Friday, June 1st, 2012

You Are Not a Curator, You Are Actually Just a Filthy Blogger

As a former actual curator, of like, actual art and whatnot, I think I'm fairly well positioned to say that you folks with your blog and your Tumblr and your whatever are not actually engaged in a practice of curation. Call it what you like: aggregating? Blogging? Choosing? Copyright infringing sometimes? But it's not actually curation, or anything like it. Your faux TED talk is not going well for you if you are making some point about "curation" replacing "creation" because, well, for starters, "curation" is choosing among things that are created? So like there's nothing for you to curate without creation? This precious bit of dressing-up what people choose to share on the Internet is, sure, silly, but it's also a way for bloggers to distance themselves from the dirty blogging masses. You are no different from some teen in Indiana with a LiveJournal about cutting. Sorry folks! You're in this nasty fray with the rest of us. And your metaphor is all wrong. More likely you're a low-grade collector, not a curator. You're buying (in the attention economy at least! If not in the actual advertising economy of websites!) what someone else is selling—and you're then reselling it on your blog. You're nothing but a secondary market for someone else's work. Oh and also? You "curators" might want to be careful with your language….

Oh, hey, you know who else was a social engineer?


Hey, how did we blow past "editor"? Why don't the curators want to be editors?

Anyway, replace "curator" with "people who are really picky with what they share on Facebook" and maybe Joe Hill will be right on the money! Although I suspect that in the 16th century, if not "painter," then actually the "patron" was the "artist-king." (Commissioning is an art! Ask Pope Julius II!) And then that "editors" were the dominant influence in the 19th. And "studios" in the 20th. So I guess now either "ad sales people" or "web engineers" are at the top of the artistic food chain? Oh dear.

119 Comments / Post A Comment

jolie (#16)


DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

@jolie As soon as I read the headline, I thought, "I need to point out that we're not actually dirty." Then halfway through I thought, "Wait, better leave that one for Jolie."

jolie (#16)

@DoctorDisaster Ha! I love it – you all are truly my people.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@jolie Comments will become much more deferential now that we know about your fearsome superpower.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@jolie: I think the implication in your case is that you blog about filth, not that you are filthy yourself.

jolie (#16)

@boyofdestiny FEAR ME, FEAR MY BLEACH!

roboloki (#1,724)

@ejcsanfran i would offer that she curates cleanliness.

hendrix@twitter (#234,384)

@jolie Bleach is the new 'black velvet' long live Tiny Elvis!

jfruh (#713)

"You are no different from some teen in Indiana with a LiveJournal about cutting."


Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@jfruh – I don't know, at least the LiveJournal is original content.

deepomega (#1,720)

Sounds like someone's got a case of the blogdays!

"Re-oversharing" really pops on a CV.

City_Dater (#2,500)

@Clarence Rosario

"Online Aggregator of Cat Photography/Baby Videos/Photos of Dudes with Beards/etc." is busily being added to resumes all over Brooklyn even as I sit here sighing.

Great editing!

Matt (#26)

I'm a tumbler. I'm a government man.

Art Yucko (#1,321)


NinetyNine (#98)

Noise commenting is the new blogging.

@curateordie (#234,246)

Nice post, Choir, but I disagree. Curation is simply a modern art form and a driving force in reinventing the publishing paradigm.

jfruh (#713)

@@curateordie hahahahaha

Moff (#28)

@@curateordie: Okay, you've convinced me!


SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@@curateordie: Literally preaching to the Choir. (Long-hanging fruit is my specialty.)

@@curateordie Excellent satire of corporate non-speak! It is satire, right?

shelven (#1,992)

@Shoulda Known Better It is the FINEST SATIRE I HAVE SEEN TODAY. At this point I believe I find some other satires and write cards about them in monotype.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Y'know, I have a really, really relaxed definition of 'art,' and I still balk at including 'curation,' if by that you mean 'reblogging.'

I think the word we're all grasping for is "choiration".

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@SidAndFinancy: (Long-hanging fruit? I'll just pretend that was … an intentional anatomical boast, or something.)

Rod Trunq@twitter (#12,565)

@@curateordie I feel the need to highly recommend the "curateordie" Twitter account that posted this. It is my new favorite thing on the internet.

Bee For Brian (#234,245)

I'm going to stick up for the idea behind "Curation is replacing creation as a mode of self-expression." The Apartment Therapy website usually shows rooms people designed, furniture they remodeled, things they made. But now they've started to show inane features such as "If I were building my dream kitchen, here's pictures of seven things I'd put in it!" And this is content? I blame Pinterest, and I think people do take this fantasy-shopping-league activity seriously enough to think of themselves as curators. When your identity is rooted in "what have I bought," choosing products becomes a theology.

Why is this part of our zeitgeist? The internet has made an overwhelming amount of content available. Choosing really is more of a chore than it ever has been, so naturally a cult of choosing will arise.

Modesprofessor (#234,192)

@Bee For Brian (1) If there was a fantasy-shopping league, I would join it (in fact, I may have to start it). (2) I'm not convince this is all new and zeitgeisty. When you do this sort of thing off the web, it's called scrapbooking. There are curators of scrapbooks (NYPL Performing Arts Library has an amazing collection), but no one would argue that scrapbooking is curating (right?).

Bee For Brian (#234,245)

@Modesprofessor The thing that is new is scrapbooking stuff that doesn't exist. Before scrapbooking became a big industry, people made albums of family photos, of their vacations, of things they had actually experienced (or maybe of their love for Davy Jones). But now with Pinterest, you have people making scrapbooks of … stuff they want to buy someday? The "mood board," apparently relied on by professional interior designers, has been taken up by the masses as a tool with which to practice the study of "I want that, and that, and that." I wouldn't argue that scrapbooking actually is equivalent to curating, but I wouldn't be surprised if scrapbooking is as close as many people will ever come to curating. When there's several lifetimes' worth of items to browse (in the web-surfing sense and the department-store sense), and when people judge themselves by what they buy, the situation is ripe for a culture of fetishized virtual shopping. This idea is echoed in the proliferation of bucket lists, "books I want to read," "1000 Places to See Before You Die." Sondheim wrote "The choice may have been mistaken; the choosing was not." More and more, we are seeing people exercise the activity of choosing, without the result of actually having made a choice.

Modesprofessor (#234,192)

@Bee For Brian I am mildly bummed out to learn that my painstaking assembled "dreamhouse" from the Spiegel 1978 interiors catalogue in a looseleaf notebook was not, technically, scrapbooking. I guess I was moodboarding? I am glad to feel validated about my love of Duran Duran and the many, many scrapbooks assembled in their honor.

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

@Modesprofessor I would like to curate a walk-in scrapbook of your Duran Duran scrapbooks by selecting only the Duraniest scrapbooks, filling the shelves and tables of an all-white loft apartment with them (maybe along with some ikat fabrics casually draped over Eames chairs for no reason and crystal chandeliers that don't give off any light), then post it all to Apartment Therapy.

mishaps (#5,779)

@Bee For Brian I don't know, it's my sense as a long-time (but admittedly short-memoried) Apartment Therapy reader that they've been doing that sort of shopping fantasy from the very beginning. The only change is the increasing listicle-ization of the site as it's gone from an advertisement for Maxwell's services to a flourishing business on its own, and they've figured out how to monetize their readership more and more efficiently.

@Bee For Brian Yeah, but we can also look to the explosion of magazines like Make for counter examples. Whatever way you read Harris' quote (either as lauding for curation, or as it was meant, as a critical statement), the statement works on a familiar binary we already know isn't useful. After all, it's just the visual arts version of technology is making us a) vastly smarter, b) vastly dumber.

Anyway, If I'm reading this comment right, the unwritten assumption here is that theology is what inevitably guides art making and curation. If curation is about identity construction and preservation —and I think it is — I'd say that's pretty accurate. Sadly, the classism Choire identifies in this post is part of that.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

I believe the artist-king of the 21st century is the pageview. Bow down.

Dave Bry (#422)

Maybe the confusion is just a matter of mispronunciation? Like how G.W. Bush used to say "nucular" instead of "nuclear."

BadUncle (#153)

Thanks to hay fever, I'm curating marvelous works of booger creation in my kleenex.

Logan5 (#233,031)

At the end of this post I heard in my head the sound of a slamming porch screen door.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

I recommended this post on Facebook.

Rollo (#3,202)

@Murgatroid Where should we send your grant monies?

GiovanniGF (#224)

In response to @joe_hill's tweet, the idea of curators ruling the 21st century is plain silly. Can anyone really doubt that collectors rule? Curators are the 21st century equivalent to court jesters.

hendrix@twitter (#234,384)

@GiovanniGF It's true, collectors have the money, money talks, therefore collector rule. Curators are so 20th century.

Mister_Neutron (#5,921)

As usual, everyone is overlooking the unsung heroes of 21st-century curation: classic rock stations.

melis (#1,854)

@Mister_Neutron The unsung heroes are actually social media rockstars.

Mister_Neutron (#5,921)

@melis Yes, but who shall nobly defend the legacies of Pink Floyd and Peter Frampton from silence and oblivion? Who shall succor our weary commuters with the gift of a song they've all heard innumerable times before? (A peaceful, easy feeling, if you will?) The center may not hold, but as long as 97.1 The Drive fights the good fight, the cradle will rock.

wb (#2,214)

Hitler? Wasn't he the guy that curated that great Dada and German Expressionism show? The Degenerate Art exhibition?

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Remember how Nostradamus precrecurated Hitler and 9/11?

brianvan (#149)

@wb Think of all the influential content that Goebbels created.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

too bad Goering ate it all.

wb (#2,214)

Those Third Reich guys would kill it as Buzz Feed employees.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

"I recently met a BuzzFeed editor who used to link to me all the time at a party, and it was like he had no interest in me or what I did or who I am as a person."

seentwagg (#8,810)

Curating is the new creation! DJs are the new musicians! EVERYTHING IS A REMIX!!!!!!

Art Yucko (#1,321)


@seentwagg Bumper Stickers are the new arguments!

Art Yucko (#1,321)

I believe you mean highlighted posts.

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

I don't know, my Pornterest is pretty awesome.

"You are no different from some teen in Indiana with a LiveJournal about cutting."


I'm a blogger and I hate this word. I was starting to think I was the only person that thought that it was totally being over-used.

Nick Douglas (#7,095)

Serious suggestion: Isn't the dominant creator now the developer? Ev Williams, David Karp, Chad Hurley, and Mark Zuckerberg and Jonah Peretti all massively influenced the way the rest of us express ourselves; drawings, writing and music have all been adapted to better work on their platforms. Does this make them meta-artists?

Matt (#26)

Here let me check on that via Tumblr search.

BadUncle (#153)

@Matt And respond with a "meme."

Art Yucko (#1,321)

events of two weeks ago were definitely what i'd call socially engineered performance art so hell why not.

@Nick Douglas I'd call developers inventors before artists. Artists occasionally make tools, but are usually more interested in subverting them in some way. Given that this is the case, I'd describe the process of testing software, as an artistic action. Developers devote an enormous amount of energy to coming up with creative ways to break their own software, it's tremendously fun to watch.

hendrix@twitter (#234,384)

@Nick Douglas Curators tell stories and make discoveries by juxtaposing the work of others. They are a lot like editors. Derrida considered editors to be artists in their own right. Zuckerberg is more like a gallery owner or dealer.

who's gonna make the stuff to be curated. at some point, folks gonna start curating other folks curations, etc til they all disappear up each other's apertures….

AlderAdler (#234,247)

I can understand why people want to appropriate the word and concept of curation–it's an attempt to elevate what they're doing. I can also understand why people relish labeling this reblog culture a sham and facile. Should we take it seriously? Maybe. However, exquisite taste in jpgs and animated gifs isn't going to get you invited to present a keynote at AAMC.

shelven (#1,992)

Is it safe to say I curate my refrigerator? Lord knows, I am the shittiest curator in creation, but I show my work to few.

shelven (#1,992)

Maybe what they meant to say is they are CUTTERS.

shelven (#1,992)

I am just glad curators don't want to be WRITERS. You absorb the heat for a while.

Wait, having a tumblr makes you a blogger? Updating my CV, AGAIN.

Moff (#28)

The worst part is how it's come to be de rigueur to give every curator a standing ovation.

At best, it's media scrapbooking.

My tumblr isn't so much a curated space as it is a symptom of deeper pathologies made manifest.

P.J. Morse (#232,627)

The people who use the word "curator" are trying too hard. They repeat it over and over in the hopes it will catch on, like that character in "Mean Girls" who tried to desperately to make the word "fetch" a thing. "Like, that is so fetch! Like, you are such a curator of content!"

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

That is so Empire.

P.J. Morse (#232,627)

@DoctorDisaster Like, totally.

laclabra@twitter (#90,640)

Question! When you are a social engineer do you get to wear a cute little blue-striped cap?

brianvan (#149)

I think we should take this up another 10,000 feet (LOLCLICHE!) and just have a thread criticizing the type of people who think that evangelism generates independent value.

It's nice to bat around economic theories all day, just don't sell it as actualities (without real, logical supporting data) and PLEASE don't charge for it unless you want your rude behavior to be exposed to the world. This is regardless of whether or not you're pitching the obvious, or whether or not you end up being correct.

Also, we'd be much better off if these people simply admitted they're playing for a team and shifted the conversation to straight branding/marketing/propaganda support. You could actually "monetize" that because that's the foundation that actually exists here! Just in case you're wondering why you can't create an economy out of something that doesn't exist… well, four thousand years of salon-like human behavior already figured that out.

Art Yucko (#1,321)


Matt (#26)

Go take a walk.

gregorg (#30)

I always understood that this sense of "curation" came from retail, when people who were too overeducated to work in retail needed to be doing something besides buying and merchandising and window dressing.

It's like how guys with six figures of student debt from Oberlin end up making pickles at night, and so we have "artisanal."

Though how artisanal managed to live and grow and die before curation petered out, I'll never understand.

@gregorg Nailed it.

@gregorg I keep thinking we have artisanal because we no longer have manufacturing. There are a lot of people who like to work with their hands and those jobs don't exist any more.

hendrix@twitter (#234,384)

@Paddy Johnson@facebook True that be Paddy!

Leon (#6,596)


mmmark (#4,458)

Creative sass.

I opened up a new tab so that I could tumblr this, and immediately felt a deep sense of shame.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

I saw a flyer for some event down the street that advertised music curated by DJ Heehaw or somesuch.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

What? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you — it's all this Pauline Oliveros blasting through the Beats by Dre.

1) Curating and collecting aren't the same thing, and 2) neither of those things is a creative activity. Pointing to stuff you like is not a creative activity. As a painter, I offer boundless appreciation to all collectors and curators out there. In the world of actual art objects (paintings, sculptures, etc, yes, so retro, I know) few people are confused about this. It's only in the neverending social media swirl that people seem to want to conflate these very different roles/words/abilities.

@Subway Suicide@twitter Here Here.

flossy (#1,402)

Ugh. Curation implies a certain level of scholarly research or at least extensive expertise in a given field (generally visual art) relating to whatever is being curated. It entails practices of cataloging, documenting, and conserving objects, images, etc. to contribute something substantial to the historical record and critical discourse.

It is not the same thing as merely selecting/choosing a few things from a larger group of things.

@flossy : not to diminish the real scholarly work of critics and curators, especially in the visual arts realm . the work can be very academically rigorous! it can be super helpful and intensely interesting! but at the end of the day, it IS choosing some things from a larger group of things and comparing them to other things.

flossy (#1,402)

@Subway Suicide@twitter the keyword is "merely." It's not "merely" choosing. It's all the other stuff that elevates choosing to curation.

@flossy I'm with you there.

oh snap. Saying "As a former actual curator, of like, actual art and whatnot .." is like punching us in the guts at the get go, Choire!

Alex O'Neal@twitter (#234,266)

You might enjoy this article on Edge. It doesn't directly address curation, but the trends it describes are probably a lot of what feeds the frustration you describe – which I share to an extent. Personally, I think the curation vs. creation concept is a false dichotomy altogether.

Doug Rice@facebook (#234,267)

"As a former actual curator, of like, actual art and whatnot, I think I'm fairly well positioned to say thhhpppppttttttttttttttt."

I've been sitting here trying to think of a more pretentious little toddler's-whine of a start to an essay, and I can't. You've stumbled upon the most horrendous introductory clause out there.

@Doug Rice@facebook And it just got worse from there…

Isn't this poor beleaguered Indiana teen actually BETTER than someone calling themselves a curator? Aren't they in fact creating? Why are you picking on this teen anyway? The poor kid has a cutting problem and here you are maligning them in a completely unrelated topic.

Differance (#234,276)

There is such a thing as pure structural expression, selection and combination. In fact the old formalists and structuralists pretty well analyzed metaphorical expression as figurative juxtaposition of elements, though that's taking things to a lower, internal level — yet it can also apply to the selection of other whole works. Magazines have done this, though rarely in very creative ways. Anyway, one creates one's own venue and curates perfectly well — even without bloggish commentary added. Emphasizing that one does the "value add" of blogging discursively *about* items selected distracts from recognizing what curation is in essence. It's just picking things and combining them — the principle of selection is often unstated, though one could define one's venue to help facilitate people's entry.

Creation has never been the dominant mode of self expression.

PearJack (#6,087)

I think ATP was the first place I saw "curation" (or "curated by") used outside of a more-or-less strict museum-y context. So…the slippery slope's precipice? On the other hand, I live in the sticks. So.

Having witnessed the actual talk it came from, I think it’s important to point out that Jonathan Harris’s quote that has everyone so riled, “Curation is replacing creation as a mode of self-expression,” isn’t a celebration, it’s a condemnation. Beyond the semantic argument that makes up the bulk of the discussion on this page, there are wildly varying degrees of value that might be assigned to the work bloggers are doing. There is an insane amount of content at our fingertips in this day and age, and in accordance with Sturgeon’s Law, most of it is garbage. So, too, are most of the resources proliferating that content. Yes, the animated GIF reblog ouroboros that constitutes much of Tumblr is exhausting and largely unnecessary. But to find a few people who can sift through the muck and reliably point you to stuff that stimulates the senses and intellect in a valuable way is a godsend. Call them curators, scrapbookers, bloggers, pachyderms; I don’t care. I just want the good ones to keep at it. Yes, production is key, and we need producers to make the stuff we want to absorb. But you know what? Producers need distributors.

In Tennesee they teach curationism in public schools.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

This is funnier if you read it aloud and went to some of those schools.

K.I.A. (#234,342)

i like to browse dictionaries and thesauri (or thesauruses, if you prefer), pick random words i like, and type them on a page. can i call myself a writer? or at least, please, a poet?(cuz i will. i've been waiting for the opportunity).

also, here's the good news: i've had many, many people (most recently, my lawyer)say to me "i'm also an artist" — well now those people will, thank god, soon be calling themselves curators.

William McDonald (#234,349)

I'm wondering why the negative need for a feeling of being superior to anyone else. Curator, blogger, whichever or whatever, you're all awesome. For myself, I RT on Twitter to help those who create (art, writing, music, performance art, etc).

For now, I'm going to get off the 'net' and do some creating, and hope that all have a great day doing whatever makes them happy too!

William "Mac" McDonald
Author/Digital Artist

Ariock@twitter (#234,352)

I find it mind-boggling that the author has a conniption about misuse of the word "curator" and yet has no problem with everyone and their gran calling themselves an "engineer."

You're not a software engineer, you are actually just a filthy programmer.
You're not a social engineer, you are actually just a filthy liar.

bozofish (#234,355)

Um, as a former museum curator, curation is also a rearranging of an existing group of things or an arranging of things. Curating an exhibition is not creating work. Just creating a system of display in the service of offering a different perspective. So we are all filthy curators. Even those of us who worked in the country's top museums.

ep (#8,509)

Being a museum curators is like being an interior decorator for a bank. Exactly like.

hendrix@twitter (#234,384)

Great art is about great art

Joe Walker@twitter (#234,417)

I believe the author curated my piece on the matter from last month-

Jim Fallone@twitter (#234,531)

Blogger, curator, filter, editor, publisher, creator, author, writer, diarist, journalist, journaler, copycat, gossip, braggart, pirate, plagiarist, crackpot, satirist, commentator, social critic, artist, performer, observer, communicator, catalyst, follower, anonymous poster, Facebook friend.

Too Long, Don't Read: "GET OFF MY LAWN"

As the daughter of an actual museum curator, I COULD NOT AGREE WITH YOU MORE!!!! The misuse of this word is so damn pretentious; I'm so tired of people near my age thinking they are sooo 'unique' and 'special' when in fact they are not. Too many people need a reality check on how mediocre their lives really are.
I feel that the overuse of this word is demeaning to real curators and all of the hard work they have done to attain this position.

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