Annie Jael Kwan is an independent curator and researcher based in London and working between the UK, Europe and Asia. Her exhibition-making, programming, publication, and teaching practice is located at the intersection of contemporary art, cultural and pedagogical activism with an interest in archives, feminist, queer and alternative histories and knowledges, collective practice and solidarity.
As an experienced producer, she has delivered numerous large-scale art productions in the UK and internationally since 2005, working with major arts cultural institutions, media companies, and corporations including the South Bank Centre, Geffrye Museum, Design Museum, Barbican Centre, Drive Productions, Blink TV, Heart Productions, Blackberry, Nokia, Wembley Arena and Ferrari.
She is the Director of Something Human, a curatorial platform focusing on intersectional live art that was founded in 2012, and has delivered projects in the UK, Rome, Venice, Belgrade, Skopje, Lisbon and in Singapore, including Something Human at the Terminal (2013), the travelling exhibition MOVE W I T H (OUT) 2013-2016, From East to the Barbican (2015), CCLAP (Cross-Cultural Live Art Project 2014-2016) and Krísis in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, Bonington Gallery, and Nottingham Contemporary.
In 2017 Something Human launched the pioneering Southeast Asia Performance Collection (SAPC) at the Live Art Development Agency in London during Something Human’s 2017 M.A.P. (Movement x Archive x Performance) project. The SAPC holds over 27000 digital items that represent 50 artists from the region. M.A.P. extended across multiple sites with a programme of live performance in collaboration with Diaspora Pavilion and the International Curators Forum in Venice, an artist residency with artist Sung Tieu exploring Vietnamese diaspora in Deptford, and a symposium of performances and presentations that responded to and challenged the notions of ‘archive’ that marked the inauguration of the SAPC. This project culminated in her co-curating the 2019 Archive-in-Residence Southeast Asia Performance Collection archive exhibition and the Pathways of Performativity conference at Haus der Kunst, Munich, co-editing Pathways of Performativity, special guest issue of Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia (National University of Singapore Press), 2022.
As an independent curator, she curated the exhibition and public programme, UnAuthorised Medium in 2018 at Framer Framed, Netherlands, which featured 12 artists working with ‘alternative archives’ in relation to Southeast Asia, including Ho Rui An, Vandy Rattana, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Boedi Widjaja and Sung Tieu. From 2020-2022, as Curator-in-Residence at FACT in Liverpool, she curated the exhibition and programme, Future Ages Will Wonder; and she was Digital Curator-in Residence (September 2021 – January 2022) at the Barbican where she curated the digital programme, Noguchi Resonances, in response to the exhibition celebrating Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).
She leads Asia-Art-Activism (AAA) an interdisciplinary and intergenerational network of artists, curators and academics investigating ‘Asia’, ‘art’ and ‘activism’ in the UK in 2018, which was in residence at Raven Row till August 2021. She has led AAA’s public programme of sharing sessions, mini residencies, archive research workshops, screenings, and other live events including Oceans*A* Part, SEA Currents, AAA Radio (with Cuong Pham). In 2019 she curated Being Present, a live art programme with AAA artists in response to the exhibition, Speech Acts: Reflection-Imagination-Repetition at the Manchester Art Gallery, that was then adapted as a digital programme for the Paul Mellon Centre’s British Art Studies 13 on London, Asia, Exhibitions, Histories. In 2020 she produced and co-curated AAA’s 2020 digital programme, Till We Meet Again IRL (co-curated with Arianna Mercado, Cuong Pham and Howl Yuan), and initiated AAA’s Tools to Transform (with Joon Lynn Goh) an online resource for Asian and diaspora organising that received the European Cultural Foundation’s Culture of Solidarity grant in 2020, in partnership with DAMN*/Deutsche Asiat*innen, Make Noise! (DE) , Healing Justice London (UK), House of Saint Laurent Europe (DE), The Six Tones (VN/SE), Unthaitled (DE), Voices of Domestic Workers (UK). With Dr Joanna Wolfarth, she currently co-edits AAA’s first publication, Asia-Art-Activism: Experiments in Care and Collective Disobedience.
She was selected for the International Curators Forum’s curatorial programme, “Beyond the Frame” (2016-2018); and in 2017, for Outset and Arts Council England’s development programme for emerging curators. For the latter, she curated the colloquium “Curating Radical Futures” which took place at the Tate Modern. In 2019 she was awarded Live Art UK’s Diverse Actions Leadership Award.
She is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (Singapore). She was the co-editor of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia’s guest issues: Archives (2019) and Pathways of Performativity (2022) and contributes to various publications as a writer. She currently teaches “Producing the Body: Place, Politics & Practice” at Central St Martins, University of the Arts, London, and lectures on “Writing and Curating” at KASK, School of Art, in Gent, Belgium.
She is the founding council member of Asia Forum that unfolded across digital gatherings in 2021 and an inaugural programme in Venice at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in 2022.