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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Dana Shinkar

Evolving from Chisenhale Gallery’s brief, and our initial proposal to broaden notions of motherhood, our project delves into the dynamics of unconventional kinship in contemporary society. Titled Un/tied, our project strives to communicate the multitude of forms of kinship that extend beyond traditional biological frameworks. In Un/tied, we aim to reflect upon and recognise interweaving and diverse forms of kinship that are not necessarily limited to hereditary ties. Our approach involves a collective search for new possibilities and emergent structures.

Designed as an intimate reading room, complete with a curated library, the display is crafted to foster dialogue and interrogate how contemporary kinship is imagined, created and sustained. The library showcases relevant works that analyse concepts of kinship and study its manifestation in material, human and non-human, and temporal contexts. These texts are presented alongside portraits and films, which consider alternative and queer forms of kinship. Sculptures by artist Clementine Edwards invite viewers to think about material kinship beyond the nuclear family.

Our programmed live element focuses specifically on kinship within the trans community. Featuring artist Donna Marcus Duke with collaborators Biogal, Amani and Jetsün Shenkyong-ma, the event incorporates elements of lecturing and cabaret. Radical, political, and spiritual expressions of trans kinship are explored through a series of readings and performances. The event aims to nurture a sense of community while simultaneously challenging established norms and navigating societal challenges and prejudices.

Image credits: Me and My Dad Will Build a Whole Kingdom of Stuff I Find on This Playground by Tomorrow Morning (Details) Clementine Edwards (2023). Photo: Simon Vogel

Dana Shinkar: Curator from Saudi Arabia

As a critical witness to the cultural metamorphosis engulfing Saudi Arabia, I deepened my explorations on the social dynamics underlying gendered identities, roles, and power structures.

Amongst the significant outcomes of the Kingdom’s sociocultural changes is the progressive departure of women from their private spheres into public realms. Therefore, Saudi women are enabled and required to (re) negotiate and (re) address how their bodies, voices, and identity will mediate in these new spaces and create a (new) sense of belonging. Centred on female identity and representation, my curatorial thinking examines the social and spatial dynamics of public and private spheres.

Concurrently, the art scene is undergoing a burgeoning awakening, which avails the critical potential of creative practice in the (re) imagination of a new reality within contemporary Saudi society. I believe exhibitions have the opportunity to act as social agents within a community. Acknowledging the expansive role of a curator as a vector of power and change, I aim to organize exhibitions and public programs that stimulate exploratory dialogue, counter narrative erasure, and circulate new knowledge.

This garnered my curiosity towards the exploration of curatorial practices that prompt audiences to renounce familiar modes of thinking and perceptions. With a focus on methods of audience engagement, I evaluate the ways in which the works act upon, (re) produce, and recalibrate viewers’ positions. More specifically, I engaged with theories surrounding embodiment and affective encounters in the exhibition space.

My curatorial research project examines and employs intimate encounters and empathetic engagement within the exhibition space to facilitate transformative experiences for social change. By blurring the boundaries between the private and public within creative practices, I appraise the profound impact of depicting personal narratives and experiences to affirm and transform the current actualities of females.