— Within the context of curatorial practice’s ongoing fascination with its own history, one very decisive item has so far received very little attention: VOTI (The Union of the Imaginary), a short-lived but nevertheless important network of curators, formed in the late 1990s.

The list of original VOTI members reads like a who’s who of the international curatorial world: Francesco Bonami, Bart de Baere, Bice Curiger, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Hou Hanru, Iwona Blazwick, Dan Cameron, Maria Hlavajova, Charles Esche, Ute Meta Bauer, Udo Kittelmann, Jose Ignacio Roca, Nancy Spector, Okwui Enwezor, Octavio Zaya, Rosa Martinez, Maria Lind, Robert Fleck, Vasif Kortun, myself, and a handful of others.

VOTI was founded in 1999 by the Swiss born curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the Argentine curator Carlos Basualdo, and Jordan Crandall, former director of the X Art Foundation in New York, which hosted a permanent online forum for VOTI. The main goal was to foster discussion and conversation among curators, to develop a more progressive understanding of curating, and to fight homogenization at all levels of culture. What is interesting is the fact that most of the members worked independently, outside of museums. There was the strong desire to form a platform that would represent the interests of freelance curators while also facilitating exchange and discourse. Almost all of VOTI’s members have been pioneers of the field, given the innovations their exhibitions brought about.

Curating would not be what it is today if it had not been for this particular group of curators, who, in many different ways, strongly influenced the development of curating on a global scale through highly unorthodox exhibitions and other projects. Perhaps it is part of the “current” past and therefore too recent to analyze, but this period of curatorial emancipation will need to be looked at in detail at some point. I would consider it the origin of much of what curating is about today.

Vasif Kortun, director of Platform Garanti in Istanbul, is currently putting together an archive of the activities of VOTI.

Jens Hoffmann is a writer and exhibition maker and currently the Director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. He is the curator, with Adriano Pedrosa, of the 12th International Istanbul Biennial in 2011 and a curator for the 3rd Biennial of the Canary Islands in 2011 for which he is developing an exhibition on Christopher Columbus. With Harrell Fletcher, Hoffmann developed the People’s Biennial, presented in 2010 and 2011 at five US museums, organized by Independent Curators International in New York. In 2009 he founded The Exhibitionist: A Journal for Exhibition Making.