ISSUE 5 Curatorial Episteme
Curatorial Episteme  

The production of knowledge emerging from curating practices has developed into an important issue in the last thirty years. Yet it is not the only reason for the global profusion of biennials, which have encouraged independent curating, but also indicates that there has been a rise in the academicization of curating practice, with even accredited curriculums now available and becoming more popular at certain institutions. What is the knowledge needed for becoming a culturally viable curator? How does a curator obtain the requisite knowledge for achieving significance in the field? Moreover, how is it possible to name the field of such knowledge? Or, does it even need to be formally called or considered a body of knowledge? These are the questions that are centered on a curatorial episteme, the conditions of knowledge and knowing essential for any curating practice, as the task of epistemology always warrants. The implications of an episteme, as long as it is involved with the aspect of knowledge production, certainly refers to how such knowledge is circulated, shared, consumed, instituted, and eventually reproduces itself. A Foucauldian version of “knowledge” will suffice to lend access to, and define, its close relation to power, and the formation of subjects, even as the recent discussion on “situated knowledges” has taken the open field as a construct, across which their various and potentially transforming relations of production are deployed. Moreover, since curators are practicing what they know in making exhibitions, curators’ knowledge can run into the risk of being only an applied theory, which mainly emphasizes their hands on experience.

Henk Slager’s “Epistemic Encounters” has advocated the importance of research in art practice, treating the effects of being surrounded by biennial exhibitions and academic settings. Artistic research not only can formulate questions and questioners, trajectories, and subjects for artists’ projects that often run for a long duration, but also create the potential for emancipation from the restrictions of prescriptive academic curating standards. Hence the irreflective and intuitive studio practices are still prominent, without allowing for any generating of their own discursive energies. The knowledge that artistic research seeks is fundamentally subversive, in terms of rejecting the conventional academic settings in which the results of research can always be well defined, and hence become reproduced. Artistic research, Slager claims, can be characterized as performative, simple because is it is created out of an awareness of social and political urgency, and always offers an alternative solution, which is an art project becomes ethically alive in relation to its signifying practice. Slager demonstrates the need for vital epistemic encounters by his curatorial projects, by asserting the vertical perspective of artistic knowledge characterizing the modes of difference and immeasurability, which in turn engage the political issues targeted in shaping the future art schools to come.

Hongohn Lin’s “The Curatorial Thing” traces the debates of curating versus the curatorial for more than a decade, for the purpose of defining both the received and untypical facets of curatorial things. By examining two aspects—knowledge and politics—that are relevant to the curatorial, Lin’s projects are pushing beyond the binary epistemological operation, so as to bring forth what can be called the resonant “thing-ness” of curation. Several issues in these curatorial things—namely the assembly, the collection, and the curating techniques—are examined thoroughly in bringing about the real thing, that which is necessary for critiquing curating that has become mere prating practice. Returning to the myth of Cura, the three layers of care—anxiety, the-care-for-oneself, and the-care-for- others— as defined by philosopher Martin Heidegger, Lin believes in the efficacy of care, the curatorial thing, as it is embodied in the ontological dimension of being-in-the-exhibition. 

Meng-Shi Chen’s “Ethics of Curating” takes ethics as the key condition in examining exhibition-making. In responding to care as the ethical guideline—the should and the ought–to—Chen believes it is necessary to move beyond the norm and the standard, in order to take the position of others into account, which is exactly the situation that always confronts a curator. Moreover, referencing Derrida’s notion on hospitality, Chen believes that the dialectical relation of the host and the guest can be interchangeable, and therefore the host inevitably becomes the guest, and vice versa. The ethics of such a positional exchange should be considered as much the right thing to do, given that today’s curators are frequently invited as “guest curators” for art institutions other than their own.

It is time to look for and assess the curator’s knowledge, which can be a structural cause in making any exhibition nowadays. The interdisciplinary and emancipatory knowledge of any curator cannot be easily resolved to the fundament epistemological question: under which conditions is knowledge produced? The recent discussions on the epistemicide responses to the close relationship between power and the knowledge system, which always already dismisses the marginal and the vulnerable, are fundamental to this set of considerations. Therefore, the curatorial episteme can be a politico-economic issue, which then ties back into its uneven geographic and demographic distribution. There is no denying that curatorial knowledge is an expanded field, as well as a contested and at times necessarily transgressive one.


Hongjohn Lin is an artist, writer and curator. Graduated from New York University in Arts and Humanities with Ph.D. He has participated in exhibitions including Taipei Biennial(2004), the Manchester Asian Triennial 2008, the Rotterdam Film Festival 2008, and the 2012 Taipei Biennial, Guangzhou Triennial (2015), and China Asia Biennial (2014). Lin was curator of the Taiwan Pavilion Atopia, Venice Biennial 2007, co-curator of 2010 Taipei Biennial (with Tirdad Zolghadr), and numerous curatorial projects such as Taizhong’s The Good Place (2002) and Live Ammo (2012). Lin is serving as Professor at the Taipei National University of the Arts. For the past 10 years, he has been working on project based on George Psalmanazar, A fake Taiwanese in the early Enlightenment. He is interested in transdisciplinary arts, politics of aesthetics, and curating. His writings can be found in Artco magazine, Yishu magazine, international journals, and publications of Art as a Thinking Process (2010), Artistic Research (2012), Experimental Aesthetic(2014), Altering Archive: The Politics of Memory in Sinophone Cinemas and Image Culture (2017). He wrote the Introductions for Chinese edition of Art Power (Boris Groys) and Artificial Hells (Clair Bishop) . His books in Chinese include Poetics of Curating (2018), Beyond the Boundary: Interdisciplinary Arts in Taiwan, Writings on Locality, Curating Subjects: Practices of Contemporary Exhibitions.

Issue 10 Exhibition Amnesia
Editorial / Exhibition Amnesia, or, the Apparatus of Speculative Curating Hongjohn Lin
How to Build an Exhibition Archive - A Preliminary Proposal from a Generative Studies Perspective Lin Chi-Ming
Reformulating the Architecture of Exhibitions Miya Yoshida
Orality and Its Amnesia in the Mist of Metalanguage Tai-Sung Chen

Issue 9 Curating Against Forgetting
Editorial / Transgressing Epistemic Boundaries Zian Chen
Icon and Network: Solidarity’s Mediums and a Materialist Internationalism Ho Rui An
Settlers and the Unhomely: The Cinematic Visions of Infrastructure in Eastern Taiwan Zian Chen and Chi-Yu Wu
Memories of Underdevelopment: Revisiting Curatorial Methods and the Asian Context Wan-Yin Chen

Issue 8 Reformatting Documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen
Editorial / Reformatting documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Harvesting and a Single Story of Lumbung Putra Hidayatullah
The Politics in the Ramayana / Ramakien in documenta fifteen: Decoding the Power of the Thai Ruling Class Jiandyin
Malaise of Commons: on the Quality of the Relationships in documenta fifteen Hsiang-Pin Wu

Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South
Editorial / The Heterogeneous South Hongjohn Lin
The South - An art of asking and listening Manray Hsu
Uncharted Territory: The Roots of Curatorial Practices in Eastern Indonesia Ayos Purwoaji
South Fever: The South as a Method in Taiwan Contemporary Curating Pei-Yi Lu

Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating
Editorial / The Beginning of Curating Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Are Curators Really Needed? Bùi Kim Đĩnh
The Documents 15 and the Concept of Lumbung ruangrupa
The Three Axes of Curating: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme
Editorial / Curatorial Episteme Hongjohn Lin
Epistemic Encounters Henk Slager
The Curatorial Thing Hongjohn Lin
Ethics of Curating Meng-Shi Chen

Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism
Editorial / Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism Manray Hsu
When Kacalisian Culture Meets the Vertical City: Contemporary Art from Greater Sandimen Manray Hsu
Pathways and Challenges: Art History in the Context of Global Contemporary Art Jau-Lan Guo
Curating Commemoration: Conditions of Political Choreography, a Performance Exhibition in Retrospect Sophie Goltz

Issue 3 Curating Performativity
Editorial / Curating Performativity I-wen Chang
Choreographing Exhibitions: Performative Curatorgraphy in Taiwan I-wen Chang
Living and Working Together in the Now Normal: Visual Arts and Co. at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre Pawit Mahasarinand
The Curatorial as A Praxis of Disobedience Miya Yoshida

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms
Editorial / Curators' Living Rooms Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Extended Living Room: Space and Conversation ruangrupa(Ade Darmawan, Mirwan Andan)
Freeing the Weights of the Habitual Raqs Media Collective
Curating Topography Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 1 Curatography
Editorial / One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward Hongjohn Lin
What is Curatography? Hongjohn Lin
Les fleurs américaines Yoann Gourmel, Elodie Royer
There are No Blank Slates Eileen Legaspi Ramirez
Issue 10 Exhibition Amnesia

Issue 9 Curating Against Forgetting

Issue 8 Reformatting documenta with lumbung Formula: documenta fifteen

Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South

Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme

Issue 4 Curatorial Consciousness in the Times of Post-Nationalism

Issue 3 Curating Performativity

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms

Issue 1 Curatography