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In January, London MA Contemporary Art students curated a series of shows in the Cookhouse Gallery at Chelsea College of Art and Design. After familiarizing themselves with the work of artists on Chelsea College’s MA Fine Art program during studio visits, the Institute students worked with them to put together a number of bold shows, one of which included an opening night performance. The collaboration with Chelsea College is an ongoing feature of the MA Contemporary Art program in London, demonstrating the Institute commitment to honing curatorial skills. Below, three students reflect on their curatorial experiences.

Entourage, Curated by Sofia Topchishvili

Today’s environmental crisis urgently needs addressing, but in our day-to-day lives how often do we reflect on our carbon footprints?

Entourage was a collaborative installation by Tingyi Xu & Ching Hao Wen that challenged visitors to consider climate change and human behavioural patterns. In manipulating temperature, light, sound and visual effects, it addressed all the senses, provoking feelings of fear and confusion. The sounds and lights alluded to metropolitan life, whilst the room’s temperature and the transparency of the biodegradable plastic sheets used for the curtains together hinted at contemporary lifestyles and their environmental repercussions.

The show was immersive. As visitors moved through the zig-zagging makeshift corridor composed of those plastic curtains, they came closer and closer to the electric heaters positioned against the far wall and so felt the temperature rise, feeling more and more trapped. The white fluorescent lights with their amber filters also created a sense of warmth. The fragility of the sheets pointed to the fragility of our ecosystems. Walking between the curtains you could dimly see other visitors through the plastic, while hearing a disconcerting soundtrack created by the artists using their bodies as sole instruments. The show offered a rich, multidimensional sensory experience that encouraged visitors to reflect on the environment and on their own habits.

— Sofia Topchishvili

Body E(Motions), Curated by Claire di Felice and Alexis Sarfati

Body E(Motions) offered a visual and sonic experience focusing on essentialist considerations of the human body. Looking at the latter in parts, each artist explored a different metonymy to celebrate the body as a whole: an invitation to reconnect with ourselves and others. Leveraging site specific installations, they investigated the possibilities of the human frame, its movements and plasticity throughout different media.

Blurring the line between painting and sculptures, Iris Garagnoux’s site specific installations held a microscope to the dermis, the human skin’s most internal layer. Using a variety of organic material including latex, the artist considered the materiality of the human tissue.

Creating a dialogue between outer and inner bodies, the show offered an experiential jump from micro to macro. The experience evolved from the cellular level to the outer figure with the works of Maria Estabanell. The artist showed two video pieces which explored the body in movement, either abstracted, or choreographed in a video piece co-directed by Spanish dancer and video editor, Adrien Blu.

In the centre of the room, Xuan Liu’s large sound installation invited audience interaction to hear the body in movement. The viewer could activate the installation, pressing a pedal to hear black balloons moving together, as if a heartbeat. The monumental size scaled the viewer back inside the body, hearing its movement from inside.

The show was complete with a performance piece bringing the three artists together to interact with their work in a new dimension. The artists used their bodies to create rhythm and sounds powered by Xuan Liu’s instruments.

Working with these three talented artists was an exciting learning experience—and we are probably going to collaborate as a curatorial team again in the future.

— Claire di Felice and Alexis Sarfati

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