My name is Sylvia Theuri. As part of my curatorial residency at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, in Coventry, I have curated an exhibition – Thirteen Ways of Looking for Autumn 2020 (October 2nd – December 13th) in collaboration with New Art West Midlands and International Curators Forum. The themes central to this exhibition emphasise notions of ‘decentring’ – that is removing from the centre socially normalised dominant narratives, as well as challenging the traditional presentation of artwork in gallery spaces.
During the initial conception of the exhibition I was very keen to explore digital spaces as contemporary sites for resistance, focusing on the ways in which artists and curators working in digital spaces decentre and destabilize the visual arts. And what this means in relation to the ways in which audiences predominantly view artwork within and outside the gallery.
I was keen to work with Shama as part of the exhibition because there are many ideas that they are exploring that are of interest to me. Of particular interest was their online moving image platform project Flatness which I saw as a strong ‘decentring’ space.
The digital space as a site of resistance are key themes explored through Shama’s work, these themes are ever more pertinent now given the way in which the pandemic has created an extreme push for people to work online, in digital spaces and with digital media.
I am very excited that we are able to collaborate over the next few months and I look forward to sharing more.
West Midlands based artists Hira Butt, Andreana Fatta, Navi Kaur, Shiyi Li, Farwa Moledina and Matías Serra Delmar, who were commissioned to make new work for Thirteen Ways of Looking, are featured on Flatness. Through this collaboration there is an overlapping and intersecting in the physical spaces of the gallery and digitally online.
Shama has written a critical research piece entitled ‘State of the Union’ about Flatness looking at the ways in which, through deconstruction and disorder – it challenges the way audiences predominantly engage with artwork within a white cube space.
As a form of exchange, dialogue and collaboration I have also written a text specifically for Flatness that discusses my interest in working with Shama and some of my own thoughts around the digital space as a site for resistance. The piece is called ‘The physical and digital and the spaces in-between’ and is also available to read here on the Flatness website [see above].
Dr Sylvia Theuri is an art educator, researcher and artist with comprehensive knowledge and experience in critical arts education theory and practice. Sylvia holds a PhD from the University of Salford, which focused on Black African students’ experiences of higher education art and design. Her research interests include diversity and inclusion issues in Art and Design education; Race, Identity and the African diaspora; Contemporary African Art and the Black Arts Movement. Recent publications include a book chapter; ‘Critical Race Theory and its Relationship to Art Education’ in Towards an Inclusive Arts Education.