Curatorial Practice in a Globalized World

Viewed on Youtube. I began watching the Guggenheim Symposium: Keynote: Curatorial Practice in a Globalized World and I was particularly interested in the views of Sara Raza and Pablo Leon de la Barra and found that this experience gave me much to reflect upon and consider in relation to my Dissertation topic of Diasporas, Loss and Globalization.

When curating an exhibition on the issue of Diasporic communities, the curator is in the position of being an observer, an outsider looking in at the community – in ethnographic research it is not uncommon for people to spend time with a culture to learn their traditions and beliefs and better understand the culture of the the Diasporic Community they are observing, their culture and their distinct culture in society, their behaviours, beliefs, attitudes, language and traditions through the observation of their daily lives and information gathered through other means, such as artefacts and journals. In Ethnographic Researcher, the purpose is to observe a group, empathise with the group and strengthen relationships without actually becoming a part of the group. However it does sometimes happen when a person spends time within such a group that they can become conditioned by the group culture and begin to develop the same cultural tendencies.

When a Diasporic Community is moving to a new land/country to reside it must be anticipated that there will be an element of hositility/tribalism from the resident community. Certainly in the case of the Patagonian Welsh, there must have been some resistance to their migration from the native Teheulche Indians, however they did attempt to help the Welsh settle into the inhospitable Patagonian land. This element of hostility towards migrating communities can be seen in the UK today, somewhat encouraged by the media, however there is also an element of the UK resident population that welcome the migrant communities and seek to help them become established within the UK. It can be seen that the some of the people belonging to these migrating communities have trades of worked in a professional capactity before they had to migrate from their homeland, these skills can only be seen as a positive contribution to the new society that they find themselves in.

The question of how I relate to these Diasporic Communities has been uppermost in my mind for some time. Yes I do feel that I am part of the Scottish Diaspora, I have a strong connection to Scotland that is at the core of my being something that I have been aware of since being a small child that sense of belonging to Scotland is a strong part of my earliest memories. Although born and spending my early years in Scotland, I essentially grew up in North Wales, where my maternal family are. At the age of 18, I could deny the pull of Scotland no more and I then returned and continued to live there for 25 years. I returned to Wales in 2009 and have continued to feel that strong sense of isolation from my homeland ever since.

During the symposium the Cultural Theroist, Stuart Hall was discussed and the fact that he was born in Jamacia in 1932 and lived in the UK from 1951 he felt isolated from both communities. This observation provided me with a connection for my dissertation and I began to research artists who are displaced from their homeland for whatever reason who continue to create art that reflects the bond that they still possess with their homeland.

The No Country Exhibition that Sara Raza curated on behalf of the Guggenheim. In curating such an exhibition Sara theorises that it is important to look at the problems experienced by the nation of interest and the relative geography and the fluidity of their nations borders. In modern times borders are more fluid and a new form of colonial occupation in some regions appears to be emerging. Also of interest and relevance in the dialog that exists between these trans national and trans regional cultures.

It is important to understand what is significant to the Diasporic Community on a Global level, how do they identify with their culture as a group and how do they identify as individuals. The population in a Diasporic Community have that sense of rootedness in their cultural history and traditions, Individuals who are displaced from their homeland also have the same sense of rootedness to their culture, traditions and beliefs. As an artist or curator we are rootless – represent everyone, the people.

A person or group that has moved away from their homeland can be described as having become de-coupled and this issue is part of the ongoing discussion relating to Diaspora. Something or Someone that is decoupled, is something or someone that is moved away from the centre without necessarily severing its roots – hence a community would then become it’s own autonomous entity.

In curating such an exhibition it’s important to reflect a contemporary Story that doesn’t sever origins or connections to history, that moves beyond regional specificity but show similarities between regional groups too and their connections/relationships both current and historical.

I decided it is important to note as part of my dissertation the issues of trans-nationalism and migration, focussing on artists that are no longer living in their homeland, possibly with dual passports – who have become their own entity whilst still connected to their roots.

Rubber and Rust

Sunday 24th September 2017

Rubber and Rust

For the third year Induction Project, I created a six page Artist book using The Rubber and Rust Prints bringing them together using collage. My book is bound using cable ties.

Saturday 23rd September 2017

Today I decided to focus on creating rust prints from the pizza tray in my garden. I created a mixture of vinegar and water, sprayed the paper and the rust and then applied pressure and left for a few hours. I created a lot of rust prints to use for my Induction piece. the images from some are below.



Thursday 21st September 2017

Whilst considering the question Where am I at now I knew that I wanted to include some experimental printing in my piece for this project. I have spent a long time looking st surfaces in the world around me that have the potential for print and have photographed many grids around my workplace with this intention in mind.

However for this project I focused on things around my home. I’ve had an old pizza tin rusting in my garden for just this purpose and also an old car tyre. Today I focused on the Car Tyre and the rubber matting outside my back door, creating some prints using a water based printing ink.


Questions for Artists

As part of the Dissertation Research I sent the following email to both Smoking Dogs Films and Iwan Bala.

My name is Michelle Wright and I’m a student at Coleg Menai in North Wales studying BA (Hons) Fine Art with Bangor University. I’m in my Final Year and my Dissertation research is the reason for my email. As part of the dissertation process we have been asked to acquire a direct quote from a practising Contemporary Artist to include with our essay.

For my Dissertation along with the essay, I have to curate an imaginary/theoretical exhibition at an existing gallery. The title of my theoretical exhibition is Diaspora, Decoupling and Representation and I am bringing together the artists John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Mona Hatoum and Emily Jacir.

Please may you consider the following questions and provide your opinion as a response that I may use as a quote in my dissertation.

  • In your opinion does a Fine Artist have to belong to a particular Diaspora/Minority Group in order to accurately represent them in a Fine Art context?
  • Do you believe a Fine Artist can accurately represent a Diaspora/Minority Group using ethnographic research methods?
  • If an artist uses ethnographic research to represent a Diaspora Minority Group, do you believe this can create resistance within the Diaspora/Minority Group to the Fine Artist’s work?

Finally I would like to thank you for the consideration and say that any comments you may have will be very useful and much appreciated.

Best Regards

Michelle Wright

I received two responses and used the comments from Iwan Bala in the Dissertation Catalogue.

Below is the response from David Lawson at Smoking Dogs Films.

Dear Michelle,

Many thanks for your e mail. John has done many interviews over the years and there are many on- line, including Tate shots, and a Barbican film to accompany his recent show, Arnolfini have one on their website. So please feel free to quote from any of those as he is concentrating on two new commissions at the moment.
Very good luck and best regards
David Lawson
Smoking Dogs Films
Below is the response from Iwan Bala.

Dear Michelle

This is quite a complex thesis to undertake, but here are my immediate responses;

In your opinion does a Fine Artist have to belong to a particular Diaspora/Minority Group in order to accurately represent them in a Fine Art context?

I believe that an artist not of a Diaspora/Minority Group might understand, but would find it difficult to fully empathise and express the situation honestly. So, my answer would be Yes, an artist would need to be from within the Group.

Do you believe a Fine Artist can accurately represent a Diaspora/Minority Group using ethnographic research methods?

It is a well rehearsed argument that ethnography can be dubious in its ‘outsider/insider’ dichotomy. Western intellectual claims of academic analysis are predisposed to certain assumptions. However, it may be the only way to try and understand.

If an artist uses ethnographic research to represent a Diaspora Minority Group, do you believe this can create resistance within the Diaspora/Minority Group to the Fine Artist’s work?

Certainly it can. By the end of the twentieth century, diaspora/minority groups had begun to represent themselves and became more resistant to the Eurocentricity of ‘outside’ observers and commentators.

Hope this helps.



Dissertation – Finding a Gallery

Originally I had been thinking about using Penrhyn Castle as the location for the imaginary museum because of it’s links to the slave trade, however after discussion with Helen, I settled on the Turner Contemporary in Margate, primarily because of its proximity to Dover and the connections with Dover that relate to migration, refugees and Diasporic communities.

Turner Contemporary is one of the UK’s leading art galleries.

Situated on Margate seafront, on the same site where Turner stayed when visiting the town, Turner Contemporary presents a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions, events and learning opportunities which make intriguing links between historic and contemporary art. The gallery offers a space for everyone to discover different ways of seeing, thinking and learning.

The organisation was founded in 2001 to contextualise, celebrate, and build on the artist JMW Turner’s association with Margate, Kent. In 2011, Turner Contemporary gallery, designed by Sir David Chipperfield, opened, and has fast become a visitor attraction of national and international importance.

Turner Contemporary is a catalyst for the regeneration of Margate and East Kent, already welcoming over 1.5 million visits. The vision of the organisation is Art Inspiring Change, using collaboration, learning, ambition and transformation to give everyone to access to world-class art.

“Turner Contemporary’s purpose is to stretch the boundaries of current visual arts practice, to make the exhibitions sufficiently varied and to bridge the gap between the historical and contemporary.”
Victoria Pomery, Director, Turner Contemporary

John Akomfrah, one of my chosen artists for this work has also recently exhibited there.

Sat 8 Oct 2016 – Sun 8 Jan 2017

Turner Contemporary is a partner on the UK tour of John Akomfrah’s multi-screen installation Vertigo Sea, premiered at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

A meditation on whaling, the environment and our relationship with the sea, the work is a film essay continuing the ‘recycled aesthetic’ of John Akomfrah’s recent gallery pieces, fusing archive material, original footage and readings from classical sources.

Shot on the Isle of Skye, in the Faroe Isles and in the North of Greenland and Norway, the film is inspired in part by two influential books: Hermand Meville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ Whale Nation (1988). Also referenced is the incident on board the slave ship Zong that led JMW Turner to paint The Slave Ship almost a century later, exhibiting it in 1840 to coincide with a meeting of the British Anti-Slavery Society.

In the first instance, I contacted Jennifer Scott to ask if they possibly had any photographs to use as part of this project. Jennifer was particularly supportive and provided me with photographs to use, as long as I credit the photographers. Below is a PDF of the email thread.

The photographs Jennifer provided me with are shown below:

I also located on the internet floor plans for the Turner Contemporary from David Chipperfield Architects website.

Pop Art in Print

The Pop Art in Print Exhibition is running from July to October 2017 and is hosted by Chester Visual Arts.

The Victoria & Albert Museum’s ‘Pop Art in Print’ exhibition, presented by Chester Visual Arts and curated by the V&A, brings together, for the first time, an international collection of Pop graphics featuring artists Andy Warhol, Patrick Caulfield, Richard Hamilton, Allen Jones, Roy Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha. The exhibition is free to enter.

It will also explore Pop in other media, including printed textiles from the period, wallpapers inspired by Pop’s strong graphic character and comic book styling, artists’ books and posters. The exhibition will conclude by taking a look at the legacy of Pop in the work of more recent artists and designers.

During the exhibition, Chester Visual Arts plan to outreach to the local community and to schools in the area with a programme of events and interactive workshops engaging as many as possible in their exciting venture.

I found the exhibition to be particularly inspiring, however four pieces in particular I felt related to my own practice and provided me with ideas to move forward with.

Kent State by Richard Hamilton

In photographing the TV Screen, Hamilton has produced that sense of detachment and the distortion of facts and loss of information that we experience when disturbing events are reported on the media.

Kent State 1970 by Richard Hamilton 1922-2011In May 1970, a series of protests against US involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio, culminated in the shooting of student demonstrators by the National Guard.

Hamilton’s print was made using a photograph of a TV screen, taken during a news broadcast that day. Hamilton commented: ‘It was too terrible an incident in American history to submit to arty treatment. Yet there it was in my hand, by chance¿¿ It seemed right, too, that art could help to keep the shame in our minds.’

Birmingham Race Riots by Andy Warhol

The interesting thing to me about this print is the muddy grainy appearance of the print that is intentional to reflect the nature of the political context of the print. Again that feeling of detachment and distance from the events that comes about when reported by the media is apparent.

Birmingham Race Riot 1964 by Andy Warhol 1928-1987The riots at Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963 were notorious across America, and with this wide publicity the event was one of the climaxes of the Civil Rights Movement. Supporters of Martin Luther King, protesting at segregation at lunch counters, were attacked by the police with dogs and water hoses, and King himself was arrested.

Warhol contributed this small print to a portfolio of work by ten artists, published the year after the riot. The image is changed only in size and status from a newspaper photograph. In the form of a print in this portfolio it commemorates the tensions in American popular life at the time, and forcefully illustrates the distance of the arts from such events.

I’m dreaming of a White Christmas by Richard Hamilton

The use of a negative of a photograph along with mark making and over painting to produce this print is particularly interesting to me and something I hope to experiment further with in my print making.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas 1967 by Richard Hamilton 1922-2011Hamilton made his first etchings and drypoints as a student in the late 1930s. Throughout the following decade he continued to use etching, drypoint and aquatint and experimented with lithography, but it was the influential screenprints incorporating photographic and hand-drawn stencils made in the 1960s which brought him international acclaim as a printmaker.

The use of photography has long been an integral part of Hamilton’s working process. This work was based on colour cine-film frames from the Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn. The work was printed by Editions Domberger, Stuttgart and published by the artist in an edition of 75

Sara gets undressed by Julian Opie

The use of Lenticular plastic to produce almost a holographic effect on the image is of particular interest to me and I am already investigating how the three images were placed together behind the plastic to produce that feeling of movement.

Opie has regularly explored ways in which a motif can be pared down to its essence and yet remain recognisable not only in generic terms, but also in terms of retaining an identifiable individuality. His images of people – as portraits or figure studies – are drawn by him on a computer, using photographs of real people he has taken himself, in the process reducing each to its characteristic essentials described by a solid even black lines and a graphic language of basic symbols.

This is a Lambda print which has been overlaid with lenticular plastic, so that different views of the image are visible as the viewer shifts his/her position in relation to it. The first step in making a lenticular print is to prepare two or more images (here Opie has used three) which must be the same size, and using a computer program, cut them into narrow strips and interlace them in strict sequence. If, as here, the artist wants three views (also known as ‘flips’) then the first strip is taken from image 1, the second from image 2, the third from image 3, and then the fourth from image 1, and so on. It is this interlaced image which will be printed and then mounted behind a lenticular lens screen. This is a sheet of plastic on which a series of cylindrical lenses (or lenticules) have been moulded in parallel rib-like columns. Each of the lenses has a focal length equal to the thickness of the clear plastic sheet from which it has been moulded. Each lencticule thus magnifies one of the strips behind it. If you change your angle of view, then the strip which is being magnified also changes, creating an illusion of animation.

Opie’s Sara enacts a passive striptease as we watch. She belongs to a long tradition of representing the female body – and especially the female nude – in the history of art. The female body itself is an instantly recognisable motif, so familiar that it can serve as the site for experiments with form and modes of representation.

ARK Sculpture Exhibition

The ARK Sculpture Exhibition at Chester Cathedral is running from July until October 2017. I have to admit that although open to all types of artistic expression, I found the taxidermy to be distasteful – however I am aware this is because of my strong connection to animals and appreciate that others may find these pieces interesting. In this blog page, I am only writing about the highlights of the exhibition for me and not every single piece.

ARK is a world class modern and contemporary sculpture exhibition at Chester Cathedral, which runs until 15 October 2017. ARK is the largest sculpture exhibition to be held in the north west of England and features 90, three dimensional works by over 50 internationally renowned sculptors including Damien Hirst, Sir Antony Gormley, Lynn Chadwick, Barbara Hepworth, Sarah Lucas, David Mach, Kenneth Armitage and Peter Randall-Page, amongst others.

This exhibition uses the magnificent interior of the cathedral as a backdrop to extraordinary works of art as well as the beautiful and ancient spaces surrounding it. Several sculptors will are showing brand new works of art whilst some pieces will emerge for public view from private collections. It is the first time these pieces have been seen together.