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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Julia Jiang

Julia Jiang (b. 2000) is a London-based creative whose practice entails curating, writing and research. She completed a BA in Fine Art, specialising in silk painting at Wimbledon College of Arts, University of the Arts in London, and an MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art. Her practice explores the inevitable amalgamation of materiality and its intimate relationship with display, facilitating a kind of accessibility that extends beyond the physical.

Jiang’s current research navigates spaces of the cross-cultural through writing and dialogue. Whilst studying at the Royal College of Art, she has developed a journal article published in a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal: ‘Transcultural Curation and the Post-Covid World’, in the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (9.3) in Autumn 2022.

a curated market in Beijing.

My parents are from Shanghai and immigrated to the UK in 1998, so I grew up in Birmingham is a sentence I know like the back of my hand. As a British-born Chinese, wandering between the two cultures steers me to confront the notion of ‘absence’. The absence of physical territory, of the intricacies and full exposure to my mother tongue, of the innate sense of belonging. One gives ‘absence’ a profound presence through the internal manifestation of the recognition or remembrance of something. If the linguistic becomes absent, or we eradicate it from the equation, how do we begin to construct a new language? My research extends beyond linguistic translation to comprehend the kind of translation that encompasses the curatorial: a process to mitigate the cultural gaps, to unpack and reinterpret the hidden stories, ideas, understandings and values behind objects and materials in encountered spaces. This new mode of translation can be revealed in various forms – how can attitudes, gentle hospitality and quiet gestures operate deeper than the linguistic? My practice navigates ways in which transcultural conversation has a vigour to generate a fresh, shared space for thinking and knowledge-making through personal experiences and collective memories in a globalised world.

I have been considering ‘the curatorial’ as a research field of exhibition making, examining how the exhibition is not a static entity, but a living form that is expansive, relational, and dialogical. My research and practice explores how the universally shared experience of ‘play’ functions as a way of engaging with audience that prompts new ways of looking and thinking. Bridging the everyday and the art realm, what are the ways in which this concept can facilitate cross-cultural and cross-generational conversation through the curatorial? As a practice that is nested in pertinence, it is critical to explore contemporary curating as a collaborative site of knowledge production, learning and unlearning, facilitating a space where social relationships can be formed and nurtured.

'Activating' workshop from the project 'To Be Here With You', led by artist Rie Nakajima, 2023.
'To Be Here With You', a series of workshops, 2023.

Graduate Project: 'To Be Here With You'

To Be Here With You recognises a desire for reconnection through a series of five workshops. These sessions begin with a responsive walk through Southwark Park, followed by a guided workshop in Southwark Park Galleries’ Salter Space. Each workshop explores the sacred rituals of our everyday routines, ancient mythologies, earthly knowledge or pagan beliefs. The project explores dynamic spaces of collectivity, participation and shared thinking. The workshops open pathways for audiences to appreciate the spaces we inhabit, to rediscover the spiritual aspects of nature, and to value our intimate routines as something sacred.

The workshops are open to the public, aiming to be inclusive to park visitors as well as those who have a specific interest in each session’s topic. Attendees have the choice to re-visit multiple workshops as an additional act of ritual and gathering. At the end of this three-week period, a private closing ceremony will celebrate the journey of collective learning and knowledge-making.

To Be Here With You is curated by Ghost Collective: Marjian Tsatsaros Tyagi, Julia Jiang, Ana Escoto, Youjia Qian, Chuqing Feng, Caspar Danuser, Esther Liu, Sophie Nowakowska, and Nathan Yeomans from the MA Curating Contemporary Art Programme as part of the Graduate Projects 2023, Royal College of Art in partnership with Southwark Park Galleries. 

'To Be Here With You' workshop led by Rie Nakajima
Participant at 'Activating' workshop from the project 'To Be Here With You', led by artist Rie Nakajima, 2023.
Rie Nakajima, 'Activating' workshop from the project 'To Be Here With You', 2023.
Rie Nakajima, 'Activating' workshop from the project 'To Be Here With You', 2023.