Curated by Paul McAree, ‘Circulation’ is composed of two Dublin city galleries (Monster Truck and FLOOD); a host of open submission artists who paid for the pleasure; two invited artists, Alan Butler and Jeffrey Charles Henry Peacock (JCHP); and a printed publication with a commissioned text by Mark Hutchinson that was funded by the open submission fee. The twist in the curatorial tail: none of the 51 artworks or proposals was rejected, albeit displayed with varying degrees of prominence at both galleries: no artist left behind it seems!?

McAree’s introduction to the publication proclaims in no uncertain terms that democracy is being explored through the curatorial selection process. Hutchinson’s commissioned essay ‘Collectivise Art Now’ is a thesis of received ideas on the good, bad, and ugly of compromised democracy – from Churchill to Lenin, Marx to Badiou to Žižek. However, not all is what it seems as McAree deliberately gives a shade of priority to the two invited artists by having their artworks displayed at both galleries. Furthermore, some of the artists affiliated with Black Church Print Studio – the institution that commissioned the exhibition – are also granted a little more wiggle room for their submitted artworks displayed at FLOOD...(coincidence?)

Beyond questions of democracy, what comes across more clearly is a tangible rather than theoretically performed institutional critique, that has seemingly changed hands from the artist to the curator. In 2006 Simon Sheikh (in response to an essay written by Andrea Fraser) observed that the institution was once a problem for the artist but “the current institutional-critical discussions seem predominantly propagated by curators and directors of the very same institutions. [...] Institutional critique, as co-opted, would be like a bacteria that may have temporarily weakened the patient – the institution – but only in order to strengthen the immune system of that patient in the long run.”1 Thus the suggestion of a nonjudgemental, nonprejudicial, nonhierarchical, all-inclusive art arena conveys a message that, without the ‘institution’ of the curator as arbiters of taste and judgement we would end up with distasteful, hodgepodge exhibitions. ‘Circulation’ presents what J.J. Charlesworth describes as the “role of the curator-as-author” and the “acknowledgement of the curator as someone who wields power and makes substantial decisions of inclusion and exclusion. Curator-as-facilitator, curator-as-DJ, curator-as-artist – what these well-worn tropes have in common is the persistent disavowal of the purely institutional character of the curator’s power”.2 Charlesworth’s ‘curator-as-author’ also gives a reality check to the art critic who, under the leading hand of the director and curator, is essentially an arbiter of their hand-me-down taste.

However, the position of servitude that the critic usually finds oneself in, through the nagging sense of fair play to comment on as much of the artworks as possible in a group exhibition, is absent here. The very notion of doing a ‘Baudelaire’  – in how he verbally covered the crammed French Salons of the 1840s and ’50s with such critical stamina and partiality – seems entirely pointless considering McAree’s emphasis on curation for curation’s sake.

What if the 51 artists decided to not jump through the curatorial hoop by not submitting? Could such collective resistance to the ever-evolving curatorial playground be organised by artists, for whom the rule of beggars applies (can’t be choosers?). As Hans Haacke wrote in 1974: “‘Artists’, as much as their supporters and their enemies, no matter of what ideological coloration, are unwitting partners. [...] They participate jointly in the maintenance and/or development of the ideological make-up of their society. They work within that frame,

set the frame and are being framed”.3

Unfortunately, ‘Circulation’ does not come across as a celebration of art but of curatorial hijinks. The 49 artworks that make up the ‘Salon wall’ at Monster Truck are in essence bystanders to Alan Butler’s and JCHP’s activating artworks. The whole curatorial scenario reverses Benjamin H. D. Buchloh’s ‘Aesthetic of administration to the Critique of Institutions’ in his historicising evaluation of 1960s Conceptualism.4


Jumping through Hoops!


Starring Alan Butler + Jeffrey Charles Henry Peacock

+ 62 open submission artists (= 51 artworks/proposals)

FLOOD + Monster Truck, Dublin.

Curated by Paul McAree, 9 – 24 August, 2013.

John Ryan, CV (2013), ‘Circulation’ publication, image: author.



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