Memorandum: On Curation, Interpretation, and Resistance

By Pauline van Mourik Broekman, 16 October 2008

In Memorandum, Siraj Izhar and Josh Oppenheimer, curator and artist/gay activist have set up an elaborate network of information transmission and mistransmission. Using e-mail they have communicated at length about the logistics and conceptual framework of curating Josh's work and church infiltrations, and copied the messages for their audience.

The project's central performance took place in a disused lavatory in London. Here, though timing and structure was variable; curator and artist performed together: The audience was first slowly introduced to the underground space, then Josh fed Siraj ping-pong balls which he spat out far across the room. A ritual recorded by a third participant, Ranjana Choudhouri, by circling the points at which the ping-pong balls hit the opposite wall. Thus the curator is force-fed as messages become concrete objects - difficult to swallow and expelled as soon as they are ingested.

Memorandum: On Curation, Interpretation and Resistance

The session culminated in an "unexpected" fire, orchestrated exit and - hushed - panic. Flames shone through the glass paving stones and smoke clouds bellowed into the streets.

Mostly, though indirectly, Memorandum is about the possibilities and impossibilities of human communication, especially using mechanised or virtualised systems such as e-mail. It is about the place different transmission "tools" occupy within society and their ends as carriers of information for people in different positions of power. Total comprehension of any message teems impossible as its origin and destination ,an fluctuate so wildly.

Mimicking the official language of institutions and bureaucracies, the curator and artist's communication slowly slips in and out of more or less intimate discussions on infiltration, strategy and power. Both artist and curator interpret, forward and hold back. And, in circling these problematic but inevitable aspects of communication, activism and trust, of church-m and media-operations, this Memorandum has managed to get through.