EDDIE CHAMBERS ON CURATING
I should start by saying I am not really a curator as such. It is true that I manage to curate exhibitions from time to time but I don’t think that gives me the true status of being a curator. In truth this is because I lack a power base. I don’t have a gallery that I work with and I don’t have administrative assistance. So from the outset I am in a position of weakness in the environment that I try to work in. At no greater point is this position of weakness emphasised than when I am applying to galleries. I have come to expect that I do not have my letters replied to or the replies that come back are completely negative or uninterested. It is this process of securing venues that takes up most of my so called curatorial time. I find this work often frustrating and it is the most humiliating and boring. In this environment it becomes almost impossible to think in positive creative and practical terms. One mixed blessing that results from this consistent exclusion and rejection is the fact that there is no clear career structure in being a Black curator. Indeed, being identified with a wider body of Black artists is almost guaranteed to cement or solidify a peripheral status as a Black curator.
… Through perseverance and hard work Black people in Britain have made some progress, and through much perseverance and hard work Black curators in partnership with Black artists have consistently produced strong vibrant and successful exhibitions. Because the white art world is unable to take the Black artist seriously the Black artist needs the Black curator and it goes without saying that the Black curator needs the Black artist. For the Black curator the act of curating is a wholly creative process, the second stage as critical and vital as the first stage. The first stage being the making of the work itself. Given the distinct place of political and social, narrative and polemical work of most Black artists, the Black curator can’t do anything other than follow through these themes in the broader context of the art gallery.
… When a Black artist creates a piece of work that highlights the nightmare of Black deaths in police custody, the curator in showing the work, echoes this message. Likewise work that deals with the notions and reality of Black history or racism: the Black curator is the facilitator and the mouthpiece of this work.
The above extracts are from a text, “EDDIE CHAMBERS ON CURATING”, Autograph newsletter, January 1992, page 5. The article was a short extract from a talk given at the Riverside Studios, London, 11 January 1992, as part of the series Legitimate Practices