For Jessica Cerasi, 2017 is shaping up to be a big year. She recently left her role as Exhibitions Manager at Carroll/Fletcher, and her first book Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art?, which she co-authored with friend and curator Kyung An, has just been published by Thames & Hudson. Here, in the first of our member profiles, we sit down to talk collaboration, formation dancing and what happens when your side hustle becomes your real hustle.
What are you working on at the moment?
I recently left my job at Carroll/Fletcher, and Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? just came out. Kyung and I have been working on it for the last three and a half years, and we’re really excited to be promoting it. It’s been the best thing I’ve worked on in a long time.
I’d written press releases for the gallery and a few pieces in exhibition catalogues before, but we really threw ourselves in at the deep end by writing a book. We wanted to break down some of the barriers around contemporary art, and make it accessible to a wider audience. I’d like to see if I could piece together a life for myself in this area.
Did you always want to write a book?
I never thought I’d write a book, ever. For a long time I resisted it because I didn’t think I could. I’m not sure I could have done it by myself, but now I’ve got a hunger for it.
Working with my best friend was a pretty amazing thing to be able to do, it was really fluid, we were on the same page with what the book needed to be, we balance each other out and pulled each other through any tough moments.
What's your side hustle?
Well this has always been my side hustle, for so long! I didn’t tell anyone about the book for ages because we weren’t sure if it would go anywhere, but now I’m trying to make it my real hustle. Maybe I need a new one?
What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?
It’s so exciting right now, because I’m still figuring that out. I’m doing so much that I never thought I would, and I’m getting used to not being in an office. There’s a lot of working in cafes, which is nice but I miss having colleagues and hearing about everyone’s weekends.
We all have our fun fantasy career, I think I’d be a Samba dancer. I always used to dance, it’s so fun.
What’s your wardrobe strategy?
I definitely have a uniform, although I don’t intend to. I realised I have five pairs of black trousers and five pairs of black boots; and then so many block colour jumpers, and lots of big jewellery.
What inspired you to join Marguerite?
I just think it’s such a brilliant thing, there are so many great women working in the art world and it can be hard to meet each other. It’s important to have a supportive network, and there’s so much we already have in common that the people I meet through Marguerite become firm friends almost immediately.
How do you switch off from work?
Netflix? I think thats the honest answer. I’d love to say I go for a long run, but it’s probably Ru Paul’s Drag Race or Chef’s Table. That really switches me off.
What would your fallback career be?
The truthful answer isn’t so interesting, I’d probably be a therapist. I’m really interested in psychology, there are a few therapists who write short stories and I just find it so fascinating. Human dynamics and interactions, all the struggles we go through but never talk about.
And we all have our fun fantasy career, I think I’d be a Samba dancer. I always used to dance, it’s so fun.
I’m doing so much that I never thought I would, and I’m getting used to not being in an office.
What are you reading at the moment?
Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It’s kind of a memoir, he’s been running for the past 40 years, regularly and long distances, and it’s different episodes in his life told through his running, how it changed him and opened up his thought process.
It’s really personal and entertaining, and a nice way to learn about a writer through their habits and what helps them think clearly.
Where do you hang out at the weekend?
In and around Broadway Market. If I can go a whole weekend without getting on the tube that’s such a win for me. I’m around East London and Victoria Park, Chisenhale, Raven Row—there are so many galleries around here, it’s nice to be able to walk around and see a lot.
Where’s your favourite art spot?
I love the Camden Arts Centre, they do brilliant shows. It’s just small enough and just large enough that you can give artists a really nice opportunity to do something contained and I think it’s really well curated. It’s in such a nice part of London, and the garden, cafe and bookshop are great.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be able to sing. My voice is atrocious, but I love singing so I just torment people with it. When you see people really belt out a song it looks so gratifying, and I have no idea what that feels like.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I think it’s following Beyonce’s mother, Tina Lawson, on Instagram. She’s so good, she just tells these terrible jokes and gets such a kick out of them, I love watching her. She’s brilliant.
I’m looking forward to having the time and space to come up with ideas and run with them, putting myself out there and seeing what happens.
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Ana Mendieta, RuPaul, Roxelana (chief consort and legal wife of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent), and my grandmothers.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I know we’ve talked about the book a lot, but to be honest it’s finishing that while working full time. It felt touch-and-go for a minute, and the fact that we got through it, we did it together and pulled it off, that’s what I’m most proud of.
What’s next for 2017?
Going on holiday! Work-wise it already has been really exciting. I’m looking forward to having the time and space to come up with ideas and run with them, putting myself out there and seeing what happens. I think it’s going to be a good year.