Curating Under Pressure
In this presentation, Janet Marstine leads a discussion around her co-edited book, Curating Under Pressure (Routledge 2020). Marstine gives evidence of curators’ political acumen, ethical sagacity, and resilience over the long term. She also challenges the assumption that self-censorship is something to be avoided at all costs and suggests that a decision to self-censor may sometimes be politically and ethically imperative. Her argument serves as a corrective to the assumption that censorship pressures render practitioners impotent. It demonstrates that curatorial practice under pressure offers inspiring models of agency, ingenuity, and empowerment.
Curating Under Pressure is the first book to look at pressures to self-censor and the curatorial responses to these pressures from a wide range of international perspectives. Curating Under Pressure breaks the silences surrounding curatorial self-censorship and shows that it is both endemic to the practice and ubiquitous, despite the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment (1791) to the US Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) more globally. Chapters, including Janet’s own which examines the Hong Kong and mainland China context, map the diverse forms such self-censorship takes and offer creative strategies for negotiating curatorial integrity.
About the Presenter
Janet Marstine is Honorary Associate Professor of Museum Studies (retired), University of Leicester, UK, and is currently an independent scholar based in Yarmouth, Maine. She writes on diverse aspects of museum ethics from curatorial ethics to negotiating the pressures of self-censorship to artists’ interventions as drivers for ethical change. Marstine is the author of six books including Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics (Routledge 2011); Critical Practice: Artists, Museums, Ethics (Routledge 2017); with S. Mintcheva, Curating Under Pressure: International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity (Routledge 2020); and with O. Ho Curating Art (Routledge 2022). To support her research, conducted internationally, in the US, UK, Europe, mainland China and Hong Kong, she has received grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (US), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), and the British Academy. In 2018 she was a Senior Research Fellow at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Dr. Marstine has a particular interest in recognizing and supporting the agency of practitioners to make informed ethical decisions. She has done ethics consulting with institutions from the National September 11 Memorial Museum—on collections policy—to the Royal Air Force Museum—on sponsorship. She sat on the Ethics Committee of the UK’s Museums Association from 2014-2019, helping to move their approach from one of policing to empowerment. Presently, she sits on the Board of the First Amendment Museum.