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20/20 meet the artists: Zoë Tumika

  • Written byKatie Moss
  • Published date 03 August 2023
Zoë Charlery, 2023, Letter Drawing with Clay Workshop, part of the Race Rights & Sovereignty programme at The Glasgow School of Art.

    In June, UAL announced the twelve emerging and mid-career artists in the second of 2 cohorts for 20/20: a national commissioning and network project directly investing in the careers of a new generation of ethnically diverse artists.

    20/20 was launched in November 2021 by UAL Decolonising Arts Institute, working with a network of 20 UK public collections, museum and gallery partners, and with funding from Freelands FoundationArts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants Programme and UAL.

    We caught up with Zoë Tumika about being selected for the second cohort of artists for 20/20. Their residency is taking place at the Middlesborough Institute of Art.

    Tell us about your artistic work, discipline & background

    "I’m a black artist who grew up in and is currently living in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. What this is trying to describe is an existence which is full and real yet collides with dominant and conventional narratives around time, place and being. I think this understanding helps to describe the motivations and preoccupations of my artistic background.

    "I make art as a way of processing this ‘collision’ and the untethering which comes from it. It’s a space of play, meditating towards existence in multiple temporalities and in multiple ways of being.

    "My practice is an embodied practice and so when it comes to the material of what’s engaged in this process, it’s very much intuited – what feels right, where’s the gravitation? I work predominantly with clay and the expanse of ceramics. I also work with video, creating moving image work, and I’m currently developing a consideration of sound in relation to this moving image work."

    Why did you apply for the 20/20 project?

    "When applying, I was at a point as an artist where my development required substantial support. The resourcing of this opportunity responds significantly to that need.

    "I also see ‘the museum’ as a highly charged space when considering these ideas around non-linear space, time and materiality. A place where art and artefacts (are these mutually exclusive? Who decides?) have been acquired (stolen? gifted? bought? found? Who decides?) and are preserved and stored or displayed to demonstrate a story of history (who decides?). If this isn’t a space of violent collision, I don’t know what is.

    The 20/20 residency provides situation for me to engage with the museum space from a positionality that I had not previously experienced. Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art was of especial interest to me as it was established in 2007, a different point from many ‘older’ institutions. Its location of a post-industrial city was also of significance to me."

    What conversations, thoughts or feelings do you hope to encourage amongst your audiences during your residency?

    "I hope to learn more about the culture of Middlesbrough, its history, how people live. Words and language play a big role in my work so this sensitivity will probably inform my engagement with MIMA’s collections and team, the people MIMA serves and its wider networks.

    "Coming from words and language, storytelling and narrative-building and dismantling are methods I utilise to travel to alternative / other realities. I’m interested in the gossip, the hyper-local, regional, national, international, the “not of earth”. These engagements of personal and collective stories as vehicles to (not) understand, listen and question are really useful to me and I hope to utilise these methods with my time at MIMA."

    Follow Zoë Tumika on social media