top of page

Is The Curator Agent Or Double Agent Of Cultural Identity?


Samson Kambalu, Hew Locke, Sharon Norwood,  

Harold Offeh, Sheena Rose & Sophie Woolley.

Artist's film screening and interviews

Is The Curator An Agent Or Double Agent Of Cultural Identity?


Asia Culture Center (ACC)

38 Munhwajeondang-ro 










"Operating in this terrain which might also be defined as a chameleon Waugh Office where filters draw identities together. Under the surface of subjectivity what animal tropes of territory are healthy and which are regressive? How do artists respond to being representatives of cultures and when do they escape such stereotypes? Under the title of #becominganimal Julia Waugh of Waugh Office has curated a series of interruptions that explore the theme of becoming animal as a metaphorical topology of the border and will introduce the audience to the works of Sheena Rose, Sharon Norwood, Samson Kambalu, Sophie Woolley and Hew Locke also stage in Gwangju and Seoul including a special studio session with Yeesookyung. periscope and/ Facebook live." - ACC 



Is the Curator an Agent or Double Agent of Cultural Identity? was a symposium which investigated how emergent cultural diasporas have impacted the curatorship of contemporary visual arts specifically and how new models of contemporary curating have developed as a consequence of these effects. The programme sought to demonstrate how curatorial practice has been radically transformed by the diaspora of people, intellectuals, artists, and cultural workers.

The symposium was part of ICF’s Curating the International Diaspora programme (2016-7), which was a trans-national, multi-site project that involved working with curators and artists from culturally diverse backgrounds across five countries with a range of cultural partners in London, UK; Gwangju, South Korea; Barbados & Martinique, the Caribbean; Sharjah, UAE.

Sheikha Hoor Bint Sultan Al Qasimi (President and Director, Sharjah Art Foundation), David A Bailey MBE (Director of The ICF)Jeonhwan Cho (Research Fellow of Asia Culture Center), Graeme Mortimer Evelyn (Artist; Independent Curator), Melanie Keen (Director, Iniva), Namsoo Kim (Art Critic; Former Curator, Nam June Paik Art Center), Giuseppe Moscatello (Director, Maraya Art Centre), Yongsung Paik (Philosopher; Artistic director of 2016 AASN project), Kyong Park (Professor, UCSD; Director of ‘Imagining New Eurasia‘), Sara Raza (Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East & North Africa for the New York Museum), Judith Greer (International Programmes Director, Sharjah Art Foundation), JW Stella (Director of JAC; International Associate Curator of Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art), Jessica Taylor (Independent Curator), Mark Waugh (Programme Director, ICF; Head of Research and Innovation, DACS), Jian Jun Xi (Artist; Director, UKCAA)


For intellectual and cultural diasporas from diverse origins and disciplines, a new kind of curatorial practice has attempted to represent these changes by creating what Ute Meta Bauer has called ‘a space of refuge – an in-between space of transition and of diasporic passage’ for cultural workers across the world.

Whereas increased global mobilities, displacement, and the vast emigration of cultural producers has had a profound effect on contemporary art and curatorial practice for the last three decades, focused research has not been conducted on the impact of these developments.

Similarly, little attempt has been made to understand how curatorial practice in Asia has been influenced by cross-cultural diasporas or how the emergence of a more globalised art world has taken account of these new networks, flows and their dispersal, which increasingly operate at an international, trans-national, multi-national and global level, with the local and global in constant dialogue with one another.

Issues of cultural identity and representation are highly debated topics at the moment. In the current geopolitical and economic circumstances, the world is increasingly facing the rise of ‘nationalism’ as a dominant discourse, often justified as a sense of self-protection of ‘the people’ under an assumed homogenous collective identity against the heterogeneous ‘otherness’. There is growing concern in the international artistic community about censorship and the closing down of public opportunities to engage with international cultures, despite increasing globalization of cultural flows and practices, facilitated by the advent of digital technologies, social media platforms, and the increasing circulation of products and populations.

In celebration of it’s inauguration of the new Asia Culture Centre in Gwangju, South Korea, this symposium – which was organised by JW Stella and Mark Waugh – aimed to explore the role of curatorial practice and art institutions of Asia in questioning the very notion of (collective) identity and creating a critical space for cultural cross-pollination and encounters within the current geopolitical context.

The International Curators Forum (ICF) in collaboration with The Asia Cultural Center (The ACC)  and Waugh Office, curated a series of presentations, lectures and interviews that raised issues of curation and the ambassadorial possibilities for art and artists. With focus on pan cultural dialogue, through biennials, traveling exhibitions and technologies.

This 2 day symposium was followed by a tour with visiting curators, artists and arts professionals to the Gwangju Biennial and notable museums and galleries in Seoul.

Becoming Animal was a series of films by Samson Kambalu, Harold Offeh, Sheena Rose, Sophie Woolley and Hew Locke curated by Julia Waugh. Hair Stories, a live studio tour and Q&A with artist Sharon Norwood was also streamed during the event.


Marguerite Humeau 

Sharon Norwood

Day 1. Beyond Curatorial Session1: Relational Ethics and Aesthetics


Session 2: Curating Asia: place & people

Invited speakers (both from Pan Asian diaspora in the West and Western diaspora in the East) will share their recent practice as a framework to address the questions:

• How does a curator, as primary interpreter of a work of art and collaborator with the artist ‘de-construct’ discourses of homogenised stereotypes of cultural identity? • How are radical approaches to curatorial research enabling new versions of movements in Asia since their various moments of Modernism/ modernity'

Day 2. Infrastructure Session 3: De-centerialisation of cultures in the era of re-centralisation.


Session 4: Creating Legacies

These questions are raised in remembrance of the late consideration of hospitality as defined by the Algerian – French diaspora philosopher Jacques Derrida. “The law of unlimited hospitality and on the other hand, the laws (in the plural), those rights and duties that are always conditioned and conditional by all of law and all philosophy of law up to Kant and Hegel in particular, across the family, civil society, and the State of Hospitality”. (Stanford Press 2000)


Our speakers from the independent groups and the public institutions in Pan-Asia will illuminate the issue of curatorial agency by discussing • the roles of art and cultural institutions as cultural facilitators and how they can re-position themselves in the current geopolitical climate. • how will the new Asia Culture Center establish new Asian cultural identities through the form of contemporary art practice.

After the symposium, the group visited the 2016 Gwangju Biennial entitled The Eighth Climate: What Does Art Do curated by Maria Lind, and then traveled to Seoul to visit the Seoul International Media Art Biennale and MMCA Seoul.

Waugh Office was established in 2011 by Julia Waugh and Mark Waugh,

 as a hybrid platform curating exhibitions, events and publications internationally

Privacy Policy

© Waugh Office 2024.

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
bottom of page