In a new series of podcasts, Terrence Phearse, MA Culture, Criticism and Curation alum, explores recent additions to the Central Saint Martins Museum & Study Collection. These works, by 2020 graduates, reflect on social justice, mental health and the pandemic.
Collected Conversations is a podcast series I created in collaboration with the CSM Museum & Study Collection to explore the graduating work celebrated by the 2020 Deans’ Prize. For the last 30 years, the museum has purchased work from graduating students to develop object-based learning throughout the college. For 2020, our conversations were driven by the stories of the students behind the making and doing. The work discussed is all available to view in the CSM Museum & Study Collection window until the 29 July and the podcasts are now online.
For most of us, 2020 was a pretty rough year no matter what your circumstances were. In the absence of a physical degree show, the award was given during the online showcase to 19 graduating students who had created innovative work. Students at Central Saint Martins are not passive, they are often working within a complex set of topics and issues. The podcast acts as a conduit between the work that was made in 2020 and the public, sharing the discourse.
One thing I was particularly interested in speaking to these graduates about was how they reflected on their time at College in order to better understand what ultimately led them to create their body of work to finish their degree. I wanted to pin point a moment, or a certain time in their development, when a light bulb went off and they thought “this is what I am going to do”. I can certainly relate. I am an artist and curator and 2020 graduate of MA Culture, Criticism and Curation. Most of my time at College was experienced online, away from the physical space and some resources. As a curator, I am primarily interested in sharing stories and the work of living and emerging artists. There is something about talking with these artists, in real time, specifically under-represented artists, that I find to be really exciting.
The podcasts draw upon a back and forth with the winners from the Deans’ Awards, as we discuss and debate their work and how they see the impact of the work created at the end of their degree. The work selected grapples with everyday issues from prison reform, erasure, mental health, anti-racism, decolonialism, social justice and identity. The CSM Museum & Study Collection is open to everyone, and we hope these topics raised in the podcasts with the audience can activate new ways of thinking and sharing the processes behind the works.
One conversation in particular with Jo Harrison Hall (BA Jewellery Design) seemed extremely timely. Although she started working on her project Rinse and Repeat months before the pandemic started, it addressed our fears of contamination and personal hygiene. The designer created pieces that looked at our relationship with handwashing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us obsessively washed our hands in various positions out of fear. Her amuletic designs explore the rituals we use to protect ourselves from the unknown.
I spoke with Jahnavi Inniss (BA Graphic Design Communication) about her Black British History Quilt and its contribution to the field. There have been a lot of conversations happening around race, erasure and anti-racism stemming from the death of George Floyd, and it’s caused a lot of institutions to look inwards at their part played. This quilt was made to highlight lesser known narratives and to dismantle a single story about visibility and empowerment in under-represented communities. The museum acquired a quilt segment on Francis Williams whose contribution has been left out of British history, among many others.
The podcasts for me became a space to learn, listen and share stories beyond what is foregrounded through the Deans’ Prize. Because everything was online last year, it became a space to interrogate more of the artists’ research practices and methodology.