Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern and speaker at W Project x Tate Exchange symposium

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It is an absolute honour to have Tate Modern’s director, Frances Morris speaking at our W Project x Tate Exchange symposium tomorrow evening! As the innovative thinker and visionary that is Frances Morris, she’s been an incredible inspiration to us and many generations of creative women. She has played a significant role in the development of Tate over the past decades since she joined the British art institution as a curator in 1987. In 2000 she was appointed Head of Displays, then Director of Collection, International Art before becoming Tate Modern’s first female director in April 2016. Morris has been an advocate champion of female artists throughout her career, curating major retrospectives of artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin and Louise Bourgeois. But her focus doesn’t lie exclusively on women, Frances Morris promotes diversity on all levels, making sure artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds are being seen and heard.

The topic of diversity has always been present in Frances Morris’ work, be it inside or outside of the gallery space. As someone who knows education is a key factor in this, she is a firm believer in the importance of art in education, state education as well as fair and unlimited access to art. In an interview with Charlotte Higgins for The Guardian, Morris shares how she intends to push Tate Modern forward,“It will be both a much more international programme and one that reflects the composition of the city we live in…It’s a public collection, and I’m an old-fashioned public servant, but I am super-serving a certain type of public at the moment.” Frances Morris is referring to the importance of diversifying not only the artists being showcased but also the audience visiting the gallery space, “We don’t have an audience that reflects the communities or economic groups that live within our vicinity. The fantastic opportunity with this new [Tate Modern] building is that we are a gateway to south London now. Growing up in south London, I had the National Maritime Museum at the end of my street, and that had a huge impact on my life. If it rained I went to the museum, and I had fantastic experiences, really deep early experiences. I would love to think that Tate Modern could not only be the world’s most popular contemporary and modern art museum, but one of the best local museums in the country.”

As an internationally esteemed curator she is respected for her clarity of vision and always having a firm grasp on what is happening, in art as well as on a global scale. Which is why it’s no surprise she’s been considered one of Tate Modern’s boldest curators, significantly shaping the museum’s character. Particularly in its early stages, when alongside Iwona Blazwick, Morris curated the opening displays in an non-chronological manner, showcasing contemporary art next to Monet and Matisse. A highly controversial move at the time that would later on be emulated in gallery spaces and museums all over the world

There is no question that Frances Morris has changed and shaped the way we experience art but is also an inspiration and motivation for every creative to think outside the box. We can’t wait the hear her speak about what she considers to be the future of curation alongside curators and creatives Cairo Clarke and Caroline Simionescu-Marin as well as our co-hosts, Leyla Tahir and Kusheda Mensah.

BORN n BREAD collective at W Project x Tate Exchange symposium

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It wouldn’t be a special evening without the right tunes setting the mood. Which is why we are very excited the incredible ladies from BORN n BREAD will join our W Project x Tate Exchange symposium with a special DJ set! BORN n BREAD is a collective consisting of friends Adelaide Lawson, Abigail Jackson, Olivia Jackson, Chika Wilson and Stephanie Sesay. After feeling young, black women weren’t properly represented in the media they formed the collective in 2013 and created their first BORN n BREAD zine to explore topics of music, culture and nostalgia that wouldn’t have an outlet otherwise. Apart from filling a niche with their unapologetic zine that is now in its third issue (African Tales), BORN n BREAD have become a constant in London’s music scene serving the finest in hip hop and r’n’b as NTS radio hosts and DJs at events such as Gal Dem’s V&A takeover, Rising Soundclash at Roundhouse Rising Festival and NTS x Uniqlo Tate Lates among many, many others.

W Project spoke to these inspiring women, asking them what the fine art world and mainstream culture can learn from the creative underground scene in terms of diversity, “With the rise of DIY culture there has been an influx of artist reverting back to reality as an art form. We were verging back to our culture and environments and finding the beauty in where we come from which is great to draw inspiration from. For example, familiar landscapes,  fashion or even figures which is something even someone who does not understand the literature behind fine art can find an understanding and relate to.”

In the past years we’ve seen an amazing ascent of female crews such as BORN n BREAD, bringing their own ideas and projects to life, filling the gap and representing women that have been underrepresented for too long. Coming all together during events reminds us at W Project why we are doing what we are doing which is why we asked BORN n BREAD why they think regular events like the W Project x Tate Exchange symposium remain such an important part of the process towards a more diverse representation of artists, be it inside or outside of the gallery space, “Bridging the gap and breaking down the ideals of who belongs to what space is very important to us. Seeing people in our age group, social class and environment is extremely important for young people and also ourselves. Discussing the diversity and the representation of fantastic people doing amazing things within these spaces should continue to thrive as it is very inspiring.”

The ladies of BORN n BREAD will be DJ’n at W Project x Tate Exchange symposium – The Future of Curation.

Listen to BORN n BREAD on NTS and follow them on IG @bornnbread 

Leyla Tahir, curator and co-host of W Project x Tate Exchange symposium

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It’s time to introduce our second co-host for our upcoming symposium, Leyla Tahir. Leyla is a curator and Tate Collective’s Producer in Digital where she commissions and produces multi platform digital content and manages Tate’s channels for young audiences. Her relationship with Tate began at 17 years old when she joined Tate Collective, working on free events and projects for young people aged 15-25. After finishing her BA in Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins (during which she continued working at Tate) she began to take on bigger projects working closely on Tate’s Hyperlink Festival and curating the Source display, as well as getting W Project involved on a project at the Tate Modern Tanks (W Project’s Superwoman I, 2012).

Having been involved with a renowned art institutions like Tate since the age of 17, who better to ask than Leyla Tahir for her opinion on women in art and why she thinks curation from a diverse female perspective plays such a significant role in moving things forward,  “When you realise that for the majority of history, women and their images have been narrated by men, you understand that diverse curatorial perspectives are vital to moving things forward, or even just catching up! Curators are powerful people; the choices they make have the power to construct narratives, present arguments, and alter histories. It’s the role of the curators to champion representation, and in the 21st century it’s vital to strive towards showing the real, full history of art. This means celebrating the work and stories of women, artists of colour, non-Europeans and queer artists who have formed and continue to be part of art history but have been overlooked for various reasons.Curators who come from broad and diverse backgrounds should generate equally diverse work that challenges convention, changes narratives and moves curatorial practice, museums and audiences forward.”

On that note, we wanted to know what she’d like to see evolve the most within the art world, especially from your her personal and curatorial point of view. “More diversity and more democracy. Art is for everyone, not just the elite. The internet has enabled much broader access to culture and creativity for communities across the globe, but physical art spaces have got some catching up to do. I think the art world could learn a lot from the way the web has empowered people and enabled creation of communities, movements, and DIY cultures, often as a response to the lack of opportunities on offer in conventional art spaces. Recognising emerging, marginal and developing art practices, and creating spaces to showcase them would democratise the often hierarchical art spaces, and encourage more diverse audiences to participate in them”, says Tahir.

Tate recently published an article speaking about how we can support women in art and one of their proposals is to attend a symposium hosted by women for women. Leyla tells us why regular events like our upcoming W Project x Tate Exchange symposium remain such an important part of the process towards a more diverse representation of artists, be it inside or outside of the gallery space, “The dialogue around diversity, representation and democracy is constantly evolving – even faster in the current social/political climate. It’s crucial to regularly address these topics to remain relevant, respond to and be reflective of the changing world around us. Proactively trying to redress the balance and address disparities in the representation of artists is key. Tokenism isn’t enough. Events like the W Project x Tate Exchange symposium, which provide a space for dialogue and debate between artists, gallery, and the public, have massive potential to create real-time change.”

Leyla Tahir will be co-hosting the W Project x Tate Exchange symposium – The Future of Curation on 7th of March, 6pm-8pm.

Kusheda Mensah, artist and co-host of W Project x Tate Exchange symposium

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We are very happy to introduce one of our co-hosts for the upcoming symposium, the phenomenal Kusheda Mensah. Kusheda is an artist, print designer and part of the stunning trio that is Unfinished Biz, a Youtube channel and NTS radio show. Unfinished Biz is a passion project launched by Kusheda and her friends, Charlie and Rivah with the aim of representing women that otherwise don’t feel represented on Youtube or other outlets. Topics of discussion vary from relationships and sexuality to club outfits, all rounded up with mad r’n’b tunes. If you haven’t tuned in yet, we urge you to do so. Currently, Mensah is working on broadening her art practice through sculpture and video, focusing on topics of mental health and wellbeing, media, women, diversity and humanity.

Prior to co-hosting the W Project x Tate Exchange symposium, we asked Kusheda to share her insights regarding women in art and diversity on a wider scale, and why she thinks curation from a diverse female perspective plays such a significant role in moving things forward. “The world is diverse. And not just now, when we have magazine covers and films highlighting these beautiful Black/Asian/Arabic women make it trendy. It always has been, especially to the ‘diverse’/ modern world. It just hasn’t been acknowledged. People of colour, especially women don’t usually own or get a voice. I don’t want to hear the perspective of a white male voice anymore. Not because it not important. But because we’ve heard the narrative, they own the world. So, a different voice needs to be heard. From Black to Arabic, Indian to Asian etc. The world is colourful and that is powerful and it should be celebrated. Voices and visions that have been suppressed for so long need to be heard. I want to see that narrative.”

The lack of diversity in the art industry is blatantly obvious, be it regarding gender, race or even socio-economically. Being an artist herself, Kusheda tells us what she would like to see evolve the most within the art world, “As an artist, of course my point of view comes from being a woman but at the same time, I am a human. And from the beginning of time, art has been a reflection of humanity, war, politics, struggle, pain, beauty, love etc. In the bigger, more public museums we see the actual reflection of society, which is STILL white males in portraits, always conquering something, which is still their narrative unfortunately. Never the REAL reflection of humanity. I’d like to see more of us, more diversity, which means ethnic women/men, gay, trans etc and less of ‘them’. We already know what they have to say. We appreciate that. Now we can move on. The real statement in these bigger, more public museums is diversifying the art promoted on i.e. tubes, on the billboards in west London and privileged areas that need to be diversified. And in less privileged areas where art exhibits or art isn’t even promoted or championed. The art world needs to embrace it this diversity. It signifies an acceptance of culture, which is something bigger, and they stand behind and champion the diverse voices of the new age.”

Kusheda Mensah will be co-hosting the W Project x Tate Exchange symposium The Future of Curation on 7th of March, 6pm-8pm.

Listen to Kusheda & Co at Unfinished Biz on NTS

Cairo Clarke, curator and speaker at W Project x Tate Exchange symposium

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We are very excited to introduce one of our speakers for the upcoming W Project x Tate Exchange symposium, curator and creative Cairo Clarke. Cairo is a Chelsea College of Art graduate and has been involved in a variety of amazing projects such as managing Dalston based Sang Bleu’s art space prior to her MA and last summer she co-curated and produced an alternative summer programme for not-for-profit art organisation Bold Tendencies in collaboration with TPS. The programme focused on celebrating the diversity and energy within arts and music, working with an amazing line up including poet James Massiah, female creative collective BORN n BREAD and artist Lotte Andersen among many others.

Currently, Clarke is working on Touch Sensitive, an art programme exploring notions of the female body through a series of events and performances created in collaboration between herself and the artists. Cairo shared with us how the idea of this innovative exhibition that carries technological associations came about, “I had been working on a project with the Women’s Art Library where they have so many back issues of Women’s Art Magazine and so I contacted one of my tutors who kindly gave me a load of those when I told him I was researching for a project. I love looking at the history of women in art, working together and creating a network and community. I became really interested in the 1990s issues about women in art and technology and what they thought the future of females in art would be, especially with the internet and technology, and how they could claim agency of their bodies online.”

What makes this upcoming exhibition so unique is the fact that each day, the gallery space as such and the artists in residence will change. Through this continual rotation the audience will be able to experience a continuous exploration of the body through different perspectives. ”I like the idea of moving a lot of energy and having a happening in this space, and it being very important for people to be there. It is really important that this fluid and dynamic approach was taking place and that the space was being morphed into something different each time with each artist. Getting this across to the artists as a way for them to work was essential. It’s about working collaboratively in creating something within each artists own practice so by working on it together made us bounce off each other. This makes all of us think outside the box. Especially for me working with the artists directly has allowed me to think more like an artist would rather than trying to fit them into a vision or idea. It’s completely collaborative and is a huge part of the way I work.”

Being such a creative visionary, we asked Clarke what progress she’d like to see in the future of the art world. “My whole research throughout my course revolved around how curators could challenge grand narratives in art institutions. How you don’t have to display everything in a similar way. A space is not just a space for things to exist in. A space is as important as the outside world. All these things come in and out so I’d like the future to be as progressive as possible and to be more diverse and in a way, the world to become a cultural democracy. Everything has a context outside of the art space and I think it’s important to constantly allow these conversations to flow and to be as dynamic as possible.”

Cairo Clarke will be speaking at W Project x Tate Exchange symposium – The Future of Curation on 7th of March, 6pm-8pm.

Touch Sensitive will take place between the 21st and 26th of March at Guest Projects’ space.

 

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Credit: Touch Sensitive, Cairo Clarke, 2017.

The Power of the Pack

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“Women will draw doors where there are none, and open them pass through into new ways and new lives. Because the wild nature persist and prevails, women persist and prevail.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The W Project’s goal has been and continues to be the same – to shine a light on all the women the mainstream media doesn’t. Women who with their creativity and talent challenge the norm, break stereotypes and set the example every single day by doing what they believe in, unyieldingly. Strong, unapologetic and wild.

And so we’ve decided to keep on celebrating the women that inspire us every day under a series of themes. Our first theme will explore the power of the pack. We’ve been connecting with inspiring wild women and their packs to explore the influence the strength in numbers brings to themselves and their creative work. Be it art, music, film or sports, collectives and crews are showing us the importance of belonging, restoring our innate sense of community.

So to all urban foxes out there, come find us and stay tuned.

“The hallmark of the wild nature is that it goes on. It perseveres. That is not something we do. It is something we are, naturally and innately. When we cannot thrive, we go on till we can thrive again. Whether it be our creative life that we are cut away from, whether it be a culture or a religion we are cast out of, whether it be a familial exiling, a banishment by a group, or sanctions on our movements, thoughts, and feelings, the inner wild life continues and we go on. The wild nature is not native to any particular ethnic group. It is at the core of women from Benin, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone. It is the center of Guatemalan women, Haitian women, Polynesian women. Name a country. Name a race. Name a religion. Name a tribe. Name a city, a village, a lone outpost. The women all have this in common – the Wild Woman, the wild soul. They all go on feeling for and following the wild.

So, if women must, they will paint sky on jail walls. If the skeins are burnt, they will spin more. If the harvest is destroyed they will sow more immediately. Women will draw doors where there are none, and open them pass through into new ways and new lives. Because the wild nature persists and prevails, women persist and prevail.”

-Excerpt from Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book Women Who Run With the Wolves (1995) –

 

 

Champagne Life: Saatchi Gallery celebrates its 30th anniversary with an all-female exhibition

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Women are taking over the Saatchi Gallery space from the 13th of January until the 9th of March. The Champagne Life exhibition marks the gallery’s 30th anniversary and brings together the works of 14 visionary women. As its first ever all-female exhibition, Saatchi pays tribute to its commitment to champion little-known artists in the early stages as well as throughout their careers.

The exhibition’s name is taken from one of the showcased pieces, Champagne Life by Julia Wachtel. This artwork from 2014 displays a repeated upside down image of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in contrast to an image of a poorly copied, plastic Minnie Mouse sculpture. The name as such is drawn from the eponymous song by Ne-Yo, ‘who sings of a life “where dreams and reality are one in the same”. This paradoxical attempt to converge the fantastical with the real is the epitome of a culture driven by the lust for celebrity, and the figure of champagne as a relatively affordable signification of luxury life, the highest aspiration and emptiest cipher’, according to Saatchi Gallery’s description of the piece.

Nevertheless, the selection of artists couldn’t be more diverse – all artists are at different stages of their careers, based in different parts of the world and express themselves through the most different art forms. With artworks ranging from paintings, sculptures, photography up to taxidermy, Champagne Life is anything but one-sided.

Some highlights include paintings of historical reenactments in neon colours by Sigrid Holmwood, monumental clay sculptures by Stephanie Quayle that link ‘man to nature [and] animal to human’ as well as Iranian-born Soheila Sokhanvari’s taxidermy sculpture Moje Sabz that speaks to Iran’s Green Movement uprising of 2009, in which demonstrations lead to the annulment of a fraudulent election result.

Another highlight worth mentioning is Maha Malluh’s sculpture Food For Thought – Al-Muallaqat, which displays 233 burnt aluminium cooking pots arranged on a 4mx10m wall. Based in Saudi Arabia, Malluh draws inspiration from her home country, it’s culture and contrasting ideals. Using objects found in flea markets and junk shops, her work revolves around the impact globalisation and consumer culture has on her country and its people.

Other artists include American painter Mequitta Ahuja, Korean painter Seung Ah Paik, British sculptor Alice Anderson, French photographer Marie Angeletti, Serbian painter Jelena Bulajic, American sculptor Julia Dault, Canadian sculptor Mia Feuer, French sculptor Virgile Ittah and American painter Suzanne McClelland.

Some argue that exhibiting an all-female show instead of making a conscious effort to include a diverse group of artists in general could not be helping the cause, meaning, changing the unspoken subliminal notion that art created by a female artist is any different to art created by a male artist. Nevertheless, if an all-female exhibition is sparking the discussion of gender and equality on all levels, even in the art world, then it must be hitting a nerve. There is no doubt there is need for a greater representation of women in galleries and museums, especially when it comes to contemporary art.

But besides sharing the same gender, none of the artists or the artwork in this exhibition is interlinked in any way, which seems to be the point. Instead it all seems rather simple and even more poignant: Champagne Life brings together a group of incredible contemporary artists and gives them the space to convey their own message, whatever it may be.

See some images of the Champagne Life exhibition in our gallery below.

A HUGE thank you

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Symposium success at Protein

Big thanks to everyone for joining us at our special edition Symposium at Protein! We hope you enjoyed the evening as much as we did. The energy was truly special and we were all blown away by the honesty, modesty and sheer incredibleness of our speakers Dame Zandra Rhodes, Sharmadean Reid, and Tara Darby.

If you missed the evening don’t worry, we will be sharing a film of the event very soon. And keep eyes peeled for our next Symposium with Protein planned for early 2016.

Thanks, again, for your support. It wouldn’t have been the same without you!

W Symposium at Protein

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Meet three inspiring and creative women

The W Project, a platform celebrating exceptional female role models, returns to Protein Studios for a special-edition symposium.

This month three exceptional creatives tell the story of their journey so far. British fashion designer and icon Dame Zandra Rhodes, founder of WAH Nails, stylist and creative consultant Sharmadean Reid MBE, as well as photographer and filmmaker Tara Darby.

Always an intimate affair, the W Project invite you to join them for drinks and three brutally honest stories that promise to inspire. There’ll also be a chance for the audience to join in the conversation and ask guests questions. And with lovely Gordon’s G&Ts and Guinness Hop House 13 larger from our  drinks sponsors, we can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly Monday night.

Tickets are on sale at our EventBright page here.

‘W Project Symposium’, at Protein Studios, London, EC2A 3EY, 23 November 2015, 7 – 9pm