Having recently produced a virtual tour of the Arts SU 2022 exhibition, Xhibit, The Net Gallery caught up with the show’s curator, Veronica Grazioli, to learn more about her role.
Originally from Italy, Grazioli is an MRes student researcher in Exhibition Studies at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London (UAL).
The virtual tour of Xhibit is available to view, here.
The Net Gallery: Can you begin by explaining a bit about your background and how you became involved with Xhibit 2022?
Veronica Grazioli: At Central Saint Martins, I conduct my research through a decolonial-queer lens with the aim of understanding how to curate exhibitions that are ethical, inclusive, affordable, sustainable, and anti-tokenistic. As for my professional career, I write for the print version of Exibart magazine and I am part of a youth collective and a cultural association, Line Culture, as a curator. In addition to my experience in publishing, journalism, and museums, I have independently curated two exhibitions, Corpo a Corpo, which developed over two editions (one a continuation of the other) and involved students from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan.
In April, my course leader sent an email to the class with an application for the position of Student Curator for Xhibit 2022. I decided to go for it and write about my path, my approach to curating and the value this experience would mean for me. About a month later, I received an email from Sophie Risner at Arts SU, telling me ‘you have been selected for Xhibit 2022’. And here we are.
TNG: How does the selection process for Xhibit work, who’s able to enter and what’s the main purpose of the show?
VG: All UAL students had the opportunity to submit their work. Each year, the exhibition is selected by industry professionals. For 2022, the judging panel included Jamie Clifton (Editor in Chief of Vice), Carine Harmand (Curator of International Art at the Tate and Trustee of Mimosa House), and Armani Sutherland (Arts SU elected Head of Sabbatical Activities 2021-2022).
The main aim of Xhibit is to promote the best emerging artistic and creative practices of UAL. The works selected for the 25th edition offer sharp and precise analyses, but also visions for a different, inclusive, and sustainable world. It is also an opportunity for the public to be inspired and enriched.
TNG: What did your role as curator involve and what were your main responsibilities and challenges?
VG: My role as curator involved several aspects. Firstly, researching and understanding the artists’ works. I read, re-read, took notes and tried to go deep into each work in the exhibition. After researching and understanding, I thought it would be necessary to gather the works into cores, which contain ‘visions of a new world’ and ‘visions of a world dying before our eyes’.
In the meantime, I met with the artists to discuss technical issues related to the set-up and to see if they had any special requests/needs. After generating the cores and meeting with the artists, I did a site visit with Sophie to understand the space and figure out what kind of feel to give the exhibition, how to best to communicate each student’s work and make sure it had the right ‘air’ to breathe.
TNG: Does the exhibition have any overarching themes?
VG: In Xhibit one can find intimacy, care, self-reflection, awareness, the weight of cultural heritage, awareness of the crises afflicting the world (which are social, political, cultural, environmental), the decolonial perspective, journeys into the past and the present, visions for a world that is dying in front of our eyes and visions for a new world.
TNG: How big an impact would you say the pandemic has had on this cohort of students?
VG: There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has punctuated everyone’s lives over the past two years. By reflection, it has influenced the artistic practice of some of the people who participated in Xhibit. In the exhibition, we find the pandemic in the form of the need for human contact, self-reflection, loneliness, and motionless time. The reflection related to Covid-19 in Xhibit is sharp and conscious, but also gentle and true. I believe that people, looking at these works, can recognise themselves.
Work in Focus
We asked Veronica to select two artworks from the Xhibit show to discuss in more detail.
The Stolen Generation by Emmanuelle Iroakazi
The artwork refers to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were removed from their families between 1910 and the 1970s. The Stolen Generation, on a more conscious and profound level, concerns the debate surrounding the Flora and Fauna Act, which did not classify Indigenous Australians as human beings. The female figure dominating the centre of the painting is the artist’s grandmother, a Stolen Generation survivor. The work has deep and significant value because it shows how survivors now have descendants who still contend with the financial difficulties, educational divide and generational trauma. Veronica Grazioli
From Rags to Bitches to Riches (Sir Ochterlony & His Bibis) by Nisa Khan
The artist represents the mujra, a South Asian style of performance that was once sophisticated, elegant, and elitist. As Khan recounts, when the Mughal empire was at its height, mujra performers were exempt from leading a ‘common’ life, hence exempt from purdah and marriage. Because of British Colonialism, they were relegated and had no freedom. From rags, to bitches, to riches (Sir Ochterlony & His Bibis’s) is an act of reclaiming power and space. Building a bridge between past and present, Khan repositions the performers in the British arts context, with the aim of re-elevating the status of Mujra. The power of both works lies in the healing, healing and reclaiming of space and time that art can generate. Veronica Grazioli
Interview by Richard Unwin.
The Xhibit 2022 selected artists are:
Pau Aguilo Hernandez | Elaoise Benson | Cherie Chun | Yarden Fudim | Rhyan Jordan Holder | Hollis Hui | Emmanuelle Iroakazi | Amelia Johnson | Jomile Kazlauskaite | Janice Kei | Nisa Khan | Matilda Madaj-Solberg | Rosie Mather | Arabella Muir | Kenichiro Nakajima | Nusra Nijimbere | Meera Rofaeil | Elliott Roy | Emma Elvins Nogueira Dos Santos | Tong Shi | Marina Tasca | Ciana Taylor | Abigail Weston | Ayshe-Mira Yashin
The Koppel Project 125 New Bond Street, London, W1S 1DY
09/06/2022 – 20/06/2022
The virtual tour of Xhibit, produced by The Net Gallery, is available to view, here.
For more information about the exhibition, visit: Xhibit (arts-su.com)