Tell us about your time at ECA
I chose the MA in Contemporary Art Theory because I wanted to learn about the structures of the art world and the theories underpinning its systems: exhibition histories, why certain artists are deemed to be good or important, why particular works are valued over others, who decides this, the demographics of the authors in our footnotes, how these systems when they reproduce inequality can be challenged and unfurled, what takes their place... I wanted to develop a critical framework for curating and writing.
Another reason for choosing the programme was that it offered a combined focus on writing, curating and visual art practice and at that point, having just finished a painting degree and beginning to pursue my interests in curating and writing, I wasn't sure where to put my focus. I had some brilliant and engaging tutors at ECA, including Dr Susannah Thompson and Dr Angela McClanahan.
The MA was the start of my collaborations with the wonderful artist and writer Suzanne van der Lingen, who was doing the Contemporary Art Practice course at the same time. We began to work together when she invited me to contribute to a publication as part of her degree show and after graduating we became guest co-editors of MAP magazine for 2016 under the directorship of Alice Bain and Laura Edbrook (who was one of Suzanne’s tutors at ECA).
Tell us about your experiences since leaving ECA
Last December I started a new job as the assistant curator in the Collections department at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), where I work as part of a small team curating, caring for and developing the national collection of modern and contemporary art.
Before this, I worked as a curatorial assistant at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art from 2015-2017, where I assisted with the delivery of the exhibitions programme, and collections care and research. I learned so much from my colleagues there about exhibition making, working with collections, and Scottish art and artists.
Crossovers between editing and curating have always been part of my practice. Before I was involved with MAP magazine, I was co-editor of the online journal Occupy Paper, a tandem publishing leg of Limerick artist-run gallery Occupy Space. MAP co-directors Alice and Laura gave Suzanne and I the most incredible opportunity by offering us the guest-editorship in 2016. MAP is a non-profit organisation based in Scotland dedicated to the discussion and support of artist-led writing, publishing and curatorial production. Our editorial project, Footnoting the Archive, set out to introduce the newly digitised MAP archive as an active site for artistic production and intervention. As part of this, we worked with almost 40 artists and writers, using the MAP platform to disseminate new work and ideas in a supportive, collaborative setting.
Some highlights from this for me were Say-so, a screening at Glasgow Film Festival curated by Lyndsay Mann, Footnoting the Archive a performance and screening event at Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Holly Pester's series of 'magical correspondences' with the MAP archive. Suzanne and I were awarded an ECA Alumni Micro-Residency in 2016 where we presented Endnotes, and our collaborative work was further supported by ECA when Chancellor's Fellow Maria Fusco invited us to curate a day-long programme, This can only be thought of as a monologue within a dialogue, for the 2017 School of Art Friday Lecture series.
Make the most of the critical forum at your disposal while you are studying and try to continue these conversations after you graduate. I found being involved in short-term projects like Curatorial Studio (a peer-learning environment for early career curators from across Scotland that I was part of in 2016) good for my practice in terms of meeting and working with people with similar interests. Residencies are another good way to do this. IMMA host a supported residency programme which posts open calls for applicants from time to time so keep an eye out for those!
Write. I found writing and being forced to publish it via signing myself up to write art reviews and short essays very helpful in articulating wider thoughts about art. I would say push yourself to do this if you can.