Frame Curatorial Research Fellowship 2021–2022

The Frame Curatorial Research Fellowship is a four-year programme for contemporary art curators. The programme explores new forms of research that renew curatorial and institutional working habits. 

The programme’s host, Frame Contemporary Art Finland and its partners Casco Art Institute and EVA International are now happy to present the two fellows selected for 2021 and 2022. They are Ama Josephine Budge and Nikolay Smirnov.

In her work, Ama Josephine Budge (of England and Ghana, and lives and works in London) navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism. 

Budge’s research Pleasurable Ecologies – Formations of Care: Curation as Future-building is an in-depth exploration of decolonial and intersectional curatorial care practices.The research acknowledges the entire ecosystem of socio-historical politics involved in curating contemporary art and cultural production.  

Nikolay Smirnov (lives and works in Moscow) studies spatial practices and representations of space and place in art, science, museum practices and everyday life.

Smirnov’s research Eurasian Alchemy proposes alchemy as both the process and result of the transmutation of ideas, methods, concepts, practices and materials. Eurasia is understood here as a gigantic geopolitical, geoeconomic and geocultural alchemical retort in which all these processes take place.

 “The open call attracted a large number of exciting proposals that challenged predominant curatorial work and research with an experimental and critical approach. Both of the chosen curators blur geocultural realities and disciplinary boundaries, and lay the ground for the speculative role of curatorial research in an unique way. Budge’s inquiry into the ethics of curatorial care puts forward new pleasurable curatorial practices that are crucial for emancipatory futures within contemporary art and culture. Smirnov’s research allows us to re-imagine Eurasian geocultural scope through curatorial experimentation and essay-exhibition.”
— Frame’s Head of Programme Jussi Koitela.

The deadline for the first open call was in June 2020. By the deadline, Frame received 232 proposals addressing the given research contexts “Mapping and Unmapping Geographies” and “Local, International and Planetary Fictions”. 

The first two fellows will begin their work in 2021. During the fellowship, they will present their research at discursive events. They will also provide a written contribution for a publication to be produced at the end of the fellowship programme. 

The next open call for fellowships will be organised in 2022. 

The Frame Curatorial Research Fellowship programme is supported by the Kone Foundation

Ama Josephine Budge

 A freckled, brown-skinned woman looks intently into the camera, her arms crossed to present her left side. Her black curly Afro hair is glinting in the light and she wears a pleated red dress and red lipstick. She has tortoiseshell, cat-eye glasses on, a gold nose ring and mottled white cowbone earrings.

Ama Josephine Budge is a Speculative Writer, Artist, Curator and Pleasure Activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism, working to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental evolutions and troublesomely queered identities. 

Ama is a PhD candidate in Psychosocial Studies with Dr Gail Lewis at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research takes a queer, decolonial approach to challenging climate colonialism with a particular focus on inherently environmentalist pleasure practices in Ghana and across the Black diaspora. Ama is a member of Queer Ecologies 2020, runs the Apocalypse Reading Room project, and is the lead artist on the MycoLective project with Chisenhale Studios and Feral Practice.

Ama’s artistic and curatorial work has been presented at Nottingham Contemporary, the Other Futures Festival, Casco Art Institute and b.Dewitt Gallery. Her writing practice has been published internationally in Aperture, The Bookseller, The Independent, Media Diversified, Autograph ABP Newspaper, CHEW Magazine and Spec from the Margins, Consented Magazine and SKIN Deep. She has given talks at Southbank Centre, Wits University Johannesburg, Goldsmiths University, ICA London, Glasgow School of Art and University of Minneapolis. 

About the research

Ama Josephine Budge’s curatorial research Pleasurable Ecologies – Formations of Care: Curation as Future-building engages and interrogates the processes and possibilities of actively pleasurable collaborative praxis under conditions of climate and neo-colonialism in contemporary Europe. It is an in-depth exploration of decolonial and intersectional curatorial care practices between artists and curators, artists and institutions, curators and institutions, and then the institution and the alter-life that funds/inhibits/fuels it. This research works to acknowledge the entire ecosystem of socio-historical politics involved in creating, curating and organising contemporary art and cultural production.

Drawing from Budge’s own research, activism, and interdisciplinary creative practice, as well as in-conversation with a mycorrhizal network of collaborative practitioners  the project is divided into three subsections:  

Doing the Work: Institutional Safer Space Policies and Working Practices is a research-led gathering of some of the key safer-space policies that have emerged out of our current and problematic “diversity programming” moment, comprising assessment of their site-specific success and shortcomings. 

Formations of Care: the Ethics of Curatorial Care and Facilitation asks what does care look like for the curator within the institution? What are the relationships of care needed in order for a curator to extend or enact that care ethically and safely? It challenges curating as an ethnographic and raciogenic arrangement of marginalised bodies. It acknowledges the need for care of subjectivities and “presences” instead of caring for objects. 

Pleasurable Ecologies: Curation as Future-building is rooted in practices of Black feminism and queer critique. It calls for curatorial research that remains deeply and wholeheartedly committed to the ethics of pleasure activism. By prioritising the pleasurable practices, joy and emancipation of the most oppressed first, Budge theorises, we can begin to build sustainable futures that fundamentally differ from the white supremacist, colonial, ableist hetero-patriarchy. 

Nikolay Smirnov


Nikolay Smirnov is a man of about thirty+. He looks Eurasian - something between slav, finno-ugrian and tartarian, dark-haired, with a little gray hair on his temples and six-day stubble. He wears a grey plaid coat and sits in the parkNikolay Smirnov is a Moscow-based artist, geographer, curator and researcher. His work addresses theory-fictions on spatial practices and representations of space and place in art, science, museum practices and everyday life. His practice is aimed at analysis and implementation of complex narratives in the form of text, exhibition display and film. His curatorial and artistic work has been presented at Tretyakov Gallery, Pushkin House London,  the Arctic Biennale 2016, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ural Industrial Biennial 2019 and the Riga Biennial 2020. In 2017 Nikolay received the Pernod Ricard Fellowship and has been resident at Para Site (Hong Kong, 2019).

Smirnov’s research texts have been published in forums such as e-flux journal, Xudozhestvennyi Zhurnal (Art Magazine, Moscow), Colta.ru, and CEM (Center of experimental museology, V.A.C. Foundation). He studied at the Geography Department of Moscow State University, Rodchenko Art School (Moscow), and The School of Contemporary Art Free Workshops MMOMA (Moscow Museum of Modern Art). 

Smirnov has taught at Rodchenko Art School and has been a visiting lecturer at Dutch Art Institute, Aalto University, and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. He participated in the Navigation Beyond Vision conference at Haus der Kulturen der Welt 2019.

About the research

Nikolay Smirnov’s research Eurasian Alchemy understands alchemy as both the process and result of the transmutation of ideas, methods, concepts, practices and materials. Eurasia here is understood as a gigantic geopolitical, geoeconomic and geocultural ‘alchemical retort’ in which all these processes take place. In the same way, Karl Marx considered the process of exchange as “the alchemist’s retort of circulation” in which different value-forms ‘crystallize’ in the result of this particular stage of the long general social process of human self-activity (Selbstbetätigung). 

Furthermore the research looks into different geo-ideologies, Finno-Ugric cultures, hermetic philosophy and ethno-futurism. It draws from local heritage studies (kraevedenie or kotiseutututkimus) using the archives of pioneering figure in the Finnish research of local history Robert Boldt.

The research takes place in the form of an essay-exhibition. This form permits the inclusion of all possible forms of practices and manifestations, namely art pieces, as well as non-artist manifestations, scientific and archive materials. It brings together diverse research implemented in various spheres: the art field, media sphere, archives, libraries and casual life. 

The research blurs the boundaries between artistic and curatorial research and ready-made materials and references. All these components become ‘the ingredients’ of the ‘alchemy’ of the essay-exhibition, wherein each of them can be the result of some ‘alchemical’ interactions between ideas, materials, and social processes.

About the fellowship

The Frame Curatorial Research Fellowship by Frame Contemporary Art Finland is a new curatorial research programme for 2020-2023 organised in close collaboration with four international institutional partners. The first two for 2020-2021 are Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons and EVA International (Ireland’s Biennial of Contemporary Art).

The programme offers support to develop new curatorial research practices and cultivate active curatorial research practices embedded in organisational practice. What kind of curatorial research is needed in order to imagine new ways presenting and mediating contemporary art and cultural production in a form that is inseparable from the daily life, politics and policies of artists and institutions?

The programme will host four fellows between 2020-2023 within the different frameworks related to Frame’s and its partners’ organisational work, research and programming. It offers fellows the opportunity to dive into curatorial research through an environment comprising various agents around Frame and its international partners, including artists, researchers, other practitioners and institutional actors.

Research fellowships offer an opportunity to develop the critical potential of curatorial research and to rethink the utilisation and value of research within institutions and society at large. It is about forming new relations between artistic practice, institutions and research that goes beyond the dichotomy of utilitarian value and autonomy.

Fellowships also offer an opportunity to rethink what internationality and mobility of curatorial research could mean in the future. Are there new ways in which travelling, physical mobility and presence in certain geographical contexts could support socially and ecologically sustainable research practices? The programme looks for forms of research that can renew curatorial and institutional working habits and introduce new ideological frameworks for sustainable international mobility within the curatorial research field.

The programme additionally aims to embed new forms of ethical curatorial thinking into the daily routines and actions of art organisations and to foster new connections within curatorial research, artistic practice and institutions in order to reimagine the role of a wide new range of curatorial knowledges within the field of contemporary art. Similarly it is an opportunity to build new shared futures and alliances between institutions and individuals.

Image: Nikolay Smirnov: Religious Libertarians, 2020. Hedi Jaansoo. © Riga Biennale 2020.