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Show RCA 2019

Pablo Luis Álvarez

Show RCA work

Major project:

'The Unexpected Beautiful Phrase'

‘The waste lives for those moments beyond teaching when you give away the unexpected beautiful phrase – unexpected, no one has asked, beautiful, it will never come back.’ (The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten).

Institutions are powerful: they have a plan and we are all part of it. Some people are welcomed, some are othered, some are manipulated. And yet, we believe that institutions have gaps where we can hide; rabbit-holes through which we can pass underground, into what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call ‘the undercommons.’ Can we use institutional spaces in our favour? Can we exploit our complicity? Is it possible to be fugitive within the institution?

The Unexpected Beautiful Phrase is a one-day event that took place on Saturday May 4th, 2019, in Nottingham Contemporary’s The Space, exploring the tactics of a ‘fugitive learning’; a learning on the run. The fugitive, propose Harney and Moten, occupies a space of perpetual contradiction, simultaneously within and beyond the institution: ‘on the stroIl of the stolen life’, yet reliant on the institution as a place from which to steal. 

Through a series of performative gestures, including conversation, film and poetry, we have considered how different individuals and communities can navigate and subvert institutional and educational spaces from within, seeking new modes of learning. This programme included responses from Christopher Kirubi, Dorine Van Meel with Jules Sturm, Raju Rage, Rosa Johan Uddoh with Department for International Dance Development, Holly Pester, and a film screening by Denise Ferreira da Silva and Arjuna Neuman. 

The Unexpected Beautiful Phrase is the second in a series of events in the lead-up to CAMPUS, a new independent studies programme launching at Nottingham Contemporary in October 2019.


  • Pablo has a general interest in Western philosophy and in the history of knowledge and academic disciplines, in particular – the ideological and material aspects that have given shape to art historical writing, art criticism and curatorial discourse. He will be embarking on his PhD in September 2019, after having been awarded a full funding LAHP award to convey his project at the RCA, in which he will be examining the relationship between contemporary conceptions of curating as a rhetorical platform and notions of political community as entertained by curatorial thought.

    Prior to being at the RCA, he studied Nineteenth Century Studies at King's College London, where he delved into the formation of academic history, modern medicine and the special sciences, and their relationships with literary theory and aesthetics. His academic training has been greatly shaped by his experience in the arts both as a writer and as a curator, which brought him to take the Curating Contemporary Art MA programme, thanks to the funding support of the Botín Foundation. His curatorial studies have resulted in a dissertation on curatorial anthologies and canon formation and in his graduate group project The Unexpected Beautiful Phrase, which has taken place in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary.

    In addition to his academic research, he also has a strong interest in creative writing and translating, being currently in the process of working on the first anthology of George Eliot's essays ever published in Spanish.

  • Previous degrees

  • MA 19th Century Studies, King's College London, 2016; BA Art History, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2013
  • Experiences

  • Guest curator, PACA Residencies, PACA, Gijón, 2018; Project coodinator, ATM, Gijón, 2017; Research internship, Foyle Special Collections Library, London, 2016; Research coordinator, Mujeres en las Artes Visuales, Spain, 2014
  • Exhibitions

  • 'The Unexpected Beautiful Phrase' (Public Programme), Nottingham Contemporary, 2019; 'Adventus' (Exhibition), ATM, Gijón, 2017
  • Conferences

  • 'Translating Mary Ann: Introducing George Eliot’s essays to the Spanish-speaking world', research paper. George Eliot Bicentenary International Conference, University of Leicester, July 2019; 'The collecting thought: An epistemology of art collecting', ESTAMPA, Madrid, September 2017; Reconsidering George Eliot’s Realistic Manifesto: Art and Spinoza in ‘The Natural History’ (Research paper). XXI Annual Symposium of the Spanish Society for General and Comparative Literature, Santander (Spain), November 2016; ‘Lectio et Collectio’: A quick analysis of art collecting, Fine Arts Museum of Asturias, Oviedo (Spain), November 2016; 'Where is my grandmother in the History of Art?' Research paper, What is Radical History? Conference, Birkbeck, University of London, March 2015
  • Publications

  • 'De libellulis', PACA Books, 2018 (Forthcoming); 'Address to fellow curators regarding everything which exists under the sky', Re: Over everything which exists under the sky (Online archive), RCA and Gasworks, 2019.; 'A common thread for', A Beginning of (Exhibition text), Hoxton 253, 2019
  • Awards

  • AHRC LAHP Scholarship, 2019–22; 13th Curatorial and Museum Studies Scholarship, 2017–19; Museo Nacional del Prado, 'Maestros en la Sombra', 2013; Universidad de Barcelona, SICUE Programme and Seneca Scholarship, 2011–12
Royal College of Art