The spring degree show of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm always makes for an engaging watch, often finding a great deal of immensely talented emerging artists. The show that this year is divided into a BFA and a MFA show spread across two venues; Marabouparken and Konstakademien, is produced and Meryem Saadi and Sara Rossling. We speak to the two about their work as curators and the challenges of putting forth school-related degree shows.
C-P: What is your background as a curator?
S.R: I have a background in Art History and started working independently with curating various exhibitions and the art at the Skankaloss festival for some years. More recently, I've been working with an international residency programme that I co-founded and with an artistic research project in Dalarna that I initiated in2016, where contemporary practices reflect upon cultural heritage. I've also produced different projects at Mejan. Before, I worked as a fashion designer and creator of content-based projects around fashion, such as public conversations, presentations and a publication that I see has correlations with how I work today. I have an MA in Curating Art from Stockholm University.
C-P: You also produced last year’s degree show at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. Aside from the division between two geographically distant venues, what are the biggest challenges this year as opposed to last year?
S.R: Yes! I did the BFA show last year. There are always things that differ from year to year; the exhibited art is the most apparent one, which also has different needs that affect the work process. The challenges this year have been to create enough space for performances and to create a well-composed install that gives a diversity of works what they require, and I think we have succeeded in doing that.
C-P: How do you go about approaching such a big task involving so many people with various interests? What is the dialogue with the students like? S.R: A combination of studio visits and group meetings, and to let the students take responsibility for different tasks that motivates them. It is actually the best thing about this job; the spontaneous dialogues about art, working conditions, norms, expectations and life after graduation that we have occasionally has given me the most satisfaction.
C-P: As a curator how do you view the conditions and realities of working and practising outside the realm of school? What can be said about the need for platforms for curators and artists to propel people into work after school?
S.R: Both artists and independent curators are extremely dependent on other people, culture institutions, and organisations - collaborations and networking, amongst other things, are key to these practices. Schools that educate artists and curators are of course aware of this and put a lot of effort in creating meetings and exchanges which I see too few students make use of. I definitely see a need for various platforms, cheap studio collectives, and independent exhibition spaces in Stockholm and other places in Sweden where newly graduated artists and curators can experiment, fail, discuss and elaborate new formats. C-P: What’s next for you? S.R: After my longed-for summer holiday, I will work on the development of an exciting project that includes sculpture, choreography, movement and sound together with an interdisciplinary group of artists based here in Stockholm. I will also spend more time writing and work part-time with an artist that does fascinating large-scale projects. And I’m looking forward to developing ideas and projects with inspiring people and friends such as the curator Power Ekroth in Berlin and artist/curator Tatiana Danilevskaya in Voronezh, Russia.
C-P: What is your background as a curator?
M.S: My interest in curating began when I was working as an art journalist. Writing about exhibitions and interviewing artists was a very enriching experience that made me want to interact more with contemporary art. In 2014, I started working as a project manager in relation to exhibitions organized at the MMVI, the national Moroccan museum of modern and contemporary art in Rabat. At this point, I was more involved in producing exhibitions, than curating them. In 2017, I decided to move to Sweden, to pursue a master in “Art Curating” at Stockholm University. I wanted to expand my horizons, and explore different curatorial practices.
C-P: This year there is a division of venues between the BFA graduates and the MFA graduates, where the BFA’s will exhibit out at Marabouparken in Sundbyberg. What has it been like producing the show there? How does the venue serve a show like this one?
M.S: I think that the venue fits perfectly the artworks that were created by the BFA students this year. We have many imposing installations in dialogue with each other, so we were fortunate to have a large main open space that enable them to “breathe” while being at the same time in “communion” with each other. It was also great to install works in this main space. The fact that it has no walls made it easier for the professors and the students to communicate and to work with each other. Everything was fluid and dynamic. We also took advantage of the park around the konsthall. There are 12 works placed there, from both BFA and MFA students. We also had a lot of support from the team of Marabouparken to make these exhibitions happen, and we are very grateful to them for this.
C-P: What has been the greatest challenge curating and producing a school-related degree show? What as your rapport and dialogue with the students been like?
M.S: I really enjoyed working with the students. I think that the main challenge was to assign to each one of the 22 students a mission that fits his/her interests and personality and to make sure that the communication is always effective between all of us. As part of their education, the students have to take part in all the tasks in relation to the exhibition. We had a group in charge of handling the transportation of artworks, another one in charge of the equipment and material needed for the installing etc..., so it was extremely important that we were all on the same page. They all did an amazing job, and I think that we all learned from each other during this experience. Personally, I really loved talking with them about their practices. As BFA students, they are really open to exchanging ideas and I think that it’s going to be exciting for me as, as a curator, to follow their evolution as artists.
C-P: What are you most looking forward to about the actual show?
M.S: I am really looking forward to getting feedback about the exhibition, especially since it’s the first time that a BFA degree show is taking place at Marabouparken. I am also very curious to see how the audience will interact with the artworks displayed in the park. I really hope that people who will happen to stumble across by chance, while they are enjoying a visit to the park, will be intrigued enough to enter the konsthall and see the exhibition there.
C-P: What is next for you in 2019?
M.S: I just finished a couple of months ago my master thesis that explored the curatorial strategy of the Marrakech Biennale. It was a really fascinating experience, and it made me want to do more research about biennales that curate art outside of the white cube, especially in a post-colonial and Non-Western context. I am also working on an exhibition project that will hopefully bring to Stockholm North-African artists whose work is deeply influenced by architecture.
The Spring Show of the Royal Institute of Art opens tomorrow May 23 and runs through June 6. The BFA show is held at Marabouparken in Sundbyberg and the MFA show parallels runs at Konstakademien on Fredsgatan 12.
The BFA class is: Maiken Buus Andersen, Christine Dahl Helweg-Larsen, Alice Håkansson, Kajsa Kiuttu, Emelie Markgren, Mari Mattsson, Malin Molin, Tove Möller, Karon Nilzén Jonsson, Malin Norberg, Kasper Nordenström Jung, Afrang Nordlöf Malekian, André Nordström, Jimmy Offesson, Emilie Palmelund, Cristian Quinteros Soto, Robin Rydenhov, Jessy-Lin Santana-Burgos, Edit Sihlberg, Ossian Söderqvist, Erik Thörnqvist, Sofia Zwahlen Producent: Meryem Saadi
The MFA class is: Catalina Aguilera, Jonas Bentzer, Frederik Egesborg, Guttorm Glomsås, Vida Lavén, Christopher Long, Maia Lundblom, Lisa Lundgren, Ivar Lövheim, Sara Nielsen Bonde, Elin Odentia, Malin Petersson, Natália Rebelo, Samuel Richter, Linda Sestrajcic, Vasilis Marcus Sjögren Tzanetopoulos, Aron Skoog, Joline Uvman, Sophie Vuković, Aldo Zetterman, Hilde Retzlaff