Design Trust/ RCA Fellows Public Lecture

21. 6. 2019

Design Trust / RCA Fellows Public Lecture was held on 24 April 2019.

Addressing the burgeoning field of design curating in Hong Kong and the region in a global context, Design Trust / RCA Fellows Mina Song and Sunnie Chan presented their experience and research exploring curatorial practice and theory in relation to existing and emergent design disciplines. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion co-moderated by Doryun Chong (Deputy Director, Chief Curator, M+) and Marisa Yiu (Co-founder and Executive Director, Design Trust) at the Asia Society Hong Kong.


Bringing together curators, designers and scholars, the Design Trust / RCA Fellowship in Design Curation provides advanced research into curatorial practice in relation to contemporary design and recent design history. Sunnie Chan (Design Trust / RCA Fellow 2018), an exhibition producer and researcher, has taken part in several projects including ‘M+ Mobile: Yaumatei’ (2012), ‘The Designer’s Heart’ (2015), ‘Hong Kong Department Store’ (2016) and ‘Very Hong Kong Very Hong Kong’ (2017). In 2018, Sunnie was a Research Associate for M+ museum on Hong Kong graphic design and the museum’s opening display. For Sunnie, working in Hong Kong in terms of curation is a learning-by-doing process, ‘along the way we acquire different skillsets and are equipped as programmers in planning, marketing, promotion, exhibition, and engaging with the public... What we are trained in Hong Kong is practical survival skills.’ During her Fellowship with the RCA in London, Sunnie was encouraged to question the role of curation, and what makes curation meaningful to a city. ‘RCA has thrown me out of my comfort zone, it provided another way of learning and thinking, there is no choice but to unlearn and learn about what I’ve observed and discovered here.’ Sunnie’s research fellowship at the RCA also includes a prototyping event ‘Design Curators Clinic’ and a placement at the Learning Department of the V&A Museum, centred on emerging practices of design curating and its contribution to cultural learning. 


‘Curation can be a good means of storytelling and flag a creative confidence in the city.’ – Sunnie Chan (Design Trust / RCA 2018 Fellow).


The presentation was followed by inaugural Design Trust / RCA Fellow 2017: Mina Song, who is a visual designer and former arts administrator, she has commissioned artworks for installation in public buildings across Hong Kong. Mina shared on the structure of her Fellowship experience from research and theories, to exhibition and a placement at the V&A museum. ‘I was interested in [the theoretical application] of “Actual Production of Space” from the early conception of the exhibition, and with it, the design of space as well. Although the fellowship was specifically on design curation, for me, it was more of examining design curation through and in comparison, to public art.’ said Mina. Held at White City Place in London, Mina’s final exhibition applied findings from her research undertaken during the Fellowship into design tactics for curatorial practice. She curated and collaborated with four participating creators invited the public community to examine space in a different perspective. For more details on Mina’s exhibition, please see previous post here.


‘The best advantage was the chance to be in the presence of scholars and thinkers, in and around the RCA.’ – Mina Song (Design Trust / RCA 2017 Fellow). 


During the panel discussion co-moderated by Doryun Chong (Deputy Director, Chief Curator, M+) and Marisa Yiu (Co-founder and Executive Director, Design Trust), the speakers explored the Fellowship as a process of discovery and intellectual inquiry. Acting as a testing ground for curators, traditionally known as custodians and caregivers, how do we position curation against art administrations, and other disciplines in the creative ecology? ‘It’s almost like finding your own identity and realising your strengths and limitations.’ said Sunnie Chan, who shared how the fellowship had changed the way she approaches curation by ‘having a bolder voice in terms of the interpretation, inject our own interpretation through exhibition making. This fellowship has helped me situate and mediate.’


Exploring the idea of creative diplomacy, Marisa added that ‘the agency of a curator is not only as an “administrator” but ability to connect different disciplines, bringing various community whether highbrow or grassroots; generating discourse and conversations.’ Speaking of her exhibition at White City, Mina shared how being physically onsite enabled her to engage first hand with the audience ‘the exhibition was meant to confront and I was physically there to see the audience being challenged.‘ Taking a different approach, Sunnie used the context of a curator’s clinic to disrupt the hierarchy between curators, designers and the public.


‘Engagement must be driven as a big motivation, it’s not to demonstrate a curator’s knowledge but how to utilise that knowledge and excite people who participate.’ – Catherine Maudsley (Design Trust/ RCA Fellowship in Design Curation committee member).


The evening ended with the question of how historicising design influences curation in design. Being based at the History of Design programme at the RCA enabled the Fellows to see curation from a historical perspective. This historical analysis and object-based inquiry enabled the Fellows to critically assess in an objective way. The postgraduate programme is tailor-made to each Fellow based on the unique selection process and different aspects of design thinking and processes. ‘Creating a Fellowship that is non-standardised, this is a testing ground for research and education looking at Asia and Hong Kong design in a different context that is non-traditional.’ – Marisa Yiu (Co-founder/ Executive Director, Design Trust).


‘The privilege of working on an institutional project is not just about the project itself but an ecology that is constantly changing and evolving. An ecology that is growing also needs to be constantly fed with different minds. The Fellowship programme with the V&A provides a new possibility.’ –Doryun Chong (Deputy Director, Chief Curator, M+) .