Reviewed February 2019
Rachel M. Ward, Ph.D. Candidate in Interactive Arts & Technology; National Digital Stewardship Resident (NDSR Art)
Small Data Industries
Ways of Curating is a website that serves as a digital, interactive mirror to Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 2014 book of the same title. It was created in partnership with Google Arts & Culture to identify and coalesce a thoughtful selection of his projects from a prolific career curating over 200 art exhibitions. With immersive interaction, whimsical animations, and an artistic, design-focused layout, this site reimagines the often habitual and conformative formats of traditional online portfolios and art catalogs.
Rather than a limiting focus on only contemporary art, there is a pronounced emphasis on interdisciplinarity and the interconnectedness of scientific and artistic curatorial domains. In this way, the site serves as a visual map of Obrist’s transition to an all-encompassing practice via the amalgamation of architecture, literature, philosophy, and science.
The site is subdivided into Themes, Exhibitions, Timelines, and Posts_. These menu items dictate a logical flow from left to right — interacting with content in the Themes section will naturally propel one into Exhibitions. The site is an amusing mixture of arbitrary and purposeful linearity — though often not immediately realized. It requires the visitor to experiment with unfamiliar and unexpected layouts and interaction in order to carve a personal path for the logical excavation material.
The first section in the menu is Themes. Themes such as Science (blue) and Live Art (pink) can be selected via the filter whereby an animated, color-coded thread gracefully weaves and fastens thematically-related exhibitions. As an alternative to the filter, the exhibition thumbnail can be clicked, causing its inherent themes to similarly fracture and re-couple in various color-coded affiliations.
The Exhibitions section provides an overview of each project: curator credits, themes, and high-resolution images (again, the educational aim of the Google Arts & Culture project). In addition to installation and artwork images, thumbnails can represent a show’s live elements, automatically redirecting the viewer to associated YouTube videos. Similar to Posts_, the site represents an educational experiment in web-interconnectedness across various social platforms.
The Timeline presents an attractive showcase of interactive design features. Hovering over the projects’ chronological lineage produces animations and increasingly-expandable content. With savvy aesthetic design, the timeline is interspersed with animated quotes from artists and influencers (for instance, a quote by Yoko Ono hovers around the year 2003). Each element of the timeline is also individually shareable (or tweetable) to your own social media accounts.
Lastly, Posts_ “mines” photos from Obrist’s Instagram posts from the past six years. He frequently uploads photos of handwritten messages from “artists, thinkers and other cultural luminaries” in an effort to revive the “analog art of handwriting.” This section of the site creatively showcases these “mined” posts, whereby clicking one leads to the original upload on the Instagram website.
This site overtly resonates with the intent of the Google Arts & Culture platform as a way to bring collections to the public through virtual tours and high-resolution images. In comparison to many sites that use the Google Arts platform, Ways of Curating is creatively unique in its representation of interdisciplinary curation, artistic design, and interactive content. Contra to many art, portfolio or collection formats, this site rejects basic point-click interaction, static imagery, and traditional web card catalog modes of linear access.