Curating the East Midlands: Billy Hawes

Billy Hawes is an independent curator living and working in Northamptonshire. Through independent projects, temporary exhibitions and events, Billy aims to provide space for emerging artists, with a particular interest in durational, dialogical, participatory and performative practices.

His practice considers the fact that every space that we encounter has its own set of rules for how we must behave within it; what we should and shouldn’t do and an unwritten script for what is expected of us. He is interested in how these rules can be subverted to change the visitor’s experience, questioning how we interact and engage with artwork depending on such conditions. His curatorial approach explores these questions through conversation and collaboration with other artists and curators. By considering conversation as a legitimate form of practice, Billy focuses on these core questions to develop a dialogue that can lead to both written and exhibition-based outcomes.

Find out more about Billy on his website, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

‘Curating As Publishing’ Curatorial Curriculum, 2017

How did you come to curating?

During my undergraduate degree my research centred around spatial practices, as I was interested in how people interacted with the objects I was making. Around the same time I read Ways of Curating by Hans Ulrich Obrist, and things began to make sense. I stopped making objects soon after that and focused on developing curatorial projects instead.

How do you typically begin a project?

My projects always begin by talking to artists. I usually have a rough idea of what I want to do, and who I might want to work with, and then I try and meet with them to talk it through. Artists always have their own agendas too, so each project gets shaped by the artist, and the final outcome is based around these initial conversations.

‘Curatorial Curriculum’ online publication. 2017

Who are the artists and/or partners that you’re working with at the moment?

I’m working alongside Dylan Fox at the moment, he has a project coming up at Big Shop Friday in Milton Keynes, with a series of workshops happening in a few months based around inclusion and diversity.

Tell us about the current or upcoming projects that you’re involved with.

I don’t currently have any of my own projects on the go. My partner and I have recently bought a narrowboat to live on, so I’m currently thinking a lot about travelling exhibitions and travelling spaces. I think there’s some potential in that to explore further.

‘Frontier’ a solo show by Dylan Fox, installation view. Curated by Billy Hawes, 2017.

How do you select the artists you work with?

I usually work with artists that I know, people who I studied with or have met through other shows etc. It’s a lot easier to work with people you can connect with, conversation tends to flow a little easier then.

What dates should we put in our calendars?

Nothing specific, just keep an eye on Instagram for updates!

‘Strategies For Resistance’, Billy Hawes, for Resolutions 2020 at Big Shop Friday, MK, 2020

What or who are you really excited about?

Well firstly, obviously, I’m excited about the narrowboat.

I’m also looking forward to seeing as many shows as I can this year. Last year was a bit hectic and I didn’t get much time to see as much art as I would have liked.

And finally I’m excited to see the Marina Abramović exhibition at the Royal Academy later this year.

Whose work or what space would you most like to curate?

I really loved the building DRAF used to have in Camden, it was one of the first gallery spaces I came across where I could see my own work in there. Even though I don’t make objects anymore it would still be a great place to show, especially given the legacy DRAF left behind. I would also really like to work with Christopher Daubney and Olive Sanderson at some point as well, they are good friends of mine and both hugely talented artists.

‘When Art Is Not Enough’ symposium. Speakers included Chase Ross, Dylan Fox and Malik Nasad Sharpe, moderated by Billy Hawes, 2018

What do we need to see more of in the East Midlands?

Affordable rent. Artists are struggling to find decent studios, and curators are struggling to afford spaces to show those artists. Landlords take note!


Billy was interviewed in February 2020.

All images are by and courtesy of the interviewee.