Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung

Curatorial Fellow,
Whitechapel Gallery, London

Jelly Luise, untitled (kop) (2024). Courtesy the artist

As part of a series of reflections by our Fellows, we have partnered with ArtReview to publish a collection of writings that will explore and unlock the future of curatorial and research practice. Bitterness & Wit is a pamphlet of three interconnected short stories written by our 2023 Curatorial Fellow at Whitechapel Gallery, Eugene Yiu Nam Cheung. The titular story — Bitterness & Wit — follows a disgruntled museum worker who questions the emancipatory valence that psychoanalysis grafts onto language, and whether giving language and form to a series of symptoms can alleviate an experience of suffering tied to something so material, like wage labour.

"He never liked describing the work which made him unhappy and suffer (the two, unhappiness and suffering, were functionally the same for him) beyond it involving looking after displays in a contemporary art museum. He refused identification with the term 'curator' despite his official designation as one: perhaps having his labour rendered so legible to an industry and profession he had so little respect for exacerbated his spiritual discontents. He had little to do with the museum’s programming and even less of a hand in its acquisitions. Instead, he was tasked with the grunt work of writing interpretive materials which would appear on neat white rectangles announcing some thing’s supposed meaning and value. But as the curators above him showed no desire to lose their appetite for the fatuous, the writing he produced for them felt wholly debasing. Privately, he referred to his job as the codification of extreme stupidity."

Click here to read Eugene Cheung's full article for ArtReview, published on 6 March 2024.