Author Archives: chelseapublicprogramme

Rethinking curating in a time of change

A conversation with MA Curating and Collections students
Jiaying Gao, Celina Loh, and Hao Long

curating in a crisis

MA Curating and Collections student Cara Salmon installing the recent MACC exhibition ‘Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories’. Image © David Dibosa

A few weeks ago, the students from MA Curating and Collections were due to open their interim exhibition, ‘Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories’ in the Triangle Space at Chelsea College of Arts. As the Covid-19 emergency escalated, they had to adjust their original plan to a new format and a new space, delivering an exhibition display instead in the Exhibition Studio Workshop. The College closed shortly thereafter so the exhibition was never opened to the public (although you can read about and see more of it here).

We spoke to MA Curating and Collections students Jiaying Gao, Celina Loh, and Hao Long about their original plans for the show, and about their thoughts on their future as students and curators emerging into what will be a profoundly changed art world.


Could you talk about the process of researching for and curating the Ballets Russes show how it was supposed to be, and what changed with the new display? Were there aspects you focused on initially, that you managed to highlight in the final display as well?

CL: Our interim show titled Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories intended to focus on the dance troupe’s textile pieces, showcasing myriad details from the costume designs to the wear and tear that are usually hidden in conventional textile displays.

On the morning the textiles were scheduled to arrive, we received the news that we couldn’t display them because the safety of the collection items, on loan from the Archive and Special Collection Centre at London College of Communication, could not be guaranteed in the circumstance of a lockdown – so we had to make a quick decision and turn the show into an exhibition display. We utilised the photographs of all the materials we had thus far, to present a show that could be virtually viewed via online platforms.


Inspecting the Ballets Russes collection at LCC with Jacqueline Winston Silk. Image © Carolina Pelletier Fontes

JG: We wanted to exhibit the different textures, details, and flow of the costumes, to show the imperfections in the outfits that indicate a certain history behind the garment, the dancer’s body, and behind the influential ballet company. The project would examine how these costumes, and even the most minute of their details, offer a historical and contemporary reconsideration of the ballet troupe in terms of its design, choreography, and music.

CL: This mainly derived from our research on spectrality within theatre performances, which focuses on the absence and presence of performers and narratives. One of the curators, Dana Chan, thought it was pertinent to highlight this aspect, with the Covid-19 emergency that consequently closed most public spaces:

As with the body and dress, movement, and stillness, we note the certain absences and presences within this space. However, in the current situation of a public health crisis, we are reminded of the collective endeavour that is art.

HL: That tension between absence and presence was our focus throughout our curating process, the ‘absence of body’/ ‘absence of stage’ was the lens through which we looked at these costumes. When the costumes are presented and viewed separately, on the one hand, there is always an absence, they are like a container. On the other hand, they are probably one of the few things that are still alive of the stage of those times, the remnants of the memory. Our research also focused on orientalism, modernism, and transculturation manifested in the practice of the Ballets Russes, which can be read in the various elements that constitute the important components of ballet – choreography, music, props, and of course costumes.

What do you think, as students and emerging curators, the repercussions of this situation will be on the arts sector, and on art practitioners and curators? What do you think will change and shift (if at all!) and what do you see as the biggest challenges, and opportunities, for curators?

CL: I think the impact of Covid-19 on the arts sector is conflicting. On one hand, live events and performances had to be cancelled on top of cultural institutions being forced to close. The termination of art fairs and exhibition opportunities have a heavy impact on the economy whilst hindering emerging practitioners who strive to make a name in the art scene. On the other hand, however, the crisis has shown how art as a culture is more relevant than ever, uniting people across the globe. With millions worldwide confined at home, curators, artists and other art producers are cooperating in multitudes of ways online, to persevere with showcasing work and forming alternative approaches to curating, among other things. Personally, it has presented me with an opportunity to view and adapt my curatorial practice, which I wouldn’t have done if not for the pandemic. It has vastly altered how the convoluted art world functions, which perhaps isn’t too bad of a thing after all.

HL: I have always felt that contemporary art is about to reach a turning point, or it has been a trend for a long time, closely related to the online world or to some level of technology that has gradually become the norm of life. The current health crisis is a catalyst, and unsurprisingly, we see art fairs and mega art institutions develop online exhibitions. The rapidity with which they reacted also suggests that they were ready before this crisis happened.

Quite a few of these online shows are predictable, and if they want to perfect them, galleries will probably have to work with companies that really have the technology for it, but how this will reshape art institutions is unpredictable. Instead, think it is time for digital art or net art to embrace this moment. Online exhibitions are likely to become more like games, in which the audience will act as the player. This is already a big topic, and it is both an opportunity and a challenge. Curators have the opportunity to step out of an institutionalized curatorial context and also face the challenge of the trap of consumerism. I would not be surprised if I saw a TikTok-like exhibition.

When an art institution in New York launches an online show that is equally accessible to local and global audiences, other changes and discussions are bound to take place. The constant emphasis on ‘presence’ in the art world is going to be challenged, and how it is defined when it is not in a physical space, how that definition will be reinvented. Of course, everything depends on how long this outbreak lasts. However, art will continue to happen, people will just focus on where and how it happens.

JG: For artists, this situation allows for a platform transformation from offline to online, which means that artistic works will be digitized and widely circulated on the internet. I think it is also an opportunity to see more artworks in digital forms, which provides new challenges for their creation and archiving.

As for the curators, I think they will further promote an immersive remote collaborative design platform, and other industrial applications: online virtual gallery, online virtual exhibition, online panoramic exhibition. It would be desirable to keep the physical business activities and online business activities in parallel, but in any case, the Internet and online trading has been a challenge for the traditional art market for a while and more so now. I think we can take advantage of this period of pause to maintain and update the facilities in the gallery. In the future, the exhibition will have online communication with the organisers, curators, constructors, and transporters through this platform, to timely solve various problems and improve work efficiency.


Archive and Special Collections curator Jacqueline Winston Silk showing Ballets Russes material. Image © Celina Loh

What has been on your mind lately, and is there a thought, a text or artwork that has inspired you and that you think you will carry with you in your future practice?

CL: Lately, Jurgen Habermas’ ‘Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’ has been running through my mind a lot and has profoundly stimulated my thoughts. As a curator, I have always been interested in improving viewers’ engagement thus the study of publics is crucial in my curatorial practice. Habermas has mentioned the prospect of a universally accessible public sphere if there exists a universalisation of interest, leading to a public that unites on the same level to critically engage with one another. Although it may be naive, I can’t help but feel like this health crisis is contributing to the formation of a universally accessible public sphere, should it succeed or fail. And if it were to succeed one day, what is the function of art in that condition?

JG: I have been interested in the potential of the digital platform and its broad market, and the many galleries setting up online exhibitions beyond space, distance and transportation. The combination of digital and art that will become a new trend in the future, made me want to research how to create exhibitions on the internet, how to use the digital form to fulfil the curator’s ambition to interpreting an exhibition well.

HL: I wasn’t there when China was the epicentre, and what I observed about the art world in the UK at the moment is that I feel there is a greater sense of isolation and loneliness among artists here. One could think that, in the face of such a major crisis, the arts are useless – however, it is not meaningless for artists, curators or any art practitioners to be witnesses of this situation. Different regions may really need to establish an effective dialogue through self-description and a willingness to understand the description of others, and that is what art can do. Also, there were some things in the past weeks that resonated with my research; the spontaneous group singing of the Italian people on their balconies, or Britons applauding the NHS etc. This kind of collective behaviour, which is closely related to sensibility/empathy/politics, is signalled by sound and is something I have been very interested in. Finally, I have been coming to terms with the fact that this is a marathon, a time when mental health is as important as physical health. But we are all much stronger than we thought and most importantly, in a bigger sense, we are never alone.

Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories


Details on tunic for La Bella au Bois Dormant (The Sleeping Princess), designed by Leon Bakst. Image © Seowon Nam

Exhibition Studio Workshop, Chelsea College of Arts, March 2020.
Curated by MA Curating and Collections

On 17 March in the Exhibition Studio Workshop, MA Curating and Collections presented their research project on Ballets Russes costumes from the Archive and Special Collection Centre at LCC. Due to open at the Triangle Space in Chelsea College of Arts on the 24th March as an exhibition of costumes from varying Ballets Russes productions the venue and nature of the show were forced to change due to the current health crisis. ​Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories ​presents a survey of the dance troupe’s textile pieces, showcasing myriad details that contributed to their recognition as one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century. The project examines how these costumes offer a historical and contemporary reconsideration of the ballet troupe in terms of its design, choreography and music.

On display is research and detailed photographs of 9 costumes from varying productions; from headpieces to jackets. ​Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories ​chronicles the influence of Ballets Russes, showcasing traces left by a past performer. Through different marks on the costumes show how Sergei Diaghilev challenged the classical choreography of 19th century ballet, one of simplicity and romance. On display within the research project is a study of a headdress worn for ​Le Dieu Bleu (The Blue God), devised by Leon Bakst. Its trailing shawl, metal circular medallions and sweat stains in the lining suggest that dancers had to withstand jangling accessories and heat from wearing it. Most of them loathed the costumes due to its inconvenience, on top of the ‘unrefined’ choreography of stomping and jumping. These heavily contrasted the elegance of conventional ballet, shaping new perspectives of the dance form.


‘Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories’ installation view. Image © Seowon Nam

Diaghilev yearned for Ballets Russes to reflect a life that was consistently changing. His dancers used their body as a channel for documenting universal narratives beyond the stage, as shown through costume designs and imprints found on them. He took ballet to new heights of expression and fluidity, as he commissioned innovative composers and designers who redrew the boundaries of ballet in a modern way. Oriental motifs on the garment by Henri Matisse for ​Le Chant du Rossignol (The Song of the Nightingale) d​epict a cultural exchange between the East and West, penetrating deeper into various walks of life. This too, was reflected in most of their music that will be played in the background of the exhibition.


Presented in the exhibition will also be a study of a tunic with floral motifs for ​La Bella au Bois Dormant (The Sleeping Princess) ​that was designed for comfort and free movement. The baggy costumes of Ballets Russes resonated in realms of modern fashion, specifically in the clothing of designer, Paul Poiret, who briefly worked with the ballet company. He was instrumental in liberating women from the restriction of tight corsets, a significant trend to commemorate this moment in time.

Through these costumes, ​Ballets Russes: Concealed Histories o​pens up the present to the past, sparking a journey to reflect on the surviving impact of the ballet company.

As with the body and dress, movement and stillness, we note the certain absences and presences within the space. However in the current situation of a public health crisis, we are reminded of the collective endeavour which is art.

Curated by:
Bilal Akkouche, Sara-Ann Barber, Dana Chan, Jiaying Gao, Zehui Gao, Samuel Marshall, Jiashu Zhou, Lei Gu, Ni Gu, Asya Gurevich, Yige Hu, Seowon Nam, Han Yan, Qinru Zhou, Qianjing Yuan, Shin-Hung Liu, Weirui Liu, Yannis Lo, Elisavet Logotheti, Reece Woodhams, Carolina Fontes, Celina Loh, Hao Long, Junyu Lu, Cara Salmon, Conor Smyth, Ruiying Wang, Ola Talib, Jiachuan Wang, Yi Wang, Pei-Yu Wu, Zhe Wu, Shu Zhang.Special Thanks to:
UAL Archives and Special Collections Centre, Camberwell College of Arts, David Dibosa, Jane Pritchard, Anna Buruma and Judy Wilcocks.Our research on the jacket and dress designed by Henri Matisse for ​Le Chant du Rossignol (The Song of the Nightingale),​ was confirmed by Jane Pritchard.

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Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell

Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell installation view. Image © Conor Smyth

Planning Studio, Chelsea College of Arts, January 2020.
Curated by Carolina Fontes, Conor Smyth, Jiachuan Wang, Yi Wang, Zhe Wu, Han Yan, Shu Zhang and Jiashu Zou – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell is a speculative exhibition proposal on show in the MA Curating and Collection departments Planning Studio, a planning space for displaying research located on the first floor of Block D at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. This project is in response to the Planning Studio project brief which was to work on a speculative proposal for an exhibition at an existing museum or gallery. The work should include gathering data about the proposed gallery such as floor plans, remit of the gallery, history of their shows, visitor statistics etc.

With these details in mind, the group of curators chose to present an exhibition of works by Dan Graham and Larry Bell at the Hauser and Wirth Gallery in Somerset. The group exhibition will explore the influences of and creative difference between the two prolific American artist Larry Bell and Dan Graham. Bell and Graham are connected through an interest in the materials which they use and the influence that both artists had on one another’s work. In the first exhibition looking at the similarities and differences between these two hugely successful artists the curators look to highlight the impact of each artists work on the other’s practices while exploring the divergence in their interpretations. The exhibition features small scale models as well as larger works by both artists with the collection of work presented throughout the gallery spaces and in the gardens surrounding the gallery.

The following is an excerpt from our proposal:

The Planning Studio presents the show Through The Looking Glass, establishing a dialogue between the two contemporary American artists Dan Graham and Larry Bell, focusing on both indoor and outdoor three-dimensional works. This show will take place at Hauser & Wirth’s gallery space in Somerset.

The exhibition presents a selection of the two artists glass sculptural works. Larry Bell and Dan Graham focus on exploring light with the use of glass, angles and perception, showing the boundary between reality and illusion.

Dan Graham’s work is halfway between sculpture and architecture, producing hybrids that are on the edge of both practices. Space and light are linked in the process of observing art, which is highlighted in his works. Graham uses steel to express phenomenon, reducing ‘art to an essence in pure realism’. His use of mirrors, glasses and two-way mirrors makes the materiality of these materials uncertain. The transparency of glass is not only a false representation of reality, but also a disguise of contradiction, which deconstructs surveillance but also creates an illusion.

Larry Bell’s works are mainly about experimenting with surface and light, with the purpose of expressing feelings. His work adopts a philosophical stance, ‘examining people’s existence in the world, a kind of primal intuition’. Glass can transmit, reflect, and absorb light, and by occupying his pieces light becomes part of the subject. His use of 90-degree right angles also has a visual influence. The environment moves with the sculpture as the viewer moves around the work. Not only in reflection, but in that place between reflection, transmission and perception. The gradient light affecting aspects of the pieces are a metaphor for reality. His use of glass is the intuitive decision to create illusion, which always relates to the question: what is real and what is not?

We believe Hauser & Wirth’s Somerset gallery space is a perfect location for this project due to its facilities, which suit our need to present outdoor artworks, but also due to its idyllic location, distant from urban hustle, which attributes to this exhibition a privileged feature of exclusivity. Since the works of Dan Graham and Larry Bellemphasisethe relationship among people, space and nature, we believe this is the ideal space to encourage reflection and interaction with these artworks.

Through The Looking Glass: A Dialogue between Dan Graham and Larry Bell installation view. Image © Conor Smyth

Starting Again From Scratch

Starting Again From Scratch installation view. Image © Jiashu Zou

Exhibition Studio Workshop, November 2019
Curated by: Bilal Akkouche, Carolina Pelletier Fontes, Lei Gu, Weiru Liu, Ola Talib, Weronicka Tokaj, Han Yan, Shu Zhang, Jiashu Zhou – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

“When we feel like we don’t belong in the spaces we encounter every day, webecome performing versions of ourselves, feeling constantly othered and alien”

– Sara Gulamali, 2019


The exhibition Starting Again From Scratch displays works related to migration, sense of loss, belonging, displacement, exile and departure by people who are forced to leave their countries due to political and social instability. Also, it tends to engage the audience with conflicting emotions of fear and revulsion.

The expression Starting Again From Scratch is mentioned by Mona Hatoum in the work Measures of Distance from 1988, where the artist reads letters aloud from her mother in Lebanon while she was living in England. Hatoum was forced to leave her country when the war broke in the 1980s, and through this intimate interaction between mother and daughter, who were separated by distance, feelings of displacement and sense of loss on trying to adapt to a new life away from home are present.

As well as focusing on these broad themes, this exhibition also illustrates the deeply political, social and cultural aspects of migration. We believe that the analysis on these topics is vital in a context whereby there are around 65.6 million refugees currently attempting to escape persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations. This exhibition seeks to present the emotive aspect of migration, in order to illustrate that there is more that unites us than divides us.

The stills from Sara Gulamali video The Green Walk[1] (2019) were carefully selected to be displayed through a chronological discourse, but also to imply the symbolic use of green. Back in May 2019, the artist exhibited this integral video on a television, where she added the use of green film on the window behind. With this, Gulamali shares with the spectator the same position as she was when she was putting up the work. The green symbolizes a teleporting space, alienation and the opportunity to become anyone, anywhere – in the same way as the green screen is a tool used to transport people to other places digitally.

Additionally, the use of green on the windows is twofold. Firstly, and as mentioned, it acts as an extension of the stills from The Green Walk, whereby the green screen acts as arepresentation of the ‘alien’ (this intervention was agreed with the artist). Secondly, we hope that applying the green on the windows will let people feel their absorbed by this exhibition as a full spatial experience.

While in Stay At Home/Go Home the testimonies are not written by the artist itself, Seth Price gathers several travelling diaries from other writers and journalists, although this exhibition only focuses in four of them. These testimonies are an example how man-made lines can shape our lives, our communities, and our world. As this work from Price is very extensive, the selection of the testimonies tends to achieve purposes and direct relations to the other works here approached, through the countries mentioned such as Lebanon by Mona Hatoum, or Pakistan, from where Budhaditya Chattopadhyay is from and so on. Following the playfulness with thecolour green in Gulamili’s works, the selected countries are highlighted in a way the spectatorcan be transported to a certain space in time.

Most of the exhibited pieces are presented in fragments from their original works. This links to the phenomenon of migration itself, where individuals are extracted from their original roots. This thought is reflected in Fereshteh testimony work from the Unpacked: Refugee baggage exhibition by Mohamad Hafez and Ahmed Badr, which presents several suitcases where each of them show different narrations of immigrants. The suitcases also symbolise that the fragmented objects they carry become a whole, integrated self.

In his audio piece, which is part of the installation Exile and Other Syndromes (2018), Chattopadhyay highlights the idea of transportation to a loud, confusing and not yet familiar environment. This can translate the notion that migration doesn’t only change lives of individuals, but it also adds new narrations to the constant moving of urban societies. This work responds to this indisposition of migration, placelessness and nomadism: “(…) impulses of a contemporary condition that eventually blurs the boundaries between the digital and the corporeal, between local and the global, between private and public domains, or between intimate and the dehumanizing spaces, helping the nomadic subject to emerge as an elevated, emancipated self”[2].

Curated by MACC Students working in the Exhibition Studio Workshop (ESW), this exhibition has sought to work within the context of the space. Our choice to show interactive works complements ESW as a learning space, since each work requires the visitor to read, listen or view the artist’s representation of these complex notions of displacement.

[1] The video The Green Walk by Sara Gulamali can be fully watched in her website:
[2] Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, about Exile and Other Syndromes (2018)




Mona Hatoum is a Palestinian – British video and installation artist. In her works Hatoum challenges the movements of surrealism and minimalism, exploring subjects such as conflicts and contradictions of our world. Her works focus on ideas around gender and race, as well as explore the relationship between politics and the individual through performance. She is known for the use of found, household objects in her work that are carriers of personal history and significance. Hatoum was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1995 and she has since held solo exhibitions in many reputable museums and galleries including the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. Her work is collected in the Tate Gallery in London, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Kunsthaus in Zürich, among others.

Sara Gulamali is a contemporary artist who recently graduated from Central Saint Martins inBA Fine Art. Gulamali’s practice explores her identity as a Muslim woman of colour through her work. She co-runs Muslim Sisterhood, a photography collective exploring the multiplicity of Muslim women in London, and in 2018 she co-curated The Age of New Babylon the first student-curated exhibition at the Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins. Gulamali won theHollyport Prize in 2018. Exhibitions that have included Gulamali’s work include 2017 Beauty ofBeing British Asian, 2017 Tate Exchange, 2017 Resistance is Female NYC, 2018 ‘Archiving Bodies’ Chelsea School of Art, 2018 Tate Exchange, 2018 Normal to Dissent, 2019 Tate Exchange, 2019 The Age of New Babylon, 2019 Muslim Sisterhood X Between Borders.

Budhaditya Chattopadhyay is a contemporary artist, researcher, writer and theorist. Incorporating diverse media, such as sound and moving image, Chattopadhyay produces works for large-scale installation and live performance addressing urgent issues such as the climate crisis, human intervention in the environment and ecology, migration, race, and decolonization. Chattopadhyay has had work shown in many respected art fairs and galleries such as in Transmediale; ZKM Karlsruhe; TodaysArt Festival, The Hague; Donau Festival,Krems; Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín; IEM, Kunstuniversität Graz; Sonorities Festival, Belfast; RE-NEW Digital Arts Festival, Copenhagen; RRS Museo Reina Sofía Radio, Madrid;Q-O2.

Mohamad Hafez is a Syrian artist and architect, Mohamad was born in Damascus, raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and educated in the Midwestern United States. Expressing thejuxtaposition of East and West within him, Hafez’s art reflects the political turmoil in the Middle East through the compilation of found objects, paint and scrap metal. With four highly acclaimed exhibits under his belt, Hafez creates surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes that are architectural in their appearance yet politically charged in their content

Ahmed Badr is a writer, social entrepreneur, poet, and former refugee from Iraq. With work featured by Instagram, NPR, The Huffington Post, Adobe, United Nations, and others, Ahmed explores the intersection between creativity, the refugee experience, and youth empowerment. Ahmed is attending Wesleyan University, where he is a Fellow at the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Ahmed is the host of TOGETHER, a UN Migration Agency podcast that is centered around the stories of refugee and migrant youth across the world.

Seth Price is a New York-based multi-disciplinary post-conceptual artist. His practice comprises video, film, sculpture, installation, collage, performance, and text that investigate how art and media are produced and disseminated. Signature works include the “Vintage Bombers” series (2005-), sheets of vacuum-formed polystyrene bearing a trace of a bomber jacket, and the ongoing video projection Redistribution (2008-), a historical, cultural, and personal narrative of his work and processes. In addition to the traditional gallery, Price has used open-source Internet downloads and small-scale publishing to circulate his work. He staged his first solo art exhibition in 2004. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial (2008), the Biennale di Venezia (2010,) and dOCUMENTA 13 (2012). He has staged solo presentations at Kunsthalle Zurich (2008), the Kunstverein in Cologne (2008), and the MAMBo in Bologna (2009), among others.

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Destructive Narratives

IMG_9904Destructive Narratives installation view. Image © Yannis Lo Ching Yan

Landing Space, Chelsea College of Arts, November 2019
Curated by: Sara Ann Barber, Yige Hu, Yannis Lo, Hao Long, Conor Smyth, Jiachuan Wang, Yi Wang, Zhe Wu, Qianjing Yuan – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

The Landing Space serves primarily as a fire refuge point and it is from this design that the idea of the destructive power of fire derives. It has lead to the broader theme of ‘destruction’ throughout the exhibition, especially surrounding the three themes of the destruction of one’s environment, a physical space and self. Destructive Narratives brings together a group of artists who have explored, experimented with and observed destructive qualities in the context of relationships, society, nature, self-examination, and the ultimate questions of existence. The warping of the original function of the fire refuge point changes the purpose of the space to become an exhibition site.

Exploring the philosophical idea of Saṃsāra within the Buddhist religion has led the curators of the exhibition on the path of considering ‘destruction’ in a wider context of the ‘cycle of life, death and rebirth’ and the wandering of the soul from body to body. Saṃsārais an Eastern religious doctrine, believing that there will be an afterlife for all living beings, and that the continuation of life is based on perpetual reincarnation. The idea of the destruction or dismantling of an entity ultimately leading to a process of revival, producing a new form or new life, is a central theme of the exhibition. Destructive Narrativesaims to meditate on how contemporary artists continue and respond to this ancient concept.


Edolia Stroud is a creative director and photographer from Brooklyn, New York, USA. Searching for Oxygen was a body of work made about the traumatic event of her childhood home burning down in 2001. Stroud recreated this horrific experience through the eyes and recollection of her mother. These images represent vividly the terrifying moments during which took place during the fire. “These images depict specific moments of the fight against the flames.” Stroud explains.

Jennifer Siemsen, a New York Film Academy graduate, who produced her photo series Fire On The Mountain about the 2018 wildfires originated in southern California, USA. The fire later spread to central California and eventually reached Yosemite National Park, where the inspiration for this work began. This body of work highlights the causes of wildfires, such as car accidents and cigarettes, along with the effects on the environment which it destroys.

Tingyi Xu is an MA Fine Art student at Chelsea who was based in Zhejiang Province, China. Reflections #2 is a site-specific commission work Xu tailored for the exhibition space. Two mirrors are installed on the fringes of the door frame to reflect an image of the fire exit signs. For Xu, mirrors create a reverse duplication of space and connect the different points in the space by the flow of the fibres. Using the mirrors the artist creates an illusion of directional control and infinite distance also forcing the audience to accept his intentional viewing angle. The large space is divided into three smaller areas with the fire exit signs reflected through the centre. The fibre as an attachment between the mirrors and the wall not only gives a visual guide to the audience but also generates an imagined link between the different exits bringing viewers’ primary attention to the room’s function as a fire refuge point while intentionally deconstructing it and forming it into an exhibition space.

Originally based in Beijing, China, Yue Yang is a current BA Fine Art student at Chelsea. This Untitled work brings new life to the expired blueberries by transforming them into an important element of the artwork. Yang attempts to bring an art piece into existence through a destructive practice: destroying to create. Having the thought to extend the life of the fruit that has passed its best before date, the artist started to examine ways to conserve materials that were considered useless and therefore to be abandoned. The artist then scratched the frozen blueberries onto the canvas changing the original role of the blueberries as food and turning them into an artistic piece.

Erin Wilson is a BA Fine Art student from Glasgow studying at Chelsea whose work Skinfocuses on the paradoxical nature of humanity and experiments with a sense of comfort and discomfort found within oneself and society. For Wilson, skin acts as the boundary which contains the emotional and psychological self from the uncomfortable pressures of society. Skin for Wilson functions as a visual representation of the physical barrier between humans’ inner (comfort) and outer (discomfort) worlds. She treated the material in a way that mirrors such a paradox, by igniting the artificial skin and soothing it with baby powder. The viewer is invited to touch the work and feel the boundary, the artist hopes that the feelings experienced by touching the work might reignite the sentimentality of being human within viewer. Similarly to the work by Yue Yang being shown in the exhibition, Wilson uses her artistic process to destroy the material, in order to create a new life and new meaning to the piece.

Kefan Zhou recently graduated from the Foundation of Central Academy of Fine Arts, China and is currently studying BA Fine Art at Chelsea. Shown in the exhibition is the photographic documentation of her performance work Wound. During the performance she experimented and examined the effects of putting needles through one’s flesh and the self-recovery process of the human skin. Zhou explains that, “(t)he needles invaded the familiar skin again and again, stimulating the nerve endings in the most intimate way, like the primal love prying. The process of intrusion was also the process of receiving, and getting familiar with each other to generate connections.” The artist sees bleeding as the crying of the flesh, which carries intense emotions of bleakness and anger. The recovery of the skin is another essential process of the work, and she regards it as a way to observe the natural process of the skin being regenerated. Zhou compares the physical wounds left on her flesh to that of the sentimental scars in one’s heart, in which she hopes both injuries will heal themselves as time goes by.

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Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel

Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel installation view. Image © Dali Liu

Planning Studio, Chelsea College of Arts, November 2019
Curated by: Zehui Gao, Asya Gurevich, Dali Liu, Celina Loh, Lisa Logotheti, Samuel Marshall, Ruiying Wang, Qinru Zhou – MA Curating & Collections 2019/20

Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel is a speculative exhibition proposal displayed within the MA Curating and Collections department. This project is in response to the Planning Studio space, which is a study area, planning space and room for research display. The premise was that the proposal can be as bold as we wish. Curators had free reign over the concept, budget and overall decisions, whilst respecting the aims, values and potential limitations of the chosen institution.

The exhibition is intended to be displayed at the Eyal Ofer Galleries at the Tate Modern, and traces the evolution of the Rothko Chapel through archive materials including letters, photographs, models and drawings. At the same time it closely examines Rothko’s fascination with light and space, as he developed the project alongside leading architects such as Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry. Looking at Rothko’s practice against the historical backdrop of the Chapel, this exhibition offers new ways of understanding Rothko’s work and ideology, beyond the surfaces of the paintings themselves.

The following is an excerpt from our press release:

Explore the fascinating history behind the great artist’s most ambitious project.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is one of the 20th century’s most important artists, a key member of the Abstract Expressionist movement and an influential player in the development of colour field painting. His groundbreaking work challenged conventional modes of representation and sought to express the whole range of emotion through abstraction of form, space and colour.

Speaking about his paintings, Rothko said: “I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom…” 

Suffering from depression and alcoholism, Rothko tragically committed suicide shortly before the completion of his most ambitious project – The Rothko Chapel. A culmination of his core ideas, the chapel was a specially built space for the experience of Rothko’s works and is a symbol of the artist’s enduring importance and evidence of the power his works still have on audiences today.

Discover the fascinating story behind the chapel, and journey into Rothko’s influences, ideas and ambitions. Bringing together an array of archive materials chroni- cling the project, alongside paintings by the artist, Mark Rothko: Toward The Light In The Chapel offers a fresh insight into the mind of one of the world’s most important artists.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide more images due to copyright laws.

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Chelsea Café Project # 32

Chelsea Cafe Project # 32 – Veera Rustomji 


Veera Rustomji, Untitled,  2018

Current research on houses in Karachi

Veera Rustomji

From Friday 5 July 2019

Chelsea Café Project #32 showcases the work of Veera Rustomji, current MA Fine Art student at Chelsea College of Arts.

Rustomji has grown up and lived for the past 27 years in Bath Island, Clifton, one of the oldest residential areas developed in Karachi. She gradually witnessed most of the houses which were built in the early 1900s, most of them belonging to the entrepreneurial diaspora Parsi community, being torn down and replaced with towering apartments. Unfortunately, due to a massive population increase in Karachi, there is a heightening demand for affordable residential spaces resulting in many of these old homes being erased for the use of the land.

As part of this project, I have conducted interviews with owners as I am interested in listening to the stories which revolve around a home. It has been amazing to hear how multifunctional these structures have been for a family and how there is a narrative behind each item. While the photographs overtly emulate a sense of nostalgia, I am more interested in capturing the way the homes stay static in their current condition. Today, the homes are cornered by a new visual language of residential and commercial spaces and I wonder how lonely the homes can be. While I’m not absolutely sure as to what the outcome of these photographs will be, I continue this strange anthropological study in an attempt to create an archive which could possibly garner public interest. 

– Veera Rustomji

About the artist

Veera Rustomji is a visual artist from Karachi, Pakistan and is currently studying a full time Masters in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in London, UK.  She has a Bachelors in Fine Art from the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (2015) and worked as a Project Coordinator with Vasl Artists Association in Karachi from 2016-2018.

Her practice tends to examine traditions and oral myths from South Asia with an interest in the parallel dialogues of migration and heritage.


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About the project

The Cafe Project is a series of displays of work by students and staff from Chelsea College of Art and Design.  These changing displays are a chance to see some of the talent here at Chelsea from across a diverse range of disciplines.  The series is curated in collaboration with CHELSEA space (opposite) as part of the Public Programme.

For more information please contact Cherie Silver at or in person at CHELSEA space.


PLEASE NOTE: Chelsea Cafe opening hours: Monday – Saturday 8.45am – 3.45pm


Unsound – Agile Session | MA Curating and Collections 2017/18




Laura Callegaro, Unsound Documentation, 2018 Overhead installation photo of research plinth displaying the annotated texts of, (L-R), McLuhan, M (1967) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Penguin Books, Sterne, J (2012) The Sound Studies Reader: Toward a Feminist Historiography of Electronic Music written by Rodgers, T, London: Routledge and Selected essays from Her Noise: Exhibition Catalogue, Dzuverovic, L & Hilde Neset, A (2005) GaleriE106, Chelsea College of Arts London, United Kingdom

Curated by MA Curating and Collections 2017/18 Students: Laura Callegaro, Cheryl Guo, Evie Knighton and Sarah Anne Millet

Unsound utilised the GaleriE106 space as a way to explore and present research into the Her Noise archive. Through the session’s selection of critical analysis, along with archival sound material and new sound engagements, Unsound aimed to question the medium of sound through the female voice.

The Her Noise archive, initially initiated by Lina Dzuverovic and Anne Hilde Neset in 2001 was a space to investigate music and sound histories in relation to gender. Additionally, Dzuverovic and Hilde Neset co-curated the Her Noise exhibition at South London Gallery in 2005, which continued the examination and exhibited women artists who uses sound as the medium of their work. The exhibition acted as an opportunity in which to present and continue to build on their research of sound and gender through performance, interaction and symposiums. Building from and including materials from the South London Gallery exhibition Her Noise archive aims to create a lasting resource in sound by creating a living and evolving archive, with the intention that the archive remains an active space, operating as a starting point for new investigations, research and exploration.

Through the use of the archive Unsound aimed to question the immateriality of sound, and in particular, the traces of and disembodiment of the feminised voice. Furthermore, the session also presents an investigation into the parameters of sound art and its medium of presentation. By including a selection of annotated critical and theoretical texts, the agile session not only highlights the lens and approach taken to their research but presents the session as an activated research space, which the viewer is able to engage with the curatorial investigation in relation to gender and sound.

        Unsound brings together sound archival material from the Her Noise exhibition that, in connection to the selected text, highlight and question how sound is archived and how these traces of sound and performance transform over time. As well, the exhibition brings forward the feminist lens that was central to the original Her Noise exhibition and archive. Which aid in pointing to the problematics for women in sound mediums and implications of the disembodied female voice. Continually, including recent investigation work and output from the archive Unsound emphasizes the different approaches and vehicles for sound as a medium. As well, this inclusion illustrates what problems women still face within sound art and address how the parameters and issues for women in sound have shifted since the original exhibition interaction of Her Noise.

List of Works:  

  1. McLuhan, M (1967) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Penguin Books, annotated copy
  1. Selected essays from Her Noise: Exhibition Catalogue, Dzuverovic, L & Hilde Neset, A (2005) annotated copy
  1. Sterne, J (2012) The Sound Studies Reader: Toward a Feminist Historiography of Electronic Music written by Rodgers, T, London: Routledge, annotated copy
  1. Enviroment’s audio trace of the performance Kim Gordon, Jutta Koether and Jenny Hoyston | Reverse Karaoke 2005, from the exhibition Her Noise, South London Gallery
  1. Audio trace of Episode 3 | A Variety of Transgender Media Collected by Robin Buckley (2017) part of a widen project of LCC students collective Still Waiting and their discussion group

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Alice Morey and the desire path

Curated by: Ying Ying Lin & Shalini Rajasegaran

3 June – 9 June, 2019

0603 (4)

Installation view. Image courtesy Shalini Rajasegaran.

The initial meaning of desire path originated from urban planning and it is a trail that is created as a consequence of erosion caused by human, animal foot-fall or traffic. It is a user- created route that reflects human desire or natural purpose. The concept, therefore, then can be extended to be against authority as it is a user-based alternative rather than to follow the existing route given by the original planner, government, or even society.

“I was remarked to have sociopath ideas, that there is a numbness to the ideas I am trying to approach with my work. It’s more than this concept of time, of life, of changing materials, and organic surfaces, its deeper. It’s the numbness to reality, trying to feel something from these processes: death.”  — Alice Morey

The dualities can often be seen in Morey’s practice: ritual and clinical, individual and others, human body and technology, patriarchy and feminism, to name a few. There is an unsettlement in her works that is achieved by combining two or more conflicting elements and mediums. Although the idea of numbness and death frequently appear in Morey’s works, there is a vitality transformed through intimate interaction with her works: handmade porcelain chains, tattoos on canvas, and a dismembered pheasant given life from a GIF heart. With juxtaposition of alienation and intimacy, the artworks ultimately achieve an uncanny but intriguing balance. The connection is a desire path which Morey has been developing, and also an implication for the audience to explore within different aspects, namely, their own paths.

KEEP OFF THE GRASS understands that viewers are prone to taking a path of their own desire. Reading the artworks in this exhibition, KEEP OFF THE GRASS exemplifies the notion of societal norms and triggers one to instill their freedom of connectivity and understanding through various ungiven routes.

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Alice Morey (1986, London) is a Berlin based artist. She is currently studying in MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts, London and represented by Lehmann + Silvia, Porto. Recent exhibitions include solo exhibitions: She doesn’t love, she just devours, The Ryder Projects, London (2019); Shapes of permanence, Lehmann + Silvia, Porto (2018) and Performing states of hidden earth, Das Gift, Berlin (2018), and Kunst im Wohnzimmer 02 – Alice Morey, CONFINi, Berlin (2017); group exhibitions: How are you babe?, Blank 100, London (2019); Again and again, Galerie Emilia Fily, Usti nad Ladem (2018), and Elymus Repens, Kosmetiksalon Babette, Berlin (2018). Her works have also been exhibited in different venues such as National Gallery Veletrzni Palace, Prague and Kunsthaus Bethanien, Berlin.

List of Works:


  1. Quit playing games with my heart (2018)

Pheasant hides, weave, urine bags, plastic tubes, porcelain, pheasant hearts, Indigo pigment, insides of pheasant, ethanol, distilled water, metal string, TV screen, dimensions variable

  1. Sweetcorn Sacks (2018)

Pigment, homemade yoghurt, chalk, ink on canvas, 60 x 80 cm

  1. River (2019)

Ink, pigment, homemade yoghurt, Spirulina on canvas, 80 x 120 cm

  1. Artist book (2019)

Photographs and Artist’s writings

  1. Attach here series (2019)

Porcelain chains and hook, steel hooks

// | MA Curating and Collections 2017/18 Degree Show


7.09.2018 – 13.09.2018 

Curated by MA Curating and Collections 2017/18 

Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, 16 John Islip Street, London, SW1P 4JU

Screen Shot 2019-05-31 at 16.02.28

//, banner designed by Nicolo Pellarin and Michela Zoppi


Ericka Beckman | Osías Yanov | Puck Verkade | Ami Clarke | Joey Holder | Zach Blas 

MA Curating and Collections 2017/18 was pleased to present their final curatorial show this past fall (2018); //. The exhibition aimed to dismantle the established boundary conditions of gender, race and class within the current colonialist, capitalist and gendered economies. Featuring works by Ericka Beckman, Puck Verkade and Osías Yanov that challenge the system, the grid and ways of classifying which delineates boundaries within our society. In the realms of the exhibition, the traditional divisions between human and animal, organism and machine, and the physical and non-physical are blurred in order to address a myriad of ways in which technology relates to human nature and the agency of the body.

// was informed by Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay, A Cyborg Manifesto. The cyborg is used as a fictional and metaphorical concept for subverting these boundary conditions. Haraway proposes a mythic answer to the problems currently facing society. Through this fictional method, this exhibition guided us through the breakdown of limiting identity constructs, towards a new social structure as a call to arms for the future.

As an extension of the exhibition’s framework and as a support of exhibition’s concept, aiming to subvert the traditional book and catalogue format, the publication was used as a form of continuation from the exhibition. The shows publication includes dialogues between the curators and artists set within a fictional realm, and artists’ responses to the curatorial strategy and exhibition concept. With a foreword written by Lynton Talbot, contributors include Ericka Beckman, Zach Blas, Ami Clarke, Joey Holder and Osías Yanov.

Two public programme events were also held in correlation with the exhibition. A performance of Osías Yanov’s Orphan Dance (2018), took place on the night of the privet view (September 7th 2018) and a special screening and discussion of Zach Blas’ film Jubliee 2033 (2017) took place on 13th September 2018.

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