It is widely appreciated now that curation, to do justice fully to its concerns, must remind itself, at all stations on the journey from idea to auditorium, of its etymological origins in the Latin, curare, to care. A certain tenderness needs to accompany its aesthetic–historical–philosophical research. The attention one gives must be not only academically and culturally active but also humane. The forms that this might take cross the borders of encounter, between the work selected and its renewed home in the world, amongst all of those required to enable such a passage, and between the work and its expectant audience.
While there should never be a lack of ambition in this undertaking, in terms of desired reach, it feels appropriate to retain a modesty in presentation, a humility, a lived acknowledgement of one's own ‘care-taking’, at a given moment, for a particular purpose, event, venue and assembly. In other words, expectations around scale, finance, institutional and promotional considerations should not be assessed as the determinants of ‘success’. Rather, rigour, a precise passion, a grace and honesty in the showing and support – whether to forty people in a studio cinema or speaking with five over post-screening drinks – seem more reliable indicators in enabling a lasting resonance, a committed passing of the baton of enthusiasm to those new to the films, artworks and ideas presented.
Such an approach feels particularly relevant when considering how the works of Sohrab Shahid Saless might circulate now. Acclaimed within festival networks for his features and, with his German public television films inevitably very widely viewed (in comparison to attendances for world cinema) at the time of broadcast, it is nevertheless true that Shahid Saless remained properly known in any larger sense only to a few. The importance, therefore, of the ‘Exiles’ retrospective and this volume is self-evident.
However, the image culture in which his oeuvre now finds itself, one so radically transformed from the period of its making in terms of production, distribution and exhibition, does not automatically guarantee a wider or more enduring reception, regardless of the numerous platforms available. The fact of its survival and retrieval is the first and absolute achievement. Without that, nothing is possible.