Open Music Archive feat. 51 Architecture : Play it Again! Use it Together

Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool


15th September -
24th November 2018

Play it Again! Use it Together by Open Music Archive feat. 51 Architecture (photo: Neil Cummings)

The third and final commission in the series I have curated within the collections of the Victoria Gallery and Museum, Eileen Simpson and Ben White’s project takes as its starting point the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Popular Music (IPM) archive of over 80,000 records, an exceptional and rich research resource gifted over a number of years by collectors and enthusiasts. 

With a particular focus on copyright-expired hit records from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, the artists will temporarily re-house the IPM archive in one of the galleries at the Victoria Gallery & Museum for the duration of the exhibition, making it accessible and public for the first time. 

Alongside this uncovering of the archive, at the centre of the exhibition is a newly commissioned and bespoke booth created for archive digitisation, broadcast and remix performance, designed with 51 Architecture, the award winning architecture practice led by Catherine du Toit and Peter Thomas. Animated by University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University students and graduates, the exhibition space has be turned into a production site through which the shellac and vinyl records will be digitised and made available online ( To further explore the usefulness of the public domain digital samples created during the digitisation process, the artists invite a number of collaborators to live produce new music sampling from the evolving public resource. 

Play it Again! Use it Together contributes to Open Music Archive, Eileen Simpson and Ben White’s ongoing work to source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright archive material and to spark collaborative activity.  Here, using the unique resource of the IMP’s archive, the artists strip away proprietary elements to explore ownership, investigating what is owned and how it is owned. The project promotes expanded usership of the archive through replay, live events, digitisation and distribution – seeking to explore different relations between artists, institutions and their publics.


Ben Judd : The Part Versus the Whole

Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool


9th June -
16th August 2018

Ben Judd : The Part Versus the Whole, 2018 - installation shot (photo: Julian Hughes)

Combining an eclectic mix of materials from the Victoria Gallery and Museum’s collections and archives, including historic magic lantern slides and the archeological photography of John Garstang, with new objects, performance and film.  The Part Versus the Whole by Ben Judd is the second of three new commissions for the VG&M that I am curating this year.

“…sometimes different cities follow one another on the same site and under the same name, born and dying without knowing one another, without communication among themselves. At times even the names of the inhabitants remain the same, and their voices’ accent, and also the features of the faces; but the gods who live beneath names and above places have gone off without a word and outsiders have settled in their place.”              

(Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities)

Through The Part Versus the Whole, Judd invokes a lost community with its own internal systems, beliefs and taxonomies of knowledge. The installation weaves together threads of mythology with imagined and real histories of characters and architecture from the local environment to create an immersive installation.

The exhibition is experienced while listening to the text written by writer and collaborator David Hering which imagines traces of this lost community’s ghost culture.

The performance on 9th June, shown here in the images, imagined this community existing within the VG&M.  Judd worked with recent dance graduates and a local community choir to create the unique work that weaved its way through the building and culminated in a dramatic finale in the Leggate Theatre- the University’s original lecture hall housed in the museum with song, dance and magic lanterns.

The Part Versus the Whole is an invitation to viewers to experience a series of alternative readings of the VG&M, and the city of Liverpool’s history, to reimagine what might have been and to bring its possible futures to life.


Alice Anderson : Nuhé

Witnessing at Art Brussels


19th - 22nd April 2018

The artist Alice Anderson invited me to respond to her solo booth with La Patinoire Royale-Galerie Valérie Bach at Art Brussels. Entitled Nuhé, the work is a durational performance that lasted the entire length of the fair.  Rather than a precis of her practice or a review of the piece as such, I proposed a ‘witnessing’ of the performance – that is, a written account of being with the piece and an attempt to transfer some of its ideas into word – that has now become part of the documentation of the work.

This is the text:

 Booth D13, Art Brussels, Tour and Taxi, Brussels

There is no roof to the booth, so I can see the mechanics of the building it has been constructed within – exposed ducts and lighting tracts snake above, the is visible brickwork and windows look out.

The booth itself is a three-walled square, open to the audience from one side only.  It is approximately 20 square meters of space in total but I am not allowed to enter.

Seven poles around 2 meters high are placed in a circle around the booth, each is approximately 20 cm in diameter. Three have been encased completely in copper wire. Neatly finished in the thin metal, they resemble large drill bits, totemic elements of machinery.  Their surfaces are mostly smooth, giving then a shiny metallic casing, but also criss-crossed in places for matt effect, nevertheless weaved perfectly. 

North South East West.  A performer works individually at the other four poles. 

The internal core of these four pillars show themselves to be tree trunks or thick branches, knotted and patinated. Immediately I understand that they will be worked upon until they too are completely covered. The four performers each hold a spool of copper-coloured thread. They pass the fine wire around the trunks, passing it around the back, to the front, and between their hands in a rotation. One stands on a box, reaching high to the top of her pole.  Another creates a full body motion from his action, his arms stretching wide and his torso rolling through as he circulates around. Though they are bound in a common task, each performer works solipsistically, alone, creating their own rhythm and motion, using their own technique and pace.

Through the temperature of their movement I can sense how long each has been performing – the speed with which they work seems to be inversely proportional to their absorption in their task; at the beginning, the heat each generates is fierce, their labour is clear and self-conscious; as they become absorbed in the practice, they cool, the force of the gesture slows, conserving energy, and yet, become more focused, as if the trick of time is to absorb the body into the work, transforming the task into a process of automation and meditation.

Their action is ritualistic, seemingly unaware of its audience and context – of the flow of people walking past, stopping, watching, whether for a moment or some time.  The performers are engrossed in their action. I am incidental. They don’t perform for me, instead they work intently, intensely, automatically so that I can sense the transience of my own viewing. They were here before I arrived, they will remain after I leave. 

North South East West. Ritual extends from the largest-scale social and political processes to the most intimate aspects of our self-experience. It is a process of transformation, a rite that transforms from one state into another. Here, it changes not only the wood into metal, but performer into material – gradually they change from being the makers of the work into the work itself – copper, wood and body all acted with, and upon, in a performative circuit.

Nuhé. The orientation of the poles points to something outside the fair to which the performers are attuned. A nuhé is a Colombian Kogi temple from the Sierra Nevada. The construction of a nuhé is the physical architectural expression of the community – a gathering place that is both spiritual and political. A site of gathering. A temple, a cosmic observatory.  The nuhé is both the structure within which the transformation takes place and the portal through which is possible to see the spiritual.

I think again about how the fair contains the work. Like in a casino or shopping mall, time and light are rarely allowed into this space. It is self-contained and immersive. Here, standing still, I am afforded time to configure myself in relation to this space. The strangeness of the constructed box, containing a different kind of ritual, small in the volume of the building. How the building sits on the site, warm in the unusually fierce heat of the April sun. The building in the site, the city. the cosmos…

Nuhé. This is a performance related both to the theatre of the fair and tethered to a ritual from far outside of this place. I am simply its witness and I must decide how long to stay, where to stand, and how to connect it to the larger space the booth next door, from the cafe the other side, from the fair itself… to the ancient ritual that exists elsewhere. 

Performers memorialising the structural elements of the work through their motion, and working in parallel with one another, morph to the knowable tree branches into totems of the unknowable and intangible. 

I am witnessing both a vanishing and a making act  – the natural wood is bound, it is gradually, ritualistically disappeared, petrified in copper.  Such an act creates new space.  Mummifying and building, a task that is both primitive and wholly contemporary. Copper was the first mineral material used by mankind – mailable and ductile. Its power lies in its conductive mutability, it transfers electricity and heat. 

Here, copper is the material that records, the material of memory itself. Pulled thin, into tread-like wire, it becomes a material to weave and with which to create a physical structure connected to the ground it sits on as much as the clouds above.

North South East West. Copper totems capture and distribute the vital energies of the four poles. 

Through the ritual of disappearance, I witness the making of new meaning, invented by the materials themselves.

Nuhé. The nuhé works with two verbs, to see and to seize: “you will see what exists and you will seize what of that suits you.“

The Evolving Collector

Panel Discussion at Art Basel Hong Kong


28th March 2018

I was invited to chair a panel dissusion at Art Basel Hong Kong entitled “The Evolving Collector: When Collecting is just the Beginning”.

Through a consideration of collecting as a point of departure, this conversation hopes to chart what is becoming an expanded and creative practice by bringing together a group of individuals who have each taken a path that has somewhat diverged from the traditional notion of what a collector is and does.

The speakers were: Joumana Asseily, Founder, Marfa Projects, Beirut; Rudy Tseng, Independent Curator and Art Collector, Taipei; Daisuke Miyatsu, Salary-man Collector; Tokyo Luba Michailova, Founder, Izolyatsia, Donetsk; and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Founder, The Collection of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin.


The Post-Medium Collection

Contemporary Art Society Study Day


2nd February 2018

Phoebe Cummings demonstration during the CAS study day.

The Contemporary Art Society invited me to put together a Study Day taking inspiration from my Collecting the Ephemeral programme.

I used the opportunity to explore a notion of the ‘post-medium collection’ as a starting place to think through ways of collecting that respond to the broad terrain of contemporary art

The title of the the day came from Rosalind Krauss’ definition of the ‘post-medium condition’, an single contemporary art work which includes an enormous variety of material and contextual considerations; multiple media and materials and ideas beyond physical objects. To Krauss’ list we might add the performative, networked and distributed as mediums and modes of presentation.

My keynote for the day argued that despite this, the notion of medium specificity has an ongoing impact within collection frameworks and methodologies. I articulated some of the issues that occur through this mis-match of artistic practice into collection, and asked what curatorial and collecting strategies approach a new relationship between commissioning, display and collecting of such heterogeneous artistic practices.

The other speakers were Dr Rebecca Gordon, Charlotte Keenan from the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool,  artists Phoebe Cummings and Ludovica Gioscia, and art historian and philanthropist Sarah Elson.

Phoebe Cummings : Model for a Common Room

Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool


19th January -
23rd June 2018

Phoebe Cummings: Model for a Common Room - installation shot (work in progress, January, 2018)

Model for a Common Room is the first of three new Collecting the Ephemeral commissions for the Victoria Gallery and Museum in 2018.  Each new commission takes inspiration from the Museum collection or building.

Model for a Common Room takes the idea of a ‘common room’ and its design as the starting point, exploring what activity and functions (practical, intellectual and even decorative) a common space might have, and what possibilities a shared approach to making might offer.

The room in which the work is made was formerly a Women’s Common Room.  The first purpose build women’s University education space in country.  What remains intact from that time is a fire place, designed and carved by a group of female students; a quietly radical object.

Contextualising the Common Room, Cummings also explored the University architecture more widely.  The interior architecture throughout the Victoria building is  covered with ceramic tiles and features a number of decorative columns.  Cummings has also researched the collection of architectural models of the University campus made at various times as the site has expanded, and a core earth sample taken from the ground in university square; a column of information about the landscape of the same site, extending deeper back in time. The room hopes to provoke discussion around who belongs and what making might offer us in common.

Made entirely from raw clay, the work is a temporary imagining of the room, and will be added to during the exhibition through public workshops and events that invite participation in the making process.

Phoebe Cummings studied Three-Dimensional Crafts at the University of Brighton before completing an MA in Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art in 2005. She has undertaken a number of artist residencies including as ceramics artist-in-residence at the V&A in London. Cummings recently won the inaugural Woman’s Hour Craft Prize (2017) and is shortlisted for the Arts Foundation Awards (2018).

Collecting as Practice

Delfina Foundation


8th January -
30th March 2018

Mark Dion : Thames Tate Dig (detail), 1999.

I have been invited to curate a second season of the Collecting as Practice at Delfina Foundation.  This new season brings together collectors, curators and thinkers to raise provocations around collections, museums and markets across the world. The talks programme looks at the development and presentation of collections, along with alternative ways of interpreting them through art historical revisionism and other forms of scholarship such as publications, interventions and exhibitions with a transnational perspective.

De-constructing Collections: Artistic interventions and Strategies in Museums
Following several short residencies by Mark Dion, Delfina Foundation hosts an afternoon of conversations and readings that takes as a starting point Dion’s long standing interest in examining the way museums construct knowledge through their objects and collections. The afternoon will explore his, and other, contemporary artistic and curatorial strategies to intervene in and interpret collections.

In Conversation: Mimi Brown and Haro Cumbusyan on Patronage and Social Change
On the occasion of their residencies at Delfina Foundation, collectors Mimi Brown and Haro Cumbusyan discuss their previous initiatives, Spring Workshop in Hong Kong and collectorspace in Istanbul, respectively, and explore what they might do next.

De-constructing Collections: The Colonial Past and Contemporary International Collecting
Inspired by the research residencies that form part of Collecting as Practice, this evening will explore the colonial history of collecting within the UK, the ethical status of objects in British museums, and curatorial and artistic strategies to continue to collect and create new international understandings.

Collecting Arab Art: Revising Western Art History Related to the Region and Beyond
During his residency, collector Sultan Al Qassemi uses Ala Younis’s exhibition at Delfina Foundation as a starting point to discuss the shared responsibility of artists and collectors in revising Western notions of art history through collecting and scholarship.

Collecting African Art: Developing the Market and Frameworks for the Future
This talk looks at current infrastructures to support the multiple and diverse forms of artistic production from the African continent. Prominent and emerging collectors, gallerists and curators explore the present situation, urgencies and possible futures in relation to collections, public institutions and art ecologies.

Events at Delfina Foundation, curated and moderated by Rose Lejeune.


Collecting as Practice

Delfina Foundation


20th April -
22nd June 2017

Delfina Foundation (photo: Tim Bowditch, courtesy of Delfina Foundation)

I have curated the Collecting as Practice Public Programme at Delfina Foundation.  My programme considers the growing role of collections as spaces for the production, reception and preservation of contemporary art practices. Exploring the potential for collections to re-invent and create cultural histories and public knowledge, the programme seeks to address both the artistic drives behind the impetus to accumulate and rearrange materials and the social potentials for collections in the broadest sense.

Through discussion with artists-in-residence and international collectors, it explores collections as living sites of accumulated knowledge with the potential for critical and active engagement in the development of cultural identity, revisionist histories, and new narratives. This expanded notion understands collections as always embedded and operating in specific social, political, economic, artistic and personal contexts and asks how artists and collectors alike intervene and activate them.

As such, moving beyond a focus on the examination and accumulation of individual art works, the Collecting as Practice Public Programme wishes to energise conversations around artistic and radical collecting methodologies in relation to intimacy and economics, communal ownership, cultural memory and education. In doing so, we hope to unpack how artists and collectors alike are redefining the critical discourses of collecting in a global context.

Events at Delfina Foundation, curated and moderated by Rose Lejeune.

Sharing Collections 

Exploring the relationships that are formed between collectors and artists, Pedro Barbosa and Deyson Gilbert discuss their shared interest in ephemera – posters, artists’ books and vinyl albums – by conceptual artists in the 1960s and 70s that form a substantial part of the Moreas-Barbosa Collection.

Taking this collaboration as a starting point, and emphasising the potential of collecting as a site of encounter which privileges the creation of social relations between people, rather than the production and display of objects, the event will explore modes of exchange and interaction and discuss how the intimate relations might point to new understandings of the connection between art collection, production and distribution.

The social value of private initiatives and museums

Collectors-in-residence Sean Lu and Luba Michailova are founders of Sifang Art Museum (China) and IZOLYATSIA (Ukraine) respectively, two private initiatives set within very different geo-political contexts but with overlapping aims of invigorating and supporting cultural scenes for local communities. This conversation seeks to explore the public responsibilities of private initiatives and address the ways in which local cultural histories and social needs can be acknowledged alongside national and international artistic communities. The panel will ask how artists, curators and private collectors collaborate in bringing trans-national critical thinking, pedagogy and exchange around visual art into the public domain in meaningful ways.

Who Really Owns It? Thinking through ownership of contemporary art and cultural heritage
This discussion explores a radical notion of collecting that challenges conventional notions of individual ownership. Taking its departure point from research conducted by curator-in-residence Özge Ersoy, as well as recent examples of the destruction of historical artifacts, the discussion considers how social histories become embedded in the material objects of art works. With reference to key artistic, archaeological and architectural practices, the participants will interrogate how it is possible to redefine our understanding of ownership to include concepts of immaterial presence, social knowledge and the communal.

Art Fairs 

Collecting, Intimacy and the Domestic at Art Brussels emphasises the potential of collecting as a site of intimate encounter between artists, and collectors with Pedro Barbosa, Aaron Cezar, Alain Servais and Dorith Galuz, moderated by Rose Lejeune.

Private Collection / Public Audiences at art-mote carlo explores the ways in which private collectors, operating at many different scales, develop and support cultural and artistic communities in different contexts around the world with Pedro Barbosa, Aaron Cezar, and Luba Michailova, moderated by Rose Lejeune.


Art Collection Strategic Review

University of Salford


October 2016

Cao Fei : Haze and Fog (2013) - University of Salford collection at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester (photo: Paul Hermann)

Collecting the Ephemeral was invited by University of Salford Art Collection to undertake a strategic review of its collecting methods and priorities. Through a series of workshops with professional peers, we critically reviewed the current strategy and explored it in relation to the wider contexts of University, national and international collecting.

Through an attention to the specific priorities of the existing University of Salford Collection Development Policy: Chinese Contemporary Art, About the Digital and From the North, the workshops discussed the purpose, value and curatorial methodologies of the University Collection in relation to:

  • Acquisition strategies for experimental contemporary art
  • Collecting and presenting in the current Higher Education climate
  • Collecting and the art market
  • The specific challenges and opportunities presented by the Collection’s lack of a dedicated gallery space for permanent display

In order to benefit from external views and wider expertise, and ground the Collection within in the broader context of contemporary collecting, each workshop invited of a selection of colleagues with extensive and varied experience of: national museums, HEI Collections, commercial galleries, private collections, practicing artists and funding.

Each of the workshops explored in turn;

  • The rationale for the specific collecting strands
  • The commissioning and display partnerships
  • The relationships with artists and other key partners
  • The part in the relation to the whole and the integrity of the whole
  • The visibility of the Collection and its individual artworks
  • The curatorial expertise of the Collection’s team
  • Possible futures for the Collection


Key findings from the review are available on request.


Ben Cain : Companions

for Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool


28th November 2015—
30th January 2016

Ben Cain: Companions - installation shot (photo credit: Jonathan Lynch)

I commissioned Ben Cain to make a substantial new body of work for a solo exhibition responding to permanent works housed by the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool.

Selecting sixteen paintings and objects from the collection, Cain has worked with locally-based artists and craftspeople to have those works, and objects from within the paintings fabricated and introduced into the gallery as new sculptures alongside the original images. In this way, a vase in a painting is rendered into three-dimensional porcelain by a potter, or an amber glass necklace worn by a sitter in the original work is fashioned into being by a glassblower.

The new works and the originals will each be exhibited on specially-constructed stages or raised plinths, which could also be thought of as workbenches. Each plinth will collectively present a scene, as though a large, three-dimensional still-life composed from the collection itself, and the re-worked details from the collection.

The fabrications exist in an ambiguous relationship with the original paintings – on the one hand they render them into the present, creating new narratives from the originals, whilst on the other they are pretenders, fakes and imposters, illicitly inserting themselves into the collection.

The newly made objects could be considered as ‘approximations’ rather than exact copies, acting simultaneously as prototypes, dummies or sketched re-workings forged through collaboration with others, offering casts that are open to interpretation and re-interpretation by audiences of today and tomorrow.

In this way, Cain’s commission examines the process of making an artwork. Items are selected, redrawn, revisited, borrowed, rejected and worked up before the final form emerges. Frequently, attempts that are set aside are nevertheless indispensable parts of a work’s development.

Companions continues Cain’s long-running investigations into the themes of material, labour, and artistic production. The exhibition is inspired by the Grundy collection itself, which is made up of an eclectic mix of items from paintings to jewelry to ornaments and furniture accumulated over the years, frequently with little known provenance. The commission responds to the character of a museum collection as a group of objects housed in one place over the course of time, offering a way to move between the image’s content, the context within which they were made and the present and future moments of their viewing.

Ben Cain: Companions, Guest Curated by Rose Lejeune at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, 2015 is supported by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts