International symposium:
“Curating Under Pressure”

International symposium:
“Curating Under Pressure”

ifa—Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen

Tim Veling, New World, Durham Street, Christchurch, from the series “Adaptation,” 2011–12. C-type print, 1500 x 1200 mm.
October 1, 2015
International symposium: “Curating Under Pressure”

5–8 November 2015

University of Canterbury
Ilam Campus
Room 101 in The Undercroft
New Zealand

In September 2010, Christchurch’s SCAPE Biennial of Public Art was three weeks away from opening when the city was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, damaging the city and halting the sixth biennial. Half a world away, a biennial had been founded in New Orleans in 2006 precisely because of the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing political and social debacle. In both places, two different concepts of what art can do in times of pressure and disaster are at work, but both instances raise questions about the role of art in extreme situations—whether caused by natural disasters, extreme political pressure, oppressive regimes or terrorist threats.

As Christchurch continues to come to terms with the series of massive seismic events five years ago, it will host the international symposium “Curating Under Pressure.”  It was initiated by Leonhard Emmerling, Goethe-Institut, and Elke aus dem Moore, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), realized in partnership with Creative New Zealand and the University of Canterbury, and is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

Bringing together a rich cohort of curators, artists and theorists, the symposium will focus on the audience and the ethics surrounding the biennial structure. Is there a responsibility towards the audience, and if so, how could it be described? What are art’s promises towards the audience? Does art have the power to heal trauma and to build resilience against hardship and disaster? Does art have the power to instigate change—political or social? And if not: What are the consequences for cultural producers, artists, curators and exhibition organizers?

Over four days, a variety of speakers will explore these questions via prepared presentations, panel discussions, guided tours, public gatherings, and loosely programmed encounters and conversations. The first day will contextualize the post-quake Christchurch situation as experienced by locals in relation to the city’s multiple histories. The second day explores other significant natural disasters, including those that have occurred in Japan and Indonesia, and the responses to these events in the artistic and wider communities. The third day addresses political pressure, asking—among other things—how biennials can avoid servitude to states and governmental organizations seeking cultural tools to conceal oppressive politics. On the final day we will seek a way forward: in close group discussions, participants will be asked to contribute to a working manifesto of curatorial ethics.

“Curating Under Pressure” is a free symposium that takes place in Christchurch, New Zealand between 5–8 November 2015. To register, find out more information, and for press inquiries, go to or email Jamie Hanton, Project Coordinator, at [email protected].

Invited contributors:
Brooke Davis Anderson (Director, Prospect, New Orleans), Russell Brown (Media Theorist, New Zealand), Sorcha Carey (Director, Edinburgh Art Festival), Zasha Colah (Independent Curator, India), Marina Fokidis (Co-Curator, documenta), Blair French (Curator, SCAPE 7), Gabriele Horn (Director, Berlin Biennial), Miyamoto Katushiro (Architect, Hyogo Province), Rona Kopeczky (Artistic Director, OFF-Biennále Budapest), Azar Mahmoudian (Independent Curator, Teheran), Sarah Murray (Curator, Canterbury Museum), Gabi Ngcobo (Curator/Director, Center for Historical Reenactments, Johannesburg; Co-Curator, São Paulo Biennial), Melanie Oliver (Director, The Physics Room), Elvira Dyangani Ose (Curator, Göteborg Biennial), Alisa Prudnikova (Commissioner / Artistic Director, Ural Industrial Biennial), Lara Strongman (Senior Curator, Christchurch Art Gallery), Shannon Te Ao (Artist / Lecturer, Massey University), Sophie Davis, Sophie Bannan, Grace Ryder (Co-Directors, North Projects), Chloe Geoghegan and Ella Sutherland (Former Co-Directors, Dog Park Project Space), artists and activists from Christchurch

ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) and Goethe-Institut are independent cultural institutions promoting the international art and culture exchange through art exhibitions and dialogue programs. “Curating Under Pressure” will be the sixth edition in the ifa conference series Biennials in Dialogue, which aims to generate discussions amongst all the participants involved in the growing business of biennial culture. Previous conferences in this series focused on the perspectives of directors and organizers of biennials; later editions have asked curators, researchers, and artists to raise new questions.

The conference in Christchurch was initiated by Leonhard Emmerling, Goethe-Institut, and Elke aus dem Moore, ifa, realized in partnership with Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa and the University of Canterbury, and is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.


"Curating Under Pressure" international symposium in Christchurch, New Zealand

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ifa—Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen
October 1, 2015

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