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Earlier this semester, students in the MA Contemporary Art program curated an exhibition in the Cookhouse Gallery at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. The collaboration with Chelsea College is an ongoing feature of the MA Contemporary Art program, demonstrating the Institute dedication to cultivating students' curatorial skills. After familiarizing themselves with the work of artists on Chelsea College’s MA Fine Art program during studio visits, the Institute students worked with them to put together the Unknown Observers exhibition. Read on for a tour of the show.

Unknown Observers consisted of four different shows curated by Sotheby’s Institute students Somers Gerson, Carmen Sánchez-Terán, Anastasiia Lebega, Greta Caldera, Federico Raffa, and Georgie Field. The show addressed complexities such as the definition of identity within social labels, possible constructions after deconstruction, the coexistence of industrial and natural worlds, and remaining aliens from a lost planet. When entering the exhibition, the visitor is invited to rethink their engagement with these problematics, opting to be an unknown observer or actively engage with the realities the artworks try to navigate. From performance to photograph, through video, installation, and sculpture, every work seamlessly fits into the discursiveness of each room suggesting alternative narratives for our world.

Room 1

Through a portal of draping materials by Bianca Mierlea, you enter the Lost World, curated by Georgie Field.  Here, you find the remains from elsewhere; a place that once thrived without human existence. Now, other than Alberto Maggini’s pink creatures, the viewer is left to experience signs of a previous life. Michael Dohr’s sculptures show a code or language; they read as clues to what once existed, and how they communicated. The artworks tease the viewer with an unfamiliar place, allowing the audience to consider what had fled the space, and why they had to do so. 

The room was an experience for the viewer to have alone; for them to enter and understand without being told the subject matter of the artworks or curation. The artists’ work carried similar forms and colours, allowing the works to merge into one installation, which created the Lost World. Despite their similarities and the flirty curation, the individual practices were strengthened and identifiable. 

Due to the amount of artwork and the clear path around the works, the viewer became aware of their body and how they moved around the space. In doing so, a dialogue was created between the artwork and the audience; allowing the audience to experience the Lost World

Room 2

Featuring: Semin Hong @saymeaningg, Lilly Yang @_praisetherain, Soyeon Kim @zzoyony, Ewald Rist @rist_studio

Curated by: Federico Raffa,

Vulnerability opens up an eventuality, a predisposition to being hurt. It is an exposure of a naked body in the most radical passivity, an inability to close in and therefore a preliminary opening to investiture. Vulnerability should not be confused with fragility, a physical property, indicating the possibility of breaking. It refers to the intrinsic uncertainty in human nature. The flowering of human life depends on factors that people as finite and mortal cannot control. From a relational perspective, the constitution of the identity, therefore, depends on a condition of exposure.

Featuring Ewald Rist, Soyeon Kim, Semin Hong and Lilly Yang, the show questions the identity definition process. By breaking down the White Cube's referentiality, the exhibition tiptoes into the most vulnerable and fragile aspects of the human identity, highlighting its precariousness and its social structures in relation to private and social spaces. The works deconstruct the idea of home as a safe place, showing that not even in one's personal nest one is capable of truly accepting and defining oneself. At the same time, they underline the social pressure of the public space, from which one tries to seek shelter in his/her private nest. This vicious interaction between social and private spaces mirrors the essential relation between the individual and otherness. However, the works underline the ephemeral, restless, precarious and unstable nature of identities. Coherently, here artists are free from any cultural, gender and sexual labels, being deliberately left at the mercy of the viewers. By questioning defined social constructs, spectators are invited to choose through which lens to look at others and themselves. Unknown observers should look at scars of those around while questioning their own responsibility towards fragility and vulnerability of others.

Room 3

Co?existence is a group exhibition that explores ways of interaction between individuals, natural and built environments.

Curated by Greta Caldera and Anastasia Lebega, the show includes works by Katie Butler, Michael Dohr, and Alexandra Errington.

Presented objects play with our memory and perception. Some forms and fragments are more than familiar, and others are entirely new, which makes us reflect on transformation, immortality and disappearance of ideas and their material embodiment.

Artists use predominantly manufactured materials and objects, including found pieces, to build imaginative and existing structures. The show Co?existence reflects on the idea of hierarchy in human relations with nature. Who dominates who, and is this system flexible or irreversible?

Should we keep in memory the results of current industrial production in their initial form as artifacts or manipulate them, creating new creatures and forms of communication? Or can different approaches coexist together?

Room 4

Reconstructed Landscapes: Unknown Observers, The Cookhouse.

Featuring Alessandra Akiwumi @studio_x_alex, Vickie Amiralis @vickieamiralis, Melania Toma @melaniatoma, Sam Webb @masima________. Curated by Somers Gerson y Carmen Sánchez-Terán

Featuring the works of Alessandra Akiwumi, Vickie Amiralis, Melania Toma, and Sam Webb Reconstructed Landscapes is an invitation to consider how we compose the realities in which we live, finding fragments of our existence through deconstructed pieces of the world around us and building new connections. The works on display challenge the changing conditions of life, existing in the space between the fixed and “scored” and the unexpected and undetermined. A loss of certainty creates a landscape to play, experiment, and participate in the creative process of finding meaning in our surroundings.

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