Written By: Danielle Toriumi
Jackie Im, Mills College alumna and curator to the first exhibition of Mills‘ new gallery space, Slide Space 123, kicked off the Mills’ Art Lecture Series of 2016 with a reflection on how strange it felt to finally be on the other side of the podium.
On Sept. 28, students gathered in the Danforth Lecture Hall to hear Im’s lecture on her journey of becoming a curator and the unexpected situations and surprising circumstances the role led to.
From curating an art show in a friend’s apartment to her current success as co-founder and director of Et al. and Et al. etc. galleries in San Francisco, Im’s opportunity seeking and “roll with the punches” attitude certainly paid off.
Im calls San Francisco her hometown, despite initially moving to the east coast for college. After spending one year at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, Im knew that it was not the school for her and transferred to Mills, where she quickly found her place within the Oakland community.
Im reflected on her most influential times at Mills, when she worked in the college’s museum, during her museum studies course.
“Having the opportunity to work with and interpret art in this way produced a moment of realization as, ‘[Becoming a curator] is actually a thing that people do, that I could do!’” Im said.
During Im’s lecture, she accredited her difficulties in finding work after school as a driving force in becoming involved with gallery work. Im offered two pieces of advice for someone who wishes to pursue a similar path: to know that it is a lot of work and that working with others whom you can trust is crucial.
Also in attendance to the lecture was Mills College Art Association’s Treasurer Connie Lee, who felt that Im was not only very personable, but also brave.
“I appreciated how open Jackie was about being a new curator,” Lee said. “It’s refreshing to hear people working in the art world admit that they’re still figuring things out, even as curators.”
Im expressed her gratitude for being able to work alongside her partner, Aaron Harbour, co-founder of Et al. and Et al. etc., and how their shared interests often aid in their communication and ability to work so well together.
This mutual trust between Im and Harbour also supports the co-founders’ ability to trust and work with their diverse range of artists. Im says that they enjoy being surprised by how artists will utilize the space when given this trust.
“We will be involved as much or as little as the artist wishes. We simply give them the keys and say don’t burn it down,” Im said.
Im also spoke to the purpose that art can serve in the greater context of how people understand an artist, an issue being portrayed or often ourselves.
“Art is not a great tool to solve problems; rather art shows what we can’t/won’t see,” Im said.
Lee agreed strongly to this quote during Im’s lecture and discussed how she felt when applying this idea towards her own notions in viewing art.
“[Art work] can just be objects that change the way we think about our relationships to them,” Lee said.
In early November, Im will continue her role as curator in Slide Space 123’s second exhibition.
“Jackie Im has truly become quite the mover and shaker in the contemporary art world,” Catherine Wagner, the Mills Studio Art department head said.
Im hinted during her lecture that potential themes for the upcoming exhibit could focus on her recent interest in human companion species like dogs and cats or how humans claim space, inspired by the work of German artist Nicole Wermers. Whichever theme Im decides on, the show will without a doubt be one to keep an eye out for.