Renske Janssen – How to Curate a Building

Course August 8 – 13, 2016

How to Curate a Building is a course led by Dutch art historian and curator Renske Janssen. The focus will be on building an online exhibition in the form of a blog or archive through “curating.” Curating is a form of thinking using a “critical eye.” Writing is one of its central endeavors. What is said, viewed, pictured, discussed, and experienced will be translated into a publicly accessible online format that will allow interested viewers to gain an understanding of and benefit from the findings generated during the one-week course. The online presentation will become a permanent part of the summer school’s website so that these findings can always be accessed.

One can curate anything. We do this everyday when automatically selecting and editing the information around us in our age of word and image overload. In this course participants will heighten their perceptual awareness through discussing, writing, and editing while reflecting on the nature of the Bauhaus Denkmal’s historically significant setting. Both its physical appearance and conceptual heritage will be investigated. The Bauhaus Denkmal is an excellent point of departure for asking ourselves: How does this building affect me? Why is it still important and what do the “big ideas” of the Bauhaus mean for people today?

The various elements of Hannes Meyer’s architectural design and landscaping form the points of departure for a weeklong session of writing, picture-making, and reflecting. The course is for anyone interested in learning how to write with a greater sense of awareness and how to incorporate conceptual thinking. Participants will focus their eye and mind on the building’s original meaning and intent as a site of intellectual cooperation, including, for example, the color schemes and lighting scenarios, in order to better understand their present day function.

The aim is to become an activist thinker, writer, curator, and communicator.

What to bring: laptop, smartphone, camera
Schedule: weekdays: morning theory/afternoon practice; Saturday: presentation/moderated talks
Keywords: history of curating, art history, the Bauhaus, forms of writing
Goal: building an online exhibition (blog/archive)
Course language: Dutch, English, German, French


Renske Janssen (1975, lives in Amsterdam and works internationally) is an art historian who has worked as a curator for institutions including: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Kunstverein fur die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Artspeak, Vancouver; Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden; and Onomatopee, Eindhoven. She has curated numerous exhibitions and publications with contemporary artists such as Tris Vonna-Michell, Germaine Kruip, Mathias Poledna, as well as many public lecture and discussion programs. Besides teaching and mentoring art students at the Ateliers, KASK, and many other international universities and art schools, she is also a cultural researcher. For her ongoing research project on the shifts between aesthetics and ethics in contemporary art of the 2010s and the inherent relationship between nature and culture, she received a fellowship from the Mondriaan Fund (NL). She is currently writing a book, which is also part of her PhD proposal. Furthermore, she contributes art texts for artists’ catalogues and magazines such as frieze magazine, serves as a board member and is the program director for the International Summer School at the Bauhaus Trade Union School Landmark in Bernau bei Berlin.

For more information, please see: LinkedIn

Course Output

How to curate a building was an situ workshop designed by art historian Renske Janssen in which seven international participants responded to the context in which they found themselves. Guided by Janssen they each formulated an idea, a concept or a research project that fitted their own wishes, interests and expertise. The theoretical basis, if there was any, was loosely based on a series of books and articles that were available during the course week such as Lucy Lippard’s Six Years [
] on developments in conceptual art or Nina Möntmanns’s essay Art at the Limits: an introduction in Scandalous. A reader on art and ethics (2013). During the five-day course the participants where first of all triggered to stay close to who they are by inspiring safety and honesty through Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-violent communication. Within the group mutual respect and understanding led to free making and thinking. Janssen offers workshops to open-up new potential and ways of looking at art, life and work other then market- and strategically driven. Instead she likes to see what happens when inspired by ‘nonviolent communication’ in which language is set-free of moral judgments and artworks (or buildings) are valued by ‘show don’t tell’.

MarĂ­a Teresa GarcĂ­a
Judith Lavagna
Claire Liengme
Jorge Henrique Vieira Rodrigues
Allegra Santis
Petronela Soltész
Aleksandra Stor