Category Archives: MA Curating & Collections student exhibitions and projects

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.



Alice Morey and the desire path

Curated by: Ying Ying Lin & Shalini Rajasegaran

3 June – 9 June, 2019

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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

Imagined Communities

Curated by : Beining Liang, Hingis Szewah Ng, Jing Wu

13 – 14 May 2019



“It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their follow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”

-Benedict Anderson


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Mutual thoughts form a society. According to McMllian and Chavis, there are four elements of ‘sense of community’: membership, influence, integration and fulfilment of needs, and shared emotional connection. From the point of view of the shared emotional and ideological connection between communities, the same values and identities recognition creates a bonding between one and other. In this sense, created the strongest cohesion among communities.

The show named ‘Imagined Communities’ integrated the idea from McMillian and Chavis which provides an opportunity to examine 17 artworks with a shared approach on expressing fundamental issues such as self-realization, human consciousness and identity through Photography, Paintings and Moving Image. From the mixed media of artworks we have selected, it formed a metaphor of the diversity within the community.

Jean-Luc Nancy stated that even we are in the same community, our own individual characteristic remains and the peculiarity from each of us makes the group resilient. Co-designed and co-created by 6 artists: Sizuo Chen, Went Ian, Linlu Zhang, Sicheng Wang, Zhuanxu Xu and Keno Tung & Yiding Zhang. Each of the artists talked about different aspects from the groups but at the same time forms a general theme that elevates the feature of the community. By exhibiting their works, it creates a platform for the audience to discuss and develop the possibilities of innovative and sustainable solutions.


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Reading Room for ‘Dress Portrait’: an interview with Sarah Edwards

As part of their Reading Room project alongside the Chelsea Space exhibition ‘Dress Portrait: Molly Goddard and Sarah Edwards’, MA Curating and Collections students Yihuan Chen, Beining Liang and Zeyu Zhao interviewed photographer and set designer Sarah Edwards, who shared her insight on the show, her practice and collaborating with her daughter Molly Goddard.

Dress Portrait 1

Sarah Edwards in the gallery. Photograph by Zeyu Zhao

Q: Hi Sarah, thank you for agreeing to this interview! Could you explain your thoughts behind the idea for this exhibition in Chelsea Space? Was there anything that was part of your original plan, but changed in the end?

A: Well, the idea was really to take photographs of fashion, but looking at fashion in a different way. I think that is an important part of what I do. I try to capture how I want the garments to feel, how they relate to my surroundings, and how they have a connection with nature, landscape and other elements. If there was anything that changed in the final display? No, not really. I had a very clear idea of how I wanted it to look, and I wanted to portray the clothes in a way that was my own personal view of them, looking at them as if they were objects, to show the real beauty about the construction of fabrics.

Q: You are also a set designer. How does working on set design compare to preparing an exhibition?

A: With set design, I have a very clear vision of how I want certain things to appear, and I try to stay away from the very obvious. It’s about making people interested in what they see, and seeing things from a different angle. For example, if I did a dinner table, I would probably put some elements there that are unexpected. So, for this show, I did not want to just hang twenty framed pictures on one wall; I like the fact that when you come up, the first thing you see, that green wall with the quite traditional hanging, looks very different than the rest of the exhibition. I wanted there to be quite lot to see within the small space, that’s why the pasted photographs, and the small frames at the end.

Q: Do you think you were inspired by this space?

A: Yes, every space inspires me. Every space is a challenge, I like thinking what’s the best one can do within a given space. And that is why I had the wall built, I did not want it to be just one room, I wanted there to be a flow, and for people go towards the end of the room, turn around and see these pictures which are quite hidden.

Dress Portrait 2

Installation view of ‘Dress Portrait’. Photo by Zeyu Zhao.

Q: When and why did you start working as a photographer?

A: I started taking photographs when I was 11 years old, and I took it very seriously then. In those days, I used film which was expensive, so I was very careful about what I photographed, and I took a lot of time to set up the composition. I think as a photographer, you look at things very much as photographs, in your whole life you almost look at everything as if you were looking through the camera – and that can be quite exhausting in many ways! I am always composing things, be it picking faces, framing landscapes, anything. Seeing everything as photographs is really wonderful, because that means wherever you are, you are being inspired.

Q: Who have you been inspired by? Do you have a favourite photographer?

A: I would say all photographers, past and present, have had an impact on my own practice. Fashion photography really inspires me. I do not really have a favourite, however. With many photographers, I like a lot of what they do, and I might not like some of their work. But I would say Henri Cartier-Bresson has been a huge inspiration.

Q: We noticed that in your photographs for this exhibition, you focus on details, and your use of light and shadow is very strong.

A: Well, my photography is about composition as much as light to shadow. I am fascinated by light changes, I love when the light is unusual. Like on a sunny day, when the sky is black; I remember being about ten years old, living in the countryside and seeing a sky like that, a black sky on a sunny day, and wanting to capture that. Unusual light really inspires me.

Dress Portrait 3

Installation view of ‘Dress Portrait’ with photograps by Sarah Edwards. Photo by Zeyu Zhao.

Q: So, do you prefer black and white photography because of its stronger contrast?

A: I don’t like dark any more than colour, and I can print my photographs either in black and white or in colour, and I don’t really have a preference. Although when you look at my colour photographs in this exhibition, they look very desaturated, quite like black and white photographs.

Dress Portrait 4

Installation view of ‘Dress Portrait’ with photographs by Sarah Edwards. Photo by Zeyu Zhao.

Q: When did you start photographing Molly’s dresses or using her materials in your photographs?

A: From the first day she started. Alice, my other daughter, is a stylist. I have been photographing them since they were born, so when when Molly started creating her collections, I just kept on recording her life.

Q: Wow, that’s amazing! Why do you choose to photograph her work, rather than other kinds of artistic practice?

A: Well, you know, I take photographs all the time, so this an element of my work, part of the work I do. But I’m interested in doing portraits, or fashion, or nature. I photograph her work, not because it is hers, but because it inspires me and I find it very beautiful. I like the challenge of photographing it in a way that moves away from fashion photography.

Q: How is it to work with your daughter? Do you work together every day?

A: No, we don’t work together every day, we work separately. The advantages I think are that we are inspired by similar things, and I think we both admire each other’s work. You know, we get along very well, we laugh for a lot of things, we just don’t take it too seriously. There are no difficulties, it all happens very naturally and quite organically.

Q: When working with Molly, how do you draw inspiration from each other? As you said, you love similar things.

A: I think we are similar in the way we research, not just fashion, but also related subjects; Molly also does a lot of research, and there are lots of different things that can inspire her for her collections. I really encourage people to look at everything. When you go to an exhibition, look up an artist you don’t know about, study the architecture of the space, notice everything. I think this is important particularly when being a student, you really need to read a lot, and look at different photographers. Molly and I send images to each other occasionally, she knows what I will like and I know what she will like. And that’s just fun, I do that with friends as well.

Dress Portrait 5

Installation view of ‘Dress Portrait’ with photograph by Sarah Edwards. Photo by Zeyu Zhao.

Q: And what are your future plans for the collaboration with Molly?

A: Right now there are lots of things coming up, a lot of things to do! So we will carry on working on more projects together.

Q: Where do you see your practice going forward? Will you focus on either photography or set design or continue with both?

A: I think I want to spend more time on my photography, and I possibly would like to publish something, photographic books perhaps. I will carry on working on set design as well, but allow more time to do photography.

Q: So, would you want to exhibit again?

A: Yes, I’d love to do another exhibition.

Q: Looking forward to it. Hope it will be in London, and we can visit it. Is there anything about this exhibition that you would change or add, or something that didn’t reach your expectations?

A: I am going to say something funny – if I could change anything, I would have liked to have a big comfort carpet on the floor! When working around a budget you can’t always get everything, but in such a minimal modern space, it would be unexpected, you know? And it’s about the whole experience, seeing the show while walking on a fake luxury pink carpet, it would have been lovely.

Yihuan Chen, Beining Liang and Zeyu Zhao

deconstructing my crush

The Morgue, Chelsea College of Arts

6 – 10 July, 2018

8__banchi's perfomance 'involucro' and object ii, video projection, flavia banchi (2018)_perfomer_clara lasàgna

Banchi’s perfomance ‘Involucro’ and Object II, Video Projection, Flavia Banchi (2018) performer Clara Lasàgna.

deconstructing my crush is a co-generated exhibition by the artist Flavia Banchi and the curator Laura Callegaro, which takes Banchi’s artistic practice as a departure point. Banchi’s research reflects on the idea of fetishism in nowadays society: by investigating the objects’ arbitrariness of value in different contexts, religions and ages, her practice arrives also to question the status of idols and cult objects in correlation to their perception within the current visual culture.

The videos projected on the Morgue’s walls interrogate a shape which does not identify itself with any existing object, though connotated by a visually palpable materiality. This object attempts to evade the known value system and challenges its discernible configurations, which are, as a consequence, ours. In response to Banchi’s moving image, the exhibition includes sound, complementarily conceived by Tommaso Di Filippo, who performs on 6th of July during the exhibition opening.

Ackowledging Banchi’s work, the communication designer Max Effantin considers the idea of blank shape as a site on which subjectivities are projected: enacting and translating this concept into environmental terms, Effantin’s main aim is to explore shift at the border between our inner spaces and the built world. Therefore, as an integral learning programme of the exhibition, the sensory workshop Rewilding the Urban Body took place on 16th of June at the Nomadic Garden (Shoreditch), led by the Sentient Society. Afterwards, a video centred on documentation via digital poetry has been realised by Effantin – and included in the show – in light of the workshop’s discussions and outcomes, focusing on the urban body’s sensory experience as a method to re-evaluate our daily ordinary approaches within our surroundings.

Within the framework of this exhibition, both the workshop and the sound act as an open extension of the critical understanding of values and agency that we give to objects, which is in turn the main focus of Flavia Banchi’s inquiry. Through these different practices and mediums horizontally explored and conjuncted,deconstructing my crush is intended as a collaborative research project, enquiring a reflection on de-constructing our current attitudes and their values unavoidably attached as a result of transient, historical and sociological layers of conditions.

Tuesday 10th July, 6pm
Flavia Banchi’s performance Involucro (Wrapping) will take place at the Morgue.

Special thanks to Donald Smith, Director of the CHELSEA space, for all his support.


Flavia Bianchi (1993, Rome, IT) is a London based artist. After graduating in Communication and Design at ISIA, Florence (2016), she decided to continue her approach in more artistic terms rather than projectual, enrolling into a post-graduate course in Visual Arts and Fashion at IUAV (Venice). She just completed a photography course at Camberwell College of Arts (UAL).

Max Effantin (1995, Valence, FR) MA Graphic Design Communication, Chelsea College of Arts.

Santo Milo (1986, Montería, CO) Event Designer.
The Sentient Society (founded by Effantin) is an environmental design project which aims to participate in the transition towards a more sustainable and sensitive culture; for this workshop, a collaboration with Milo Santo took place. Sentient Society intervenes in local communities to engage stakeholders with new ecological orientations, responding actively to local environmental and social needs.

Tommaso Di Filippo (1990, Florence, IT) is an Italian-born and East London-based house and techno producer. Under this alias you will find lo-fi nostalgic vibes and organic dance floor workouts.

Laura Callegaro (1994, Venice, IT) is a MA Curating & Collections student at Chelsea College of Arts. She is doing an internship as assistant curator at Flat Time House (London) and has worked as artist’s assistant at the Israeli Pavilion during the 57th Venice Biennale.


Chelsea Library, Chelsea College of Arts

16th April 2018 – 31st April 2018

Curated by Laura Callegaro and Carla Gimeno Jaria


Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) was a renowned filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, having made four short films and documentaries and thirteen feature films, Kubrick had a particular filmmaking style which encompassed several characteristics: the use of the music as a pivotal component of the narration, the dark humor, the accurate set design or the realism.

Apart from Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss, all his films are based on novels by male writers. Likewise, Kubrick had a unique way of adapting novels, usually altering their structure and narrative. Accordingly, he received mixed reviews for his work, but today Kubrick is revered for his intuition in for the transformative adaptation.

His adaptations, that include a wide range of movie genres, demonstrate his desire to go beyond the aesthetic feature of the film. The filmmaker attempted to extract the crucial points of the story and was always heavily committed to the development of the characters and the ambiance, in order to create the best version of the novel in its visual representation.

Taking the films Lolita (1962), A Clockwork Orange (1972), The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) as a main focus, this exhibition aims to explore the material from The Stanley Kubrick Archive – located at London College of Communication – to present the diverse processes that Kubrick followed adapting these four novels to films. These four films frame many of the different characteristics of Kubrick’s versatile style of bringing novels to the screen and, similarly, depict his obsession for the duality of humans and the male violence.



In the case of Lolita (1962), Kubrick made significant changes from the original plot of the novel, written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955, turning it into a love story and tragicomedy. The filmmaker on the one hand, reshaped some of the features of the two main characters, Humbert and Lolita, and on the other hand, added significant sarcasm in some of the dialogues, transforming the script into a more humorous narration.

This shift is precisely captured in the correspondence between Kubrick and the Swiss actor Peter Ustinov (SK/10/8/4), where the filmmaker explains that for him the novel depicts a romance history that portrays “a very different love than the modern ideal”, and in which Humbert is an anti-hero. Specifically, the way Kubrick twisted the tone of the film was through the characterisation of Lolita’s role. While in the novel her character is figured as an object for Humbert’s desire, in the film their relationship seems to be mutual. As can be appreciated in her photographs from the pre-production (SK/10/2/14), Kubrick wanted both to show her as a teenager and as a sexual being, appearing to be erotic and flirty but also innocent and harmless. Likewise, the filmmaker ignored the age gap between Humbert and Lolita in the novel, where she was 12-years-old, increasing her age to be closer to the age consent. Consequently, the controversial paedophilic connotation of the novel isn’t endowed in the film, showing a story where Lolita is manipulating the relationship.

Additionally, one striking alteration of the narrative is the shift in Quilty’s murder, one action that in the novel happens in the end and is not given much significance. In the film, this scene opens the story, as can be read in the second draft of the script (SK/10/1/24), provoking a mysterious beginning for the viewers, who don’t know who Quilty is until the end. This distortion of the original plot was part of Kubrick’s way of communicating to the audience, trying to hold onto the suspense throughout the film. Explicitly, this particular case study of Lolita portrays that Kubrick’s ability to adapt novels, not only the translation from the words to the visual enactment, but also to creatively interpret through research.





In a similar way to Lolita, in A Clockwork Orange (1972), based on the dystopian novel originally written by Anthony Burgess in 1962, Stanley Kubrick prompted different variations from the original to achieve a particular narration within the film language. This was the first time that the filmmaker had the sole authorship in the script, therefore during the adaptation of the novel, he followed a different process to reach what he felt was its best execution for the visual experience.

First, instead of using the British version of the novel, Kubrick wrote the script based on the American version (SK/13/1/15). This decision was personally undertaken since the American version has the last chapter missing. In this chapter, the main character, Alex, shows redemption to his violent ways. Anthony Burgess, English writer (1917-1993), explained that he tried to write a novella as “a sort of allegory of Christian free will. Man is defined by his capacity to choose courses of moral action. If he chooses good, he must have the possibility of choosing evil instead; evil is a theological necessity”[1]. Accordingly, Kubrick wanted to work with the ambiguity of an open-ended finale, where the destiny of the character was clearly unknown, thus pushing the imagination of the viewers to foresee his fate.

Moreover, Kubrick made other alterations or omissions to the story, as can be seen in the Anthony Burgess first draft (SK/13/1/5). The filmmaker steered the film towards one of his main characteristic themes: the male violence and the duality of human, as in Full Metal Jacket. By eluding to part of the physical injuries to the victims’ bodies after the sexual assaults, explicitly described in the novel, he focused more on the fighting and the sex acts. Likewise, by being less explicit and raising the age of the main characters, those in the novel were teenagers, he made on-screen story in the screen more palatable for the public.

Kubrick’s ability to translate the desired ambience and environment described in the book to the film set is remarkable. The original story revolved around a futuristic street gang. In relation to the costumes, Kubrick contacted the production designer Luciana Arrighi (SK/13/2/6/2), who insisted that the most important thing was to define a unique style in order to project what the novel described. Accordingly, as can be seen in the different photographs, one of Kubrick’s main obsessions was finding the optimal characterisation of the main roles: from the hats to the garments, every detail was crucial. Furthermore, regarding the ambiance, Kubrick’s use of classical and synthetic music impacted directly on the tone and narration of the film. The music comprises a fundamental enhancement of Alex’s role, as it gives dramatism and intensity and draws the audience into deepen on his obscure physiological condition. As Burgess himself explains “Alex’s aggressive instincts have been stimulated by classical music, but the music is forewarning him of what he must someday become: a man who recognise the Dionysiac in, say, Beethoven, but appreciate the Apollonian as well. (…) the Beethoven spirit must be here: the spirit of the mature creative mind which can reconcile the creative and the destructive”[2].

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The Shining (1980) was based on the homonym Stephen King’s novel of the same name (1977). As regards its screenplay, Diane Johnson, who was teaching a course on gothic novels at the University of California, became Stanley Kubrick’s ideal co-writer.

Kubrick’s research background for writing the dialogues centred on King’s novel, which in turn refers to Poe’s The Mask of the Red Death and Goya’s etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. He and Johnson also investigated the Freud’s Uncanny concept, producing a screenplay and, eventually, a film which deeply linked to intellectual and literature references of authors who mainly explored the notions of alienation and isolation[3].

Indeed, Kubrick worked over eleven months on King’s novel in order to produce the screenplay, focusing on translating each scene’s aim into a visual outcome, where the realization of the characters was pivotal: details of roles’ behaviour made up the consistency throughout the film, hence, the film itself. For instance, working on Jack’s attitude, we can see Kubrick’s annotations: “Writing the play or not writing the play, is an obsession.” (SK/15/1/1); on King’s novel some thoughts in relation to Wendy’s character are included as well (SK/15/1/2).

Another landmark element of the film is the location: Kubrick’s initial idea was to shoot exclusively in a hotel, therefore, many hotels were taken into consideration. His team were sent to different parts of America and in Europe – Austria, Amsterdam and Switzerland were considered and documented through photographs. Because of costs and weather conditions, the final location for external shootings was the Timberline Lodge in Oregon – of which we can see some pre-production documentation exhibited (SK/15/6/2) – but, as regards the interiors of the hotel, it was decided to film on sets built at Elstree studios at Borehamwood in the United Kingdom.

Katharina Kubrick, daughter and location researcher, affirmed that many American hotels were analyzed by her in order to re-create accurate interiors and props[4]. Interestingly, if examined closely, the architectural plan of the hotel is not geographically coherent: the crew had to build the sets like a jigsaw to make the best use of the space, therefore, once certain elements were used for shooting, they would be replaced and their location changed. Ultimately, the result of this is an opulent space, perceived aesthetically as even more alienating.

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Full Metal Jacket (1987) is a Kubrick’s film based on The Short-Timers (1979), a partly autobiographical novel written by the U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford, who fought in the Vietnam War.

The screenplay was co-written by Kubrick, Hasford and Michael Herr, generating a three-act film following the same division as within the novel: firstly, it illustrates how people are trained to be killers; secondly, a character called Joker is introduced as a journalist witnessing savage war’s dynamics in Vietnam. The last third and final act enunciates a moral discourse around how Joker becomes a killer. Overall, the process in which the film is articulated debates Joker’s loss of humanity, culminating in the act of killing a young female sniper. By being written with the contribution of three different voices, the result of the screenplay is a complex visual translation, which caused a number of debates, as we can see in the letter (SK/16/1/2/3) from Michael Herr to Gustav Hasford, in which Herr claimed Kubrick’s film to be “the real soul” of Hasford’s book.

Even though Full Metal Jacket was produced a generation after the war, in the film Kubrick highlights what reporting from the Vietnam War was like, in the end, an autoreferential conversation and an ideal representation from a US perspective – excluding any Vietnamese point of view. Through this lens, Kubrick critically integrated the American imagery of cowboys and Indians, triggered by Joker.

The cathartic process that Joker crosses in the three phases of both the novel and the film, prompts a reflection on the self-consciousness of soldiers and, above all, relates to how the reality of the war was perceived through the media, almost as a propaganda act. When the crew of cameramen arrive in the battlefield for documentation purposes, we can observe two facts: firstly, Kubrick’s choice of putting a particular song, Surfin bird song (1963), into this scene – representing an emphasis on the entertainment and euphoria for soldiers. Secondly, when interviewed, Joker says: “I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture and kill them”. This sentence was emblematically fundamental for Kubrick, as we can see from his very initial research on the novel.

In fact, a landmark point of the film is the main character’s ambivalence and their nuanced representation by Kubrick. Joker’s dual nature of killer and compassionate human being is clearly manifested in the pace button on his helmet. In a script portion of Hasford, we can see Kubrick underlining the sentence: “It was the first time I felt like that I was alive” (SK/16/1/11) in relation to the desire of feeling the death and the violent features of the war.

This recurrent dichotomy between destructiveness and empathy, between violence and humanity, is a striking ethical contrast – and an analogy at the same time, which is also exposed in A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick’s main concern is declared from the very beginning of his filmmaking process: namely, the selection of novels. For instance, Burgess himself explained his decision to use Beethoven’s music as complementary to Alex’s aggressive adolescent essence.

Finally, Joker’s final words encompass the human position towards sex and violence, the cynical view of the world, and eventually, the acceptance of all these intrinsic features which represent the human being:

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My thoughts drift back to erect nipple wet dreams about Mary Jane Rottencrocht and the Great Homecoming Fuck Fantasy. I am so happy that I am alive, in one piece and short. I’m in a world of shit…yes. But I am alive. And I am not afraid[5].


 [1] Burgess, A. (1987) A Clockwork Orange. A Play with Music. London: Hutchinston Ltd.

[2] Burgess, A. (1987) A Clockwork Orange. A Play with Music. London: Hutchinston Ltd.

[3] The psychoanalyst Karen Horney, J D Salinger, Carson Mc Cullers, Sherwood Anderson. Source: Ljujic, T. (2015) Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives. London: Black Dog Publishing.

[4]  Ljujic, T. (2015) Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives. London: Black Dog Publishing.

[5] Kubrick, S. and Herr, M. and Hasford, G. (1987) Full Metal Jacket. The Screenplay. London: Martin Secker & Warburg Limited.


List of works


  • SK/10/1/24, Lolita – Second Draft, Nabokov and Kubrick, September 1960, script, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/10/8/2, ‘SK [Stanley Kubrick]-Nabokov’, Letter from Nabokov to Kubrick with corrections, 1959 – 1966, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/10/8/4, Lolita Correspondence 1959-1960, Letter from Kubrick to Peter Ustinov, 20 May 1960, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/10/2/14, Costume and make up test – Lolita, 1960, photographs, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive

A Clockwork Orange

  • SK/13/1/5, Anthony Burgess first draft [photocopy], undated, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/13/8/5/12, Max L Rab, letter, 6 February 1970, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/13/1/15, “A Clockwork Orange”, American edition of the novel, 1969, book, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/13/2/6/3, Droog Costume Research Images, 1970, photographs, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/13/2/6/2, Costume Research Slides, Letter by the productor designer Luciana Arrighi, 1970, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/13/9/1, Photographs, Production of the film, 1970-1971, photographs, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive

The Shining

  • SK/15/1/2, Incomplete annotated text from Stephen King’s novel ‘The Shining’, 26 August 1977, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/15/1/1, Handwritten notes on Stephen King’s novel ‘The Shining’, 1977, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/15/6/2, Pre-production sets, Photographs of the sets, 1976-1980, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/15/6/3, Production, Photographs of the filming, 1979-1980, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive

Full Metal Jacket

  • SK/16/1/11, Script portions – unannotated, 1985, paper, SK/15/6/2, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/16/1/2/3 ‘Hasford, Gus’, Letter from Michael Herr (producer) to Gustav Hasford (writer), 23 April 1985, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/16/2/16 Hasford notes, 24 May 1985, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive
  • SK/16/1/1, Photographs, in the filming set, 1985, diverse photographs, paper, from the Stanley Kubrick Archive


Did you get that?

Curated by Laura Callegaro

Chelsea College of Arts Library

23 February – 21 March 2018

‘The S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop) portfolio is not about art, S.M.S. is art.’ (1)

Installation view, ‘Semina 1955-1964: Art is Love is God’. New York: Boo-Horay, 2013

Did you get that? offers an overview of the dynamics within the underground practice of publishing, exhibiting (box) art magazines which were circulating from the late 1950s to the 1970s. They were part of a countercultural response to the dominant art system during those decades.

The majority of these art journals were delivered at the address given at the moment of your subscription – and prices were quite low. Leaving the white-cube space, art and ideas became first-hand, disseminated through a more accessible, rhizomatic way.

In the vertical vitrine, are exhibited some three-dimensional journals such as the well-known Aspen, edited from 1965 to 1971. It gave shape to voices of different disciplines within the arts: visual artists, composers, theorists, musicians contributed to it.

The Aspen Fluxus issue, edited by Dan Graham, designed by George Maciunas, was published in 1970. Its contents vary from a musical score by Philip Glass, to a phonograph recording of Jackson MacLow and La Monte Young.

Box art magazines contained a various range of objects and papers, such as specifically instruction pieces: included in S.M.S is Yoko Ono’s Mend Piece for John: “Take your favourite cup. Break it in many pieces with a hammer. Repair it with this glue and this poem”, or Mel Ramos’ Candy, a poster board card with removable figures.

Always located in the vertical vitrine, is shown Assembling, by Richard Kostelanetz, a counter-conventional publishing alternative which specifically reacted against the ‘oppressive crisis in avant-garde literary communication’: individual visual poets and artists could freely contribute to the formation of the issue, without the editor imposing any restriction, according to Kostelanetz’s perspective.

The idea of exhibitions-as-catalogues, radically happened through the curatorial contribution of Seth Siegelaub to conceptual art, is exemplified here through the July-August 1969, initially published in Studio International.

Lastly, the catalogue of an exhibition based on Wallace Berman’s Semina in New York (2013) is a tribute to one of the first art journals, initiated in 1955 in California: boxes containing hand-made assemblages, photographs, poems of both American and European contributors, such as Herman Hesse. Semina’s very core converged in Wallace’s recurrent motto Art is Love is God. Unlike all the other magazines exhibited, ‘there is a sort of initiation on Semina: it choses you, one cannot purchase or request Semina, it simply comes to you. (…) It has some aspects of religion, the religion of art and friends’.

(1) Statement published in ‘Art America’, issue of June 1968, in Boivent M., Revues d’artistes, 2008, p. 62

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Item List:

Studio International, v. 180, n. 924 ( July/August 1970 )

July/August exhibition book, edited by Seth Siegelaub. London: Studio International in association with Seth Siegelaub 1970

Semina 1955-1964: Art is Love is God. New York: Boo-Horay, 2013

S.M.S [Shit Must Stop] n. 5 (October 1968)

Aspen n. 8 (Fall-Winter 1970-1) Fluxus issue, designed by George Maciunas, edited by Dan Graham

Assembling: a collection of otherwise unpublished manuscripts, compiled by Henri Korn and Richard Kostelanetz (1970)

A critical (ninth) Assembling, compiled by Richard Kostelanetz (1979)


If you would like to get in touch with the curator (Laura Callegaro), please email