Curating talent

Updated: Feb 21, 2024 By Yang Xiaoyu CHINA DAILY Print
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The Via Combusta features Map of Shaman, a video installation created by Gu Tao in 2023. CHINA DAILY

Imagining imagery

Rong Rong says excellent curators, with extensive theoretical knowledge and a discerning eye for talent, act as a bridge connecting artists with the public. They catalyze the rise of artists with their research-backed curations.

Over the last three years, 150 young curators and curatorial teams have jostled for the award, according to the organizers.

The creative duo, Gan Yingying and Zhou Yichen, picked up the third Curatorial Award for Photography and Moving Image for their project, The Via Combusta, at the festival's ninth edition, which wrapped up on Jan 21.

In addition to receiving a cash prize of 100,000 yuan ($14,100), the pair will receive sponsorship to turn their winning project into two exhibitions at Shanghai's Fotografiska and Beijing's Three Shadows, and go on a mentorship and exchange program in Europe this year.

Curators must submit a proposal outlining the theme, concept, budget, artworks and public education programs for their projects. An academic committee composed of experienced art historians, critics and curators vets the proposals and selects 10 projects for further consideration. The creators of the long-listed projects then meet with a five-member jury, which shortlists five projects for the award. The finalists' projects are exhibited together at the festival, and undergo final judgment by an international jury.

"The finalists' exhibition serves as an arena for testing the imagination and concepts of new curatorial talent. Their well-prepared curatorial projects are pointed and cutting-edge in their thematic focuses, and are valuable case studies on how to enhance the academic aspect of photography," says Gu Zheng, who is a curator, art critic and member of the Jimei x Arles art committee.

The jury commended Gan's and Zhou's research process, serious approach and creative exhibition layout.

The Via Combustafeatures Pyramids and Parabolas II, a video installation created in 2021 by Wang Ninghui. CHINA DAILY

Both hold a master's degree in photography from Western universities and are known for their performance-based photos. They describe their forays into curation as an organic and spontaneous evolution through years of involvement with their artistic communities.

The duo are based in Shanghai and Beijing, respectively. Gan works closely with members of Bujism, an artist platform that she co-founded in the ancient town of Zhujiajiao in suburban Shanghai. Zhou associates with creatives of MiA Collective Art, a platform she co-founded where artists collaborate on curated themes.

"We are both keen on doing things for our communities and are busy organizing collaborative projects, interviewing artists, writing articles to promote them and putting on shows, which have gradually made us curators," Gan says.

They say that although they were not trained in curatorial studies, they went about their projects as if they were creating art.

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