The Standard Model: Curatorial Propositions

The Standard Model is a publication including academic and creative texts from 18 authors demonstrating the boundless potentialities of contemporary curatorial practices. The publication will be launched at the Goldsmiths MFA Degree Show 2015 in conjunction with a series of talks from invited speakers during 16 – 19 July 2015. The publication is a collaborative project operating as a platform for new voices in the field and contributing to the current debates on strategies, concerns and challenges in contemporary curating.

The contributions to The Standard Model vary from formal essays to experimental creative writing and recorded conversations between artists and curators. Three strands of enquiry surface within this selection of texts: (1) reflections on changes that occur in time and within history; (2) phenomena and modes of encountering others which challenge the boundaries of the self and generate new forms of coexistence; and (3) attempts to escape and contest prevailing canons in curatorial practice and discourse. In many of the texts, offering fresh takes on the role of the curator today, these strands are overlapping and intertwined to the extent of being indistinguishable.

EDITORS: Adam Smythe, Nella Aarle, Lucy Kate Lopez

AUTHORS: Nella Aarne, Antonio Garcia Acosta, Dimitra Gkitsa, Adriënne Groen, Rudi Christian Ferreira, Hanna Laura Kaljo, Lucy Kate Lopez, Marina Maximova, Akane Miki, Carolina Ongaro, Cory Scozzari, Siyun Tang, Emma Siemens-Adolphe, Adam Smythe, Lanny Walker, Franziska Sophie Wildförster, Daniela Wüstenberg.

By the mid-1960’s one of the most fundamental arguments in cosmology had been more or less settled. The observation of cosmic microwave background radiation, a heat signal remaining from the origin of the universe, proved the existence of the Big Bang. Old ideas of an eternally steady universe were thrown out and a consensus formed that our universe was formed in a violent, explosive singularity. By the 1990’s the Hubble Space Telescope was accurately measuring the rate of expansion of the universe, with the logical conclusion that if the universe is expanding, it must have once been smaller, hotter and denser; it must have had a Big Bang origin. The acceptance of the Big Bang led cosmologists to form an accurate and comprehensive mathematical model of the universe, The Standard Model. The mathematics behind The Standard Model were eloquent, balanced and beautiful. It was a model that could unravel the mechanics of our brutal origin and predict events in the future.

But problems soon emerged. The laws of physics, as we understand them, completely break down when we attempt to calculate the first fraction of a second of the universe. The Big Bang, along with everything in our universe, appeared to spring unaccountably into existence from absolutely nothing. As telescope resolution improved and data collection increased, scientists found contradictions between their observations and the predictions made by The Standard Model. Galaxies seemed to defy gravity, the masses of objects appeared to be wrong, the temperature of the universe didn’t make any sense and everything was moving in an unexpected direction.

Radical research centres were established. Fierce competition emerged between radical theoretical physicists competing to solve the inherent contradictions and errors of The Standard Model. Theories of dark matter, inflation, super-symmetry, multiverses, a bouncing universe and dark energy all competed as plausible solutions to the problems of The Standard Model. Some of these theories aspire to replace The Standard Model, others have been incorporated into the model, but few are supported by empirical evidence. Concepts of alternative realities, black hole origins and surreptitious forces that cannot be perceived sound like unhinged works of fantasy or science-fiction. But far from being unbound, these wild theoretical creations are rooted in mathematical solutions to observable problems. As The Standard Model absorbs more of these speculative amendments it becomes much less eloquent, more contradictory, full of arbitrary constants (numbers used to balance equations) and algebraic slights of hand.

This publication of texts by curators, academics and writers mirrors The Standard Model of cosmology. The authors of this book take venerable theories and hold them to account. The following essays interrogate the theories of contemporary art, seek out aporia and offer speculative alternatives and amendments. Just as the cosmologists of The Standard Model, the writers included in this book address the disparity between theory and material reality, whether in art, sociology or politics. And, just as with nascent discourses in the sciences, there are overlaps and contradictions between the works in this publication. But, it is at this point that the analogy breaks down. Whilst the scientists’ ultimate goal is to find concrete, universal and objective solutions, we curators have the task of reconciling multiple voices and subjectivities — not necessarily to flatten our differences into a cohesive whole, nor to create an ambivalent relativism, but to attempt to find a productive discourse capable of dealing with oppositional propositions, cultural differences, and political disputes.

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