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INTRODUCING: DAS 2018 Guest Curator, Cosmin Costinas

 
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Cosmin Costinas, Director at Para-Site in Hong Kong, will be joining the Dhaka Art Summit 2018 team as one of nine invited Guest Curators. Costinas exhibition A beast, a god and a line will form an important part of DAS 2018's offer weaving together various historical connections across a geography with Bengal at its core, and widening DAS's focus, for the first time, to include connections to Southeast Asia.  As his curatorial research develops, we caught up with Costinas to find out more about his interests as a curator and his career to date: 

Dhaka Art Summit - Where did your curatorial career begin?   

Cosmin Costinas – It started in Romania when I was studying Art History at Babes Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca.  From the beginning of my studies I was always interested in contemporary art and had developed close relationships with numerous young artists, for whom I was doing a lot of writing.  Without ever really aspiring to become a curator I ended up curating an exhibition with them.  Prior to this I had never thought that curating would be something I would be interested in, but during the process, I had decided that this was something that I wanted to do, and for me, curating felt like the right way of organising knowledge and catalysing creativity. 

DAS – After you completed your studies, where did your career take you?

CC – At that time I was working as a contributing editor for Idea Arts + Society in Cluj and Version also based in Cluj but which had a base I Paris.  It was from there that I took up the role of Editor for the Documenta 12 Magazine Project.  Although my role was editorial, it involved a lot of curatorial components and I curated several events and conferences, but overall it was Documenta as an institution, that drew me to the role.  After leaving Documenta, I began to focus more intensively on curating, first as an independent curator and later in the role of Curator of BAK in Utrecht, Netherlands. 

DAS – What was the impetus for your move from Europe to Hong Kong? 

CC – During my career in Europe I had lived in Vienna and Kassel during my time with Documenta 12, and when I was working independently, in Paris and Berlin, and then in the Netherlands during my time with BAK.  I was very interested in engaging with artists working outside the West—perhaps even more so then than I am now as so many things have changed with the world since I moved—but I was also ready to leave Europe so the opportunity arose at the right time for me. 

DAS – In your current role as the Director at Para Site, which part of your role do you enjoy the most and how would you compare it to your previous curatorial roles? 

CC – At Para Site I am running the institution, which makes the experience very different to my previous roles, but overall, I do feel a greater sense of satisfaction working in Hong Kong than I did in most parts of Europe.  I feel a meaningfulness with the work I am doing within the local context, that I am building something visible that has meaningful consequences and is acknowledged as such.  I have a much greater sense of satisfaction working within the context of Hong Kong and watching it grow. 

DAS – Do you feel the same sense of meaningfulness about the exhibition you are guest curating for the Dhaka Art Summit 2018?

CC – If I was working for DAS and was based here in Dhaka, I am sure that I would have a similar feeling to that which I have towards my work Para Site, but I don’t want to make that claim as I feel that, as a Guest Curator, I have a huge responsibility to engage with the local context, especially one that is transforming as rapidly as Bangladesh.  I am much more comfortable making this claim with Hong Kong as I live and work there, but here in Dhaka, I am an outsider and remain careful to understand what my role is here. 

I want to avoid the image of a romantic traveller who goes places, does great things, then moves on: and of course, all the colonial undertones that go with that stereotype.  For this reason, I am keen to maintain a respectful distance to what is happening here, as I don’t want to be seen as someone who has come here to impart their wisdom.

DAS – As a Guest Curator, how would you define your relationship with the local context? 

CC – On an artistic and intellectual level I can enter a dialogue with artists, peers and the audience (an important part of the process), but as a visitor and guest I want to initiate a multi-level dialogue and see what we can all learn from each other through a process of exchange, and eventually create something together. 

DAS – How did you feel when our Chief Curator, Diana Campbell Betancourt approached you about being a Guest Curator for the Dhaka Art Summit 2018?

CC – It is exciting to have been given the opportunity to open new genres of dialogues within a context that I have not previously had the opportunity to work with.  I would not want to say that I had no prior knowledge of Bangladesh as I like to read and had read about Bangladesh, but reading about a place is a very different experience to being here and connecting with people.  But, on the other hand, Bangladesh is a country often neglected within artistic and curatorial fields, which results in people visiting and meeting people with no prior knowledge of the context.  I really feel that both levels of engagement are needed to really fully understand a place. 

Find out more about Costinas’s exhibition, A beast, a god and a line, for DAS 2018, on our programme page