Trained as a curator and art historian, Claire Tancons practices curating as an expanded creative field akin to directing and experiments with the political aesthetics of walking, marching, second lining, masquerading and parading.
Claire Tancons, Callaloo Company, Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, 2016.
Photo Santiago Rodriguez Tarditi
The processional performances that have become a hallmark of her practice have transformed such iconic public spaces as diverse as Gwangju’s May 18 Democratic Square, Cape Town’s Company Gardens, Göteborg’s Götaplatsen and Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue, Venice’s streets and squares and New Orleans’s backstreets as well as Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and into sites of participatory experiments and civic interventions. Tancons has curated for established and emerging international biennials including as the associate curator for Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008-9); a curator for the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008); a guest curator for CAPE 09 – the second Cape Town Biennial (2009); an associate curator for research for Biennale Bénin (2012); a curator for the 7th Göteborg Biennial (2013) and a guest curator for the first biennial edition of Printemps de Septembre (2016-17). Born in Guadeloupe, French West Indies, Tancons is based in New Orleans and works in situ.
Since 2012, she has initiated a series of collaborations tackling different aspects of public ceremonial culture, civic rituals, carnival and processional performance including Far Festa: Nuove Feste Veneziane, about contemporary civic rituals inspired by the former Venetian Republic (with curatorial collective CAKE AWAY; IUAV University and Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, summer 2013); Public Practice, about New Orleans’ processional culture (with Delaney Martin; New Orleans Airlift, Fall 2014); and EN MAS’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean (with Krista Thompson; CAC New Orleans, 2014-15 and ICI New York 2016-18) a multi-year cross-Caribbean curatorial and editorial platform with an accompanying eponymous publication released in 2016. EN MAS’ was on tour in the Caribbean in 2016 (National Gallery of the Cayman Islands; National Gallery of the Bahamas) and will be back for an American tour in 2017.
Recently, Tancons was a guest curator for the BMW Tate Live Series with Up Hill Down Hall: An Indoor Carnival (Tate Modern, Turbine Hall, London, 2014) and a curator for Are you Alive or Not? Looking at ART Through the Lens of THEATRE, a program of the Rietveld Academy (Rietveld Studium Generale, Amsterdam, 2015.) She is currently a guest curator for the first biennial edition of Printemps de Septembre for which she is directing etcetera: un rituel civique (in collaboration with artist Mohamed Bourouissa) – a first segment took place in September 2016 and a second will take place in September 2017. Tancons also just completed the artistic direction of Tide by Side (in collaboration with Arto Lindsay as musical director and Gia Wolff as architectural director) for Faena Art for the opening ceremony of Faena District Miami Beach (November 2016).
Tancons has written extensively about Carnival, the carnivalesque, public ceremonial culture, performance and protest in NKA, Small Axe and Third Text and, for e-flux Journal, the oft-translated and re-published Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital: The Carnivalesque as Protest Sensibility (2011). In addition to English, her writings have been published and translated in French, Italian, Korean, Portuguese and Swedish. As the 2014 art professional-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts she pursued writing towards two books, currently under way. Her curatorial writing has been anthologized in Truth is Concrete: A Handbook for Artistic Strategies in Real Politics (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014) and In Terms of Performance (Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and University of California, Berkeley, 2016) among others and her curatorial practice in The New Curator (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2016), and Perform, Experience, Re-live: BMW Tate Live Program (London: Tate Publishing, 2016). Tancons speaks frequently about her work at art and academic institutions and has taught the summer intensive graduate curatorial seminar at IUAV University in Venice (2012, 2013) and conducted workshops, seminars and tutorials with University Arts London (2014) and CuratorLab in Stockholm (2015).
A graduate in Museum Studies from École du Louvre and in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a former Curatorial Fellow of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, Tancons is the recipient of an Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellowship, a Prince Claus Fund Artistic Production Grant and two Curatorial Research Fellowships from the Foundation for Arts Initiative. In 2012, Tancons received the Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award .
Tancons was selected by Artsy as one of the “20 most influential young curators in the United States” in 2016.
Claire Tancons’s work…
…has reached global audiences through a pioneering approach to large-scale performance.
– D. Eric Bookhardt
…is both pioneering a new understanding of Carnival and creating space for performance art outside gallery and museum spaces.
– Will Coviello
…opens new avenues for curatorial thought.
– Nicole Smythe-Johnson