Jon Smeathers: Curatorial Mentorship
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Jon Smeathers: Curatorial Mentorship

Curatorial Mentorship

Jon Smeathers

Artists: ██████    █████    ████████   ████

12 April–18 May

Contemporary Art Tasmania

“All models are wrong, but some are useful”
–George Box

A speculative project centralised around the generation of a curatorial algorithm.

 

The ubiquitous integration of algorithmic structures within contemporary society has given rise  to an emergent phenomenon known as algorithmic culture. This cultural paradigm is changing the contours of society through its control logics and statistical governance that is resulting in a re-synthesis of human oriented sociocultural attributes. In the realm of creative practices, this entrenchment of algorithmic structures has introduced a transformative shift, fundamentally altering the landscape of aesthetic discernment, artistic curation and causing an amplification of data extractivism. The ability of an algorithm to undertake intensive cyclical learning approaches, to analyse evolving variations of data sets at light speed alongside the computational indifference in binary problem-solving is imposing a technological decisionism while also becoming a conduit for thinking through curatorial methodologies that escapes previous human orientated limitations.

The algorithmic paradigmatic shift in curatorial methods fosters a departure from traditional, taste-driven methodologies that often perpetuate elitist conceptions of artistic value or contain vast knowledge gaps. Not without its systemic problems, algorithmic curation enables guiding principles to transcend conventional aesthetic canons and groupings, subvert decision making processes, an ability to alter ingrained bias’ and has the potential to show us something outside an individual humanalogue perspective. Although, does an algorithmic curation operate with care or simply does it value making a clear decision quickly more so than it does a thoughtful one?

Four artists from across Australia have been invited to become ghost workers* in a research group that will critically analyse the sociocultural implications of algorithmic structures and build a model for exhibition making. Discussion topics will include ethics, labour considerations, potential biases, and techniques for data reduction within algorithmic curation. Based on the collective insights garnered from these discussions, the algorithm will learn to embody and emulate the embedded categorisation processes of the four individuals alongside the collective’s perceptual boundaries and their modes of engagement within gallery-based sociotechnology infrastructure.

The algorithm’s dataset will be drawn from interactions across the project’s lifespan including, but not limited to, private meetings, internal documents, image drops and a public chat forum. The resulting algorithm will: produce a complex model for considering each artists mode of engagement within specific exhibition conditions; offer an apparatus for an audience to see how an algorithm can distinguish the unique qualities of an artist; and, produce a generalised curatorial framework for future exhibitions that will materialise participants cognitive bias and decision-making processes even after their death.

A chat group will be utilised by the artists/ ghost workers for testing out and constructing datasets. The chat group will be updated on an ad-hoc basis. All data entered will be embedded into the algorithmic dataset. The impact will vary depending on the weighting / filtration systems developed throughout the project.

*A ghost worker is a human who performs short-term tasks on demand, anonymously, through automated platforms and the work is disguised as being automated. Artist names have been redacted to keep in line with the anonymity of a ghost worker.

 

This project is developed through the CAT Curatorial Mentorship Program. Guest mentor: Amy Ireland.

Jon Smeathers (b.1992) is a composer, sound and installation artist based in Nipaluna/Hobart, Australia. Jon has exhibited and performed both internationally and across Australia, including at Soft Centre, Serralves em Fiesta (Portugal), Melbourne Festival, the NOW Now Festival (Sydney) and Dark Mofo. Jon’s work taps into the potential of algorithmic displacement, codecs and remix culture to enable a reimagination of one’s spectral and rhythmic currents. Jon Smeathers is the recipient of the CAT Curatorial Mentorship (2023/2024) which includes a studio.

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