May 20, 2015

PhD position in Curatorial Research: Art against the grain of “collective Sisyphus:” The case of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (2010–2013)

Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA)
Caesar Swimming with Book from Suetonius (title given by Allan Sekula, also alternatively entitled Bookswimmer by the artist). Woodcut, graphic digitally rendered as vinyl cut-outs, designer and production date unknown, variable dimensions. Bought in a second-hand bookshop in Berlin by the artist’s wife, Sally Stein, and given to him as a present.

The University of Leuven (KU Leuven, Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography) and Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA) search to employ a PhD-candidate (full time / two (+two) years appointment, 2015–19).

The PhD centers on a concrete case study: Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum by the US artist, theoretician, critic, teacher and poet Allan Sekula (1951–2013). Sekula produced this unfinished, multifaceted and variably installable artwork, containing around two thousand objects, at the very end of his life. Its overarching theme is “dead labor.” With this notion, Sekula hints at collective efforts of human labor irretrievably lost in history. In his view, joint forces of past generations still have not sufficiently led to constructing real civil alliances among people, such as an international imposition of fair labor conditions. The project asks how Sekula’s last work aims to go “against the grain” of this “collective Sisyphus” by imagining possible forms of human solidarity in a globalized economy confronted to an ever-more critical extent with its own limitations. Interdisciplinarity is the project’s key asset: it aims at a cross-fertilization of theory and practice. Hence, this PhD-trajectory in Curatorial Research will be conducted in close interaction with a second PhD-student in Art History, who pursues research on Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum from a theoretical perspective.

Job description
The principal stake of the PhD-trajectory in Curatorial Research is articulating an adequate approach to define relevant ‘dispostifs’ for Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum. The PhD will need to eloquently come to terms with the ways how Sekula integrated ‘curating’ into his own artistic production and in what sense such artistic activities may affect existing museum practices of collection conservation, disclosure and display.

The successful candidate is expected to develop a research-based curatorial practice leading up towards a final PhD-result that consists of a newly conceived, major exhibition of Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum, which will be accompanied by a written exegesis. The PhD-student is expected to build up towards this final outcome via intermediary outputs, which consist of both exhibitions and publications.

Job requirements
Applicants are required:
– to hold a Master’s degree in Art History or Curatorial Research, or are able to convincingly prove equivalent knowledge when they have a Master’s qualification in a relevant discipline;
– to demonstrate advanced knowledge of contemporary art, art history, arts institutions, and research-driven artistic practices;
– to possess relevant work experience with presentational platforms, at an international level;
– to provide evidence of their research excellence by means of a list of curated exhibitions and publications (catalogues, essays, papers, etc.);
– to have a high level of English and outstanding writing, research, and organisational skills.

Familiarity with the work of Allan Sekula will be taken into consideration as a plus.

Application procedure
Please send a motivated letter of application and an extensive CV (which may include selected illustrations of your previous projects) in pdf-format via e-mail to:

Mr. Dieter Vankeirsbilck, Managing Director
M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp
[email protected]

Closing date for applications: 30 June 2015

Candidates invited for the interview (4 September 2015 in Antwerp) will be asked to write a short research proposal (max. 750 words) by 15 August 2015.

The successful candidate will engage to move to Belgium and is scheduled to start on 1 October 2015.

For more information, we kindly refer to the homepages of M HKA and the Lieven Gevaert Centre.


University of Leuven and M HKA PhD position in Curatorial Research: Art against the grain of “collective Sisyphus:” The Case of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum

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