Huma Kabakci

By CREAM ATHENS   |   December 2021 


Huma Kabakci, Photo © Kayhan Kaygusuz

 What do we need to know about you? 

Firstly I am Human, I like to remind myself of this every day when I wake up. I think too many people get sucked into the bubble or hype or end up pushing themselves. Once I remind myself of the fact that I can make mistakes but it is also okay to give it a go, it just makes my life and what I do easier. 

I am an independent curator, art enthusiast and founding director of Open Space - a small, itinerant organisation that supports emerging creative practice, promoting dialogue in the arts through an annually recurring programme of dynamic projects in unexpected spaces. I also work part time as a Development Manager at Drawing Room, London, finding new and creative ways to fundraise and bring awareness to the Gallery (registered as a Charity). 

I love visiting artist studios, talking to and engaging with people from different multi-disciplinary and cultural backgrounds. I believe interdisciplinary discourse can open up to a lot of creative outcomes. I love taking photographs. I got into it during the lockdown, just wandering around London. I love to cook and experiment with new ingredients, especially for my close friends. Food is a common language that unites people and that’s what I love about it. I do yoga -  mostly vinyasa, but I find that some meditations along with durational stretches, ground me. 

I am an only child. I live between London and Istanbul, but I see London as my base. I studied my BA in Advertising & Marketing at London College of Communication, UAL (London) and my MA in Curating Contemporary Art at Royal College of Art (London). 

My curatorial interest lies in creating immersive experiences and a wider dialogue in collaboration with multidisciplinary practitioners. I love doing this whilst also exploring food as a medium. I am interested in theories and topics around diaspora, collective memory, female body and hospitality. 

I use humour a lot as a way of coping mechanism, I love laughing and being silly with friends. I am curious. I try to be kind and listen. I think knowledge sharing is so valuable. I love animals and indoor plants. I have a dog named Sherlock, he is a Yorkshire Terrier. I am fairly outgoing and can be all over the place but I also love my down time and to spend time alone. 

Bread and Games curated by Natalija Paunic, organised by Open Space. Photo © Corey Bartle-Sanderson, Courtesy of Open Space

Which are your best Open Space moments?

Ahhh, honestly each one of them are so special but up until now,  I think it was Tender Touches which later on expanded to be a multi-purposeful publication. Co-curated by artist Inês Neto dos Santos and I, Tender Touches was an immersive exhibition taking shape as an art café where everything – from the food to the furniture – was an artwork. 

Dissolving boundaries between the gallery, studio and dining room, the exhibition used food as a medium to question the dynamics of exhibition spaces. Throughout the six-week duration of the show, Inês ran the café, cooking daily from a weekly-changing menu, which was drawn from her own practice as well as being inspired by the practices of the participating artists. Visitors were invited to use their senses to experience artworks as functional objects, and to engage with food as they might view art.

Tender Touches combined exhibition with hospitality, blending and overlapping their respective narratives and inherent gestures. Rules of conduct were blurred: sipping a coffee, stirring porridge or pouring a drink become opportunities for conceptual thinking and aesthetics. The café format was presented as a model for creative practice and public engagement. 

Tender Touches organised by Open Space, co-curated by Huma Kabakcı & Inês Neto dos Santos at AMP Gallery, Peckham. Photo ©Tania Dolvers, Courtesy of Open Space

Tender Touches organised by Open Space, co-curated by Huma Kabakcı & Inês Neto dos Santos at AMP Gallery, Peckham.Photo © Tania Dolvers, Courtesy of Open Space

What food means to you and how it connects to immersive art practices?

Food is so integral to my life and work. I think food in general, brings people from all different cultures together. Food is a connector, a universal language, an essential part of our lives. 

For me - food has a very personal meaning - my late father used to cook a lot, some days he would start making slow cooked stew at 8 am and I would wake up to the sound and smell of his cooking. He loved to eat and was definitely a gourmet, collecting different oils, spices and goods wherever he travelled, but what he loved the most, was to feed his friends and family. I remember if he received a call from an artist or a friend and they were nearby he would immediately invite them over for an impromptu lunch or dinner. 

He also loved to do cook-offs and ask people which dish tasted better. I grew up surrounded by typical Turkish family Sunday lunches and dinners. In the context of art, from Gordon Matta Clarke to Micheal Rokowitz to Judy Chicago, many artists have explored and experimented with the socio-political, sustainable aspects of food. The smell, the touch, the textures and layers almost bring another dimension to multi-sensory art practices.

Open Space Programme Launch (2019), Fitzrovia Chapel. Photo ©  Ben Peter Catchpole. 

What is your connection with sustainable practices?

With all the food shortages at the beginning of the lockdown and ongoing global climate change crisis, sustainability is more integral to my way of collaborating and living. Since the beginning of 2020, I have been lucky to volunteer at the kitchen from time to time at Refettorio Felix (a charity that feeds the vulnerable and in need). I live alone, so I make sure to shop sensibly and not to waste food. In terms of my connection to sustainable practices, I think it comes natural to collaborate with artists who also care about the same things. 

"Dough, Baby" by Laura Wilson performed by Iris Chan and Adam Moore at the Swiss Church (London), organised by Open Space. Photo credit: Ben Peter Catchpole

What makes Huma happy? Which things do you remind yourself of every morning? 

My friends, yoga, my books, the fact that I live a walk away from Battersea park makes me happy. I try to be blessed from the simple pleasures of life. I am really lucky that I have been brought up privileged, and got to travel around the world to places like Peru, Indonesia and Switzerland. I remind myself that it is okay not to be perfect but perfectly imperfect.

How do you express your creativity?

I love to take photos (see some of my work on unsplash), visit artists' studios, watch documentary films and listen to indie music. I guess cooking is also an expression of my creativity as I like to try and experiment with different ingredients.

Huma Kabakci, Photo © Kayhan Kaygusuz 

Which parts of yourself do you need to break up with?

I want to break up with the feeling that I am worthless - I think a lot of us have insecurities but it doesn’t help. I actually am trying to own up to more of my achievements and skills.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

This advice by my dad stuck with me: “Whatever you’ll do, even if it is selling sandwiches on the street, do it yourself. Work independently and not under others.”
Also a great piece of advice I got was from Julie Lomax - the CEO of A(n) (The Artist Information Company) - she said “knowing your skills and how to implement them in your daily life is very important” and I totally agree. 

Are there any strong realisations during the pandemic?

I have learned to do more of the things I enjoy and surround myself with the people I actually want to spend time with. Life is too short and unpredictable, I might as well take a step back and enjoy myself during this journey. I realised it is not worth pushing myself to do more and see more all the time.

Open Space Programme Launch (2019), Fitzrovia Chapel. Photo © Ben Peter Catchpole

Adventitious Encounters (2018) co-curated by Huma Kabakci & Anna Skladmann, organised by Open Space. Photo © Ben Peter Catchpole

What are the upcoming projects of Open Space?

We recently launched our Open Space Shop, which is an extension of our multi-disciplinary projects curated by me, with artists who have contributed to a number of our itinerant projects such as Tender Touches (2019) and Ladies’ Paradise (2018) as well as a variety of digital contributions, such as our 10 Minute Interviews. As an organisation, we are dedicated to supporting international contemporary artists by showcasing their work in a variety of ways. Our online shop is a new alternative to this support and promotion of dialogue in the arts, and through our weekly ‘Shop Drops’ we hope to continue in our advocacy for championing new and exciting work.

From our upcoming projects we have I Have Eaten It - a 4-week kitchen takeover at Refettorio Felix, a charity based in West London providing creative experiences around food for vulnerable people. For this iteration, I have invited Northern Irish Artist Laura Wilson to co-curate and realise the second edition of Edible Goods: an annual programme that examines food as a medium in contemporary art. Over this period, there will be a tailored weekly meal using seasonal food and local suppliers’ waste food, with recipes or ingredients contributed by 9 international artists: 

Moza Almatrooshi; Sondos Azzam, Lauren Godfrey; Charles Harrison, Hannah Lees; Raju Rage; Nora Silva; Laura Wilson & Caroline Wong.

Alongside the evolving menu and culinary experience, we will develop an online streaming channel that presents food-focused video works; and a programme of public events including workshops and talks. The project will also include a crowdfunding campaign directly supporting Refettorio Felix through a fundraising event and artwork sales.

Refettorio Felix's space

Instagram: @humakabakci and @openspacecontemporary

Using Format