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Dr Ben Cranfield

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  • Ben Cranfield
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities

    Role

    Senior Tutor, Curatorial Theory and History

  • Ben is Senior Tutor in Curatorial Theory and History on the Curating Contemporary Art programme at the Royal College of Art and leads the Curatorial Thinking and Dissertation strands of the programme. He is interested in the curatorial as a contemporary cultural phenomenon and a mode through which to consider our relationship to the contemporary moment. He is committed to collaborative and experimental forms of working and learning. 

  • Biography

  • Ben is a writer, lecturer and cultural facilitator working at the intersections of curatorial and archival practice, post-war to contemporary art and cultural studies.  Formerly a lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London for over eight years, he has a keen interest in the relationship between theory, practice and alternative forms of pedagogy. Prior to working in academia he was a gallery manager and exhibition organiser and in 2007-8 he co-curated the year-long series ’60 Years of Curating’ at London’s ICA.

    Ben works between academia, art practice and the cultural sector and has organised many events and symposia that investigate the relationship between different cultural practices and forms. Most recently he co-curated with Dr Louise Owen the interdisciplinary conference Conventions of Proximity, Birkbeck 2016, resulting in a special issue of the Journal Performance Research, titled ‘On Proximity’ (forthcoming June 2017) which aims to bring together work in curatorial and performance studies to critically overcome binaries of activity and passivity, spectatorship and participation through a consideration of forms of closeness and distance. He has organised events and spoken at numerous arts venues, including London’s ICA, Nottingham Contemporary, The Bluecoat, Liverpool, Tate Modern, Whitechapel Gallery, London, and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, London. In 2010/11 he led a year-long Knowledge Transfer Partnership project investigating notions of creativity with A New Direction, a cultural-education sector bridge organisation for children and young people. Currently Ben is a Critical Friend for The Bluecoat, Liverpool and on the advisory panel for ‘Holding Space’, a curatorial project developed by Teresa Cisneros investigating notions of equity at The Showroom, London and on the advisory committee of the June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive.  In addition, Ben collaborates with the artist collective Fourthland to create situations for the exploration of language, meaning and belonging through material processes and performative gestures. 

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  • Practice

  • Ben’s current research and practice is focused on the relationship of the curatorial to notions of the contemporary and the archive, asking what it is to be ‘with’ one’s time. This interest stems from previous and on-going work into the histories and politics of art institutions, the theory of archives and institutional memory, and shifting ideas of art and culture in post-war Britain. Exploring the possibilities of the curatorial to re-approach the past through formations in the present, he is examining alternative approaches to using archival materials across curatorial, artistic and writing practice, particularly inspired by feminist, queer and decolonizing approaches. Some of these areas will be explored in the forthcoming articles, ‘Mind the Gap: opening the spaces of the curatorial’, Performance Research, June 2017; ‘Archival Hauntings: the Curatorial and the Crisis of History’, Journal of Curatorial Studies, no. 7, vol.1 forthcoming.

    His doctoral research and previous articles have focused on the history of the contemporary, the emergence of contemporary curatorial practice and the archival. Articles include, ‘‘A stimulation to greater effort of living’: The Importance of Henry Moore’s ‘credible compromise’ to Herbert Read’s Aesthetics and Politics’, in Anne Wagner ed., Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate, 2015; 'All Play and No Work? A ‘Ludistory’ of the Curatorial as Transitional Object at the Early ICA', Tate Papers, no.22, autumn 2014; ‘‘Not another Museum’: the search for contemporary connection’, Journal of Visual Culture, 2013; ‘Between Consensus and Anxiety: Curating Transparency at the ICA of the 1950s’, Journal of Curatorial Studies, 2012.

    Over the past few years Ben’s research has focused on the problems and possibilities of the relationship between the archival and the curatorial within contemporary art and exhibition practice. As part of this enquiry, he has presented the following papers: ‘The Queer materiality of the Archive: “back to where we have not quite been”’, Materiality and the Visual Arts Archive: Matter and Meaning, University of Brighton, September 2016; ‘Organising Fragments: curating archives of radical instituting’, Radical Histories/Histories of Radicalism, Raphael Samuel History Centre/Queen Mary, July 2016; ‘After the Archon, or, towards a shared inheritance of the in-between’, Public programming? Pedagogical practices in a missing Europe, Middlesex University, July 2016; ‘Curating the Organisational Archive’, Possible Futures, 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, July 2016; ‘Reflective Surfaces: recomposing fragments’, Mediating Cityscapes, ICA Film Biennial, May 2016; ‘The Institutional and the Archival’, Making Archives, Nottingham Contemporary, October 2015; ‘Pre-emergence in the Archive’, Collecting the Emerging, University College London, June 2015; ‘Intimating the Institution in the Archive’, Anecdote, Gossip and the Feminist Archive, Goldsmiths, May 2015

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  • External collaborations

  • Currently Ben is a Critical Friend for The Bluecoat, Liverpool and on the advisory panel for ‘Holding Space’, a curatorial project developed by Teresa Cisneros investigating notions of equity at London’s Showroom. In 2016 he was a part of a collaborative project between the June Givanni Pan African Cinema Archive (JGPCA), Central St Martins and Birkbeck, funded by Creative Works, to examine the future of the JGPCA as an independent cultural organisation. He continues to be part of the advisory group for the archive. He is external examiner for the MA Exhibition Studies, Liverpool John Moores University and the MA Arts Policy and Practice, University of Galway. He is co-supervisor of a Collaborative Doctoral Award (awarded to curator Marianne Mulvey) with Tate, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and Open School East, investigating ideas of public programming in art spaces.  He is also ‘academic in residence’ within the artistic practice of Fourthland .

  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Cranfield, B. ‘Archival Hauntings: the Curatorial and the Crisis of History’, Journal of Curatorial Studies, no. 7, vol.1 (forthcoming).

    Cranfield, B. (2017) ‘Mind the Gap: opening the spaces of the curatorial’, ‘On Proximity’ special issue of Performance Research, June

    Cranfield, B. (2017) ‘On Proximity’, a special issue of Performance Research, June, co-edited with Dr Louise Owen

    Cranfield, B. (2016) ‘It is time to rethink what ‘institute’ and ‘arts’ might usefully do in relation to the ‘contemporary’’, Apollo, Apollo Magazine

    Cranfield, B. (2015) ‘’A stimulation to greater effort of living’: The Importance of Henry Moore’s ‘credible compromise’ to Herbert Read’s Aesthetics and Politics’, in: Anne Wagner, Robert Sutton (eds.), Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, London: Tate

    Cranfield, B. (2014) ‘All Play and No Work? A ‘Ludistory’ of the Curatorial as Transitional Object at the Early ICA’, Tate Papers, 22, Autumn

    Cranfield, B. (2014) ‘Institute of Contemporary Arts: An Archival Experiment’ (co-authored with Lucy Bayley and Prof. Anne Massey)

    Cranfield, B. (2014) ‘Che Guevara in Art,’ in: Rachel Newsome (ed.) This is Not a Book About Gavin Turk, London: Trolley Books, 92–98

    Cranfield, B. (2013) ‘‘Not Another Museum’: The Search for Contemporary Connection.’ Journal of Visual Culture 12, 2, 313–331

    Cranfield, B. (2012) ‘Between Consensus and Anxiety: Curating Transparency at the ICA of the 1950s’, The Journal of Curatorial Studies, 1, 1, spring

    Cranfield, B. (2011) ‘Students, Artists and the ICA: the revolution within?’ in Resurgence of the Sixties: The Continuing Relevance of the Cultural and Political Watershed, London and New York: Anthem Press, 82–100

    Cranfield, B. (2009) ‘Looking Back Without Anger, Robert Priseman’s Places of Gentle Trauma’, in: Robert Priseman (ed), Hospital: Paintings by Robert Priseman, with texts by Margaret Iverson and Ben Cranfield, Colchester: Seabrook Press

    Cranfield, B. (2008) ‘Introduction’ and contributing editor, Ekow Eshun (ed.), How Soon Is Now: 60 years of the ICA, London: ICA and Cornerhouse

    Cranfield, B. (2008) ‘Dan Baldwin: delaying the rush’, catalogue essay in: Dan Baldwin, London: Forster Gallery. Re-printed in Dan Baldwin: 23 Years (2013), CCA Galleries

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Selected work

Research

Research students