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Student Showcase Archive

Emma Brasó

PhD Work

PhD work

Parafictional Artists: From the Critique of Authorship to a Curatorial Understanding

The ever-expanding art world is immersed in a conflict between “form and content.” Made up of numerous institutions, this growing network of universities, art centres, biennials, galleries, art fairs, magazines, publishers, online platforms, etc., relies on what many describe as the systems most fragile node: the artist. Surviving as an artist outside of the institutionalized art world is today almost impossible, while living within it brings about a series of almost contradictory demands: to be critical, yet economically successful, to question authorship, yet maintain it, to reject capitalism, yet work according to its norms.

 The emergence of what in this thesis I describe as parafictional artists is, in my view, a response to such peculiar scenario. The strategy of creating a fictional artist yet making her function as an author dramatically challenges some of the art world expectations about how artists must perform. It also generates productive controversies and ethical dilemmas amongst interpreters, including art historians and curators, as well as the public. Yet, the decision to explore artistic identity in such fictional ways ultimately provides artists with tools to retain control over how their name and work functions within the institutionalized art world. 

In this research project, I try to respond to the following questions: How does the extended practice of developing and exhibiting parafictional artists reflect as well as modify the ways in which contemporary authorship functions in today’s highly institutionalized, mostly global, art world? What are the consequences of the introduction of these parafictional authorial strategies for the interpretation, presentation, and encounter with art?



  • Emma Brasó
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Critical & Historical Studies, 2013–2018

  • Emma Brasó (Madrid, 1983) is an art historian and exhibitions curator. 

    She is currently Cultural Programme Curator at the University for the Creative Arts, in charge of programming the Herbert Read Gallery (Canterbury) and the Zandra Rhodes Gallery (Rochester). In this position, she has developed projects with artists, writers and designers such as Gustav Metzger, Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair, Janez Jansa, Janez Jansa and Janez Jansa, Rosana Antolí, Aberrant Architecture, Kieren Reed or Marilou Lemmens and Richard Ibghy, and collaborated with institutions like the Serpentine Galleries, Turner Contemporary, the Whitstable Biennale, or the Canterbury Cathedral. 

    In 2012 she was appointed curatorial fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow and organised a six-month cycle of exhibitions on art and empathy at the Youth Art Space of Madrid. Previously, Emma acted as Visual Arts Advisor at the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and was involved in the negotiations to transformed an abandoned tobacco factory in Madrid into the Cultural Centre La Tabacalera. She has also carried out an independent career as critic in diverse media (ExitExpress, Arte Contexto, Flash Art International) and as curator of concept-oriented exhibitions in New York, Madrid, Valencia and the UK. 

    Her current PhD research at Royal College of Art analyses the intersection of fiction and authorship in art practices from the 1980s until today.   

  • Degrees

  • MA Modern Art: Curatorial Studies, Columbia University, New York, 2007; BA History and Theory of Art, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2005
  • Experience

  • Cultural Programme Curator and lecturer at the MA in Curatorial Practice, University for the Creative Arts, Kent, October 2013/ongoing; Curator in residence, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, 2012/13; Advisor in the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Spain, Madrid, 2007/2010; Assistant to the 51st Venice Biennale Co-Director, María de Corral’s curatorial office, Madrid, 2004/2005
  • Exhibitions

  • Sleepless Light Exercise, Chapter House, Canterbury Cathedral, 2016, an installation by Bernardí Roig; From Rochester with Love. Conversations in the midst of the Syrian Conflict, Herbert Read Gallery, UCA, Canterbury, 2016, a project by Hala George; Agency without Intention, Herbert Read Gallery, 2015 (catalogue); Despite Efficiency: Labour, Herbert Read Gallery, 2014 (catalogue); Man of the Year. Henry Coombes and Carles Congost, CCA, Glasgow, 2013 (catalogue); The Global Archive, Hamni Gallery, London, 2013 (co-curated); Art & Empathy, A three-exhibition project for the Youth Art Space of Madrid, 2012 (catalogues); By Mistake: Accidents as Creative Tools, Observatori—International Festival of Artistic Investigation, Valencia, 2011 (catalogue, co-curated); No Tag. Anonymous, Pseudonyms and Alter Egos, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, 2009 (catalogue); In Pursuit: Art on Dating, ISE Cultural Foundation, New York, 2007/08 (catalogue, co-curated)
  • Awards

  • Se Busca Comisario, Madrid, 2012; fellowship, Glasgow, 2012; Selected to participate in the Kwangju International Biennial Course, Korea, 2010; Inéditos 2009: grants for emerging curators, Madrid, 2009; "la Caixa" fellowship for graduate studies abroad, 2005/07; Special Mention in the Spanish National Prize for Best Academic Records, 2005
  • Conferences

  • Parafictional Artists: Speculations on Contemporary Authorship, Art and Speculative Futures, Universidad de Barcelona, 2016; Biography, Autobiography and Fiction, Royal College of Art, London, 2016; Work and Art: How Artists make a living, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, 2015; The Instant, Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo, Santander, 2014