Internship Reflections: Qiwei Deng
This is the second of two blog posts from our summer interns from the University of Leicester Art Museum and Gallery Studies 2018/19 course. As with the other student Tsen-Yu are are incredibly grateful to Qiwei Deng for all her enthusiasm, ideas and hard work over the 8 week placement at GoMA.
Internship Reflections: Qiwei Deng
I am Qiwei Deng, a student from University of Leicester studying in Art Museum and Gallery Studies. As a module of the master programme, I feel very lucky to have had a placement in GoMA for the last two months, learning a lot about how contemporary art institution works by seeing, observing, participating as well as doing.
My first part of the intern work started in the studio, assisting the learning staff to deliver family workshops which took place in the mornings. These workshops corresponded with the current exhibition of Fiona Tan: Disorient, a video work with two screens showing footage of the eastern world and a soundtrack speaking the text from Marco Polo’s diary. In the summer holiday programmes the art and craft activities for each week were designed with different themes of countries along with Marco Polo’s travel, including Italy, Iran, China and India. I and my fellow college Tsen-yu mainly helped to design and conduct some activities for the Chinese weeks, including: making fans and lanterns with Chinese pattern; using clay for terracotta warriors and twelve zodiac animals, and Chinese traditional painting. We also decorated in the learning space with pictures and music and helped to set up some materials for the workshops.
This experience was enjoyable for me because not only did I learn a lot from diverse forms of creative art in these four countries, but also developed the communication skills in the practice working with the audience of different ages and culture, including kids, young people, parents and elder people. For the institution, I felt my role as an empowered member of the Chinese community helped engage the visitors with the themes of the exhibition and by sharing and teaching local knowledge and techniques from my perspective avoiding cultural misunderstandings.
In the afternoons, I was also doing research for the artists and artworks in the collection based on my interests and I was asked to write interpretation for them. As I spent quite a long time in the Studio, I noticed that visitors were attracted by the mural commissioned from the artist Adrian Wiszneski and made in 1996 when the gallery was opened. Currently there is no label or other introduction about it in the gallery space. Therefore, I managed to reveal the history of the building and share more information about this piece of work with visitors through new text for a label, an information sheet paper and a special tour. It was a valuable opportunity for me to practice interpreting works for a general audience and look back to GoMA’s opening moments and collection.
Inspired by my fellow intern Tsen-Yu’s research on the artist Niki de Saint Phalle, when she delivered a workshop for family based on Niki’s Tarot Garden, I decided to develop a workshop for adults to discuss Niki’s Nana sculpture series and make their own Nanas with a tour to explore Niki’s work in the GoMA’s collection. I was very glad to get positive feedback from the participants and see people getting interested in Niki’s artmaking experience as well as her work in the our building. They created their clay figures with different shapes and colour on it to express personal identity of gender, body and beauty.
Since GoMA belongs to Glasgow Museums, a civic collection containing different museums across the city, it was interesting for me to understand how GoMA’s working approaches cooperate with and negotiate the large system. For instance, for the upcoming exhibition rotations in Galleries 2 and 4, there were programme meetings involving curators, technicians, conservators, designers, learning assistants, marketing assistants and so on, Therefore, although the core team in GoMA is a small team, with the support and resources from the wider Glasgow Museums’ team, for each project different teams work closely to each other to achieve the work planning for the future maybe two or three years in advance. I am also impressed by the multi-processing of the workflow of curation, from applying for funding to installation and de-installation.
In terms of Glasgow Museum Resource Centre, I wouldn’t forget the astonishment when I first walked into the storage pods and around the huge collection with the artist Rachel Maclean, seeing the objects we borrowed for the handling session related to the gallery building, history or the exhibition and the labelling process to register the new acquisition of LGBTQ social history objects. Therefore, I think the most important thing that I learnt from GoMA, is that contemporary art always has and should present a strong link to the past, present and the future, which is also the world and daily life we live.
Finally, great appreciation to Katie, Martin, Caroline, Angela and all the staff in GoMA for your support and helps during our placements. I will definitely miss this experience which gave me an insight into what a contemporary art institution is doing and helped me get prepared for my next career opportunity.
Qiwei Deng, September 2019