Saturday, 21 May 2011


discussion among the Jester Curator Symposium participants

The Jester-Curator Symposium
Cragg Lecture Theatre
University for the Creative Arts
Canterbury, United Kingdom
20 May · 11:00 - 17:00

Chaired by Tom Morton with papers by TJ Demos and Dave Beech. Panel Discussion with Gilda Williams, Matthew Poole, Sally O'Reilly and Pablo Leon de la Barra.
Artist Performance by Richard Layzell

Trifarious Projects presents a dynamic day of presentations and discussions addressing the notion of curator as jester.

We are proposing to explore the Jester-Curator model at a time when curatorial practice within the visual arts is increasingly concerned with the presentation of political and social polemics.

Traditionally the title of curator has been used to describe someone who cares for collections. However, more recently, within contemporary art practice it has been ascribed to someone who is responsible for creating a narrative based on a particular political, historical or psychological perspective amongst others.

From Will Sommers (court jester to Henry VIII,) to Shakespeare’s Feste, the court jester is understood to occupy an exceptional position in the Royal court: his role as entertainer, wit and satirical observer allows him free expression – even the opportunity to mock the King without consequence. Traditionally the jester is depicted as an omniscient character, moving freely between court and kingdom and relaying his observations on either side of the castle walls.

The Jester-Curator model suggests that the topsy-turvy world of the Jester is not simply a place for foolishness; it is one where ‘acting out’ allows a release from day-to-day reality that enables fresh perspectives and alternate approaches. Yet it puts into question the Curator’s level of responsibility; to whom and what is she responsible and to what extent does the manner in which material and ideas are presented alter its content?

To what extent is the curator responsible to their audience to be a truthful storyteller and how does this reflect the curator’s ability to affect real social or political change? Join our speakers and panel to examine the curator’s responsibility to reflect critically on the world around us, and to discuss the various ways that might be done.


Tom Morton (chair) is a writer, curator and a contributing editor of frieze. He is currently curator at the Hayward Gallery, London, where he has recently staged exhibitions by Erik van Lieshout, Jess Flood-Paddock, Matthew Darbyshire and Cyprien Gaillard, among others. He was previously curator at Cubitt, London. Morton curated the exhibition ‘How to Endure’ for the 2007 Athens Biennale, and was co-curator of the 2008 Busan Biennale. He is co-curator (with Lisa Le Feuvre) of ‘British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet’. He is the author of numerous catalogue essays, and contributes to publications including Bidoun and Metropolis M.

T.J. Demos (presentation) is a critic and Reader in the Department of Art History, University College London. He writes about modern and contemporary art, and is the author of The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (MIT Press, 2007). Demos was recently the co-curator of “Uneven Geographies: Art and Globalisation,” at Nottingham Contemporary in May-June 2010, and was director of the research-exhibition project Zones of Conflict: Rethinking Contemporary Art during Global Crisis in 2008-09. He is presently completing a new book, entitled Migrations: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Globalization (forthcoming from Duke University Press).

Dave Beech (presentation) based in Manchester, studied Fine Art at Leicester Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art. Beech is a writer, a lecturer at Chelsea College of Art, and is a member of the art collective Freee. He is also a regular writer for Art Monthly and other art magazines. He co-authored the book ‘The Philistine Controversy’ (Verso 2002) with John Roberts.

Richard Layzell (artist performance) award-winning artist, writer and teacher, Layzell has shown work internationally, often in collaboration with both fictional characters and ‘real’ participants including other artists, writers and even architects. Working across performance, visual art and curating, he is the author of Cream Pages (2008), Enhanced Performance (1998) and Live Art in Schools (1993). The installation The Manifestation was recently shown across the UK and the work, Assisted Power, recently premiered at the National Review of Live Art in Glasgow and at the 2010 Whitstable Biennale. He is an artist/researcher with ResCen (

Sally O’Reilly (panelist) is a writer, contributing regularly to many art and culture publications. Her book The Body in Contemporary Art was published by Thames & Hudson in 2009. She has also curated and produced numerous performative events and was recently writer in residence at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Pablo León de la Barra (panelist) is a cultural producer, born in Mexico City in 1972. León de la Barra has curated among other exhibitions ‘To Be Political it Has to Look Nice’ (2003) at apexart in New York; ‘PR04 Biennale’ (2004 co-curator) Puerto Rico; ‘George and Dragon at ICA’ (2005), ICA-London; ‘Somewhere Under the Rainbow’, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2010); ‘Cerith Wyn Evans: To Know Him is To Love Him’ at Casa Barragán’, Mexico City. León de la Barra has collaborated regularly on numerous publications and was co-founder of ‘24-7’; an artists-curatorial collective in London from 2002-2005. He is currently the editor of his own blog the ‘Centre for the Aesthetic Revolution’, and working on the project of the ‘Novo Museo Tropical’ a museum which could exist everywhere and nowhere and that questions current conventions of institutions, exhibitions and collections.

Gilda Williams (panelist) is a Lecturer on the MA in Curating programme, Goldsmiths College and a London correspondent for Artforum magazine. From 1994-2005 she was Editor and (from 1997) Commissioning Editor for contemporary art, Phaidon Press; in 2011 she is a judge on the Max Mara Art Prize for women artists. Her book “The Gothic’ (MIT Press/Whitechapel, 2007) is also the subject of her ongoing PhD work. Williams’ research explores the rich art-historical term ‘gothic’ as a counter-Modern cultural paradigm obsessed with the past and lingering unwanted cultural inheritances, represented through a set of conventionalized figures and sites: haunted places; the undead; and ruins. On these terms she analyses the art of Louise Bourgeois, Gregor Schneider, Teresa Margolles and Tacita Dean as examples of ‘contemporary gothic art’.

Matthew Poole (panelist) is a freelance curator and writer. Having worked as Exhibitions Organiser at The Contemporary Art Society, Curator at The Economist Plaza, and as Programme Organiser at Gasworks Gallery, he is currently Programme Director at the Centre for Curatorial Studies at The University of Essex.

Trifarious Projects is a collaboration between curators Matthew De Pulford, Sian McMillan and Kate Phillimore.

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