Can you present yourself?

My name is X Zhu-Nowell. I’m a curator, writer, and occasionally an artist. Currently, I’m a curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where I organize exhibitions and performances, lead discussions, acquire artworks and to borrow a phrase from another curator, Catherine David, I “produce, discuss, debate, and circulate to various audiences a certain number of ideas and formal articulations proposed by author(s).” Here, I understand “author” broadly. An author is a witness, a creator, an originator of something, not just a writer of books.

You will contribute to FIAC OVR next week. What is your take on OVRs and what is your approach to this collaboration and your selection?

At this moment, I have not yet seen the works that will be presented on OVR, but my curiosity is definitely piqued! What kind of “digital platform” is OVR exactly? Is it merely “online shopping?” I’m very interested in seeing how OVR rolls out, and what its limits are. Ideally, I’m always looking for forms of transaction that that more beyond just the exchange of goods and capital. Artists can squeeze themselves into all kinds of cracks, bringing new observations to light. As we’ve seen over the past year, digital cracks are no exception…

What project have you been recently working on?

At the Guggenheim, I’m currently working on a site-specific commission and exhibition project by Wu Tsang, which I’m thrilled to share with the world come late this summer (July, 2021). The working title of her project is Anthem (2021), and it’s a large-scale film and music installation that will occupy the entire rotunda. It’s also an audiovisual portrait of the musician Glenn Copeland, which will transform the museum’s architecture into a sonic sculptural space. This project will be on view from July 23 – September 6, 2021.

Which book is on your bedside table at the moment?

Literally, a brand spanking new copy of Walter Benjamin’s Archive! My partner got this book when the Verso books website was selling things for dirt cheap at the end of last year, just a few dollars or something.

I haven’t finished the book, but an excerpt I like from it is: “language has unmistakably made plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil.”

Books you recommend aspiring curators to read?

I would recommend moving beyond the books; talk to the artists! Especially, talk to artists that talk to other artists.

Favorite playlist or favorite song?

Glenn-Copeland’s iconic Keyboard Fantasies has of course been on my mind lately because of Wu’s project. It’s a gorgeous album. SOPHIE is also on my frequent player list. I love a cheesy 80s synthpop playlist full of danceable grooves that are also somewhat edgy and self-reflexively fashionable like Grace Jones or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark!

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