Alternative to an Alternative
The notion of “the alternative” dogs me. Before I accepted a position a little over a year ago as curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), I was an independent curator based in Brooklyn who produced exhibitions, events, and performances in New York and internationally. From 2000-05, nearly 40 of these happened at Parlour Projects, a space in my home that would have been my living room, but instead was a non-commercial gallery that presented artist s’s work in all media in solo exhibition formats, with specific attention given to work that was experimental, performative, and interactive. References to its programs often described it as “ alternative,” but this begs the question: alternative to what? To collusion with the market? To mainstream success? As I see it, the term “ alternative” operates under the false assumption of some shared or common center. Such a normative notion runs counter to the singularity and uniqueness of artistic vision. The center is wherever I am. The center is wherever you are.
Since starting at CAMH, my exhibition-making strategies have changed little, though the support of the institution and my colleagues has changed how I work a great deal. I’ve quickly adapted to longer production schedules, more generous budgets, and collaboration with inspiring co-workers. What hasn’t changed is that I remain committed to supporting artists to realize their visions, and continue to believe that curatorial work can and should embrace risk taking. I feel fortunate to be working in an environment where this belief is not only shared, but encouraged. My friend K8 Hardy said—and I’m paraphrasing—that artists make the world more interesting, and I wholeheartedly agree. I can’t imagine suffering the alternative.
DEAN DADERKO is Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. His exhibition Parallel Practices: Joan Jonas & Gina Pane is on view from March 22 – June 30.