Nicole Smythe-Johnson

As part of her Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship, Kingston-based curator and writer Nicole Smythe-Johnson visited Scotland in January 2017, and presented a talk on her research for the fellowship at CCA.

Her research for this fellowship looked at a broader frame of curatorial work, beyond the more commonly referenced connoiseurship and expertise. Her project proposed a definition that brings the work of Caribbean curators (even those who don’t claim the title) into focus. It looked at curatorial work in the Caribbean as the facilitation of an engagement with an experience of art for artists and publics.

Nicole Smythe-Johnson said of her project: 'The benefit of this shift is to grant legitimacy to the kind of curatorial work that is most relevant to the Caribbean. A kind that is tactical and responsive to artists, audiences, spaces, societies, intellectual and political histories. Precisely because the Caribbean is a complex geography, so definitively shaped by the factors the Tilting Axis call lists (processes of decolonisation, language barriers, race, mobility, and digitalisation), there is an imperative toward innovation in curatorial practice.'

'The modern museum, and thus the exhibitionary complex as we now know it, evolved in step with and as a by-product of imperial conquest, with its attendant tensions, aspirations and biases. The Crystal Palace, the British Museum, the Louvre etc were all collections that displayed and categorised “the empire” into hierarchies that continue to structure Caribbean societies today. Much of the Caribbean public then, both that portion that lives within the Caribbean and the diapora, is a “counter-public”.

'How does the Caribbean offer a particularly rich space for curatorial innovation that engages the foundations of the practice and its traditions; a process that has implications everywhere (centre, periphery, node, outpost)? It also means that much of Caribbean curatorial practice does not present as “curatorial practice” and as such does not always manifest in grand exhibitions at established art spaces, it is rarely written about in art journals.'

About Nicole Smythe-Johnson

Nicole Smythe-Johnson has written for ARC magazine, Miami Rail, Flash Art, Jamaica Journal and a number of other local and international publications. She is Assistant Curator on an exhibition of the work of Jamaican painter John Dunkley at the Perez Art Museum in Miami (May 2017 - Jan 2018), and is also working on an Institute of Jamaica publication looking at Jamaica’s National Collection.

About the Tilting Axis Curatorial Fellowship

The curatorial fellowship is a direct outcome of the Tilting Axis meetings in 2015 at Fresh Milk in Barbados and in 2016 at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Scotland-based cultural partners CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery, Hospitalfield and curatorial collective Mother Tongue produced a structural long-term fellowship for an emerging contemporary art practitioner living and working in the Caribbean.

This fellowship opportunity focusses on the development of pragmatic and critical curatorial development hailing from the Caribbean region, and is research and practice-led, and mentor-based. Designed as a year-long programme between the Caribbean region and Scotland, it offers support for critical development of curatorial practice and gives a practical base in the partner institutions with visits to Scotland and throughout the Caribbean.

The fellowship is in partnership with CCA Glasgow, David Dale Gallery and Studios, Hospitalfield, Mother Tongue and Tilting Axis. Supported by British Council Scotland.