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Artists become curators with the SCU Curatorial Lab

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Words
Sharlene King
Published
6 February 2014

The SCU Curatorial Lab will launch its first public exhibition this weekend (Saturday February 8), with a sound and video installation in the Lismore Regional Gallery.

A new initiative at Southern Cross University, SCU Curatorial Lab is a forum for students from a range of disciplines to conceive, organise and participate in the production of exhibitions, events, lectures and critical publications, with emphasis on creative collaborations between students, academic staff, industry professionals, and institutional partners like the Lismore Regional Gallery, Murwillumbah’s Tweed River Art Gallery, and Lone Goat Gallery at Byron Bay.

Overseeing the SCU Curatorial Lab is Dr Wes Hill, course coordinator of the new Creative Arts degree (being offered from session 1 2014) and a lecturer in visual art theory.

“In conceiving the Lab, I wanted students to grasp the idea of practice-based research and to consider how, when formulating exhibitions of their own work, they are essentially engaging in a curatorial capacity,” said Dr Hill.

“Curating can simply mean organising and managing creative projects – whether they are staged in an art gallery or not doesn’t matter. I also want students to see art history as full of artists who acted as their own curators – dealing with their own publicity, manifestos or discourse, and organising their own exhibition spaces. From Impressionism to the birth of conceptual art, artists have consistently engaged in curatorial practice, they just called it something else.”

Dr Isabelle Delmotte’s sound and video installation, ‘Sounding Out Frames’, on show from February 8 to March 30, is the first of a series of exhibitions at Lismore Regional Gallery that the SCU Curatorial Lab will be involved with, utilising the Gallery’s ‘24:7 Window’ space. The exhibition explores ambient noise and its role in cinematic language. Dr Delmotte is a Byron Bay-based practising digital artist who completed her PhD in Media Studies at SCU last year.

Students working as part of the SCU Curatorial Lab during session 1 will be given the opportunity to reflect upon Dr Delmotte’s work as part of their coursework, while also creatively responding to the exhibition by conceiving their own curatorial projects, to be staged as part of the ‘24:7 Window’ program later in the year, or at other affiliated institutions in the Northern Rivers region.

Other SCU artists exhibiting in the ‘24:7 Window’ space this year as part of the SCU Curatorial Lab are Jitka Donnelly (April) and Brigette Lucas (June).

Dr Hill said both the new Creative Arts degree and the SCU Curatorial Lab underlined the importance of self-initiated projects, interdisciplinary practice and collaboration with local communities.

“The Creative Arts course offers students more flexibility to work between the existing creative faculties at SCU, enabling students to combine different artistic disciplines with specialty units on project management and community engagement. ‘Trans-disciplinarity’ and ‘cross-disciplinarity’ have become important in all fields of the arts in recent years, providing potential employability advantages, and creating new lines of work in non-traditional employment sectors.

“The Creative Arts degree is designed to foster the innovative ways in which creative people can move between disciplines, including the skills required for career self-management, which essentially means teaching students how to manage their practice like it’s a small, mobile business. The SCU Curatorial Lab similarly encourages students to think about career sustainability, formulating their own creative research areas and then bringing these ideas to fruition as content for exhibitions.”

Along with the Lismore Regional Gallery, this year there will be an ongoing program of exhibitions in the SCU Library (at the Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Gold Coast campuses), along with two fortnightly blocks at the Lone Goat Gallery, Byron Bay.

The SCU Curatorial Lab also has ongoing collaborative relationships with Tweed River Art Gallery, Grafton Regional Gallery and Queensland Art Gallery.

The Lab is also involved in organising guest artist lectures and talks about curating and community engagement. Susi Mudiman from the Tweed River Art Gallery will deliver a guest lecture at Lismore campus later in the year, reflecting on her experiences as a curator, and her initiation of the Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah. Peter McKay, curator of Contemporary Australian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery, was the Lab’s inaugural speaker in 2013.

Photo: Dr Wes Hill.