Exhibiting in an educational field
This book is not only an opportunity to tell the story of the projects that marked the first decade of LiveInYourHead, which came to be considered, shortly after its inception in 2009, the “curatorial institute” of the Haute École d’Art et de Design de Genève (HEAD – Geneva). Through various accounts and other contributions that situate and analyze those projects, this book also advances a particular vision of art pedagogy and the institutional positions to which HEAD is committed. Furthermore, it points to the cultural legacies that laid the foundation and provided the models for this project and, more specifically, created a way of putting students in touch with artists and curators through their shared experience of putting exhibitions together.
It all started with Jean-Pierre Greff’s initiative: after founding the Chaufferie in 1993 while still serving as director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Strasbourg, Greff came to Geneva with a conviction of the educational merits of running such an exhibition space located outside the institution proper. In addition to this initial project, an opportunity presented itself to make use of two spaces steeped in a powerful history and marked by assertive curatorial choices. Whether these opportunities were merely fortuitous or not, they inevitably influenced the subsequent history, approach, development, and orientation of this exhibition space.
The title of the project, LiveInYourHead, was borrowed from Harald Szeemann’s legendary 1969 exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Berne, Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form. Our choice of title was doubly justified: first, by the fact that this new exhibition space was set up on the premises of Attitudes, an exhibition space established in Geneva by Jean-Paul Felley and Olivier Kaeser; and second, by the obvious reference to HEAD, the acronym of the new Haute École d’Art et de Design. Besides the desire to carry on the history of an important contemporary art venue in Geneva, the reference to Harald Szeemann’s project signaled a certain way in which HEAD would envision future exhibitions. Szeemann reinvented the medium of the art exhibition by deconstructing the pyramidal institutional system of the museum, in which the curator often used to be the director of the museum as well, and would commission an artist to supply works for an exhibition. The artist was consequently expected to support, illustrate or magnify a pre-established intention, without being allowed any scope to play an active part in shaping that intention. In Szeemann’s horizontal, antihierarchical approach, he espoused a conception of the exhibition as a participatory project based on a collective experience of ongoing dialogue between artists and curator. Following on from experiments conducted at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, which were heavily influenced by John Dewey’s theories and, from the early 1960s, by the Fluxus movement, Szeemann set out to turn exhibitions into a demystified art form fully integrated into everyday life and experienced as a series of encounters that would allow scope for experimentation and improvisation. A case in point was Freunde, Friends, d’Fründe, an exhibition held just a few months before When Attitudes Become Form, based on a single guiding principle of friendship between artists. The project consisted of a dialogue between four artists, Dieter Roth, Daniel Spoerri, Karl Gerstner and André Thomkins, who were asked to invite their friends to take part in the exhibition as well. In a handwritten letter he published by way of an introduction to the catalogue, Szeemann said he was delighted with this approach and by the fact that there was no longer any need for him to intervene.1
LiveInYourHead’s powerful principles of collective experimentation and creation are in line with this forty-year history and were championed by Yann Chataigné, who ran the exhibition space from 2009 to 2017. From the outset, Jean-Pierre Greff intended this exhibition space to provide an opportunity for students to “intensify their projects” and set their works alongside those of their peers within the framework of an exhibition conceived of as “a sounding board for experiments often conducted elsewhere” (Charlotte Laubard).
Another time, another place: LiveInYourHead’s second exhibition space was previously occupied (1987–2000) by Sous-sol, the first program of curatorial studies in Europe, set up as part of the École Supérieure des Arts Visuels by Catherine Quéloz and Liliane Schneiter. Modeled on the Whitney Museum of Art’s Independent Study Program (1968–2008), the Sous-sol program was particularly about developing one-of-a-kind curatorial projects, born of reflections that were fueled by institutional criticism, in the exhibition space.
So the history of LiveInYourHead lies at the crossroads of new paradigms that enabled the West to reinvent the medium of the art exhibition over the course of two decades. These new paradigms informed and animated various venues and developments in Geneva, which, in turn, have nourished the LiveInYourHead project. This book reflects the richness of that legacy, while bringing to light the positioning of an art pedagogy that is deliberately based on the need to move the work of art pedagogy outside the institution in order to give rise to novel experiments and new experiences.
L’Expérience de l’exposition / Exhibiting in an Educational Field. LiveInYourHead 2009–2019.
Julie Enckell Julliard (publ.) & al.
Les Presses du Réel, 2019