reminded time and time again, only trust, willingness to risk and accept failure can instigate real change beyond mere tokenism or virtue signalling. In this sense, both the themes of diversity and curating reveal certain tangible potentialities, sensitivities, attitudes and ambitions that may help redefine the ways we create and participate in music and sound art today.

This new issue of Glissando magazine is divided into four larger thematic clusters: Proximities, Tensions, Encounters and Care. It was a very heartening and rewarding experience to slowly realise how all the submitted articles respond to and interact with one another, finding their places in the issue.

All the articles gathered in the first part Proximities consider curating from a situated perspective, and in relationship to space. They encourage a reading of curating as a creative, affective, pluralistic and emancipatory endeavour. Remarkably, they all – in different ways – employ spatial metaphors and spatial language to engage and unravel curatorial potential for music and sound art. This is especially compelling when thinking about concepts like accessibility, with all of its physical and symbolic connotations – which are basic conditions for diversity.

The articles collected in the second segment, Tensions, not only expose but also trace and analyse larger forces and mechanisms that contribute to systemic erasures, enable active forgetting and even order the destruction of cultural knowledge and identities. They also offer counter methods and strategies involving artistic practices and interventions that enable symbolic and factual restitution of damages resulting from colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, military conflicts and wars.

The penultimate portion of clustered articles, Encounters, gathers invaluable perspectives from various intercultural interactions and collaborations. Daring and uncompromising, they depict challenges, barriers, and even failures, that curators and artists alike might face when working outside familiar grounds. The last part, Care, offers a consequent closure, harking back to the etymology of curating understood as care introduced by Elias Brown in the opening essay Beyond the
museum analogy.

Some of the articles collected in this issue call for a close and focused reading. Others offer a more playful, fragmented and even performative interaction, overcoming the usual spatial constraints of the medium of a printed magazine. An example of the latter is 10 postcards by Juliet Fraser and Fay Jennet spread throughout the entire issue, as well as the essay Chessboard-tenement house by Antoni Michnik comprising 64 fragments about curating sound art that follow the spatial logic of the chessboard. Outside the articles gathered in the four thematic clusters, we can find the essay Infected by multiples: ideas for curating otherwise written by Philipp Rhensius in which the author reflects on the original ideas and objectives that inspired the recently published book Politics of curatorship: collective and affective interventions.

We are very happy to welcome the Sounds Now festival network as our collaborative partner. Many authors featured in this issue are connected with the Sounds Now network in different ways. Elias Brown, Teresa Díaz de Cossio, Hanna Grześkiewicz, Masha Kashyna, evi nakou, and Edane Ng participated in two Curating Diversity courses organised by Sounds Now institutional partners, Onassis Stegi in Athens, and the Time of Music festival in Viitasaari, Finland in 2021 and 2022. Elham Puriya Mehr, an Iranian curator and writer, was the keynote speaker at the 3rd Sounds Now Symposium in Warsaw on September 22–23, which was held as part of the Warsaw Autumn festival 2023. The symposium was curated by Yulia Lashchuk, along with SPOR festival directors Anne Marqardsen and Anna Berit Asp Christensen, and myself.

We invite all our readers to embark with us on this journey through diversity and curating, which will hopefully inspire new insights and perspectives.

Monika Żyła