School for the Creative and Cultural Industries


Reclaiming personal power: An intervention in the UCL Culture Lab

18 March 2024

A group of young curators called the Curating Power Collective have been exploring and embracing what makes them feel powerful through research and creative making.

The Curating Power curators smiling and posing in front of the Power sign in the UCL Culture Lab

What makes you feel powerful?

This was the question posed to the Curating Power Collective, a group of young people in London who have been developing and curating a series of creative, personal reflections in response to our UCL Culture Lab’s inaugural ‘Power!' exhibition.

They have intervened in the space, exploring, embracing and reclaiming what makes them feel powerful through research, objects, creative making, and writing. 

Their work is now on display as part of the 'Power!' exhibition at the UCL Culture Lab, in the UCL East Marshgate building. 

"What makes us feel powerful is individual and personal, and yet it is related to and constrained by the wider world.  We have intervened in this space and embraced our own power... we all bring our own perspective, expertise and experiences to navigating power; its nature, influence, and effects on our existence." - Curating Power Collective
Find out more about the Culture Lab and Curating Power Collective in this short film

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"We're trying to experiment a little bit here with what being a curator is and that includes building skills with young people that are not represented in the sector in order to tell stories that are relevant, important and representative." - Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, UCL Culture Lab Curator
This project aimed to look beyond traditional forms of museum display and curation, allowing space for people to co-create and share ideas freely. The work is a result of conversations and workshops delivered with the Culture Lab collections team, UCL Special Collections, and artist Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman.


Meet the curators

The films below share the personal and creative journeys, motivations and experiences of some of our Curating Power curators.

 Barakat Omomoyowa

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"Power means communication, it means control. It means love, it means compassion. [My piece] looks at post and pre consumer textile waste...the blue represents slave trade routes that have been repurposed. This piece for me encompasses power in a different way, it looks at forgotten stories".

  Ysabel Hannam

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"You can have individual power, but I think power is also something structurally that can be forced upon us. I wear these gold bangles, all of the women in my family do. [They are] a way for me to think about the people who have come before me and reach power through that".

 Kimberly Johnson

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"I don't want to feel as though, to be powerful, I have to be in control over every situation. I wanted to recreate... how writing in this book allowed me to delve into my imagination. This whole journey has been me learning how to take the pressure off myself when it comes to creating".

Paige Michel-Strachan

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"To me, power means happiness, freedom, stability, the opportunity to influence other people. [My work] was inspired by a jewellery company created by a lady from Dominica, which my family come from... they're all about pride culture. When I put on those earrings, I feel very powerful".

Matilda Bilon

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"Thinking about when I feel most powerful, I realised that was when I was participating in some kind of act of hyper femininity. It's part of taking charge of my own body, my own identity. [Zines have] always been this queer medium...taking charge of that narrative has been powerful".

Book your visit

The Curating Power Collective's work is now on display as part of the 'Power!' exhibition at the UCL Culture Lab, Marshgate, UCL East (Stratford Olympic Park). The space is open to the public on Wednesday afternoons and the 1st Saturday of every month, or by appointment. Please get in touch with us to book a visit.

Explore the digital collection

The Collective has also curated a digital archive of their work, showcasing creative process, poetry readings, playlists, artworks, and digital zines. Explore the digital Curating Power collection

A final word

"I got involved with the Curating Power Collective because I think institutions like UCL have a responsibility to tell the right stories. There's this new narrative about what power means...And I was really, really intrigued to be able to put on something in an institution so prominent like UCL that might change minds and incite new conversation" - Barakat Omomayowa, Curating Power curator

We welcome UCL staff, students and collaborators, and our local communities to view these works, and use the space to reflect on their own relationship with power and start new conversations.

Thank you to the Curating Power Collective: Kimberly Johnson, Ysabel Hannam, Arzama Hossain, Barakat Omomayowa, Shay Spencer-Noronha, Ashanté Thomas, Matilda Bilon, Paige Michel-Strachan and Emmanuella Bamfo, with support from Alafuro Sikoki-Coleman and Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp.

About UCL Culture Lab
Located at Marshgate, UCL East, the Culture Lab builds on UCL’s long tradition of object-based learning and collections-based research. It’s a space for students, artists and community groups to work with collections and archives to creatively share with each other and the public what matters to them, and to support a new generation of curators. Find out more about the Culture Lab.