Boo Chapple has been courting a creative community online
‘Open CuRate It’ is a project that looks at how curation is changing in online culture, and through this trying to make FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool) a more-open space – more talking with real people. It creates a space for everyone to show off the stuff they like online, and as such is an experiment with institutional structure and with emerging forms of popular media curation, or ‘playlist culture’ – think Pinterest or Art Stack. In this sense, it is something of a double-headed monster, but there is a necessary conversation to be had between the heads. Media is no longer the one-to-many form that narrated the 20th century. Artists are increasingly embracing participatory modes of production; ‘open’ is a virulent art world meme; and ‘curation’ has become the vernacular of Web 2.0. In order for an arts institution such as FACT to remain at the forefront of its field it must adjust its capacity to engage participation, or become more open, and in doing so, think about how to cultivate and maintain a relationship with a now ubiquitous media culture.
In practice, this has entailed the creation of a web space, the development of a programme of seminars, events and workshops, and a lot of talking with the local creative community. The web space, opencurateit.org, incorporates a wall for open curated posts, lists or collections; a process for proposing and voting for a class – on anything and everything; and instructions on how to create and upload a model to be 3D printed and installed in FACT.
The web space has been one of the hardest aspects of the programme to work with. It is all very well to open something up for public engagement, but there needs to be a strong incentive to participate – a clear conflict of interest between curatorial selectivity and egalitarian openness. Nonetheless, I have used the web space to produce topical think-pieces tying together the conceptual arc of the programme, connecting it into current debates and feeding back into the emerging community conversations. Further to this, it has been important to have a branded space that people can reference in relation to the rest of the programme. Opening the way for participation online has created the space for much of the discussion, leading to the development of co-production partnerships with smaller organisations. Likewise, producing seminars with an open, discursive format has opened a conduit for community members to express their interest in becoming more involved. FACT already has a long history of community collaboration, so much of my work has been to stir the institutional pot and reinvigorate existing relationships.
Going forward it will be important to connect these networks into long-term programme structure, to continue to build a community of investment in the institution and to fine tune portals for online engagement so that they are more clearly targeted to incentivise participation. I hope that anyone interested will come and engage in the conversation with us.