P083: Trickle-Down Curation

Interesting article this week in The New Republic from Miya Tokumitsu[1] on The Politics of The Curation Craze. Tokumitsu takes the standard kids-these-days approach and turns it on its head via etymology and contra-Reaganist economic theory. While I’m generally skeptical of arguments illustrating the distance between the traditional and colloquial definitions of a word, the examination of “curation” doesn’t have to be mere semantic hand-waving. In this case, the removal of all restrictions inherent to the art-world definition of curation has (like the removal of boundaries in art itself) warped the term beyond recognition:

In bestowing great importance to “just picking stuff,” curation in its contemporary, ecumenical sense reinforces many of the personal values promoted by neoliberalism: atomized individualism, the thrall of personalization, aestheticized control, and, of course, consumption-as-authenticity.

If the values of neoliberalism sound familiar to you, congrats, you’ve read a trend piece on Millennials this year. But for real: periods of enforced austerity have traditionally been met with assertions of individuality. The curation trend is merely the most recent expression of this tendency.

The idea that we need to be worried about the so-called emergence of curation is temporal narcissism. Just like every other movement, the best parts will mainstreamed and the worst parts will be improved, based on the fashion of the times, until it is indistinguishable from the previous movement. And if you don’t believe me, replace the word “curation” with “blog” and see if that helps.

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron


PS: No issue next week: family vacation. See you September 15th.

[1]: Previously featured in the all-time-number-one Periodically issue, “Do What You Need To Do, Love Who You Love