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Curation Material / Written / Curation
August 1, 1998

[Artists seem to understand ®TMark's aims and methods more easily than others.  In order to appeal to this pioneering, communicative and sometimes pivotal audience, ®TMark has sometimes attempted to describe itself as a kind of curator. Those not interested in art world niceties may substitute throughout the rest of this article "activity" for "curation," "influence" for "curate," and "influence" for "curator."]

To understand ®TMark curation, the first thing we must note is that corporations curate much of what we see, hear, and taste every day, via billboards, engineered menus, ergonomic work environments, etc.  (We are speaking of those things corporations curate directly, not through intermediaries like governments, non-profit agencies, arts groups, etc.)  Corporate curation has one unifying principle, and all curated objects are defined by it: the curated object must appeal to citizens (or their pets and children) as "consumers," as input mechanisms.  This is the bottom line, and nothing else is allowed.  Even those curated objects which seem to encourage creation only encourage such creation as leads without delay to consumption, either one's own (games, art technologies, etc.) or that of others (work).

Corporations have very successfully positioned themselves as the primary, and in some places the only, curator.

The defining characteristic of ®TMark curation is directly complementary to that of corporate curation.  Like corporate curation, ®TMark curation has a unifying principle, and everything curated by ®TMark obeys it: ®TMark curation appeals to citizens (and non-citizens) as output mechanisms, as creators.  This is the bottom line, and nothing else is allowed.  Even those curated objects which seem to encourage consumption (e.g. Phone In Sick Day) only do so as a means of affecting the world in a powerful, personal, individual way.
It is ®TMark's curatorial mission to redefine real output away from the domain of artists, i.e. those grudgingly licensed to engage in non-consuming behavior.  But who, if not artists, is ®TMark's curatorial audience?
The audience for corporate curation ("consumers") are those whose position in the world is fairly assured, who feel at least a baseline contentment, as well as the liberty to express and expand their contentment in curated ways. It was once the case that advertising appealed to our insecurities and miseries, and tried to exacerbate existential troubles in order to offer costly solutions (the work of Irving Norman is perhaps the finest description of this method). But these methods have been swallowed by the very fear they generated.  Just as repression has wisely given way to choicelessness, so has exacerbation given way to anesthetic. Contentment, though more expensive than terror, is in the long run cheaper, since the price for contentment can be set: as consumption. Ultimately, contentment pays for itself.
Seeing themselves as content, people are responsive contributors to machinic discourse; seen as discontent, people are the wellspring of irrational, unpredictable, creative acts. The audience for ®TMark curation, therefore, are the discontented.  This audience , is nearly identical in actual makeup to that of corporate curation: the corporate audience of the contented does not include those who cannot or will not participate in the economy, and ®TMark's does not include those who are satisfied with their lives; these excluded sectors are probably roughly equal in size, and are not very significant.

®TMark believes that corporate mechanisms can easily be frustrated by a population (re)defining itself as discontent, casting off corporate curations, and suddenly requiring and discovering new and more satisfying means of living.  The enormous resources within the "discontent class" will pose an enormous threat when they consume less and find more satisfaction in injecting their voices and influence irrationally into the marketplace.
This power of the "discontent class" is all the stronger because this class, consisting as it does of nearly everyone, does not suffer the image problems of artists, who are allowed their position as non-consumers only at the cost of almost constant doubt, and against whom the dispiriting force of "Social Darwinism" (markets are good because they separate winners and losers) is unleashed by the enforcers of contentment. By the same token, it seems certain that a small amount of curation goes a long way with this class.
It should, in closing, be noted that ®TMark is not opposed to all corporate curated objects.  Just as ®TMark is happy there are artists, but regrets that there need be such a category, so ®TMark is happy that some things are offered for consumption, but regrets that there is no other large-scale curation available.

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