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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Mattie O'Callaghan

Between the Deep Blue is an invitation to question how we can transform past traumatic histories into new ways of living and healing through a series of ocean-linked workshops and events held in an immersive space. 

Listen to the water singing the traumas it has been carrying for centuries, to the disappeared stories dragged into the darkness of the ocean. Listen to the forgotten voices and remember their pain. 

Remember the ones who used to be in this blue immensity.

Carefully, try to catch the breath of the extinct silent mammal, the sea cow, rebirthing next door through Juha Pekka Matias Laakkonen’s replica of its skeleton. Activating the sea cow as a symbol of the ocean’s witnessing of traumatic experiences, Between the Deep Blue wishes to commune with the wounds of the triangular trade and its present legacies by linking Laakkonen's works to Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ text Undrowned (2020). Honouring the story of the mammal, Gumbs reveals how it was hunted until extinction within 27 years of its discovery as collateral from the colonisation of North America and the hunger for fur and blubber. 

The space is created in collaboration with North Carolina based artist Ambrose Rhapsody Murray and Slovenian sound artist Robertina Šebjanič.

Murray’s textile presented in the room is a new commission engaging with Gumb’s text and exploring migratory flows of people journeying through the seas and its ecological and historical impacts. Šebjanič’s sound piece enters into dialogue with Ambrose's aquatic works to amplify the feeling of immersion into water. Atlantic Tales (2020) is a musical composition sung in traditional Irish sean-nós style, addressing human and non-human oceanic migratory journeys in the age of the Anthropocene. In this multi-sensorial space, invite your body to rest and experience beyond the gaze, allowing senses to wash over you. Navigate in the themes addressed by Between the Deep Blue through the available books and texts. 

Through a series of workshops and events, the space becomes an invitation to actively dive into layered stories. An artist talk between Ambrose and Alexis, a meditation evening held by artist Lateisha Davine Lovelace-Hanson, the screening of Ella Frost, Soha Salem and Aisha Mirza’s film What you love too much to lose (2021) and workshop about more-than-human storytelling, and a plant-based photography development workshop offered by Kathryn Attrill, transform the space by sparking different conversations and providing tools to heal from past traumas and find new ways of living. 

This public programme is curated by Antoine Schafroth, Mattie O’Callaghan, Jeanne de La Masselière, Weiduo Liu, Isabelle Lily Cain, JinYao Wang, Aleksandra Wojt, Carianne Annan, from MA Curating Contemporary Art Programme Royal College of Art as part of the Graduate Project 2022, in partnership with Gasworks. 

I am an independent curator and writer exploring how we can live better together on our fragile planet. Working at the intersection of art and ecology, I am centred around questions of climate justice, disability and queer ecologies. Positioning myself within communities, my work explores how through collaborative relations, we can form commons of care. 

Situated both within and beyond the gallery space, following on from my graduate dissertation exploring the curatorial in community gardens, I curated Weaving Springtime at Hoxton Community Garden to activate the gardens, consider urgent issues of our ecologies in urban environments, and invite local communities to claim their space as their own, all centred around the practice of weaving. I continue to explore community garden spaces and social justice work’s interconnections with the arts. 

My work is especially centred around watery bodies, tracing histories, embodied stories, and speculative futures about how we can move beyond our skin to caring for our more-than-human relations. Co-curating my graduate project Between the Deep Blue at Gasworks, we build on a decolonial approach to create a public programme exploring the question of how we can heal past trauma into new ways of healing together in oceanic spaces. 

Repairing relations and moving beyond divides through water is at the heart of  Immersions: Into The River Cam, Robinson College an exhibition and programme. Working together with artists, activists and scientists we explore how the River Cam can become a connective entity in such a divisive city as Cambridge. Continuing attention to place, I am co-curating Summerhouse at Kate Howe Studios in Hampton Wick inviting artists to retreat from the city and engage through embodied practices with the communities and ecologies of Hampton Wick. 

Centring multitudes of knowledges is at the heart of my practice, building on Robin Wall Kimmerer's research into the importance of Indigenous knowledge and learning the language of place. Seeing plants and the land as our teachers, I want to acknowledge and express gratitude for local and embodied knowledges from all beings. This has led me to form collective partnerships with Chiara Famengo and Pierce Eldridge resulting in Make Interspecies Relations for an upcoming online residency with Nextdoor, as well as curate Becoming Stardust with Araceli Gomez Castro at Liquid Gold Studios, Holborn about social liberation through Mexican Indigenous knowledges. 


Installing Between the Deep BluePhoto by Emily Gardner
Seaweed Light Traces: an ecological analogue film workshop with Kathryn Attrill Photography by Emily Gardner
Seaweed Light Traces: an ecological analogue film workshop with Kathryn Attrill Photography by Emily Gardner
Installing Between the Deep BluePhoto by Emily Gardner
Screening of What You Love Too Much To Lose by Ella Frost, Soha Salem, Aisha Mirza; and a workshop with Ella Frost and Veronica (Vee) Amon Photography by Francesca Hummer


Weaving Springtime is a public programme growing out of communal and deep relationships with the soil. Located in Hoxton Community Garden, it is a collaborative project with artists, the local community, gardeners and all our ecologies. Led by artist Phoebe Hudson and curator Mattie O’Callaghan with generous support from the Hoxton Trust, this programme moves to activate the gardens, to consider urgent issues of our ecologies in urban environments, and invite local communities to claim their space as their own, centred around the practice of weaving.

Bringing together several garden installations, we weaved together reused and waste fabrics through the trees, asking us to consider our earthly relationships and our deep interconnections. A giant live loom between two trees was made, reusing fabrics and materials, kindly donated by local people. Residents and participants of all ages participated in collaborative weaving workshops throughout the week in all weathers with eagerness, accompanied always with a free cup of tea and biscuit. Further opportunities to engage with waste fabrics are in the planning, with workshops to create textile bowls and collages. Considering how we might reuse what we throw away and through working and being together, new creativity can blossom. 

A community-led project of painting the stage in the garden, which is used for local performances and weekly free tea and cake, took place throughout the week. Designed with Phoebe Hudson and seeking local consultation, there was collective painting of the stage through bright patterns, deepening our connection to the plants and flowers bursting out in the garden. There was enthusiastic presence particularly of young children who loved getting involved.

Finally, a celebration took centre stage on the last day of the programme, a chance to express gratitude for our earth and the generous and vibrant community that exists with it. With a newly painted stage, we hope to offer musicians, spoken word artists, and dancers a bright new platform to express themselves. We began spring as a season where people feel like they can return to the garden and blossom with the flowers.

Performance by Araceli Gomez Castro Photography by Shou-An
Performance by Araceli Gomez Castro Photography by Shou-An
Photography by Shou-An
Performance by Araceli Gomez Castro Photography by Shou-An
Graphic by Araceli Gomez Castro
Performance by Araceli Gomez Castro Photography by Shou-An

Becoming Dust & Stars is a solo by Araceli Gomez Castro curated by Mattie O’Callaghan at Liquid Gold Studios 7-12 June 2022, 68 Southhampton Row, London

Becoming Dust & Stars explores our relationships with rituals and stories emerging out of the soil. Collaborating with Indigenous knowledges and practices, White Magic and elements gifted by the earth, we invite you to discover the sensuality of materials in our everyday lives. Building on interconnected collectives of care, we become closer to the ecologies which hold us, realising we are all becoming dust & stars. We offer a space for you to take part in your own ritual to allow yourself to be transformed and become part of our interconnected whole. 

To make work is to collaborate, to bring care into every step of the process. In each piece, from the sourcing of materials from Zapotec cooperatives to hand-making pigments, and gathering the soil, each is seen as a gift to honour and reciprocate. Through the sociogram, each supporter and collaborator of the project is recognised.

In revealing the process through a materials chart and photographs, we can trace the origin of each item, to open space for learning about how they become artworks through multiple collaborations and layers of support. Sourced from botanicals, metals, minerals, rocks, imaginaries, and digital and recycled materials, we invite you to come closer to these stories and trace the interconnected elements of which we are all made of.

Working in a multidisciplinary way across painting, sculpture, performance, and workshops, Becoming Dust & Stars opens up multiple avenues for our earthly connections. For in the bustling streets of high-rise London we can find time for acts of care, attention and solidarity, becoming the hidden earth and sky beneath and above us. 

Events

Wednesday 08.06 // 6:30-8pm Opening and Performance by Araceli Gomez Castro

Friday 10.06 // 6-8:00pm Food Workshop and Self in Sexual Health with Mania Lewandowska

Sunday 12.06 // 11am-12:30pm Falling, Catching, and Breathing Circle with Mattie O'Callaghan

Max Lee
Linute Jusevičiūtė

Immersions: Into the River Cam is an exhibition and public programme curated by Mattie O'Callaghan and Polly Hines at Robinson College, Cambridge, 22-26 June 2022

Take a breath, immerse yourself into the watery depths of the River Cam and its tributaries in a new exhibition and public programme with 30 artists and contributors. Dive into a multitude of artworks exploring stories told from the water’s eye. Opening up a space for reflection, we ask who does the river belong to, how can it become a space of commons and not of division, and how can we better care for this fluid being? 

Find yourself swimming in Grantchester Meadows in a newly commissioned film by Phoebe Bostock, discover the hidden histories of women’s labour in the city with work by Abi Spendlove or encounter the ecological pollution in Samuel Johnson’s interactive work ‘Entropy’. The exhibition flows between the spaces of Robinson College Chapel and into its vault where Bin Brook runs underneath from the garden and into the River Cam. From poetry, sculpture, photography, interactive installations, painting and print, the River Cam is brought to life in all its complexity, recognising its engagement with colonial, patriarchal and class histories and periods of ecological misuse, but also finding hope in the communities that it draws together today and in changing attitudes and practices.

Cambridge-based artists and those making art around the River Cam are at the heart of this exhibition which brings together town and university. Through this commingling of different but neighbouring streams we hope to build more bridges between the city's various communities.  

The programme includes events running throughout the exhibition, including a Poetry and Performance Evening on Thursday 23rd June and In the Room, a music concert on Friday 24th June by Stomping Ground, as well Singing the Installation Workshops with Sue Parlby on Friday 24th and Sunday 26th.

Events 

Wednesday 22.06 // 6:30-8:30pm Opening 

Thursday 23.06 // 6-8:00pm Poetry and Performance Evening

Friday 24.06 // 2-3:30pm Singing the Installation Workshop with Sue Parlby 

Friday 24.06 // 6:30-7:45pm In the Room by Stomping Ground Music Concert

Sunday 26.06 // 11am-12:30pm Singing the Installation Workshop with Sue Parlby

Artist contributors:

Katy Bailey, Joshua Bilton, Phoebe Bostock, Jonny Church, Tam Cochrane, Jo Gifford, Robert Good, Phoebe Hudson, Sue Lawley, Jessica Leigh Henry, Susie Johnson, Linute Jusevičiūtė, Chris Kington, Alastair Kwan, Max Lee, Marion Leeper, Melissa Lhoirit, Ella Luben, Mollie Mclellan, Daniela Mendes, Nicholas O’Neill, Sue Parlby, Sophia Pauley, Maria Picazo, Pri Prais, Samuel Joshua Richardson, Abi Spendlove, Sarah Strachan, Alice Willitts, Caroline Wright. 

Supported by Robinson College and Cam Valley Forum

Summerhouse is a two-week collaborative programme (1-15 July 2022) inviting artists and curators to retreat from the city and engage through their bodies and practise with the community and ecology of Hampton Wick.

Centred from the generous giving of Kate Howe’s Studio to us, we will be inviting all to bring their own environmental knowledges to a residency weekend (1-3 July) that fosters, conversations, friendships and experimentations with the space.

Spending time in and around Richmond Park, we will be learning from the ecology of the land and its interconnected communities. Forming the seeds of the programme. These will grow and flourish throughout the week through workshops and events, culminating in a public facing programme (4-14 July) inviting the local community to participate in questioning how we can build deep connections on this fragile planet.

Artists: Qian Jiang, Anna Karoline Muell, Noa Pane, Eleanor Davies, Tilly Wace, Joanna Lalowska & Rooya Rasheed

Curators: Mattie O’Callaghan, Kaia Goodenough, Holly Pines, and Chiara Famengo

Ecological spaces inspire us to deepen our breath as we traverse new landscapes. On inhalation, new knowledges become embodied as fauna, animal life, and microscopic species breathe with us. In this way, we create a reciprocity of connection through the breath; and it’s with this breath we intrude the digital by recognising online spaces as living and breathing environments. 

A longing to connect to ecological spaces, across borders and within the digital, has informed this residency; bringing Venice, Australia and the United Kingdom together to build an online environment focused on ecological practices, theories and pedagogies. We will present sound, imagery, written work and interactive artworks from artists of each region as a way to build connections between ecological spaces and places. 

As we journey through these spaces, spanning across different regions, we have looked to the potential of creating companion networks, envisaged as a digital library of interactive resources and shared relations. 

Make Interspecies Relations acts not as a simple resource centre, but instead as a platform where the entanglement of people, places and practices can come together to grow and connect. We aspire to create a platform that has accessibility options integrated for a myriad of users to interact and exchange at their preferred visual audio settings. 

Considering the importance for new languages that move beyond colonial constructs of the nature-culture divide, we will invite participants to submit words and definitions that occur in their own engagements to natural spaces, forming a rich, diverse, ecological vocabulary available online. Inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer who centres the language of animacy, we hope to bridge the gap between discourse and practice. In the nature of breathing connections, an accessible form online will be designed for people to share contact information so a larger ecological network can be maintained on-going following the project. 

During the two week presentation, we will activate the webpage with a focus on breathing together in a series of live performances and participatory meditative workshops with artists whose work is featured on the Make Interspecies Relations platform. 

We will invite participants to come to the digital world embodied in their own experiences, language and place. Through this, we recognise the diversity of bodies and from our own experiences of queerness and chronic pain, starting from the body allows people to be rooted in their present while expanding out to connect and heal together in this entangled eco-digital web. 

This project is curated by network Chiara Famengo, Mattie O’Callaghan, and Pierce Eldridge; curators addressing ecological uncertainties by forming meaningful and joyful relations across earthly networks. Working with the land as a starting point, this network challenges traditional ways of creating and embodying knowledges, moving beyond institutional settings towards spaces such as community gardens and activist-led initiatives. 

Rooted in their localities of Venice, Australia and the United Kingdom, the network grounds itself into the communities they are a part of, spending time and building relations centred around care for local people, creatives and ecologies. With this grounding they are better able to share local knowledges into global networks, building interconnected spaces of celebration and collective solidarity toward the current eco-social urgencies we all face. 

To be presented with Nextdoor ARI, 29 Aug — 9 Sep 2022, online at: https://nextdoorari.com/events

The Nextdoor Artist Run Initiative exists to champion the experimental practices of early career contemporary artists. Founded in 2020 by five emerging Meanjin (Brisbane) and Yugambeh Country (Gold Coast) based artists, we endeavour to be the 'next door' for aspiring artists, providing opportunities for artistic development and personal growth. With a current focus on South-East Queensland artists, our aim is to generate new and authentic art experiences, by facilitating the creation, exhibition and discussion of contemporary art.

Mushroom For All is a community-based public programme in Hoxton Community Garden curated by Mattie O'Callaghan and funded by Kew Gardens Grow Wild Fund.

The project aims to connect people to Native plants and fungi through a series of workshops including foraging, making mushroom paper and sharing recipes and food with each other. Continuing collaborations with artist Phoebe Hudson, this project builds from Weaving Springtime.

The project will take place July-October 2022.

Tony Snowdon Scholarship