Curating and exhibiting visual culture in times of coronavirus

Pink knitted ball with metal nails inserted to represent Coronavirus

Series Conveners:

Stephanie Dennison (Languages, Cultures and Societies)
Thea Pitman (Languages, Cultures and Societies)
Simon Popple (Media and Communication)
Gill Park (Fine Art)

Series overview

The overarching research question that this interdisciplinary scoping project seeks to answer is: what are the challenges and opportunities presented by lockdown/post-lockdown for curation and exhibition of visual art, both in the UK and abroad?

There is currently much discussion about the impact of COVID-19 isolation measures on the physical spaces where we experience visual culture (cinemas, art galleries, etc), The extent to which governments are providing support for both the physical spaces, the exhibits and the staff who run the sites varies considerably.

Many galleries and museums are seeking to mitigate closures with the impromptu curation of online exhibitions and live-streamed guided tours of their collections and increasing numbers of films made for theatrical exhibition are now being screened and viewed online, often in partnership with film theatres.

The boundaries of curation are being further stretched by a range of ad-hoc social-media initiatives such as the seemingly never-ending film lists being produced by housebound filmmakers.

Rather than viewing this shift in the exhibition of visual culture from the material to the digital world in “isolation” (pardon the pun), we propose to contextualise it within ongoing advances in technology and new media, a context that has been theorised since at least the turn of the new millennium (Graham and Cook; Mirapaul; Elsaesser; Pitman), and also as part of a process of movement among exhibition spaces that dates further back still (the phenomena of movies made for art galleries, video art, mixed-media exhibitions as part of film festivals, etc).

We are particularly interested in examining the impact (if any) that this shift is having on the promotion of and access to artworks produced by women and ethnic minorities.

As well as examining the experience in Yorkshire and elsewhere in the UK, we will also look to curatorial and exhibiting practices in Brazil.

Brazil adds an interesting comparative dimension to these discussions, given that much work has been carried out recently in terms of “democratising” the access to culture, and with regard to questioning the so-called lugar de fala, or who has the right to speak for whom when it comes to artistic representation.

This Sadler seminar series will bring together scholars working in Film Studies, Digital Humanities, Cultural Studies, Media and Communication, Fine Art and Museum and Gallery Studies in University of Leeds, along with academics and arts-related partners in the UK and Brazil working in art curation and exhibition and film and video archives. A significant feature of the series is to broker new research relationships both between colleagues in University of Leeds and with external stakeholders.

Events in the Series

Curating and Exhibiting Visual Culture in Times of Coronavirus: Online Workshop (November 30 2020)

Curating Black Cinema with Janaina Oliveira (Brazil) on curating black diaspora films (January 18 2021)

Curating Indigenous Art with Sandra Benites (Brazil) on indigenous art curation (February 18 2021)

Interactive online summing up event with details to follow (26 May 2021)

Blogs Related to the Series

Film Circulation in Times of Coronavirus (January 2021)

A blog post by Dr Rachel Johnson (Associate Lecturer in Film Studies University of Leeds)

On the 17th of January 2020, as the threat presented by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) became clear, cinemas in parts of China began to close. These closures soon became global, causing practices of film circulation – on- and offline film exhibition and distribution – to shift at a rapidly accelerating speed. The first month, even some of the first days, following cinema closures in China contained the kernel of several other changes that would, too, become more widespread

This blog post is based on a rapid review of emerging film circulation practices in July – September 2020, with significant updates being added were possible.