Layla Hendow: A Year as an Invisible Dust Young Curator
Young Curator Layla Hendow shares her experiences working with Invisible Dust.
This year, Natalie and I have been the Invisible Dust “Young Curators”. It has been an amazing and rewarding experience, but not without its challenges; it has often pushed me out of my comfort zone and has made me rethink many of my own habits and values with what I have learnt.
I was initially drawn to the Young Curator programme as it fit well with my research interests. However, although my work shares values and ideas with Invisible Dust’s focus on the environment and the arts, I only had a very limited involvement in art practice, which, going into the programme, I acknowledged was a weakness of mine. I had heard of the work done by Invisible Dust and their endeavour to connect art with environmental concerns; they had recently done a project called “Offshore” for the Hull City of Culture. My PhD is concerned with literature’s representation of waste and the waste crisis, so the work done by Invisible Dust has always been thought-provoking for me. As well as this, though, I was intrigued to learn more about an arts organisation outside arts and humanities in academia. Coming to the end of my studies, I wanted to explore what a career working in the arts might look like, so this was a great opportunity to see an organisation like Invisible Dust at work, up close and personal.
Throughout the year, we were given the opportunity to work on and attend some amazing events run by Invisible Dust. It gave me the chance to meet people interested in similar concerns as me, and see some fantastic artists at work such as Gayle Chong Kwan and Margaret Salmon. A big highlight of my journey was the intensive training weekend and everything I learnt during it. I got to meet an inspiring group of young woman and take part in workshops by people leading in their field. Sarah Cartwright’s workshop on communication has stuck with me since; I use the techniques I learnt in the session often to help me with communicating in an academic as well as non-academic environment.
I was also grateful for the chance to be part of the Under Her Eye Festival and Summit. It was a diverse weekend, combining a professional conference with a day of fun, immersive family activities. So in that way, it combined something I am very familiar with in the world of academia, and something that I have no experience with. It was amazing hearing the two keynote speakers, Christiana Figueres and Margaret Atwood, who bookended the conference day. The highlight for me was the Human Sensor LDN performance. It was a large scale, digital and performative artwork by Kasia Molga, who worked with scientists to create dancer’s outfits that responded in real-time to the pollution in the air around them. It was another unique way that Invisible Dust finds connections between art and science in order to help spread environmental consciousness to the public. I loved watching the dancers and seeing people coming out of restaurants and cafes to ask what was happening. It was a great way to engage with the public.
The Many Hands project, curated by Natalie and I, has been really beneficial for me and I have learned a lot from it. It’s pushed me outside my comfort zone because it has tested my creativity, leadership and curatorial skills. The zine has also tested my teamwork as Natalie and I have worked together, at times remotely, working on the joint project. It has been wonderful to have support from Invisible Dust but also the space to lead our own project. The project has grown so much from its initial inception during “Under Her Eye”, and from the ideas, we were supported through the workshops and the data gathering, and we will soon be publishing the first issue of the Many Hands zine, based on the “Under Her Eye” festival. It’s exciting to have a real output that I can take away from this experience doing the Young Curator Programme.
Overall, the Young Curator programme has been an invaluable addition to my degree at Hull University. It has taught me skills I would not have been able to learn, and opened my eyes to life at an arts organisation. I’m thrilled to have been part of it.
Looking forward, I hope to get more involved in the running of arts organisations. I would have liked to have had this opportunity whilst being a Young Curator with Invisible Dust, as I am intrigued to learn about the different roles and how they contribute to the running of the organisation. Moving on from the programme, I hope to spend the next year finishing my degree, and then go in search for work either inside or outside the academy!