As part of an ongoing Alumni Blog series, I caught up with Marie-Nour Hechaime to find out, among other things, why she chose CMCI’s MA Cultural & Creative Industries course and what skills, networks, or experiences she would suggest students who want to become a curator, develop whilst at University.
Marie-Nour Hechaime is a cultural worker who has been working within and collaborating with contemporary art institutions since 2013 Marie-Nour undertook CMCI’s MA Cultural and Creative Industries course between 2012 and 2013.
In early 2013 she completed two internships, one at the British Museum as a Development Intern and one at the Institute of Contemporary Art as a Press intern. By the end of 2013, she had secured a Programme & Development Coordinator role at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut. This role involved the coordination of several programs and projects including the Residency Program, Video Works (2014, 2015, and 2016), and symposiums. In 2018 she became the Programs & Editorial Coordinator for Mophradat in Belgium. Whilst in this role she assisted the Director with fundraising, communication management, curation, and the coordination of the programs. Most recently, Marie-Nour started a role as a Contemporary Art Curator at Sursock Museum.
Firstly, why did you choose to study the MA Cultural & Creative Industries course? And why at the CMCI Department at King’s College?
My decision to apply to and pursue the MA in CCI at King’s College London was motivated by a desire to operate a shift in my career path. Before this MA, I had studied law for five years and taken extra classes in art history and curating. I knew I wanted to work in the arts but didn’t feel confident about my skills and knowledge. I was looking for a degree flexible and general enough to allow me to explore and understand the cultural field at large. Moreover, I wanted to study in English. London seemed like an ideal city to do so. I am privileged enough to have a French passport which exempted me from applying for a visa to study and work. I could also afford the tuition fees that – although high – were still more affordable than those in the US.
To be honest, if I had a clearer idea back then of where I wanted to be and more confidence in myself, I might not have made the same choice. The syllabus was also a big factor in my decision. It included a vast choice of courses with a mix of theoretical knowledge and more practical options such as time and credits for an internship.
What did you learn whilst on the MA Cultural & Creative Industries course and how did it help you progress, career wise?
Today, I prefer to refer to and view my professional progression in terms of practice. As a curator – but I would presume it could be the same for any other practice – you constantly need to be reflexive in order to understand your position as an actor in the arts and social field, as well as the institution from within which you work. This is necessary in order to instigate a valid and productive dialogue. In that regard, I have learned a lot from the compulsory modules as they were extremely critical, each in their own way. For example, the exploitative nature of the cultural sector was very much discussed as well as the many contradictions that animate it. The Research Approaches module allowed me to understand that my positioning is not neutral and what that could mean in relation to others and within a setting of knowledge-production.
The MA was a good introduction to many topics and subjects that I was only vaguely familiar with and that are essential to grasp in order to feel at ease in the contemporary arts sector.
What advice would you give to students and graduates looking to go into your line of work? Are there any skills, networks or experiences you would suggest they engage in or develop whilst still at University?
There are so many ways to “get into” curating and to practice it. Of course, you could go the classical way and start by doing an internship in a museum or an art institution – and for someone into contemporary arts, I would recommend smaller independent institutions. I would stress that a good knowledge of modern art history could be useful, but a critical understanding of all fields ranging from economy, history, politics, and ecology, as well as an intersectional approach to contemporary struggles are essential. But to only advise for internships and theoretical study would testify of a narrow approach to curating – which is more about contextualizing problematics, making connections, and nurturing practices and narratives capable of resisting dominant structures of power. And for that, I do think that the most fertile ground to learn is to be active on a political and social level, within a community, and within activist struggles.