A selection of curatorial and consultancy projects


Curatorial

Abu Dhabi Art : Live Programme

Alice Theobald, Ballad of the Simple Women, 2020

In 2020, for an all digital edition of the fair, I was invited to curate the live programme for Abu Dhabi Art. Calling my programme In the Round, I invited four artists – Alice Theobald, Raed Yassin, Nástio Mosquito, and Maitha Abdalla – to each create an 360 degree filmed performance on location in their respective cities of London, Lisbon, Berlin and Abu Dhabi during the summer 2020 lockdown, that would be shown online and as VR projections in Abu Dhabi and London.

The programme brings together artists whose work foreground storytelling and bodies in space to delve into personal histories and our collective imaginaries. 

Conceived in a moment of time where gathering together to experience live work was not possible, In The Round offers an experimental way to exhibit artist’s performance within an environment which conceives of the physical and durational immersion of live work within a digital plane

Alice Theobald, Ballad of the Simple Women, 2020 

Alice Theobald’s Ballad of the Simple Woman was filmed at The Albany Theatre, Deptford before the second national lockdown.  The work forms part of Theobald’s ongoing exploration into the nature of performance and the desire for authenticity, experimenting with the 360 degrees theatre-in-the-round.

View the work online here (best watched using the 360 function on a phone).

Raed Yassin, Humming in Abandoned Places, 2020 

Raed Yassin’s Humming in Abandoned Places was filmed in the abandoned building that was once Germany’s first lung hospital earlier this Autumn.  The work explores the relentless passing of time, isolation and disconnectedness that we all currently face as we live through the pandemic. 

View the work online here (best watched using the 360 function on a phone).

Nástio Mosquito, They the Them Are We, 2020 

Multimedia artist Nástio Mosquito is known for performances, videos, music and poetry that show an intense commitment to the open-ended potential of language. His new work, They the Them Are We was created in Lisbon by overlaying footage of existing works on top of one another, taking from past performance and music, and, through projecting them creating an arena for expansion. Utilising the full 360 degrees of the camera’s capabilities, and the light of projectors, Mosquito’s actions become reflected back on themselves to make a claustrophobic stage into which he inserts himself back in the centre to create a new action.

Not available online.

Maitha Abdalla, Boudoir, 2020 

Maitha Abdalla’s Boudoir is set in a shell of a building that was once a home and now stands abandoned to the surround desert.  Filmed in the desert in Abu Dhabi, Abdalla’s work explores the notion of sin and the cultural beliefs that dictate behaviours in harsh physical environments. 

View the work online here (best watched using the 360 function on a phone).

Consultancy

British Council : Programme Design

As Consultant for Art Criticism and Cultural Skills MENA Region programme, I designed a programme of workshops a that offer professional development and support in creating critical frameworks for artists and curators in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (with Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar).

Working on the ground, and online through 2020, I put together teams of art writers, PR specialists, curators, development specialists and other arts professionals both from the UK and the region to support the development of art writing, interpretation and criticism for international contexts as well as critical discussion frameworks and grassroots development for emerging artists and curators in the region.

Consultancy

Contemporary Art Society : Programme Report and Study Day

Phoebe Cummings demonstration during the CAS study day.

The Contemporary Art Society invited me to write a report on five years of their Collecting Live Art Fund based on a reflection seminar with participating artists and curators, and to put together a Study Day taking inspiration from my both this and my Collecting the Ephemeral programme.

The purpose of the seminar was to reassess the status of collecting performance in museums today; examine a range of case studies and share models of best practice; bring together curators working in public collections to better understand the appetite for collecting performance across the UK; as well as the potential challenges in collecting ephemeral practice.

Speakers included artists Janice Kerbel and Paul Maheke and curators Dr. Sabine Breitwieser and Hugo Worthy.

My report is available on request.

For the study day, I used the opportunity to contextualise collecting live art with the 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 explored some curatorial and collecting strategies that 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.

Curatorial

Delfina Foundation : Collecting as Practice

in conversation with Brazilian collector Pedro Barbosa at 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.

Season 1 : April – June 2017 

Sharing Collections: Exploring the relationships that are formed between collectors and artists, Pedro Barbosa and Deyson Gilbert discuss their shared interest in ephemera that forms 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.

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 and 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.

Season 2: January – April 2018

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; with Avani Tanya, Claire Wintle, and Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, moderated by Devika Singh

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.

From Country to Continent: Collecting and Supporting Contemporary Art in Morocco and Beyond. This talk looks at current projects based in Morocco that support and develop multiple and diverse forms of artistic production both in that country and from the broader African continent, with Touria El Glaoui, Christine Eyene and Othman Lazraq

 

 

Curatorial

Collecting the Ephemeral : Victoria Museum, Liverpool

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

Collecting the Ephemeral was an umbrella term I used for a series of commissions and acquisitions I initiated within museums and private collections around the UK between 2015 and 2018.

The commissions explored ways in which artists whose work is inherently process-based, live or participatory can interact with and be incorporated into collections.

For the Victoria Museum, I developed three new exhibitions, each took inspiration from a part of the Museum’s collection or the history of the building itself.

1. Phoebe Cummings – Model for a Common Room

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.

2. Ben Judd : The Part Versus the Whole

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.

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

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 (www.playitagainuseittogether.com). 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.

 

Consultancy

University of Salford Art Collection : Strategic Review

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

I 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.

 

Curatorial

Collecting the Ephemeral : Grundy Museum and Art Gallery, Blackpool

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

Collecting the Ephemeral was an umbrella term I used for a series of commissions and acquisitions I initiated within museums and private collections around the UK between 2015 and 2018.

The commissions explored ways in which artists whose work is inherently process-based, live or participatory can interact with and be incorporated into collections.

The first of these projects was Ben Cain – Companions : a substantial new body of work for a solo exhibition responding to permanent works housed by the Grundy Museum and 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.