Grad Talk: Framing the Future with Izzy Kent

Izzy Kent graduated last year, having studied History of Art at Trinity, and has already found herself in her ‘dream’ role at the Wallace Collection. Her job varies hugely, from giving last-minute lectures to working in the conservation of the museum’s collection. Here she talks about applying for positions you don’t think you’ll get, the surprising things you learn on the job and the joy of turning the lights on. 

Interview by Xanthe Fuller

So, what do you do now? 

I’ve just started as the ‘Enriqueta Harris Frankfort curatorial assistant’ at the Wallace Collection. The Wallace Collection is a national museum in the heart of London. It’s relatively small but is up there with the heavy weights (National Gallery, British Museum etc.) in terms of quality. My job is a new position funded by the Centro de Estudios Europa Hispanica. As this suggests I specialize in the Spanish art at the museum including some sublime paintings by Velazquez, Alonzo Cano and Murillo.

How did you get there?

There’s a short answer and a long answer to this:

The short of it is I saw the job advert during my revision for finals and decided to apply. I really didn’t expect to get it as they wanted someone with a MA and fluent Spanish but it was such a dream position I thought I might as well. Then I went for interview and a couple of days later received a phone call saying I’d got the job.

The longer answer is a little more sentimental. I am incredibly lucky to have something that I am really passionate about, which is art and culture. There was never a moment, a lecture, book or exhibition where it all clicked and I knew it was what I wanted to do; I just can’t remember a time when I didn’t love it. So really, I’ve just been following my nose and trying to learn as much as I can wherever I can. I’ve done a lot of internships in different areas of the arts so by the time it came to applying for this job I was ready and knew, to an extent, what to expect.

Describe a typical day.

It sounds cliché but there isn’t really a typical day. It’s a small number of people looking after a large collection so I end up doing all sorts of jobs. I generally start off the day by doing a ‘gallery check’, going round all the rooms in the museum and checking that nothing is damaged. I’m usually the first one in each morning, which means I turn on all the lights to reveal the amazing art works – it may seem mundane but honestly it never gets old! After that it really depends. Currently I’m doing a lot with the conservation department, deciding which pictures need treatment and organising a major conference on Murillo happening in May, and giving tours and lectures. I’m also rewriting the gallery books (basically object labels), making audio guide recordings and researching our Spanish paintings.


What do you like about it? 

I love the diversity of the work. I’ll be handling a 400-year-old Mughal dagger one day, and researching a Velazquez painting the next, or visiting a conservator and seeing our paintings under the microscope. My colleagues have also been so supportive, teaching me about their areas of expertise and what it takes to look after the collection. Continue reading Grad Talk: Framing the Future with Izzy Kent

Time’s Up on what, exactly?

By Alfie Rosenbaum 

This is the name of the campaign against sexual violence being spearheaded by women in Hollywood. The main activity involved is the wearing of all black to the Golden Globes, and across the world people have set up mimic events to ‘stand in solidarity’ with the survivors of Hollywood sexual violence.

In Cambridge, an event has been set up on the 19th, whose organisers claim they hope to create further discussion around the issue of sexual violence on campus.

I’m unsure about this. Part of me feels that such public displays of defiance are important. Perhaps there is something powerful about people coming together to publicly make that statement. Perhaps this act will lead to further kinds of good. Perhaps it will create momentum and perhaps momentum will lead to change.

And yet part of me also wonders: what good, really, does wearing all black do for anyone? This is an issue that has appeared time and time again over the last few years. It was raised by people of colour when white people started wearing safety-pins in the wake of Brexit to signify their ‘alliance’. It was raised by Puerto Ricans when Americans responded to the Earthquake with ‘prayers’ on their Facebook statuses. Of course, unlike these two campaigns, survivors as well as non-survivors are taking part in the ‘Time’s Up’ campaign. I have no doubt that many of the women involved in writing and signing the ‘Time’s Up’ letter are genuine about their desire to affect change for people who are vulnerable to sexual violence. Nonetheless, I also believe it’s unlikely that the campaign is going to have any tangible impact on the lives of women outside of Hollywood. Like all movements centred around symbolism rather than activity, ‘Time’s Up’ has become an easy costume to put on, and many people are wearing it who shouldn’t be. Aside from the fact that the Hollywood element of the campaign feels very ‘Team America’ to me, the Cambridge off-shoot is self-congratulatory and pointless in its own frustrating way. I recognise that striking a balance between statement-making and policy shifting is difficult for all activists, but if our solution is just another black-tie protest, we’re doing it wrong.

Continue reading Time’s Up on what, exactly?

Feminist filmmaking with Pascale Lamche

Just as the Time’s Up and #WhyWeWearBlack campaigns keep the sexual and gender politics of cinema in the mainstream, Alina Khakoo talks feminist filmmaking with award-winning documentary maker Pascale Lamche. In 2017, Pascale won Best Director for International Documentary at Sundance in recognition of Winnie, her portrayal of the life and career of one of the most misrepresented public figures: Winnie Madikizela Mandela.

Winnie’s identity was highly constructed – in the film she refers to herself in the third person, she’s ‘Winnie the communist’, ‘Winnie the adultress’, ‘Winnie the criminal’. Did you feel that you were also constructing her as a filmmaker?

I felt that I was deconstructing images of her. What exist are attempts to discredit Nelson Mandela on the part of the Americans and the British by smearing Winnie in all directions. Knowing that people all over the world thought she was a murderer and a traitor to her cause, but that in South Africa she was revered, seemed a shocking divide to me. As a woman interested in history and politics and how oppression functions, I wanted to recover a significant person in South Africa and tell an important story about how women are so definitively neutralised in politics.

How do you navigate the ethics of being a white woman telling this story?

My view on the matter is that it depends entirely on the context, on where you’re coming from, on your work until that point. I’ve had a long relationship with South Africa and my late partner, to whom the film is dedicated, was Sowetan. I’d made films about Nelson, about Sophiatown. My heart lay in South Africa but I was a white European woman. I believe that any honest work which opens up the terrain should be tolerated. The industry has a duty to open its doors as wide as possible so that enough people can explore a subject that is in turn colonised by no one.

Continue reading Feminist filmmaking with Pascale Lamche

Gimme a Break

By Zahra Seyyad 

A ‘bubble’. A ‘whirlwind’. These words are commonly used to refer to Cambridge as a university environment. ‘Home’ eventually becomes a popular choice too. Those first two words, however, are what strike me the most: they serve to characterise the Cambridge experience. You’re closed off from the outside world and you’re constantly rushed off your feet during the eight-week terms, pressured into thinking you must always be busy. After all, having shorter terms means having six-week vacation periods in which to recover and reflect.

But there is a curious narrative surrounding ‘holidays’ in the Cambridge context. For starters, we don’t even get to refer them as that. ‘Vacation’ is a choice of word justified by the fact students are asked to physically ‘vacate’ their rooms at the end of term. It soon becomes clear, however, that the concept of a break does not extend much further than this process of physically ‘vacating’ Cambridge. During these six-week periods away, the expectation is that academic focus must transcend a student’s location.

The opportunity cost of having short terms is allegedly that, during them, all our energy be devoted to ‘all things Tripos’. It would appear that we all missed the fine print, though. The fine print that details how Cambridge will ultimately pervade every aspect of your life, how giving it your all for eight weeks is not actually enough. Yet, home cannot truly be healing if I am dragging myself there, shackled to reading lists or essays.

Continue reading Gimme a Break

Girl Talk Listens: Songs We’re Not Leaving in 2017

As 2018 dawns, the committee looks back on what kept us grooving last year.

We’re just a few days into 2018 and already Lana Del Rey has blessed us with a new collaboration with Børns. For Leila (Co- Blog Editor), Lana’s “Cherry” and “Coachella” from her new album Lust for Life were the songs of 2017. “They’re nostalgic and hyper-feminine and different in tone from her previous work. The whole album came at a time where I felt like my identity was shifting and I really relate to how she describes falling in love and feeling at once young but also observing girls younger than her and almost experiencing a coming of age (specifically in “Coachella”.) Also, “Coachella” has a sort of political edge to it which I like. In general I just love everything about her voice and tone and lyrics. The album makes me feel like I’m in a super-bright blue swimming pool as well, I don’t know why. The whole thing just feels like being underwater and everything around you going super slow and the light being really soft. It makes me feel nostalgic for the summer I didn’t really have this year. Also her saying “bitch” and “fuck” at random intervals during “Cherry” was my entire approach to 2017 so ultimately the whole thing is just very relatable.”

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey, from Dazed and Confused 2017 cover edit

Nostalgia comes up a bit in our song picks; Billie Holiday’s timeless “These Foolish Things” is the song that made her year for our Artist in Residence, Grace Whorrall-Campbell. “Its blues-y swing always reminds me of this time of year. It’s a great song to unwind with – it’s kind of luxurious and it always transports me to another time and place whenever I hear it. I listened to it a lot this year and it always de-stressed me when Cambridge terms got too much.”

Continue reading Girl Talk Listens: Songs We’re Not Leaving in 2017

Manifesto for 2018 | I Resolve

By Leila Sackur 

First and foremost it is necessary to understand that 2017 has been, whilst contained within the same number of sunrises and sunsets, the longest year on record. To make 2018 better (and I believe it can be better) I declare all that I resolve, written like lines; tally marks on the wall in the purgatory of the end of December. I am itching to bury this year beneath the cold dead ground, and to never look back on it. But equally I am scared of it ending, because I want to remember it fully, and am afraid that memories I hold either fondly or with revulsion now will soon become pinpricks in my mind, and more than anything I don’t want to forget because to forget is to lose feeling.

So whilst stuck in this limbo I have written down my resolutions, my personal manifesto, my pledges to myself;

Ultimately I resolve for honesty. Most, I resolve to be honest about what I need and desire. I accept that I am deeply needy of constant love and validation, as all human beings are. So I will stop demonising neediness, I will send that vulnerable text, and when I am scared that people find me irritating or annoying (read: I am always scared that people find me irritating or annoying), I will make the effort to call them or see them to determine whether or not, this time, it is true. Even though I am terrible at talking to people on the phone. (I resolve to be better at talking to people on the phone.)

I resolve to stop sucking in when I look in the mirror, but admire the curves and planes of my stomach. I resolve to stop sucking in during sex. I resolve to become better at accepting compliments, other people find it awkward when they’re trying to be nice and you’re trying to shut them up. I resolve to stop demonising critics (EVEN THOUGH I AM PERFECT). I resolve to stop seeking validation from mediocre men. I will not judge a night out by how many Fila-clad boys find me fuckable but instead on the music and the dancing and the food at the end. I resolve to stop idolising older girls who I don’t know but deem to be cooler than me anyway. I resolve to stop spending hours scrolling through their social media. I resolve to stop projecting my insecurities onto other people. I HEREBY RESOLVE to apologise to everyone I have ever hurt, and to stop apologising to everyone else for no reason whatsoever.

Continue reading Manifesto for 2018 | I Resolve

Twenty Ladyteen

Johanna Kinnock shares the perfect girl power party playlist to ring in the New Year. 

The New Year: a time to reflect on the past 365 days, assess your achievements and how far you’ve come. Mostly this process is painful, as you realise that you haven’t been to the gym once and make a half-hearted resolution to do it every morning next year knowing full well that come 1st January you’ll be in the foetal position using one hand to eat a kebab and the other to text your ex.

But some things are worth reflecting on, such as what 2017 was like for women. This year, it has been reiterated that some men will stop at nothing to retain power in what they deem ‘their’ spaces (Hollywood, business, politics, music and more), making it all the more impressive and refreshing that 2017 also saw lady musicians popping up left, right and centre to tell unique stories which, shock horror, aren’t always about wanting/missing/being in love with a guy. SZA sang as honestly as anything about Tinder love and its disappointments, Lorde was 20 and bloody excited to go dancing after her breakup, and St Vincent was busy doing… I don’t know what, but I digged it. Not to mention the tons of female DJs, rappers and producers sidling in loudly from the left-field and changing what it means to be an artist. Anyone who said that the ‘wokeness’ of 2016 was a ‘trend’ has been forced to admit that, at least in music, these girls and what they represent are here to stay.

So here is our New Year’s playlist spiced with 2017 hits as well as homages to all the other ladies that came before, without whom we couldn’t have made it this far. Come New Year’s Eve, put this on to be reminded that your hips don’t lie and that with every lady-shake you are paring off the patriarchy.