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Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Talking, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm, 1966.



Curating Time

Contingency, Anachronism, Flirtation






This thesis is about curating and temporal paradoxes in contingency, anachronism and flirtation. It is made through a practical-theoretical investigation, which considers the conceptual significance of these three notions, incorporating them as modes of curatorial research.


Contingency is used in institutions and cultural organisations as a strategy to avoid unforeseen and unplanned scenarios. It appears in budget templates, as a percentage that designates the unknown. Beyond its bureaucratical usage, however, it is a complex theoretical concept, that has been widely explored throughout the history of Western philosophy. For example, it derives from Aristotle’s debate about future contingents and has been examined in Giorgio Agamben’s studies of potentiality. Contingency is located at the threshold between Being and not-Being, amidst the occurrence and non-occurrence of events. It generates a suspension between actuality and potentiality, a space of ambiguity and paradox, which is intrinsic to the act of creation.


Anachronism is conventionally employed as a resource to denote the lack of concordance in chronological arrangements of time. It indicates outdated premises and expired concepts. Far from its quantitative function, nevertheless, it serves as a philosophical rule to re-examine the homogeneous models and values imposed upon the notion of time. For instance, it is reminiscent of Agamben’s interpretation of the contemporary, and of Nietzsche’s notion of the untimely. Anachronism is an experience of temporal dissonance, a necessary consequence of striving to become who one truly is. It is a way of acting, practicing and being time. It hints at the ontological. Becoming anachronistic is to embody temporal irregularity and discontinuity, it is to become the spine that joins together and disjoints chronological time.


Flirtation is an artistic gesture that unfolds in the temporal interstices of the encounter with others. To flirt is to playfully perform the eventfulness of eroticism. Contemporary exhibitions are temporary settings for human activity and interaction. In them, art and people flirt. Through them, aesthetic, emotional and intellectual exchanges take place. Flirtation has been studied by Georg Simmel, defined as desire driven by the oscillation of possession and non-possession. It connects to the transitory and aleatory condition of relational aesthetics, as described by Nicolas Bourriaud. It is a form of sociability and a mode of playing with time; a playful expression of temporal oscillations of desire.


This thesis conceptualises the temporal paradoxes of contingency, anachronism and flirtation, and practices them as forms of curatorial research. The proposal is to re-create the suspended state of Being and not-Being of contingency, to re-enact the ontological out-of-jointness of anachronism, to re-stage the oscillation of flirtatious encounters, through the analysis of critical theory, together with the realisation of curatorial projects.




Paula Lopez Zambrano

PhD candidate Visual Cultures

Goldsmiths, University of London


Supervisor: Dr. Jean Paul Martinon