ISSUE 6 The Beginning of Curating
The Three Axes of Curating: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics
Yuma Taru x KAHE Community, The Linking. Ring Project#1, Metaphors about Islands, curators: Sandy Hsiuchih Lo + gudskul, 2021 Jakarta Biennale, installation view, the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta, 2022.
The epistemology of curating, as well as the epistemology of art, demonstrates different aspects according to different knowledge systems. Different individuals present different positions in the world and distinct relative relationships with others in the intersection and action axes of power, norms, culture and history. Curatorial epistemology is closely related to metaphysical issues such as aesthetics and freedom, the essence of art, etc., and is also inseparable from defining ethics and politics.
Consequently, there has been a wave of reflection on the current mainstream art epistemology. For example, discourses advocating for the Global South claim that “We live in a world dominated by three main forms of domination that have been with us throughout the modern era: capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy,”1 and that this form of domination includes economic, political, and cultural elements, all of which provide services to the hegemonic epistemology of knowledge. Hence the advocacy to rise up against the injustices of this domination, against the ontological, epistemological and political foundations and aesthetics of this modern domination. Critical philosophers in Latin America have elaborated the concept of emancipatory philosophy, taking on the responsibility of speaking out for the other, the victim, the oppressed and the downtrodden.2 Although the Global South Theory is inevitably prone to excessive reductionism, I agree with its opposition to a single universal epistemology and aesthetics; therefore, this thesis attempts to outline imaginary coordinates for curating from the three axes of ethics, politics and aesthetics. From the perspective of the three axes of curating, everyone can draw completely different curatorial coordinates, due to the differences of these referential axes; therefore, the diversity of curatorial epistemology will be variously demonstrated, according to its specific intersection with these bodies of knowledge.
Ethical axis of symbiosis with the Others

In a sense, the broadest question of ethics is really about what a good life is, and how to live it. However, feminists have found that even within such a wide range of issues, in mainstream ethics, the moral significance of interpersonal relationships is always ignored, while excessive attention is paid to people’s independence, autonomy, rights and freedom, even as intimacy and love with others are neglected, and marginalized groups, such as children, the elderly, and the disabled are more typically excluded.3 Feminists’ ethical viewpoints have turned to relationalism, not simply to focus on the ethics of small-scale intimate family relationships, but to consider closely the ethics and political philosophy of how “the individual is politics,” and at the same time, to criticize contemporary ethics and political philosophy. Feminism argues that contemporary ethical and political philosophy focuses too much on the redistribution of material wealth and not enough on other aspects of oppression. Therefore, it is believed that we should broaden the scope of ethical concerns, in order to retrace the political back to the felt significance of the personal.4

In addition to the relational turn, the ethical dimension of feminism also extends to ecological concerns. It is not enough to abolish androcentric and anthropocentric prejudices in Western civilization. Moreover, it is imperative to criticize the binary oppositions of culture/nature, rationality/sensibility, and human/animal, and to reweave new narratives in order to preserve biodiversity and cultural diversity.5
In consequence, the ethics referred to in this thesis, “Three Axes of Curating,” emphasizes the ethical view of relationality and ecology, and is aimed at the ethical axis of symbiosis with others.
1 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, ‘Toward an Aesthetics of the Epistemologies of the South: Manifesto in Twenty-Two Theses,’ in Knowledge Born in the Struggle: Constructing the Epistemologies of the Global South, edited by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Maria Paula Menses, London and New York: Routledge, 2020, p. 117.
2 Enrique Dussel, ’Philosophy of Liberation, The Postmodern Debate, and Latin American Studies,’ in Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate, edited by Mabel Moraña, Enrique Dussel, and Carlos A. Jáuregui, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2008, p. 342.
3 Samantha Brennan, “Feminist Ethics,” in The Routledge Companion to Ethics, edited by John Skorupski, New York and London: Routledge, 2010, pp. 515-516.
4 Ibid., pp. 517-519.
5 Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy, “Introduction,” in Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy, edited by Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998, p. 3.
Rahic Talif x Valume Escape, The Message. Ring Project#1, Metaphors about Islands, curators: Sandy Hsiuchih Lo + gudskul, 2021 Jakarta Biennale, installation view, the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta, 2022.
Political spectrum of the interdependence of the marginalized
On the assumption that George Bataille’s reflections on aesthetics and ultimately politics in “The Accursed Share” are a disturbing, constantly threatening margin that illustrates a true cosmology and a world history of excess that traces the useless consumption and long-term squandering of human civilization, this perspective likewise indicates that games, art, luxury goods, and even religion represent the ultimate ideal pursuit of human beings.6 In the way of extravagant consumption of life energy, Bataille’s theory implies the marginal politics of art. On the other hand, Hannah Arendt’s political connotation of the meaning of the Greek polis provides another political axis of the “Three Axes of Curating” that is close to daily life.
Hannah Arendt claimed, “If, then, we understand the political in the sense of the polis, its end or raison d’etre would be to establish and keep in existence a space where freedom as virtuosity can appear. This is the realm where freedom is a worldly reality, tangible in words which can be heard, in deeds which can be seen, and in events which are talked about, remembered, and turned into stories before they are finally incorporated into the great storybook of human history.”7 Politics, even from an etymological point of view, originates in the polis; the freedom of presentation is also closely related to the city-state because performers need an audience for showcasing their talents. Consequently, they need a public space formed by crowds.8 Such a public space is the city-state.
From the point of view of Bataille, art has become the ultimate ideal pursuit of human beings as a luxurious way of consuming life energy; for Hannah Arendt, the artist is the only “worker”9 in the labor society. After all, from the perspective of Arendt’s “vita activa,” the basic human activities are labor, work and action. Labor guarantees the survival and continuation of life, the product of work endows human beings with permanence and durability, and action is committed to creating various political entities and historical conditions.10 For Arendt, action and speech are two distinct political activities, and “acting and speaking men need the help of homo faber in his highest capacity, that is, the help of the artists, of poets and historiographers, of monument-builders or writers, because without them the only product of their activities, the stories they enact and tell, would not survive at all. In order to be what the world is and was always meant to be, a home for men during their life on earth, the human artifice must be a place fit for action and speech, for activities not only entirely useless for the necessities of life, but of an entirely different nature from the manifold activities of fabrication by which the world itself and all things in it are produced.”11 Her conception of art rests on a certain type of art that produces specific “works” with “immortality,” and its function is to pass on the stories of speakers and actors. Many artistic practices in contemporary art are in fact immaterial tendencies, which are themselves political speech and action.
Here, I specifically want to point out the speech and action character of contemporary art practice, particularly the political character interpreted as the “polis” in Arendt’s perspective, because such a polis is not a city with a physical location, but a people’s organization with a common action and speech; “Wherever you go, you will be a polis”: these famous words became not merely the watchword of Greek colonization, they expressed the conviction that action and speech create a space between the participants which can find its proper location almost any time and anywhere.”12 Such space is the space that contemporary art strives to develop, whether it be Bataille’s, as revealed by marginal interference, or the space developed through the political nature of Arendt-style speech and action, these are the spaces described by the “art topography” referred to in this thesis—in other words, the space opened up by art practice and action.
The space described by the “art topography” is similar to the polis illustrated by Arendt, but the difference lies in the idea that the artist is not only a “worker,” but also a person with the ability to speak and act. This space is not just a concrete reality space, but also an abstract space. As Arendt said, in this space, only through the “presence of others,” where exists the “light shed over the public realm,” can it be possible to dispel the darkness of people’s lonely hearts,13 and based on love for the world, the space created by the world draws a respectful distance between people and continues to exist.14 The darkest places illuminated by the presence of others are the most marginal places where the imagination and feelings of the “enlarged mentality” are most urgently needed, and the places completely free from private interests are expressive of the highest politics of the interdependence of the marginalized.
6 Georges Bataille, “Gender, and Sacrificial Excess,” Sean P. Connolly, in The Comparatist, Volume 38, October 2014, University of North Carolina Press, pp. 108-127.
7 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, New York: The Viking Press, 1961, pp. 154-155.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid., p. 127.
10 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1958, pp. 7-9.
11 Ibid., pp. 173-174.
12 Ibid., p. 198.
13 Ibid., p. 237.
14 Ibid., p. 243.
Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts and Culture x Extract Collective, Room No.555. Ring Project#1, Metaphors about Islands, curators: Sandy Hsiuchih Lo + gudskul, 2021 Jakarta Biennale, installation view, the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta, 2022.
Aesthetic glimmer of artistic topography
According to Ewa Plonowska Ziarek’s analysis, aesthetics has at least three meanings today: the first presents the general theory of artistic practice, the second refers to the reception theory of art—that is, how to appreciate works of art—and the third is about the experience, practice and knowledge of sensual theory, in the sense that aesthetics does not necessarily refer to art, but focuses on different senses such as touch, sight, taste, smell, and even sensations of pleasure, pain or disgust. Of these, a third meaning is particularly relevant to queer theory, or other sexual minorities’ emotional turns, embodying relationships determined by desire and power relations in relation to class, race, environment, and other political phenomena. Contemporary feminists pay particular attention to the aesthetic dimension of political behavior in Arendt’s works, based on Arendt’s assertion that each person’s birth brings newness to the world, represents a new and pioneering starting point, and triggers unpredictable differences in public life. Miracles, as well as the pluralism and the individual uniqueness of political actors, create multiple political aesthetic dimensions. The most obvious intersection between Arendt’s theory of politics and artistic practice is the inter-constitutive relationship between action and narrative, because action is the “production of story.” First, both political action and narrative action have transformative potential, especially as a means of political expression for marginalized subjects, and secondly, political action and aesthetic action are interconnected, since transformative political practice produces testimonies and narratives that have monumental significance through stories, able to complement and then retrospectively shape the meaning of behavior. Finally, narratives reveal not only the aesthetic complement of political action, but also the heterogeneity of aesthetic practice.15

From the point of view of the political nature understood by Arendt in the sense of the polis, the potential of its aesthetic practice is added to the above-mentioned natality and pluralism, plus the creation of a city-state that provides the space for speech and action. To put it another way, the political potential of public space in Arendt’s work is the aesthetic potential of an artistic topography to create spaces that have the capacity of natality and pluralism. Arendt also warns us that “The modern growth of worldlessness, the withering away of everything between us, can also be described as the spread of the desert…….the human world is always the product of man’s amor mundi, a human artifice whose potential immortality is always subject to the mortality of those who build it and the natality of those who come to live in it. What Hamlet said is always true: ‘The time is out of joint; O cursèd spite / That ever I was born to set it right!’ In this sense, in its need for beginners that it may be begun anew, the world is always a desert……On the contrary, they are the anti- nihilistic questions asked in the objective situation of nihilism where no-thingness and no-bodyness threaten to destroy the world.”<sup>16</sup> Perhaps in a world that is gradually deserted, we can look back at the ancient Roman origin of the word “culture” as analyzed by Arendt. According to her research, culture is derived from the ancient Roman word, “colere,” which has the characteristics of cultivating, dwelling, taking care and preserving. It means that people interact with nature through cultivating and caring until a livable place is created. It can be seen from this aspect that the Romans regarded art as a kind of agriculture and cultivation of nature, while the Greeks tamed and ruled nature in a formidable way. Perhaps it’s time for us to rethink the Roman legacy, and think about how to create a livable place with the artistic concept of caring for nature. This may be the aesthetic glimmer of artistic topography in the desert.

15 Ibid, p. 477.
16 The Promise of Politics, p. 203-204.
17 Between Past and Future, pp. 211-213.
1 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, ‘Toward an Aesthetics of the Epistemologies of the South: Manifesto in Twenty-Two Theses,’ in Knowledge Born in the Struggle: Constructing the Epistemologies of the Global South, edited by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Maria Paula Menses, London and New York: Routledge, 2020, p. 117.
2 Enrique Dussel, ’Philosophy of Liberation, The Postmodern Debate, and Latin American Studies,’ in Coloniality at Large: Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate, edited by Mabel Moraña, Enrique Dussel, and Carlos A. Jáuregui, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2008, p. 342.
3 Samantha Brennan, “Feminist Ethics,” in The Routledge Companion to Ethics, edited by John Skorupski, New York and London: Routledge, 2010, pp. 515-516.
4 Ibid., pp. 517-519.
5 Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy, “Introduction,” in Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy, edited by Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998, p. 3.
6 Georges Bataille, “Gender, and Sacrificial Excess,” Sean P. Connolly, in The Comparatist, Volume 38, October 2014, University of North Carolina Press, pp. 108-127.
7 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, New York: The Viking Press, 1961, pp. 154-155.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid., p. 127.
10 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1958, pp. 7-9.
11 Ibid., pp. 173-174.
12 Ibid., p. 198.
13 Ibid., p. 237.
14 Ibid., p. 243.

15 Ibid., p. 477.

16 The Promise of Politics, p. 203-204.
17 Between Past and Future, pp. 211-213.
Shellda “Alienpang” x Roompok, LELE VILLAGE. Ring Project#1, Metaphors about Islands, curators: Sandy Hsiuchih Lo + gudskul, 2021 Jakarta Biennale, installation view, the National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta, 2022.
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Author
Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo is an independent curator whose main research areas include urban studies, philosophical construction of space, gender politics, contemporaneity of indigenous art, and situated knowledge. Her current program focuses on curating as a method of social practice, spatial practice, and critical thinking. Curating topography, a curatorial practice method that she has actively used in recent years, uses relative and relational spatial concepts to bring to light different cultural concepts such as myths, legends, history, memories, morals, ethics, desires and rights embedded in the pluralistic dialectic concept of place in order to strengthen political and ethical transformation through the contrast, confrontation, overlap, and juxtaposition in the becoming of place.
Her major curatorial projects include “Di Hwa Sewage Treatment Plant Art Installation: A New Cosmopolitan World”, ”Street Theatre” (awarded as the best curating work and outstanding project by Ministry of Culture, Taipei, 2004-2005), “Pop Pill” (“Shanghai Cool”, Taiwan Section, Doland Museum, Shanghai, 2005), “Border-crossing, A Tale of Two Cities” (Taipei, Shanghai, 2005-2006), “Exorcising Exoticism”(Taipei, 2006), “Poetic Borderline” (“Borderliner”, Taiwan Section, Festival of Contemporary Art Varna, Bulgaria, 2007). She is the co-curator of the related project of 9th Shanghai Biennale “Zhongshan Park Project”(the related project of 9th Shanghai Biennale, Taiwan, China, 2012-2013), “A Revelation from Ponso no Tao”(Orchid Island, Taiwan, 2014), “Taitung Ruin Academy”(Taitung, Taiwan, 2014), “Topography of Mirror Cities” (Taipei, Dhaka, Bangkok, Jakarta, Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur, 2015-2021), “2018 Kuandu Biennale Seven Questions for Asia” (2018-2019), “2019 Green Island Human Rights Art Festival Visiting No.15 Liumagou: Memory, Place and Narrative” and “2020 Green Island Human Rights Art Festival If on the Margin, Draw a Coordinate.”
Archive
Archive

Issue 7 The Heterogeneous South
Editorial / The Heterogeneous SouthHongjohn 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 CuratingPei-Yi Lu

Issue 6 The Beginning of Curating
Editorial / The Beginning of CuratingSandy 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 AestheticsSandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 5 Curatorial Episteme
Editorial / Curatorial EpistemeHongjohn Lin
Epistemic EncountersHenk Slager
The Curatorial ThingHongjohn Lin
Ethics of CuratingMeng-Shi Chen

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

Issue 3 Curating Performativity
Editorial /​ Curating PerformativityI-wen Chang
Choreographing Exhibitions: Performative Curatorgraphy in TaiwanI-wen Chang
Living and Working Together in the Now Normal: Visual Arts and Co. at Bangkok Art and Culture CentrePawit Mahasarinand
The Curatorial as A Praxis of DisobedienceMiya Yoshida

Issue 2 Curators' Living Rooms
Editorial /​ Curators' Living RoomsSandy Hsiu-chih Lo
Extended Living Room: Space and Conversationruangrupa(Ade Darmawan, Mirwan Andan)
Freeing the Weights of the HabitualRaqs Media Collective
Curating TopographySandy Hsiu-chih Lo

Issue 1 Curatography
Editorial /​ One Step Forward, Two Steps BackwardHongjohn Lin
What is Curatography?Hongjohn Lin
Les fleurs américainesYoann Gourmel, Elodie Royer​
There are No Blank SlatesEileen Legaspi Ramirez​
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