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RCA/Design Trust Research Fellows Engage in Design Curation as Critical Practice

The Design Trust/RCA Fellowship in Design Curation is now entering its second year, with Design Trust continuing to support one-year fellowships for advanced research into the theory and practice of contemporary design curating. Two new Fellows are arriving at the College this autumn, and inaugural Fellow Mina Song completes her 12-month fellowship with a public exhibition at White City Place, from 1–8 November 2018.

Before coming to the RCA, Mina worked in cultural administration for community arts organisations in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong Arts Centre and Community Art Network, where she contributed to the multi-year [email protected] Buildings project. At the RCA she has considered how design theories, tactics and strategies can be interpreted and applied to curating public art in Hong Kong.

Discussing the motivation for her research Mina explained: ‘As I have worked with both designers and artists in my capacity as curator in public art, I am especially interested in how to best facilitate the different stakeholders involved in public art projects. I am also interested in how the public is formed and how design can identify and articulate the issues in and around any public. In turn, this will inform me as a curator to recognise the various potentials of using design and design thinking in curation.’

The exhibition at White City Place explores ways that exhibition-making can produce spaces, through temporary and ephemeral works that create subtle interventions in the notions of the 'public'. Featuring works by Veronika Neukirch, Nakyeng Hwang, Laura Robertson and Inge van Genuchten, the project is also an experiment in the shifting roles of curator, creator and designer.

‘For the exhibition in November, I am applying adversarial design theory, one of many design theories I have studied during the fellowship,’ Mina explained. ‘This is similar to how I have approached curating previous projects, but now I have a solid foundation and concrete knowledge to back my curating practices which gives me so much more confidence as a curator.’

Throughout her time at the RCA Mina’s research has been supported through a programme of studies which included history and theory seminars, curating workshops and a curatorial placement with one of the RCA’s external partners. Discussing her experience, Mina explained: ‘I am very grateful to have met so many great scholars. The tutors are very knowledgeable in their fields, but they are also incredibly open-minded and willing to listen to new ideas and new ways of approaching research. The best part of the experience has been the College itself: the School, my supervisor Dr Sarah Teasley, other academics, the students, and being surrounded by the passion to learn.’

Dr Teasley, Head of Programme for History of Design and Reader in Design History and Theory, commented: ‘As Mina’s work around publics and design thinking shows,  Design Trust/RCA Fellows bring invaluable questions and ideas to the College, generated from their curatorial practice and experience in one of the world’s crucibles for new ideas in art, design and urbanism. The questions they ask and solutions they test raise important questions about locality with global practices around design, and indicate powerful directions for design curating as engaged, critical practice.’

When she returns to Hong Kong, Mina will continue applying the research she has carried out at the RCA. ‘I would like to expand and extend my research when I get back to Hong Kong,’ she explained. ‘I am planning a series of small exhibitions to experiment with different design strategies and see how I can fully apply them in order to make better exhibitions.’

The two Design Trust/RCA Fellows in Design Curation for 2018 are Carrie Chan and Sunnie Chan. Carrie Chan holds degrees in MA Fashion Design and Enterprise from the University of Westminster, and Journalism and Communications from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Carrie was Senior Curator of the Design Society in Shenzhen, where she curated the exhibition Minding the Digital and was recently selected by the Institut Francais as one of ten Chinese curators to engage in cultural exchange with French museums.

At the RCA Carrie will be exploring how China's internet culture is changing self-representation and expression through fashion artefacts – both objects and images – and developing a curatorial framework for discussing fashion’s social and cultural significance through a virtual or immaterial experience. 

Sunnie Chan holds degrees in History of Art & Film Studies from the University of Essex, and MA Communication from Hong Kong Baptist University. She is a prolific curator particularly around the cultural heritage of graphic design in Hong Kong, working as Project Consultant with Project 27/Space 27 and Research Associate at M+, where she contributed to exhibitions including Mobile M+: Yaumatei.

During her time on the Fellowship, Sunnie will investigate how visual culture, visual communication and graphic design might facilitate opening design for everyone, in particular how curatorial practice might contribute to this, asking: what is an exhibition that is meaningful for the city?

Dr Teasley said: ‘We’re delighted to welcome Carrie and Sunnie to the College and our expanded community, and really look forward to seeing how their ideas develop and – most importantly – how they push the boundaries of what’s possible through design curating, as public practice.’

‘We are pleased to have Carrie and Sunnie as our 2018 fellow,’ says Marisa Yiu, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Design Trust. ‘We hope that with this opportunity, they will be able to excel as design curators with access to new ways of thinking and practice. We are excited for the fellows to contribute to the cultural, curatorial and public realm here in Hong Kong upon their return.’

The Design Trust/RCA Fellowship in Design Curation was established in 2017 with kind support from the Design Trust, an initiative of the Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design. Open to applicants based in Hong Kong or the Greater Pearl River Delta region, the Fellowship addresses the burgeoning field of design curating in a global context and locates it within the interdisciplinary curatorial field. It enables a scholar to carry out 12 months of research at the RCA supported by a tailored programme of academic training designed to broaden their knowledge and skills in curatorial practice, theory and understanding of design.