Over the summer, I’ve been working on the first draft of my dissertation and catching up on a lot of shows. I’m writing about how to curate trauma, and the ethical issues and curatorial responsibilities involved. All the tutors in Curating Contemporary Art have different theoretical specialisms and curatorial approaches, so it’s really helpful to get help with different elements of the dissertation. There are also overlaps with what other students are writing about, so it’s great to discuss ideas with them. That discursive quality is very new to me; my undergraduate dissertation was a much more individualistic, self-reflexive endeavour, but it’s been really beneficial and enjoyable to involve other people.
Before coming to the Royal College of Art, I did Fashion Management at the London College of Fashion and graduated in 2010. I worked in the fashion industry for a couple of years and hated it. It forced me to think about a career that I could contemplate doing for the rest of my life. I’d always visited galleries and museums, and contemporary art was always a part of my life. I started to think that it would be amazing to work in that field. I left the fashion world and did a couple of internships in commercial galleries. I didn’t really understand what a curator was back then, but I started reading books about it; through meeting people and coming across more experimental strategies, exhibitions and project spaces, my idea of curating shifted. I didn’t have an art or art history background, so I went to Goldsmiths to do a Diploma in Contemporary Art History, which gave me a great grounding in philosophy and contemporary art theory.
At that point, I applied to curating programmes at the RCA and at Goldsmiths, but I didn’t get in. I simply wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand the ecology of contemporary art curating in London, or anywhere else, and that was quite obvious. My ideas were a collage of things I’d heard and read, as opposed to my own thinking. That was a hard realisation, but I went away and embarked on some projects working closely with artists, away from the commercial gallery environment. I reapplied to the RCA, and got a place, but there was a problem with my visa, so I had to defer. In the end, I managed to get a student visa to do the one-year MA at Goldsmiths called Global Arts. After that, I came to the RCA.
It was a big decision to come here, because I knew I wasn’t quite at the level I wanted to be. A lot of people on this programme have been immersed in this subject since they were, say, 18 years old, but I hadn’t. For me, it was important to continue in education rather than diving straight into a job. It was also a big financial decision, and the subject of much discussion with my family. Guest speakers, curators and artists come in to speak with us on a weekly basis, and that’s something I never experienced in any other institution. It’s great to be able to make those connections to support your work, especially as you develop your own particular areas of interest.
In first year, I got my first opportunity to work on the programming side of curating. Our group did a masterclass retreat with Pil & Galia Kollectiv at Wysing Arts Centre, and it was amazing to work on that scale, with that budget, and with such high profile artists. I’m hoping to spend some time each week getting experience of working in other project-based spaces, such as Gasworks, but we’ll see if I have time for that this year alongside the Master’s.
I’m also a student representative, which has been very interesting; you get to go to Student Council meetings and find out about CCA’s position in relation to the RCA as a whole. You can have your say, you can vote, and make sure your peers are informed about how things are changing. It’s an important role and has been a really good experience.
"Guest speakers, curators and artists come in to speak with us on a weekly basis, and that’s something I never experienced in any other institution. It’s great to be able to make those connections to support your work, especially as you develop your own particular areas of interest."