Only One Thing Worse Than Awkward Silence: Small Talk[i]

*Originally published on Supervizuelna – online magazine for contemporary art

Dear Reader,
This letter launches the curatorial journal that accompanies WCSCD featured as part of Supervizuelna’s online magazine. The journal is structured as a platform for the critical reflections of the curators participating in the course. These reflections will thus enter the public realm and create an open dialogue in relation to curatorial practices ¾ as title beautifully teases at, which is borrowed from a work by Saša Tkačenko. 

On June 27, 2018, we hosted the launch of the project with a public lecture by the director and chief curator of De Appel Niels Van Tomme at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, which was very important for our small team.

This present form of address, the letter, is inspired by Niels Van Tomme’s talk and his transformation of the De Appel newsletter into a letter format, which offers a more personal note to the publication. We hope this journal will likewise invite a more personal connection to its readers and followers, as well as with and between its contributors.

The idea to invite Van Tomme to speak about De Appel came naturally, since De Appel has been educating multiple generations of curators since 1994, many of whom are now running institutions around the world today. Furthermore, Van Tomme’s direction and vision of the institution represents an important and highly relevant shift in terms of how we think about institutions that warrants further reflection and engagement. In many ways it goes against the mainstream logic of institutional visions, which are geared towards the speed of consumption of the institutional program.

One of the most important takeaways from Van Tomme’s talk was the constant reminder that institutions today should remain dynamic, as the world around us is also constantly on the move.

So, the journal launches with Whispers by Niels Van Tomme; whispers about institutions and the possibilities and impossibilities for their self-reflection. The act of whispering was a crucial part of Van Tomme’s public talk and as a result I invited him to edit an iteration of the journal around this idea. At the same time, I also invited Neva Lukić to contribute a text. Lukić is a curator based between Zagreb and Rotterdam and is one of the curators of the WCSCD course in 2018. I have invited Lukić to provide critical reflection and try to somehow situate the talk by Van Tomme within the local context.

Thankfully, the very frustrating period of constantly thinking and rethinking how to make the WCSCD course happen is behind us now, especially from the perspective of fundraising, as this is an independent project. There was also a lot of work to be done in terms of formulating the institutional vision at the outset, which will serve for future years to come and help guide team building. We can tell you in a whisper that we have a clear vision for now, but of course we will also remain dynamic and on the move!

Our curatorial colleagues who will be attending the course begin arriving next week in Belgrade (starting September 7, 2018) where they will be situated for three months and will also be contributors to the journal. In fact, their functions are many as they will also serve as tutors, give public talks, and hold closed door workshops for the curators in the course.

The next letter for this journal will be a critical reflection from WCSCD curators related to the October Salon, the first thematic unit of the course for early September, followed by a number of other foci that will attempt to avoid small talk, and instead provide more critical reflection on curatorial practices for public consideration.


Biljana Ćirić
Founder of What Could Should Curating Do curatorial course


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *