Profile: Jodie Cox | UAP Curatorial Team Manager

23 March, 2010

Jodie Cox leads UAP’s Curatorial Team bringing over 10 years of arts experience, curating and managing major international art and design commissions for the public realm. Jodie has extensive experience working with collaborative teams in the development of targeted art and design strategies for masterplanned cities, commercial developments, and communal spaces. Jodie has an in-depth knowledge of international artists and awareness of international trends in art and design. She has a comprehensive understanding of best practice commissioning models and processes.

As manager of the Curatorial Team, Jodie is responsible for artwork strategy development including cultural research, conceptual direction and curatorial framework, artist/designer selection and liaison, and project planning. She has contributed to UAP’s curatorial methodology, which has underpinned successful artwork strategies including Palm Jebel Ali, Dubai, the KAUST International Art Program, Saudi Arabia and Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Jodie talks about her passions and curatorial approach to international projects.

What do you enjoy about curating artworks for the public realm?

For me the enjoyment lies in the creation of opportunities for both artists and the wider community.

The opportunity for the artists is to connect with the broader community. Artistic practice can be a solo, even isolating experience.  By creating artworks for the public realm, artists are drawn into a larger project, can collaborate with a wide range of design professionals and can engage a much wider audience.

The opportunity for the community is that they can engage with art in their daily lives – through functional spaces, transitional spaces, leisure spaces that become cultural spaces through the inclusion and integration of art. Successful integrated artworks add life and texture to the public realm, and to the experience of living in or visiting a place.

What’s particular about curating artworks for international public spaces, such as in the Middle East?

Sensitivity to local culture is incredibly important to the process.  It’s important to approach a new space with an open mind to avoid bringing in pre-conceived ideas from my own culture and background of creating public art for Australian audiences.

The first step is an intensive research process. It involves reading, making connections with local contacts and site visits to experience first-hand the physical and cultural environment. Of course, we don’t expect to be able to immediately see all there is to know about a culture, so collaboration with local galleries and local design teams is crucial.

Listening to, and collaborating with, landscape architects and curators with long term experiences in a given region gives valuable insight to inform our curatorial process. This consultative approach continues until that process is complete.

Tell us about your approach to the KAUST International Art Program.

KAUST is a great example of a collaborative UAP project – from collaboration at the start of the project with landscape architects HOK, collaboration with curators Renai Grace and Alison Kubler through to collaboration with a range of international artists that we worked with for the first time.  The curatorial focus was to create a truly international collection/program of works for the project which brought together diverse practices from various regions around the globe.  For an Australian based company it was a very exciting time working with highly acclaimed in-region artists such as Nja Madhaoui while also collaborating with significant international artists such as Carsten Höller.

How did you go about choosing and briefing the artists?

For KAUST, Renai Grace and UAP Principal Dan Tobin developed a curatorial rationale that linked closely with King Abdullah’s vision for the university – to create an international research university that exemplified the Islamic world’s contribution to world knowledge while strengthening connections between the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The artwork program mimicked that vision physically on the campus by drawing talented artists from all over the world to contribute the public space.  Artists were briefed to respond to the vision of the university and were provided with regional, cultural and environment information about Saudi Arabia as to inform their concept development process.

This is the really exciting stage of a project: each artist brings their own interests and way of working, and each is inspired about various aspects of the project. Then the artwork concepts begin to emerge.

Donna Marcus, for example, referenced the Delphinus constellation from ancient Middle Eastern astronomy to create an artwork for the Seacourt Link pedestrian zone; while Jason Bruges became enthralled by the work of Arab scholar Ibn al-Haytham, and notions of the changing tides in his concept development for the pier.

The resulting works on the site take many varied forms, respond to diverse aspects of the place yet they emerge a cohesive whole that aligns with the vision of the university.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work? Any art/design indulgences?

I love visiting galleries, events and exhibitions to keep in touch with the local art and design community, and reading, of course.

For art my must read is the ‘e-flux newsletter’ from Art Agenda and must visit is GOMA (Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art).

For design my must visit is The Coolhunter and must read is InDesign Magazine.

My annual unwind is the Woodford Folk Festival – love it!

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