Arts Cabinet
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Arts Cabinet
Operating at the intersection between art and research

Arts Cabinet operates at the intersection between art and research, which we see as a framework through which to promote the transformative power of artistic production.

At a time when the world is increasingly fragmented, when free-movement and the freedom of speech are under attack, foreigners a source of fear and suspicion, we are increasing our efforts to engage transnationally and develop collaborative projects that involve different people, with different backgrounds in different places, and offer the chance to meet, discuss, share ideas and experiences.
We document and disseminate untold stories that breakthrough stereotypes and demonstrate a strong desire amongst artists, curators, researchers, organisations to continue to exchange and be inspired by other’s efforts to promote free inquiry and dialogue, as perfect testimonies to the value of cultural exchange and the power of diversity.

Arts Cabinet, the name

The name Arts Cabinet was inspired by the legacy of the curiosity cabinet in contemporary art, in particular in artistic and curatorial practices which are influenced by categorisation, classification and archiving, alongside the random selection of objects and ideas.

The concept of curiosity draws on Michel Foucault’s analysis of the word in ‘The Masked Philosopher’. Curiosity “…can also evoke ‘concern’, the care that one takes for what exists and could exist; a readiness to find strange and singular what surrounds us; a certain relentlessness to break up our familiarities and to regard otherwise the same things.”

The association of Arts with Cabinet is meant to evoke a juxtaposition between artistic curiosity and academic rigour as a basis for engaging critically but also imaginatively with the world around us.

Who we are

Arts Cabinet is steered by the following Board of Trustees:

Stuart MacDonald is the Chair and co-founder of Arts Cabinet. He is the founder and Senior Consultant at SYM Consulting, who advise Governments, international organisations and higher education on influence, culture and foreign policy in the digital age. Stuart worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the UK Government for over 20 years and has led major soft power initiatives in the USA, Asia and across the European Union. He founded the Centre for Cultural Relations (now the Institute for International Cultural Relations) at the University of Edinburgh.

Anthony Downey is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa within the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University, and, Editor-in-Chief, Ibraaz Publishing.

Carla Figueira is the Director of the MA in Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy and of the MA in Tourism and Cultural Policy at the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Edward Hollis is Dean of Research at Edinburgh College of Art. He is an architect, a teacher and a writer, whose books include The Secret Lives of Buildings and The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors. He lives in Edinburgh, where he is Reader in Interior Design.

Tom Fleming is a leading international expert on the creative economy and cultural policy. His work focuses on advising governments, municipalities and institutions across the world to develop effective research, policy, strategy and action. He is director of Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy.

Mark O’Neill was until recently Director of Policy and Research for Glasgow Life, the charity which delivers cultural services for the city of Glasgow. Prior to that, Mark was Head of Arts and Museums in the City of Glasgow. He publishes extensively and is an internationally known speaker, delivering keynote conference addresses around the world. He has served on numerous committees, including the Getty Foundation’s Museum Leadership Institute in Los Angeles.

Nicholas Sharp is a London-based solicitor with Swan Turton LLP, specialising in advising artists and arts organisations on contracts, intellectual property and other legal issues. He is also the Director and co-founder of The Multiple Store, a not-for-profit organisation which commissions and sells limited editions by major contemporary artists. 

Advisory Board:

The Advisory Board of is an integral part of the organisation. Advisors advise the Chair and the Trustees, develop expertise on ways to support the enterprise of the organisation, offer insight and guidance on programmes, and serve as links to the communities in which they live and work.

Professor Jeff Haywood
Jeff is Emeritus Professor of Education & Technology in the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests are in the development of strategies for effective use of ICT in education at institutional, national and international levels, with a particular emphasis on understanding learner experiences. Until 2015, he was Vice-Principal for Knowledge Management, Chief Information Officer and Librarian at the University of Edinburgh, leading initiatives in expanding online distance and open education, high performance computing services, research data management and storage services. From 2015-17 he was Vice Principal Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, leading the university’s digital education strategy, including its expanding portfolio of taught online Masters degrees and CPD, distance PhDs, and MOOCs.His presentations and publications can be found at http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/jeffhaywood/

Alma Salem
Alma is an expert in Middle-East and North Africa arts, culture and heritage sectors, having worked 10 years for the Council in Beirut as Regional Arts manager for the MENA region. Alma is the Curator of the touring exhibition entitled ‘ Syria Third Space’ showcasing new works by Syrian artists in times of conflict, launched in London in January 2015, at The EU parliament building, Brussels June 2015 ‘ and in Belfast, January 2016.

Our team

Svetlana Sequeira Costa is the founding director of Arts Cabinet. She has been working in the field of art and culture transnationally for over 20 years, with major institutions, leading artists, public and private. She is passionately committed to working with artists and to add value to the development of their work. She is a Research Fellow at Goldsmiths College London (ICCE), and an Associate Researcher with the Fine Art Department of the University of Agder (Norway).

Denise Clarke is in charge of the Editorial of Arts Cabinet. For nearly 20 years, Denise lived and worked in a number of Gulf countries, in the field of Human Resources, Art and Design. She is currently a PhD student at SOAS, London. With a background in both Art History and Geography, she has a particular interest in the socio and geopolitical dimensions of art and art institutions in North Africa and the Middle-East, with a specific focus on the Gulf.

Cécile Bourne-Farrell is an independent curator who worked for the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, and for both public, private and Higher Education institutions in Africa, Asia and Europe, including King’s College London. She joins Arts Cabinet on an advisory capacity, and as Curator, Special Projects

Our community of practice

We work with a global network of researchers, artists, practitioners, educators, activists, and independent experts. We also work in partnership with higher education and cultural institutions, such as galleries and museums, that are interested in presenting our work or taking part in projects we develop. 

Our history, our values

Post-revolutionary Tunisia was the point of departure for the creation of Arts Cabinet.

In 2012, in Tunis, in the aftermath of the revolution, I saw artists and cultural communities at the forefront of re-thinking the relationships between art, context, and social change. I witnessed how artistic enquiry into social issues was a stimulus to free and creative exchange. I engaged in events – public and closed - which confirmed that art and artists had the power to bring people together and forge common ground about past and present, histories, places and concerns.

An unprecedented proliferation of actions and events brought about by artists, thinkers, activists, intellectuals, scholars, and others, revealed a passion to democratise society, nurture alternative ways of seeing and understanding the world. The emergence of this sudden movement generated creative dynamism, essential to form the conditions for experimenting and testing change.


One of the first key exhibitions marking this period, was presented in 2012 at the ifa Galleries in Berlin, and in Stuttgart. Rozige Zukunft (A future in pink), organised by ifa - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, showcased a selected group of ‘artists, men and women, as witnesses and participants of the political upheaval of January 2011’ and revealed the birth of a new contemporary scene in Tunisia filled with multiple opinions about politics, society and art and a powerful energy for imagining possible futures.

From 2013 to 2015, in association with an active network of collaborators and supporters, I engaged with partners across the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and Europe to identify what type of initiatives could be developed to support this creative dynamism that had emerged in North Africa in the post-revolutionary years and to offer alternatives ways of engaging and exchanging.

It became clear that an innovative approach was needed, one that had the independence to rise above the traditional models of exchange. The imperative was to ensure non-instrumentalised, forward-looking and open engagement, as a new way to build relationships between people, ideas and places.

It also became clear that to deliver this approach, a new type of structure needed to exist: one which could operate transnationally, flexibly and independently whilst adapting to local challenges and constraints. The essential role of such a structure would be to create conditions for stimulating experimentation and enquiry and become a critical platform recognised by artists and researchers for its role as a research-led initiative and a public forum for art and culture, supporting a critical mission of fostering a vibrant and diverse community of artists, scholars, and practitioners who take creative, intellectual, and social risks to bring about positive change.

Arts Cabinet was therefore formed in 2016 as an independent organisation, registered as a not for profit Charity in England, with the mission to promote free enquiry through art and research. In addition, Arts Cabinet forges collaboration between artists, researchers and communities of interest, and ensures that everything it does and presents is made accessible.

Everything we do is underpinned by our commitment to the value of free, independent and un-instrumentalised enquiry.

Svetlana Sequeira Costa
Founding Director

Acknowledgements

Arts Cabinet has received support from the following institutions, national and international, that contributed to the development of the organisation by funding specific activities, offering in-kind support, and inviting us to take part in their events.

Partnerships

Arts Cabinet works very closely with the Higher Education sector, and is currently in partnership with King’s College London, Goldsmiths College London, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Agder (Norway).

Funding and Institutional support:

The following institutions and organisations have provided support through funding, in-kind contributions, or subsistence for participation in conferences, workshops, events etc.

Creative Scotland; Mimeta, Norway; The University of Edinburgh (ECA); The Scottish Government; The British Council, Tunisia; The Norwegian Consulate (UK); More Europe Brussels; The University of Agder, Norway; EUNIC Global, Brussels; The Danish Cultural Institute, Copenhagen; ARVIMM, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences-Sociales, Paris; Instituto Camões, Lisbon; Goldsmiths College, London; King’s College, London; The Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunis; IBRAAZ Tunis, London; The Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam; The Cultural Diplomacy Platform, Brussels; The Arab British Centre, London; The University of Kent Brussels.

Special thanks to our trustees, associates, advisors, collaborators, and volunteers whose support, trust and enthusiasm are crucial to the development and life of the organisation.