MA Contemporary Art students reflect on the experience of curating exhibitions of new work by MA Fine Art students at Chelsea College of Art and Design.
“Suffer from Realness,” Curated by Amanda Jamieson and Penny Nikolau
Curating “Suffer From Realness” with MA students at Chelsea College of Art and Design was a first-hand learning experience that taught us about the symbiotic nature of a strong collaboration between curator and artist. Developing the concept was creative and exciting but riddled with anxiety. Was the show timely? Was it relevant? Our exhibition took its title from a Kanye West lyric and opened a dialogue around authenticity in a contemporary culture that also values artifice. A dialogue it truly was, and just as we hoped each artist took a different approach to the theme. We worked with four artists, Ka Ian Hoi, Pippa Brabyn, Pui Pui Ip, and Thomas Jon Walker, our two initial artists reaching out to peers whose work, they felt, spoke to our concerns. We built shelves, coaxed biographies out of the artists and realized one artist’s longtime dream by sourcing a vintage television and then showing her video work on it. Every artist is different and this experience drove home the respect and care a curator needs to have for an artist to earn his/her trust and to support his/her work in a truly professional way. Curating the show taught us about the fluid character of the relationship between artist and curator—about how to let artists lead the way while bringing method to the madness.
“Data_Blood 2.0: a Glitch," Curated by Wil Ceniceros and Luz Hitters
It was a pleasure to collaborate with the MA Fine Art students at Chelsea College of Art and Design. We worked with Alice Morey and Emily Mulenga in the creation of an uncanny environment awakening the viewer’s audiovisual and olfactory senses. In it, the artists explored the pursuit of longevity and the quest for immortality. They portrayed a dystopian future in the form of an operating theatre where a machine-creature hybrid was pulsating and narrating its experience through a screen. The exhibition wove together a number of controversial topics including medical science, technology, what it means to be human, consciousness, and evolution.
Through the experience we learned about how to realize a curatorial project and work side by side with emerging artists. We were keen to publicize their practices. We wanted to encourage them to push the boundaries of their work without in any way stifling their artistic voices. The experience also taught us about how to manage a space in order to give the artwork the presence it deserves. We created an environment that the artists felt did justice to their work without distracting the viewer or predetermining his or her response. Lastly, when setting up the exhibition, we gained a sense of the importance of time management and proactive problem-solving as curatorial skills. Overall, it was an enriching experience. We hope to work together as a curatorial team again in the future.
“Artefat," Curated by Pallavi Surana and Sofia Palacios
We decided to create a curatorial collaborative in February 2019. A few months into the MA we realized that we had similar perspectives on contemporary art. Upon learning about the opportunity to work with Chelsea MA Fine Art students, some of whom we already knew well, having visited their studios, we jumped at the chance of working on a show there. We were familiar with Andrea Rocha and Peter Ibberson’s practices and liked their work, so we decided to approach them with a view to putting on a show around the theme of "the absurd." After our initial meeting with them, we were confident we were on the same page, both aesthetically and thematically. Our working relationship from then on was smooth. Although they have distinct practices, they decided to make a collaborative piece for the exhibition. After laying out our initial thoughts for the exhibition, we discussed various ideas and finally settled on what then became "Artefat," an unexpected, odd structure materializing the idea of "the elephant in the room." Rocha and Ibberson explored the possible meanings of this idiom through the physical qualities of their installation. The obstructive character of the structure evoked the idea that we see a reluctance in contemporary society to tackle existing socio-political urgencies. Viewers were forced to confront the overwhelming object—they had to walk around it to grasp it in its entirety. "Artefat" was disproportionately big, making the experience of navigating the space an uneasy one. Peter and Andrea were an absolute pleasure to work with and what makes us even prouder is the fact that this collaboration will continue. The artists now plan to work together for their end-of-year show. "Artefat" lives on!
“Too Much World," Curated by Anni Li
This immersive and interactive show was designed to look at the place of technology in our lives and in particular its connection with anxiety. Featuring works by Emily Mulenga, Bo Fan, Paul Chisholm, Qiaoer Jin, Rita Castanheira, and Thomas Jon Walker, it transformed the gallery space into the bedroom of a fictional protagonist, the sculptural and video works appearing alongside countless personal items. The title of the show was derived from the seminal text by the German artist and theorist Hito Steyerl, “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” I wanted to continue her exploration of the dark side of technology, its power to overwhelm us.
It was a great experience to work with six talented artists. My first task was to figure out how to display five video works in such a way that they did not interfere with one another. The solution, creating a bedroom, and using digital devices to show the video works, was inspired by Elmgreen & Dragset’s staged domestic environments and Steyerl’s contention that we apprehend the world through screens. My main task as a curator was to project manage the show, ensuring that our ideas were executed in a timely way and that the final arrangement lived up to them. We met regularly to brainstorm and monitor our progress. Most of the furniture was scavenged from a skip and by the time of the opening the space looked and felt like a real bedroom. The environment became richer and richer as we installed the show, but although we included twenty-one artworks the show-in-a-bedroom didn’t feel cramped. Putting it together was a valuable experience for all of us.