Curatorial Practice and the T&D Project
by Cat Dunn
I’m Cat; I’m one of the volunteers and mentors for Thistles and Dandelions Heritage Group. Some of you might know me. To the newbies…a warm welcome 😊
The arts can describe our sense of identity, belonging, and community and act as a guide for societal cohesion, offering clear societal benefits where cultural figures and movements can help define a community.
I was drawn to apply to Thistles and Dandelions because it was about women supporting and empowering women and engaging with the culture and heritage sector. There is a feeling of community, of belonging, of togetherness while learning together. Engaging in your community is so crucial because this community directly involves you and what you want to do. I think that you get out what you put in. Volunteering has been an excellent way to get to know some of the people within the heritage sector that I might not have met previously.
Throughout my time as both volunteer and mentor, I have been lucky enough to go to the many varied workshops and talks put on by the T&D team, which has assisted in correlating my own thoughts on my practice.
I started volunteering with T&D while completing my masters at GSA. My masters’ dissertation and accompanying project, NOWYOUSEEUS was about social identity. through the lived experiences of women with Afro-Caribbean textured hair and their experiences fitting into a eurocentric world. As such, I feel like this extended community got to go on the emotional ride with me, from gaining a Distinction for my master’s project NOWYOUSEEUS, to creating Across Borders Collective applying for projects in East Asia, to applying for an Upskilling course in Curating (now completed and passed), and a PhD which starts scarily soon.
With T&D I have got involved with outreach programs such as speaking on UNESCO Rila podcasts and at the Scottish Civic Trust conference.
Now I get to take this extended community and family with me on another journey. Harbinger is a research-based, multi-layered hybrid exhibition describing the impact of the climate crisis on marginalised communities, specifically women of colour within urban areas. The physical production will be at Transmission Gallery in Glasgow from the 1st – 7th November 2021. I have chosen to marry hair and skin to the earth’s soil as skin.
Along with my team consisting of Dia Cao – assistant curator, and my great techs, I have been researching how the climate crisis, conflict and gender are heavily interlinked with colonialism, racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. I believe we all agree here. New approaches to development aid need to be considered. Current policies reinforce vulnerabilities, dependencies, and exhaustion of those targeted.
Capitalism and its resulting pollution hold a central role in this crisis. Diversity of experience connects forms of oppression or bias. Through these connections, we can focus on those aspects of oppression that affect human rational with each other and the environment and other living species.
Soil health, climate change, food production, biodiversity and water supply are all intrinsically linked, harbouring the potency of an envisaged future on our planet, which can be seen through devastation like coral bleaching affecting the Caribbean islands and The Great Barrier Reef.
Ecofeminists contend that there are significant correlations between women and the climate crisis.
There are systems of oppression and classifications of oppression and bias. All of the above have gender impacts, particularly on women of colour who often bear the brunt of climate change through systems of oppression and classification manifested via violence, rape, domestic abuse, racism, and racial bias.
Without giving too much away, within the layers of the exhibition, we will have focus group conversations with international women of colour, soil scientists, medical professionals, and award-winning artists.
I have happily invited T&D members to be a part of this journey and to come be a part of the focus group. I want to hear your experiences and your stories. I hope to have some of the team and group in during the exhibition to see the work for themselves.
Overall, being involved with T&D has allowed me to better articulate my practice as a social justice curator. During my time with the group, I have said yes to most opportunities and challenges and I can definitely say that joining this organisation was one of the best things for me.
Thistles & Dandelions is generously supported by Heritage Lottery Fund