on/offline curating?

The lost photos of Hurricane Sandy collated by photographer Maurice Van Es an article from the It’s Nice That blog

“Photographer Maurice Van Es has collated some of the most moving photographs from the hundreds of social media pages that sprang up trying to get the found photographs back to their rightful owners and has exhibited them on his website.”

Digital curating then…I find it interesting that the title of the article is collating rather than curating. Is this a reference to a lack of professional excellence that is applied to the internet in general, or this example specifically?

“Found” Maurice Van Es (2013)

The images themselves, and the gesture (the gesture of turning them into an ‘exhibition’ of selected works) are reminiscent of the “Lost and Found” exhibition of images swept away from the Japanese Tsunami in 2011, displayed at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCP) in Melbourne in 2012. (Reviewed here by Marcus Bunyan)

Lost and Found (2012)

But the processes are different, and the intention also seems to be. The Lost and Found exhibition is the result, or offshoot to, the Lost and Found project where the core function is to actually digitise and archive each image in order to return them to their owners. Then, the images that could not be identified were then displayed for the exhibition, rather than have them disappear from existence, and perhaps in turn, the event from public consciousness.

Maurice Van Es’ collation Found is rather, a comment on the nature of digital archives and social media. Social Media (and its users) being the arbiters here that have done the digitising and the seeking of the photograph’s owners. Van Es is noting the use of social media in doing this, and appears to mainly be curating through aesthetics than anything else. It seems markedly egotistical in comparison that Van Es gets the accolade here for his selection of images in such a way as to be a curator or the ‘author’ of Found, but I think this is perhaps just the way that It’s Nice That has written about it which has given it this presence. (On Van Es’ blog it remains merely a collection with little context.)

Either way, what I think comes out of this is a fundamental difference in the way in which we think about online and offline ‘curating’, where the usual association with computers as a fast (click-button) technology strips it of significance. What else is it about the internet and digital images that beg such rejection, indifference and/or lack of respect?

To return to my initial question, I don’t think this example specifically can answer these bigger questions but highlights the types of things we need to consider in a digitally archived world.


One thought on “on/offline curating?

  1. Hey there, I’m still unconvinced that collecting or gathering is the same as curating. My problem is that it seems to have to do with property … finders keepers… it connects to something else so I’ll group them together. That seems like a very superficial understanding of curation. We don’t talk about Susan Hiller’s J-street project as something ‘curated’… should we? Check this out as well…

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