Curating the International Diaspora: Sharjah 2016

Curating the International Diaspora: Sharjah

March 2016 

ICF selected eight UK-based curators to be delegates invited to participate in the 2016 Sharjah Art Foundation March Meeting as a professional development opportunity. 

Selected participants included: 
Paul Goodwin (Director, TrAIN) 
Marlene Smith (Artist) 
David Dibosa (Tutor, MA Curating at Chelsea College of Art) 
Allison Thompson (Curator and Delfina Foundation Resident)
Melanie Keen (Director, Iniva) 
Sophie Orlando (Independent curator) 
Yasmina Reggad (Independent curator) 
Jessica Taylor (ICF Team and Independent curator)

The group attended keynote lectures, panel discussions and screenings by notable professionals, and attended these events alongside colleagues from partner orgainsations such as the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Dubai Art Fair, using the Meeting as a networking opportunity to investigate the potential for future collaborations. This gathering of arts professionals is one of the key events in the arts calendar, and the 2016 iteration focused on Education, Engagement and Participation, exploring how institutions, initiatives, curators and artists have increasingly prioritised their relationships with audiences and communities through these three arenas. 

This trip formed part of the research and development for the Curating the International Diaspora programme, which involved working with curators and artists from culturally diverse backgrounds across five countries between March 2016 and March 2017. By attending and participating in events in London, the Caribbean, Sharjah during the Sharjah Biennial and Gwangju during the Gwangju Biennial, a group of arts practitioners were able to experience and engage with some of most relevant projects and professionals addressing contemporary art and curatorial practice, and to network with a global artistic community, thus offering exceptional opportunities for professional development.

Curating The International Diaspora was an integrated 24-month programme that builds upon ICF’s expansive existing international networks, cultural partnerships and expertise. The project established new knowledge in the relationship between the study of cultural diasporas and contemporary curating, made possible by a programme of focused public events to be held in the UK, the UAE region, South Korea and the Caribbean between 2016 and 2017.

Curating The International Diaspora saw the development of different programmes at each site that took the shape of public conferences and programmes, exhibition and biennial tours, workshops and studio visits with artists to collectively explore three themes:

  1. What is the impact of cultural diasporas on the field of contemporary visual art curatorship in particular? 
  2. Which patterns of migration have been evident in the field of contemporary art curating? 
  3. How have contemporary curators represented diaspora through their projects?

The Sharjah Art Foundation would become a partner for the Curating the International Diaspora programme, along with Asia Art Centre in Gwangju and University of the Arts London in London. 

Mirage, 20 Years On

Mirage, 20 Years On

ICA London

Mirage, 20 Years On was a symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the the groundbreaking exhibition Mirage: Enigmas Of Race, Difference & Desire curated by ICF Creative Director David A. Bailey and organised in partnership with Iniva. The symposium, which took place on 20 October 2015, set out to ask the questions:

‘If the 1995 exhibition marked a moment of considering the importance of Franz Fanon and ways in which his writings on post-colonialism, identity, cinema and psychoanalysis intertwined with artistic practices and race, then what should the contemporary moment reflect upon? Where are we now in relation to structural violence, de-colonising culture and relations, and the power of aesthetics and its explorations of complex formations of racial identities?’

The symposium was organised in three parts:
1. Platforms and the desire for institutional frameworks
2. Networks and circulations of agency and resistance
3. Mediated bodies and the techno-diaspora  

And the speakers included:
Greg de Cuir Jr. (Writer)
Evan Ifekoya (Artist)
Lyle Ashton Harris (Artist)
Allison Thompson (Independent Curator)
Morgan Quaintance (Independent Curator)
Melanie Keen (Director, Iniva)
Yasmina Reggad (Independent Curator)
Osei Bonsu (Independent Curator)

The symposium was organised by ICF in partnership with University of the Arts London, the Curating Contemporary Art Programme at the Royal College of Art, Live Art Development Agency and Tiwani Contemporary. Funding and support came from Arts Council England, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research Harvard University and Henry Louis Gates Jr.



Live Art Development Agency, London

In 1995 ICF’s Creative Director David A Bailey curated the exhibition Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference & Desire at the ICA in collaboration with Iniva. This landmark project marked a moment of considering the importance of Franz Fanon and ways in which his writings on post-colonialism, identity, cinema and psychoanalysis intertwined with artistic practices and race.

Research into the legacy of this project has been made possible with funding from the Arts Council England and part of that research involved a discussion event with artists from the original Mirage project and artists from subsequent generations, in order to reflect on the contemporary moment in relation to structural violence, de-colonising culture and relations, and the power of aesthetics and its explorations of complex formations of racial identities.

This became a timely opportunity to look back at Mirage and review the present and future conditions in relation to the thematic structure set up by the original project.

Contributors to the conversation included:
Keith Khan
Barby Asante
Ria Hartley
Selina Thomson
Jamila Johnson Small
Alexandrina Helmsley

To hear an audio recording of the event click here

Tactical Interventions at the 56th Venice Biennale

Tactical Interventions at the 56th Venice Biennale 


During the opening days of the 56th Venice Biennale (May 6-9 2015), ICF in partnership with University of the Arts London and supported by Arts Council England, curated a public programme of events with a group of UK-based curators and artists. The group was selected as a result of an open call out to practitioners to join the ICF team in Venice to actively participate and report back on the events. 

The selected curators and artists included: 
Teresa Cisneros 
Tamar Clarke-Brown
Kasia Sobucka
Kelvin Okafor
Khadija Saye
Ray Fiasco 
Lubna Ashraf

Programme of Events:

ICF held an informal discussion on Sarah Lucas’ work at the British Pavilion, led by Jessica Taylor, Adelaide Bannerman & Teresa Cisneros on Friday 8 May   

Exhibiting artist Graham Fagen gave the group a guided tour of his work in the Scottish Pavilion on Friday 8 May   

Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi of the Sharjah Art Foundation, which partnered with ICF on the Curating the International Diaspora programme, gave the group a tour of the United Arab Emirates pavilion in the Arsenale and invited the group to a networking event for the UAE pavilion at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum on Curator’s tour of the UAE Pavilion on Saturday 9 May 

ICF supported and participated in the 2015 Venice Agendas public symposium. The theme for this edition of VA was Crossing Boundaries – an open brief, which considered the many ways art not only trespasses geographical territories but how it crosses cultural, political and artistic boundaries.

ICF Creative Director David A. Bailey participated in a panel discussion under the title Closed Borders: Whose Boycott is it Anyway? which addressed the recent questioning of geographical boundaries globally, both democratically and by force, and the withdrawal of support by some European countries for various International artists and institutions that acts effectively as a boycott with cultural events being altered by political agendas. It set out to ask the questions: Is this a genuine support for civil rights or a convenient way for governments to play politics with culture; a boycott as a medieval throw back to the days of blockades and siege.  What is a boycott for, who is meant to benefit, who is meant to suffer?

Other speakers included Gilane Tawadros (Director of DACS), Sacha Craddock (curator/writer), Anna Bitkina,(co founder of Creative Association of Curators TOK, Russia), Sue Williamson (artist), Vassiliki Tzanakou, (curator/writer)  and Emeka Okereke (Artist, Founder and Artistic Director of Invisible Borders – The Trans-African project). 

ICF Chairman Mark Waugh and collaborator JW Stella chaired a panel entitled Open Borders: Where are you from? with speakers Marita Isobel Solberg (a musician, a visual artist and poet. A nomad of the world), Richard Demarco (curator of cross-cultural links, presenting artists such as Joseph Bueys and Marina Abramovic) Tony Heaton ( artist, Chief Executive SHAPE), Ala Younis (Artist and curator based in Amman) Gaynor O’Flynn (artist and pioneer in interactive, inter disciplinary art). 

The discussion considered identity – asking the question ‘do artists belong to one culture or are they citizens of the world?’ There has always been an appropriation of artist’s heritage, but does art and culture belong to everyone? Debate asks questions about statehood, effects of global migration on cultural boundaries, and if it matters where you are from?

The 2015 Venice Biennale was of huge importance to the group given the ground-breaking work of its artistic director Okwui Enwezor and his connections to the ICF. Entitled All the World’s Futures, Enwezor’s Biennale explored “The ruptures that surround and abound around every corner of the global landscape today recall the evanescent debris of previous catastrophes piled at the feet of the angel of history in Angelus Novus. How can the current disquiet of our time be properly grasped, made comprehensible, examined, and articulated? Over the course of the last two centuries the radical changes have made new and fascinating ideas subject matter for artists, writers, filmmakers, performers, composers, musicians. It is with this recognition that the 56th International Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia proposes All the World’s Futures a project devoted to a fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things”.

This trip would act as a springboard for launching the Diaspora Pavilion and Beyond the Frame professional development programmes. Both Khadija Saye and Kasia Sobucka would participate in those programmes, and Okwui Enwezor would later lead two masterclasses for ICF’s Beyond the Frame programme, one in February 2017 at Haus der Kunst in Munch and the other in Kassel in July 2017, during which he discussed his 2002 Documenta exhibition alongside curator Mark Nash and artist Isaac Julien, who would also become a mentor for and exhibiting artist in the Diaspora Pavilion project. 

On Interpretation

On Interpretation

CCW Graduate School, London

On 27 November 2014 ICF presented a panel discussion with speakers Robert Storr, Bernd Behr and Rebecca Heald at CCW Graduate School. On Interpretation explored the relationship between the exhibition maker and the interpretation of the artist’s work, especially in the context of the Venice Biennale. The evening began with a keynote presentation by Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art who, in 2007, was the first American Commissioner of the Venice Biennale and has been described as a vital link between the museum world and academia. His presentation was followed by a panel discussion chaired by David A Bailey, Visiting Professor at CCW and the Creative Director of ICF.  Panel members included Rebecca Heald, independent curator and tutor for the Royal College of Art Curating Contemporary Art programme and Bernd Behr, artist, lecturer in photography at UAL and participant in the 2013 Venice Biennale Taiwan Pavilion. 

Audio recording: