Submerged Bodies by Melanie Stidolph

The city of Exeter is set to be transformed into a multi-site contemporary art exhibition thanks to a new community-focused project led by postgraduate students.

Arts venues, public spaces and even empty shops will showcase the work of highly-regarded and emerging talents, all selected by students learning to be curators at the University of Exeter.

Six exhibitions will take place across three locations under the collective title of Foreign Bodies, exploring what it feels like to be an outsider in a dominant cultural context.

Foreign Bodies will run from 7-16 June and will be open to the public from 12-5pm daily, with venues including Positive Light Projects and the former Surridge Gallery on Bedford Street.

“Our summer exhibitions bring student learning and professional development into the community, creating a public event that people of all ages can experience and enjoy,” says Professor Tom Trevor, the programme’s director. “This year’s event reflects upon the notion of the ‘foreign’. As well as considering issues of diversity and inclusion in relation to gender, health, sexuality, and race, Foreign Bodies challenges us to think about what it must be like to be ‘more than human’ in an urban setting, and how our unchecked consumerism has polluted the world’s oceans.”

Plastic Ocean by Steve McPherson

Exeter’s MA Curation: Contemporary Art and Cultural Management is an intensive one-year postgraduate degree, in which students explore the social, cultural and economic issues that surround the contemporary art world. They also undergo professional training and accrue practical experience, which culminates in the final term with the opportunity to organise a curatorial project of their own.

The students work in groups and are expected to research and approach artists, select work, and develop their own exhibitions. With support from the University’s academic staff, they collectively define the overall theme of the annual showcase.

Among this year’s exhibitions, featured artists include:

  • UK-based Chinese artists Hester Yang and Samuel Zhang (in Seeing Double), South West-based artists Ashanti Hare, Tëan Roberts and Melanie Stidolph (Submerged Bodies) and KeFan Wang, YARA + DAVINA and Yihao Zhang (in Divinations), who will have work exhibited at the former Meat 59 restaurant on Bedford St
  • The work of artists Ayla Bramblett, Izi Coonagh, Adriana Ford, Naomi Hart, Diane Leopard and Kate Walters will be brought together in an exhibition called More Than Pink, which aims to challenge conventional perceptions of breast cancer by artists.
  • Marie Lehmann (Fantastic Mr (Urban) Fox) and photographer Steve McPherson (Plastic Ocean), will be exhibited at Positive Light Projects, on Sidwell Street.

“One of the key tasks of a contemporary art curator is to champion emerging talent, helping them to breakthrough, which is all about getting the timing right,” adds Professor Trevor. “There are some excellent artists here, who will go on to be renowned practitioners in the next few years, so we are very excited to be able to showcase their work as well as the curatorial skills of our students.”

Seeing Double by Hester Yang and Samuel Zhang