People, Power and Curating

A Symposium held at the Turner Contemporary, on Friday 27th April

This event was presented in conjunction with the  Journeys with ‘The Waste Land’ exhibition in Margate. This exhibition was the culmination of a three year project designed to develop a pioneering approach to curating. Local residents, coming together as the Waste land Research Group, have developed the entire exhibition. ( For more information https://www.turnercontemporary.org/exhibitions/journeys-with-the-waste-land)

Journeys with 'The Waste Land' was a major exhibition exploring the significance of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land through the visual arts. In 1921, T.S. Eliot spent a few weeks in Margate at a crucial moment in his career. He arrived in a fragile state, physically and mentally, and worked on The Waste Land sitting in the Nayland Rock shelter on Margate Sands. The poem was published the following year, and proved to be a pivotal and influential modernist work, reflecting on the fractured world in the aftermath of the First World War as well as Eliot’s own personal crisis.

The research group worked together since 2015, and this project represents a new model for Turner Contemporary working together with local community. The group was open to anyone to join, and the make up of members evolved as time went on. They developed new ways of working together, sub groups, that met is different spaces, and tested different methods of looking at the text. For example debating in the library, performing it with a sound group in a gallery space, meeting in a pub, and of course in the shelter by the sea. They explored the whole town as part of the project.

Every person that was involved with the project spoke about how much of a life changer it had been, to be part of this process. They had made new friends. One lady, Laura Shawyer said she had started off not wanting to read the poem at all, but had ended up reading it publicly to audiences.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, but I haven't been able to write a full account. So instead I have listed some of my notes, and quotes from the various speakers and the discussions. 

 Trish Scott talking about the process, she worked together with the research group for 2 years leading up to the opening of the exhibition.

Trish Scott talking about the process, she worked together with the research group for 2 years leading up to the opening of the exhibition.

How can groups work together to make stronger decisions?
How to ensure that loud voices don’t dominate and support less confident in sharing their opinion?
Its about openess and respect for individuals
Having an ability to let go of control is important.
 Rachel Anderson ( Idle Woman )

Rachel Anderson (Idle Woman)

Changing the institute from within in hard. You can’t tear down a masters house by using his tools.
We live in a context of white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, and it is vital we acknowledge this.
Artist and makers have the power to create safe spaces that can not be taken away from us.
We are caretakers. The caretaker has more power than the headteacher.
Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.
 Words from the discussion scribed onto the windows

Words from the discussion scribed onto the windows

 Antony Gormley sculpture is seen beyond the word 'Community'

Antony Gormley sculpture is seen beyond the word 'Community'

 A sign on the sea front.

A sign on the sea front.

nicole mollett