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One Year On: Cairo Clarke – MA Curating and Collections

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Published date
10 August 2017

Since graduating Cairo Clarke has been working as an independent curator on a range of self led and collaborative projects. These include working as guest curator at Century Club and taking part in the Outset Art Funds Emerging Curators Trip to Kassel and Munster.

Tell us about your practice, how has it developed since graduating?

Since graduating I was faced with the harsh reality, like many others trying to navigate the arts, that it is a really competitive field. It was important to me to keep momentum and be immersed in the art world even if I wasn’t working directly for a gallery or institution. In doing so I’ve developed my practice into an even more collaborative approach building relationships I regard highly with artists, curators and gallerists, that have led to really exciting projects and exposure to art. I was featured in After Nyne Magazine recently in their “reviving female perspectives” feature where I spoke about my curatorial process.

Image Supplied by Cairo Clarke

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on a 3 month exhibition as Guest Curator at Century Club, along with a programme of art events opening in January 2018. This will be a really interesting challenge for me to be curating a show in a non-art space that mainly functions as a private members club. As well as this I am continuing my collaboration with artist Hannah Perry in our shared area of research that has developed since both doing residencies and working together thinking about performance in real life. We hope to develop a new iteration of the daisy chain of performances in some exciting spaces. As well as this I am freelancing a lot, assisting on development of artists work, assisting galleries with shows, and general gallery management.

What have been your greatest achievements since graduating from Chelsea?

My greatest achievements since graduating include being nominated on Outset Art Funds Emerging Curators Trip to Kassel and Munster, this was an amazing experience with a truly inspiring group of people. Also talking at Tate Exchange alongside Tate Modern director Francis Morris at the W Project’s Women in Art Symposium. I spoke about my creative journey to a crowd of over 200 people in celebration of International Women’s Day, the support and interest was overwhelming. As well as this I love continuing to work with artists and support the development of their work. Through my residency (at Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects as part of their artists residency programme) I have seen the artists I invited onto the programme go on to develop work from the residency and show it in other galleries or events. Being part of the developmental process of work and foster supportive relationships have been hugely important to me.

Image Supplied by Cairo Clarke

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to continue to work independently on projects, but also I would like to gain more formal gallery experience. I really appreciate the importance of knowing how things run on the logistical and sales side and having had tasters in these areas I would like to get even more experience as I progress. I’d also like to be part of a bigger team for a while as I continue my own projects outside of this.

Tell us about your time at Chelsea, what do you miss? What did you enjoy the most?

I really miss our seminars, reading and discussing texts and being around a diverse group of curators and thinkers, it was a great way to keep me motivated and focused, and to keep reading. It was a privilege to do a Masters and spend a year researching and studying something you are so passionate about. In reality juggling financial stability and being able to embark on the career journey you love is a little trickier but I’m still persevering!

What is the most important thing you learned on the course?

The most important thing I learnt on the course came from the crits, from talking about our work, our curatorial approaches and not being in an echo chamber of ourselves but being open and critiquing each other’s ideas, the good things and the things that were problematic – that was huge for me.

What advice would you give to our students who are about to graduate?

Constantly be applying for positions you love, don’t be afraid to take some unpaid/self funded projects they could really stand out, are great experience and can be a place to make amazing connections. Don’t be afraid to approach people to work with them, meet up and exchange ideas and connect. It’s so important to collaborate, but to also stay self motivated and keep momentum.

Check out more work by Cairo

Read more about MA Curating and Collections

Explore last year’s MA Curating and Collections Postgraduate Summer Show