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At Weisman, a new take on curation and collaboration

Boris Oicherman, the Weisman’s new Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaborations, is throwing tradition out the window.
New Target Studio Weisman Art Museum curator Boris Oichermanon poses for a portrait outside of the museum on Monday, Sept. 11.
Image by Easton Green
New Target Studio Weisman Art Museum curator Boris Oichermanon poses for a portrait outside of the museum on Monday, Sept. 11.

As a practicing artist with a Ph.D in color science and an extensive background in printing technologies, computer programming and digital color imaging, Boris Oicherman can now add “Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaborations,” to his long list of credentials. Hired earlier in the summer by the Weisman Art Museum, he has a big project ahead of him.

Traditionally, artists who seek exhibition and residency opportunities must submit a well-defined and detailed proposal, which typically highlights the specifics of their concept and execution process.

“I want to create an environment where you do not need to define your project,” Oicherman said. “You will need to define your ideas, your agenda, why you want to do this and what direction you want to go, but you’ll be absolutely free to develop it over a year at least, and after that year, we’ll see what happens.” 

In other words, his goal is to be the working artists’ dream.

This curatorial position opened when the Weisman closed for expansion in 2010, and later reopened with the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration. 

“We wanted to have a space that was more collaborative but also worked with faculty and the public to have less of a gallery and more of a workspace in the museum,” said Erin Lauderman, director of marketing and communications at the Weisman. 

With Oicherman’s background in color science and experiences in site-specific curation, the space has a viable chance of achieving this mission.

“A lot of my curating approach comes from experience of being an artist… knowing what I didn’t like about curators I had to interact with,” Oicherman said. “How do I want to build my interaction with artists here, that will fix the problems that I met when I was a practicing artist?”

He also considered what roles art can play in academia and in research. 

“When you think about university, you think about education and what education can be, and the role the museum can have on that education, in changing it and making it better,” Oicherman said. 

Oicherman challenged the current role of the museum and its potential by asking over-arching questions like, “Why have a museum at a university?”

“Art, I believe today, is a totally unique thing that can be absolutely anything. There’s not a thing that you point a figure on and say ‘hey, this cannot be art,’” Oicherman explained. “That gives amazing freedom to artists.” 

Oicherman aims to manifest this freedom by organizing strategic interactions among different fields of knowledge within the University of Minnesota. 

The focus of the Target Studio program will be based on artist residencies and a series of events. For these events, Oicherman plans to bring in ideas and methodologies of working artists in the Twin Cities involving their approach to knowledge, discussion and public space. Rather than display physical art pieces, Oicherman will exhibit artistic processes. The artist residencies will be “open-call.”

Over the course of a year, Oicherman will budget and plan for the space to become a center point for creative collaboration and education, and will begin the project’s implementation mid-June 2018. Rather than an application that is proposal and submission based, Oicherman prefers to hold open office-hours at the Weisman, where he hopes conversations, ideas and relationships may be developed. 

“I’m looking for artists that are interested in very open-ended projects, that are interested in working with other people and that have crazy ideas because this is what the whole place is about,” Oicherman said. “The crazier the better.”

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