De Ying Foundation

10-13 October, 2022

Three day seminar (organized for online attendance) for its Curatorial Fellows, with guest speakers Khadim Ali (artist); Mira Asringtyas (curator) and Lê Thuận Uyên (curator). Curated and moderated by Zoe Butt.

It was a pleasure to be invited to curate a seminar program for the the Curatorial Fellows of the De Ying Foundation, Shanghai, led by Head of Academic Initiatives, Karen Smith (a curator and historian dedicated to the landscape of contemporary Chinese art). These four inspiring Fellows shared the dilemmas they are currently facing in this emerging curatorial profession in China – such talent interested in experimental forms of art not embraced by the dominant museum institutions, facing limited opportunities to learn and thus curate foreign talent, while also aware of too many topics that are considered too sensitive to socially/politically engage (this symptom particularly relatable to Vietnam, where conditions are similar).

How to encourage the agency of curators as change-makers inside and outside art institutions? How to be able to begin difficult conversations with respect of our elders, whilst also ushering in new ways and means of thinking ‘creativity’? How do we give recognition to our localities on a global scale of engagement, from wherever we are? Such questions arose in invited conversations, organized by ‘in-tangible institute’, with artist Khadim Ali and curators Mira Asriningtyas and Lê Thuận Uyên. With these three dynamic individuals we heard the power of living diasporic memory and the trials and tribulations faced by the art world’s expectation that we must ‘represent’ each identity we ancestrally possess (Khadim shared his process of working between Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia and Australia); of how the commitment to our curatorial independent projects can build unique local networks of support that goes above and beyond financially enabling the encounter of art (Mira shared her biennial: www.900mdpl.com); and of how a curatorial realization that one’s artistic community will struggle to survive without access to education and exposure to contemporary art can prompt bold commitment to actually having a hand in building appropriate arts infrastructure (Uyen surveyed the current landscape of Vietnam’s art ecology and the necessity for the arts initiative she is soon to direct – The Outpost – in Hanoi).

It was particularly fruitful to hear of the passions, concerns, struggles and dreams of the four accomplished Fellows in the room – Yuan Fuca, Jia Li, Ling Gu and Gwedoline Kam Cho-ning – who were grateful for the De Ying and the chance to take 18 months to focus and engage a multiple of arts practitioners in their approach to their craft. For curating is a craft. And it is sincerely hoped that we can build exchange between houses of culture that nurture this thus.

The De Ying Curatorial Fellowship program is a full-time 18-month programme, whose first cohort began in February 2022. It provides a platform to support talented individuals in China looking to develop their experience of exhibition-making within the field of contemporary art.