Guest curator goes to London

We announced a new guest curator programme designed for museum professions and received submissions from many fantastic applicants. But after long and difficult deliberations, we are delighted to announce that the winner of our guest curator programme is: Elif Kamışlı.

We wanted to discuss the project and learn a little bit more about the winner, so we interviewed her. 

For the last few years, Kamışlı has been causing a stir among art lovers in Istanbul. She worked as the Coordinator for the 2014 Istanbul Biennial Exhibition and has continued to work on the exhibition with curators, Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen. In August, the British Council will be welcoming her to London where she will be participating in a workshop about creating a contemporary art exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery as part of the International Museum Academy Programme. She will also be preparing an exhibition proposal for the British Council's collection. 

Since 1938 the British Council has been collecting works of art, craft and design to promote the achievements of British artists. The collection, which includes nearly 9,000 pieces of art, have no permanent gallery and is often referred to as a 'museum without walls'. Creating opportunities for people to see these works of art around the world is an essential part of our activities. Most recently, pieces from this museum without walls were displayed in Grayson Perry’s 2015 exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences in Istanbul and Ankara. Kamışlı will review this collection of 20th and 21st century artefacts closely and then develop a proposal for a digital exhibition.

When asked why she applied, Kamışlı told us that she had learnt about the programme from our online announcements (are you following us on Facebook yet?) and that what motivated her decision was the idea that she would gain invaluable experience: 'Basing a project on such a rich collection requires very detailed work, but that can be a lot of fun too. Not only that, the Whitechapel Gallery stands out as one of the best in the field with the exhibitions and events it organises. It is great to have the opportunity to do this work with such a strong team.'

And how does Kamışlı think this programme will affect her career? 

   For some time now, I have been thinking about creating an exhibition that I can put all of my energy into. I believe that by studying various methods in this programme, I can build a more holistic approach, so the work I do can be of great help for the steps I will take afterwards. I also think that the relationships I will form have the potential to turn into future collaborations, and strong bonds can emerge from this. At times like these, when borders are drawn increasingly sharper and a person’s sense of belonging and partnerships get questioned, I believe that the unifying language of art gives us an opportunity to create statements that affect large audiences. They are able to do this with just a few aesthetic touches, so every individual step taken in this direction is important. In the end, what is individual is political, and we need to be political in today’s world.

One more thing about Kamışlı

For some time now, Kamışlı has been reading about and contemplating the relationship between 20th century modern art and the drawings of members of spiritual groups interested in internal wealth from as far back as the 17th century, such as the Tantras, the Shakers and the Theosophists. We have also learnt that Kamışlı is planning to go to India at the end of the year to see the original tantra drawings and the recently discovered thought-form drawings of Annie Besant (1847–1933), who was a leading figure in the Theosophical movement. 

Kamışlı, we wish you a wonderful journey and look forward to your collection proposal. 

If you would like to follow in Kamışlı's footsteps, keep your eyes on our website for information about next year's application process.