“Not only is it exhibition making,” says independent curator Andy Butler when talking of his curatorial practice, “I think it’s advocacy in a lot of ways for particular artists’ practices, for the arts more broadly, and for particular ideas that you want to see circulate within the contemporary art world and contemporary art discourse.”
Along with being an independent curator, Butler is a Filipino-Australian writer and artist who continuously looks at the dynamics of power, systemic racism and racial hierarchies within a contemporary art context. As Butler explains in the third episode of our Conversations with Curators series, independent curating provides a malleable space for exploring power and racism, allowing him to work closely with artists and to take greater curatorial risks.
Although Butler is still in the earlier stages of his curatorial career, he’s recently curated a number of exhibitions that have garnered considerable attention including Those Monuments Don’t Know Us at Bundoora Homestead and Always there and all a part at Melbourne artist-run gallery BLINDSIDE. In the podcast conversation Butler talks about these shows, explaining his impetus to illustrate the complexity of artists and their work, and to focus on having meaningful engagements and discussions on racism and colonialism in both art and life. “At least in the exhibitions I’ve curated, I’ve tried to move away from this sense that exhibitions like this are just celebrating diversity — they’re actually more about whiteness,” explains Butler. “They’re more about structures of power that people from all of these [different] backgrounds are all navigating in these different ways.”
Butler also talks about how he came to work in the arts and how being an independent curator differs to being an institutional curator. He discusses the financial and pragmatic aspects of his work, and what curating has come to mean to him. He describes his experiences of working in Euro-centric art contexts, and talks about how diversity and inclusion in contemporary curating are deeply linked to structural changes within arts institutions.
Podcast produced by Tiarney Miekus. Engineered by Mino Peric. Music by Jesse Warren.