In front of the Cloud Factory behind Carnegie Museum of Art
Welcome, Lauren. Tell us your official title, and what are some of your responsibilities at the museum?
As the curatorial assistant for the 2013 Carnegie International, I’m here to help the three intrepid curators, the ever-poised curatorial assistant in contemporary art, Amanda Donnan, and all the unflagging members of the CMA staff turn a vast historical precedent and some crazy new ideas into a survey exhibition of contemporary art that is going to knock your socks off.
One of my favorite parts of the job is coordinating events at the Lawrenceville Apartment; a satellite space for the International, where local and visiting artists, writers, and filmmakers can present new and ongoing projects to members of the Pittsburgh cultural community. Just recently we had Suzie Silver from The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality and Jasdeep Khaira of Encyclopedia Destructica present readings and video projects from their new book Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities. The book is full of all manner of intergalactic and interspecies perversities, dreamed up by a wide range of contributors, including many from the Pittsburgh area.
What were you doing before joining CMA?
Before coming to Pittsburgh, I was program coordinator for The Banff Centre’s Visual Arts residency program, run by Kitty Scott in the mountains of Alberta, Canada. I coordinated Ragnar Kjartansson’s residency The Soiree Retreat: A bit of a Chekhovian situation, as well as residencies led by Ken Lum and Candice Hopkins. Prior to that, I was project and exhibitions assistant at The Barbican Art Gallery in London, working primarily on the exhibition Laurie Anderson, Trish Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark: Pioneers of the Downtown Scene, New York 1970s. I earned my MFA in Criticism & Curatorial Practice and OCAD University in Toronto, and my BA in Art History and Gender Studies from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where I was born. Along the way I also worked at V. Vale’s San Francisco publishing house RE/Search Publications and the 2010 Performance Studies International Conference.
What’s your favorite exhibition that you saw this past year (at any museum/event)?
My all-time favorite exhibitions are the permanent displays at the Science Museum in London. It is just full of the most curious objects, displays, and histories. You can see everything from the mathematical string models that inspired Henry Moore, to a euthanasia machine that killed four terminally ill people during a brief time of legalized euthanasia in northern Australia. There are also some wonderful exhibitions on alchemy, electronic music, and plastic, as well as a whole wing of model ships and a timeline of agrarian evolution shown in maquettes.
In terms of contemporary art, I am always inspired by Raimundas Malašauskas‘s projects, particularly his group shows like CAC TV, The Clifford Irving Show, and Repetition Island. This past year, Anna Caldicott and Hannah Barry introduced me to Bold Tendencies, an annual exhibition of contemporary sculpture held in a disused open-air parking garage in Peckham, South London. With both subtle and monolithic installations, Practice Architecture’s events auditorium (made entirely out of hay!), and Franks Café, Bold Tendencies is a really interesting model for working in alternative display contexts.
If you could steal one artwork from our collection, what would it be?
Luckily, this new position has allowed me to leave behind my life as a professional art-napper, as I only have to walk one floor down from my office to see some wonderful examples of contemporary and historical art and design. That said, if I were to come out of retirement, it would be for Sir Alfred J. Munnings’s painting Changing Horses (1920). I am currently co-authoring an erotic novelization of this painting with my collaborators Michael Cummins and Shauna Thompson, curatorial assistant at the Walter Phillips Gallery, and it would be useful to have the painting on hand for inspiration.
Describe Pittsburgh in five words or less?
It’s a bit too soon for just five words—I’ve only been in Pittsburgh for two months! I’ll have to defer to a line from Michael Chabon’s novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and say, “Some people really know how to have a good time.”