Put together by ten final year MA Curating Contemporary Art students from the Royal College of Art, 'Ritual without Myth' explores the potential of ritual as a catalyst for transformative experience. The exhibition features the work of a group of international artists, many of whom are currently emerging to wide critical acclaim.
One of the students involved Mette Kjaergaard Praest believes that it is the responsibility of a curator to point out different ways of seeing. By involving the viewer in direct experience of a ritual, formulating and confronting visual languages, the exhibition challenges ideologies and iconographies, bringing about a fresh perspective.
Dazed Digital: What was the inspiration behind the exhibition?
Mette Kjaergaard Praest: We have been researching many different strands, which in the end led us to focus on Brazilian antropofagia (the cannibalising of culture) and artists who make use of and play with rituals and cultural signifiers in their practises.
DD: What are some of the recurring themes in the exhibition?
Mette Kjaergaard Praest: The idea of playing with ritual or myth is reoccurring, as well as the way the exhibiting artists bring together different cultural signs and symbols, and how by using these in a different manner, can slightly or brutally change their significance.
DD: How do you think these themes apply to our current cultural situation?
Mette Kjaergaard Praest: I think many of these artists rethink or propose a different attitude to the dominant structures, rituals and myths of society.
DD: Did you work as a group or did one particular person make the decisions?
Mette Kjaergaard Praest: We work as a group and make decisions as a group. This obviously makes the process longer and challenging for everybody involved, but at the same time I think a more interesting and 'open' exhibition with different entry points and perspectives has come out of it.
DD: How were the artists involved in the exhibition?
Mette Kjaergaard Praest: All of the ten artists are involved in different ways and levels. We have a few new commissions, in which the artists are very involved in the process from discussing what they might do to the final install. For example, Danai Anesiadou was here a week before the opening and made the final work on site.
Other artwork, like Joachim Koester's two 16mm film, is work that was already made, which we found captures some of our main points, or adds to the exhibition as a whole. In this case we have had conversations with the artist about how we might present the work in the exhibition. Other artists are no longer alive, and in this case we have been in touch with their galleries or estates in discussing their participation in Ritual without Myth.
DD: What has been the biggest challenge you faced when curating Ritual without Myth?
Mette Kjaergaard Praest: Curating a big exhibition like this as a student show has been a challenge. We are working as a team of ten curators on a large-scale exhibition. At the same time we are students working within a college and with college deadlines, so deadlines are following college deadlines and not the deadlines from the 'real world'. In that sense applying for funding etc has been difficult. Then on the other hand there are a lot of advantages of working from within an institution like Royal College of Art, it can open a lot of doors.
‘Ritual without Myth’ takes place between 9-25 March 2012 at Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU