Claire Tancons is a curator and scholar invested in the discourse and practice of the postcolonial politics of production and exhibition.
Claire Tancons, Callaloo Company, Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, 2018
Photo Marlon James
For the last decade, Tancons has charted a distinct curatorial and scholarly path in performance, inflecting global art historical genealogies with African diasporic aesthetics as well as decentring and othering curatorial methodologies as part of a wider reflection on global conditions of cultural production.
Tancons was recently a curator for Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber (with Zoe Butt and Omar Kholeif), which opened in March 2019. Over the last decade, she has curated for established and emerging international biennials such as the Göteborg Biennial (2013), Biennale Bénin (2012), Cape Town Biennial (2009), Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008) and Gwangju Biennale (2008).
As a curator of performance, Tancons organised the first solo New York exhibitions of artists Robin Rhode and Ralph Lemon at Artists Space (2004) and the Kitchen (2007). As the artistic director of large-scale public performances since 2008, Tancons has collaborated with artists/directors Delaney Martin and Mohamed Bourouissa, musicians Christophe Chassol and Arto Lindsay and architect Gia Wolff.
Over the last decade, 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 was recently a co-curator (with Johanna Auguiac) of the first edition of Tout-Monde, Caribbean Contemporary Arts Festival (organized by the French Embassy Cultural Services, Florida & Puerto Rico), Miami (2018–2019). She served as artistic director of etcetera: a civic ritual, Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse, France (2017).
Other curatorial highlights include Tide by Side, the opening ceremony of Faena Art’s Miami Beach district (2016); Up Hill Down Hall, a BMW Tate Live commission in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London (2014) and En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean (with Krista Thompson) organised and presented by Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans and co-organised as a travelling exhibition by Independent Curators International, New York.
Tancons frequently speaks at international art and academic forums, most recently at the Museum of Modern Art’s C-Map’s initiative, at the University of Washington’s Black Embodiments Studio, at SVA’s MA Curatorial Practice, at Creative Time’s Basilea at Art Basel in Basel, at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris. Her writings have been published in Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Small Axe, Third Text and e-flux as well as exhibition catalogues and translated into several languages. Her curatorial practice has been anthologised in The New Curator (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2016) and Perform, Experience, Re-Live: BMW Tate Live Programme (London: Tate Publishing, 2016).
Through Extemporary, her artistic production company, Tancons directed and produced Minshall: Mas of the Millenium, a short documentary feature about Trinidad masman Peter Minshall (in collaboration with Abigail Hadeed), and is currently at work on Moi-Mangrove, a feature-length film about her father, Guadeloupean intellectual Gauthier Tancons, (in collaboration with Caecilia Tripp).
Over the years, Tancons’ independent vision has been supported by a Prince Claus Fund Artistic Production Grant (2009), two Curatorial Research Fellowships from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives (2007, 2009), an Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellowship (2008), and an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award (2012). She is the recipient of a 2018 Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her book Roadworks: Processional Performance in the New Millennium.
Tancons holds an MA in Museum Studies from École du Louvre, Paris (1999) and an MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London (2000). She is also a former Curatorial Fellow of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, New York (2001).
Born in Guadeloupe, Tancons lives in diaspora and works in situ.
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