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A man stands amidst lush green mountains, playing an alphorn.

The hills are alive...with the sound of an alphorn. (Photo: Tina Kukielski)

Confidence Indicator: Reconstructing Travel and Research for the 2018 Carnegie International

How international is the Carnegie International? In late 2016, the 2018 Carnegie International team put this question to curatorial interns Marina Tyquiengco and Talia Heiman. Working separately, Marina and Talia excavated the travel history of curators who organized the six most recent Internationals (1991–2013).

Marina is a PhD candidate studying contemporary indigenous art in the History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh. As a scholar of modern culture, Marina approached the project through the field of digital humanities, which offers new methods of research and visualization. She structured her research around the letters, receipts, emails, and other documents in the CMOA archives. Over four months in early 2017, Marina efficiently collated data from almost sixty boxes. She used ArcGIS software to map the travel of each curator for the 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2004 Internationals.

Shelving filled with document boxes.
Carnegie International archives. (Photo: Marina Tyquiengco)

In the summer of 2017, Talia, then a Masters candidate at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, built on Marina’s work by taking a close look at the remaining Internationals (2008 and 2013). Reading files of correspondence, Talia learned about the curators, their travels, the art world—with a few surprises along the way. In addition to her archival research, Talia’s conversations with past curators helped further her connection to the field she studies.

We initially commissioned this project to better understand how the travel of past International curators informed their exhibitions. Though Marina and Talia adopted very different strategies, their combined insights greatly enrich our definition of international. Marina designed a map that creates a visual record and captures the patterns in curators’ travel over time. In contrast, Talia’s deep dive into the 2008 and 2013 Internationals reveals the story behind the data. Below, Talia’s case study of the 2013 iteration provides a human context to the raw numbers and map coordinates. Marina and Talia’s invaluable work will be incorporated into a map that will be published as part of The Guide for the 2018 International. The research will serve as a record of this exhibition as much as it does for previous editions. Finally, their experiences in the archives have impacted our own approach to preserving material for researchers and projects not yet imagined.

Ashley McNelis, Curatorial Assistant
Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018

Mapping the Carnegie International: A Digital Humanities Project

Greyscale map of the world marked by scattered dots in green, blue, black, yellow, and magenta.
World map with colored dots indicating locales visited by curators. Each International is assigned its own color. The size of each dot is proportional to the Confidence Indicator.

Click here to view the interactive map of curators’ travel.(external link)

Method

My research for the International team focused on where curators traveled for the 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2004 exhibitions. By examining documents in CMOA’s archives—which includes massive files of letters, faxes, printed emails, and receipts—I pieced together where each curator went, how often, and in many cases why. To process this data and produce an online map, I created a Google Doc with the following fields: Person Involved, Start Date, End Date, City, Country, Who or What Visited, Evidence, and Confidence Indicator.

I used “Person Involved” rather than “Curator” because some trips included an associate curator, other staff, or the advisory committee (usually 3–4 international curators/art professionals). For the “Confidence Indicator,” I assigned a number between 1 and 10 based on how confident I was that a curator went to that location. On my scale, 10 indicated absolute certainty, proven by ample receipts and correspondences, 6 indicated ample soft evidence, such as correspondence but no receipts, 3 indicated some mentions in correspondences, and 1 indicated a casual mention but no hard evidence. The more detailed fields of “Who or What Visited” and “Evidence” were very specific and varied greatly; for this reason, they were left off the public-facing map.

Greyscale map of Asia with an inset window listing travel details.
Zoomed-in map with a sample window open. Clicking on any colored dot opens a window containing similar fields of information.

Findings

For the 1999 exhibition, curator Madeleine Grynsztejn visited 29 countries—the greatest number among the four Internationals I studied. Her travel included many trips to Central and South America; the 1999 International was the first to explore Latin American art in a substantive way. On the other end of the scale, curator Lynne Cooke visited only 10 countries for the 1991 iteration. Falling between these two extremes, curator Richard Armstrong visited 24 countries for the 1995 International, while curator Laura Hoptman visited 19 countries for the 2004 International.

Marina Tyquiengco, Curatorial Intern
Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018

The 2013 Carnegie International: A Narrative Case Study

“Knowing the impossibility…of organizing a truly ‘global’ exhibition, we decided to divide the territory…We wanted to make sure that as a team of three curators we would be able to cover more ground.” So began my conversation with Dan Byers, one-third of the 2013 Carnegie International (CI13) curatorial team. As part of my research for the Curator Travel Project, I had invited Dan and co-curators Daniel Baumann and Tina Kukielski to speak with me.

Three people stand inside an exhibition space, carrying bags with colored geometric symbols.
Curators at the Frieze Art Fair in London, showing off their 2013 Carnegie International bags. From left to right: Tina Kukielski, Dan Byers, Daniel Baumann.

The ArcGIS map that Marina and I utilized visualizes and aggregates a comprehensive overview of the locations visited by International curators since 1991. It illustrates the ways curators have expanded their art worlds, building on each other’s travel research, suggesting that perhaps we work more collectively than we might think. But this wonderful rainbow of plots also leaves out quite a lot of the narrative. What was so fascinating about the 2013 International archives was their fullness and texture—I had at my fingertips documents such as plane tickets and hotel receipts, but also personal correspondence among Daniel, Dan, and Tina. These letters, emails, and notes describe their impressions as they encountered new art worlds for the first time. They also include extraordinarily long lists of artists to research remotely, as well as complete itineraries detailing the galleries, artists, and exhibitions they visited individually and collectively.

These materials, and the interviews I eventually conducted with Daniel, Dan, and Tina, revealed what each point on the map represented: How did they determine where to travel to? Whether to travel together or alone? Which artists they were going to see and how frequently? Which exhibitions? How did these travel experiences materialize in the exhibition itself? What could be learned by comparing the itinerary of 2008 curator Douglas Fogle with those of the 2013 curators?

A handwritten note that reads: "No receipt provided for $50 in jukebox charges for the CI13 VFW party. Daniel Baumann confirms the amount spent."
From the archives: a handwritten note from Daniel Baumann regarding a 2012 party in Miami.

The most striking feature of CI13 was the elimination of a single curator in favor of a team: Daniel Baumann, curator of the Adolf Wölfli Foundation (Bern); Dan Byers, the Richard Armstrong Curator of Contemporary Art at CMOA; and Tina Kukielski, senior curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York).1  Since Daniel was based in Basel until the summer of 2012, he could travel by train frequently and easily within Europe. His location also permitted a broader view of the artistic and political landscape at that time. When he moved to Pittsburgh with his family, his children were enrolled in the local education system—a decision that encapsulates the global-to-local melding that a major exhibition like the International hopes to achieve.

Tina described the selection of the three curators by former Carnegie Museum of Art director Lynn Zelevansky as “the first curatorial act” of the International. Tina recalled a May 2010 trip to New York City, before any contracts had been signed, in which the three came together to get to know one another, “to see if we were going to be able to pull this thing off.” She explained how, for the first few months, the three discussed art in a very open and exploratory way, hoping through these discussions to understand their shared values, both as curators and as people. Much later, this connection carried through into two retreats, one in the Hudson River Valley and another in Basel a year later. During these retreats, they gathered to watch and discuss moving-image works, to finalize the theme, artist list, and floor plans—and also to have in-depth conversations, cook, and eat meals together.

A snow-capped Japanese temple and trees against a bright blue sky with clouds.
Kyoto under snow. (Photo: Dan Byers)

Altogether, the CI13 team traveled to thirty-three countries: fifteen European, six Middle Eastern (including Turkey), four South American, three North American, three Asian, and two African. To emphasize the significance of these numbers, curator Douglas Fogle visited only fifteen countries for the 2008 International: seven European, three Asian, two South American, two North American, and one Middle Eastern. Another point of comparison might be the reason for the curator’s travel. While Fogle oriented his trips around large-scale exhibitions, biennials, and art fairs, the CI13 team planned travel—including retreats, studio visits, and research trips—that didn’t necessarily center on major art-world events.

This is not to say they didn’t make the rounds to Documenta, the Venice Biennale, Frieze Art Fair, Art Basel, and the São Paulo Bienal—they did. In fact, the curators used these high-visibility events as opportunities to appear together and establish a global presence for the Carnegie International, thus generating excitement. (According to 2018 International curator Ingrid Schaffner, “they were really, you know, a squad.”) More importantly, attending fairs and biennials as a group allowed the curators to process what they were seeing together. They discussed which projects and curatorial strategies they thought did or did not work, what was valuable to their own large-scale exhibition. Sometimes, only two curators traveled to an event (for example, Daniel did not accompany Dan and Tina to the 2011 Istanbul Biennial or 2012 Paris Triennial). However, it was important to the team to have more than one curator present whenever possible.

A bridge with a projecting blue structure. Displayed on this structure is an orange sign that reads "Istanbul."
A sign on Galata Bridge advertising the Istanbul Biennial. (Photo: Tina Kukielski)

Quite simply, having more curators meant there was a greater desire and ability to visit different places. While Daniel traveled the most in Europe, where he was situated, he also went to India, Senegal, and South Africa. Dan traveled extensively in Japan and China, but also visited Hungary and Iceland. Tina was most interested in Latin America and went on several trips to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Balanced against this international travel was an effort, spearheaded by Tina, to build relationships with artists and organizations in Pittsburgh. This project was grounded in part by The Apartment(external link), a series of artist talks, screenings, and presentations held in a local residence.

Aside from North America and Europe, the Middle East was the only region all three curators visited. Tina told me that going there was a desire each curator had expressed from the very beginning, as it “just seemed the most important politically at the time.” The team was officially announced to the public in October 2010. The Arab Spring would begin in Tunisia three months later, thus renewing any sense of urgency to investigate the region, its artists, and the influence of these protests globally. Daniel’s European citizenship enabled him to visit Iran, which was nearly impossible for Americans Tina and Dan. Following a trip to Israel and Palestine, Dan traveled to Turkey, returning there later with Tina. She also visited Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

An urban landscape with a beachfront, seen from above.
View from a plane over Beirut. (Photo: Tina Kukielski)

From the data I was able to gather, the majority of participating artists hosted CI13 curators for studio visits twice (most often with one curator present). These visits were supplemented by meetings at specific events: exhibition openings, dinners, performances, large-scale events, or other group shows in which those artists may have been included. All of this travel constitutes an extraordinary amount of research and support, conducted from a sense of responsibility toward the many artists commissioned to produce new work.

Yet, even with all of this travel, it is important to note that without the internet, this exhibition and its internationalism would have materialized quite differently. Daniel traveled to Pittsburgh relatively often, but without Skype or email, his location would have made communication impossible. He also performed extensive internet research on the artists under consideration—his lists are all in the archive, and include hundreds of names. As Daniel told me explicitly, with a slightly grave undertone: “It would have been a different exhibition if we didn’t have the internet.”

Formal topiary, walk, and staubuilding cranes
A formal European garden amidst a modern construction site. (Photo: Daniel Baumann)

Through this narrative case study, I hope that we can collectively come closer to defining the international, and specifically how it materializes in large-scale exhibitions, in much fuller terms. Ultimately, it is not the places that Daniel, Dan, and Tina traveled to that produced the internationalism of their exhibition, but rather the decision to travel internationally at all. It is the desire to see things outside of the established art-world circuit, and the openness to learn from them.

Talia Heiman, Curatorial Intern
Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018

Note: My most sincere thanks to Daniel, Dan, and Tina for so warmly and enthusiastically sharing their experiences with me; to Marina for beginning this extraordinary research; and to Ingrid, Liz, and Ash for inviting me into their CI “home” for the summer of 2017.


Endnotes

  1. The curators held these positions in 2011, when they joined the Carnegie International team. Daniel Baumann is now director of Kunsthalle Zurich. Dan Byers is the John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Tina Kukielski is Executive Director and Chief Curator of Art21.