Urgent Power

I. Kurator discovers he’s not on the Power 100 list, and phones a close friend...

By I. Kurator

Bloomsbury has never looked more beautiful. The leaves from the great oaks have turned a reddish-brown, the colour of dear Anish’s magisterial At the Edge of the World. I saw its gloomy, impenetrable dome again the other day just down the road, hung to celebrate Lisson Gallery’s 50th anniversary. When I stared into it I thought about the immense edifice of memory. I remembered, as if it was but yesterday, a young Nicholas Logsdail treating me to a splendid fish supper at the Sea Shell chippie back in 1987. Will another spring ever come? I am lost in thought as young Rodolf enters the room.

“You didn’t knock,” I admonish him gently, zipping my flies. Quietly I admire the paisley dressing gown that he has taken to wearing since moving into my employment.

“The Power 100 is out,” he says, gesturing to the august journal that lies magisterially on the Timurid engraved-copper serving tray he carries.

I flick through, my rage building from 1 to 100.

“Bring me the telephone, Rodolf!” I dial the number from memory. “Kurator here!” I announce. I am beside myself. There is a soft sound at the other end of the line. I realise it is the tragic noise of a grown man sobbing.

I breathe deeply.

“I just don’t understand it,” I say. “For years you were the most powerful curator. And now, this insult! I open up ArtReview and what do I see? Adam? Adam is higher than you in this blasted list? And me... me... I’m not even on it. It’s like these people have never even heard of my Rajasthan Triennial.”

The unmistakable Swiss-German-accented voice finally replies

The unmistakable Swiss-German-accented voice finally replies, “You know, everything I do is somehow connected to velocity, but here life is just coming at me too fast...”

It is hard to work out if he’s trying to be sympathetic, so I decide to treat it as an urgent cry for help.

“Look, dear boy, I know, I know. I am as furious as everyone else. I mean, it’s one thing sticking a couple of artists at the top of this list for shits and giggles, but this? This?!”

“You know, Kurator, I always have coffee and porridge for breakfast,” the great man interrupts me, his whimpering subsiding. “And when I opened the magazine, I spat my coffee into my porridge. Do you know what that did to the consistency of my porridge?”

“No, er...”

“But then I realised immediately that the hybrid ‘porridgee’ not only occupies the liminal space between coffee and porridge but could in fact be an unrealised project itself! What for example would happen to the feedback loop of the porridgee if I spat more coffee into it? When would it be turned to ‘coffidge’? I’m very interested in this idea...”

“Look, look, you need to get back to the unfortunate subject at hand,” I say. “Adam is the highest placed curator on this list despite the critical backlash that met Documenta? Only yesterday young Rodolf noted that Sleek believed it to have ‘failed everyone but its curators’.

"What does this mean for us? And what on earth is Sleek when it’s at home? Whatever we do – and Lord knows I thought my programming of the Kranj Conference was radical – we need to do something else!”

“I can’t. I was born to be a curator! Ja. Ja. It’s quite an obscure notion for a kid, no? To want to be a curator. But even then, I knew that I would do this. And now this. This enormous kick to die Hoden!”

“This is a wakeup call to us all,” Isay.“What did those who venerate Adam say he achieved? The New York Times liked it but described it as ‘scattered, uneven, relentlessly unspectacular’. I mean, you wouldn’t exactly put that on a poster, would you?”

“But you see, Adam is a disruptor! We too must become disruptors, Kurator, and then I can be number one again, and you can be, you can be, erm...”

“Well, I think you’ll find I’m hovering just outside that top 100 – a mere knock of the door away. You know what I say? Let’s stop knocking, let’s blow the backdoors down!” I gaze longingly at Rodolf, who has turned around and is looking out the window.

“Ja!” The distraught soul is regaining his verve. “One of my favourite of my many, many unrealised projects and haven’t-even-been-unrealised-yet projects is called ‘Do It’! So, Kurator, let’s fucking ‘do it!’”

“Yes, let’s do it!” I yell back into the phone. Then I think for a bit. “But what actually are we going to do? How do we top this curatorial disruption? Can we find another virtue-signalling European exhibition programme and use it, as Adam has said, to ‘question the value production regime of mega-exhibitions’? Can we find another way of provoking The Sydney Morning Herald to describe a show as ‘the politically constipated, incoherent offerings in Kassel’? I mean, how does one even get an Australian so angry?”

“This is a super-urgent question...”

“How to improve on the magisterial open letter Adam and the team have written? ‘We would like to denounce the exploitative model under which the stakeholders of documenta wish the “most important exhibition of the world” to be produced.’ Would we have the courage to say that to the organisations who employ us? With this he has achieved the ultimate transcendence of the canon. He has fired the canon! Boom! Boom-chicka-boom!” I laugh hysterically before dissolving into tears.

“Erm, Kurator, you are not currently in employment...”
There is silence from both us. “You know, Ivan” – it is the first time he has addressed me by my Christian name since the awkwardness in Roppongi on what Cities On the Move was really about – “my one unrealised project is to have a palace of all these unrealised projects. But perhaps now I – erm, we, I mean – are no longer the top curator dogs, we are free. We must urgently embrace this! We are no longer exhibition-makers, we have finally become and embody...”

I instinctively know where this is going, and together we cry, “...unrealised projects!”