How can we approach Anti-Racist Curating?

Rachael Burns
June 2020



As white curators wanting to challenge the imbalance of power and lack of diversity in the art world we have to acknowledge the fact that we have benefitted from the same culture of white supremacy that these cultural institutions flourish under and uphold. This acknowledgement has to be accompanied by committing to life long listening and unlearning of our colonial gaze.
By writing this blog post we aim to formalise the discussions we’ve been having and hold ourselves accountable. We will also be sharing resources that we find useful in the hope that they can be of use to other white creatives. We hope that our skills can be put to good use to work towards building a more inclusive and accessible industry. However we recognise that there are spaces where it isn’t important to hear from us and in these cases we will step back.

For actions specifically related to the Black Lives Matter movement we would like to share these resources that we have found really helpful: 
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MqopwpAxsBAwq5GQCfQcW1tkMrSQHBeMzwhzqW5m2Rg/mobilebasic

Thank you to @sadgrads2020 for compiling this!


We want to talk here specifically about our current project, working with artists and a gallery in Hong Kong and Singapore as white British curators. This requires its own specific research to ensure that we don’t enforce our own colonial gaze and perpetuate historic power dynamics.
To avoid doing this we will be taking the following actions:

  • Questioning our instinctive decision-making and the conventions of bringing together an exhibition. We have been educated in a system that privileges the work of white artists and a Eurocentric gaze. We have to constantly and consistently check in on the choices that we are making and asking ourselves to what extent these decisions are influenced by white supremacy. Photographer’s Green Book has put together this very thoughtful and vital list of questions that we will be using as a framework.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/11PCIgEsvqTBjJbERb7O1LmakoX_XDrPTm9EYzBe35 dA/edit
  • To read the following list of books and articles. This is the very basic reading list that is by no means comprehensive and relates specifically to this project. We will be adding and updating as we go*.


  • To avoid the fetishisation or sanitation of the work of the featured artists. We will do this by working collaboratively with the artists to best serve their work. No curatorial decisions will be made without their consent. To facilitate this collaboration we must also create an environment that allows our collaborators to raise any concerns with us. We endeavour to remove our white fragility and ego from the discussion to allow for an honest and healthy working relationships.

  • We also pledge to be transparent with our working processes. The original plan for this blog was to be a place that shared the research and development of work from a variety of artists and creatives, and to document our own process of bringing the exhibition together. We want to extend this transparency to all areas of the project. Our current exhibition is funded by The Hong Kong Arts Development Fund; because we are receiving public funding we will publish our budget at the end of the project.

  • We were selected for this project from the Emerging Talents in Contemporary Art International Open Call. It is now our responsibility to use that platform and funding ethically and responsibly. We stated in our original application that we wanted to use this project as an opportunity to build ongoing collaborations, and we are currently planning for ways to do this beyond the exhibition in August. This is very much a work in progress, research driven project that we want to develop into further exhibitions, events and publications.

This is a list of small actions that are related specifically to our role as white curators producing this exhibition in Hong Kong. Different roles and projects will bring new responsibilities and we will consistently check in and update this list of actions.

If anyone wants to engage with us on this subject we really welcome any comments. If we make mistakes we will hold ourselves accountable and correct them. We hope that this project can allow a safe space for reflection and further conversation, and we intend to report back on this list of actions at regular intervals throughout the project.


  •      *INITIAL READING LIST

  • Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay
  • Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World, Kumari Jayawarden
  • The Gift of Radical Domesticity: AAA Reflection, Quek Jia Q
  • AAA Radio: All the tea in China: conversations on gender, sexuality and politics with three UK-based, pan-Chinese artists, Yarli Allison
  • Hong Kong: Culture and the politics of disappearance, Ackbar Abbas
  • The Location of Culture, Homi K Bhabha
  • Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies in Asian Context and Its Prospect, Phyo Win Latt
  • Gradations of colonialism in Southeast Asia’s ‘in-between’ places, Thongchai Winichakul and Eric Tagliacozzo
  • Shortlist: Queer art in Hong Kong, Chan Sai-Lok