Sasha Burkhanova — Ethics of Independent Art Curating as Care of the Self

The next K’ex Lecture will be:


WEDNESDAY (16TH OF MAR) AT 17h30-19h00, PWYC (~£3)

I will introduce a perspective on the formation of curatorial ethics in conditions when a fixed professional code is impossible. As the notion of ‘independency’ in curatorial practice designated the arrival of a curator as an author, it was followed by her self-alienation from well-defined responsibilities, subordinated to the imperative of an art museum. Liberating itself from institutional affiliation, curatorial practice automatically left behind the prescribed code of ethics, which previously orchestrated ones engagement in the processes of selection of new works for the public collection, maintenance of conditions for their preservation, contribution to the discourse in a particular “art-historical” fashion, and anonymous organisation of the exhibition display.

​The conceptual and practical challenge that emerges here constitutes the state of “infinite responsibility” on the overlap of the conflicting interests of artworks/artists, publics and institutions—and it is the independent curator who is assumed to be responsible for balancing these demands. However, instead of treating the said conflict of responsibilities as an unwanted condition to be minimised by a means of curatorial engagement, I suggest to approach it as an organic and necessary environment for an independent curator to function as an ethical subject par excellence. In conditions of missing authority to control one’s execution, and unprecedented work scenarios that nevertheless require one’s informed decisions—a curator’s “care of the others” (that is, acknowledging demands of publics, artworks, artists, institutions) would be thus primarily grounded in an adaptable strategy of “care of the self”. That is, in enabling immanent ethical experience—as opposed to the one constructed by a unified professional code, and rethinking morality and the dualism of right and wrong actions.

​In one’s perceived internal aspiration for ethical engagement in the presence of the other—that is not be confused with affirmation of the imposed external demands, coming from the other—the entry questions are posed: How to sustain flexibility and openness before it turns into auto-destruction? How intensively can the process of adaptation run? How to know that one reached the threshold of own sustainability? How can one’s self-adjustment be handled with care?

Sasha Burkhanova is a London-based curator and art writer, specialising in the ethical and philosophical aspects of collaborative art practice. A graduate of Goldsmiths, University of London, she is currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Greenwich and works as an exhibition curator at Maxim Boxer Modern & Contemporary Art. Meanwhile, her independent curatorial projects have been exhibited at galleries and museums throughout London (176 Gallery, Hanmi Gallery, Display London, GRAD Gallery) and Moscow (MMoMA, National Centre for Contemporary Art). In 2014 her curatorial project “Dreaming Machines” was selected for the special program of IV Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, and in 2015 she way invited to participate in VI Moscow Biennale of contemporary art with two exhibitions. She is a contributing art writer at GARAGE magazine.
Maxim Boxer

No suggested reading in advance of the lecture.


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