Peer, Collaborator, Comrade, Friend! – Entanglement for Survival in Contemporary Art Worlds
In a sphere where professional and social codes continually merge, what kind of allegiances do artists form to survive, to make space for reflection, identity and support? How does the nature of artists’ bonds affect self-organisation, progress and practice within and outside of art communities?
In a day length symposium Megan Wakefield (Spike Island/UWE), Andy Abbott (Black Dogs & Leeds University), Sophie Hope (Birkbeck, University of London) and artist Marko Wilkinson will discuss the different formations of pier support and identity within contemporary art communities.
About the Speakers
Sophie Hope’s work inspects the uncertain relationships between art and society. This involves establishing how to declare her politics through her practice, rethinking what it means to be paid to be critical and devising tactics to challenge notions of authorship. Since co-founding the curatorial partnership B+B in 2000, Sophie has gone on to pursue her independent practice, with projects such as Critical Friends (2008-2011), a participant-led investigation into socially engaged art; The Wild Spirits of Efford (2010), her first radio play, and Het Reservaat (2007). Sophie also writes and facilitates workshops, dealing with issues of public art, the politics of socially engaged art and curating as critical practice and recently completed her PhD on Participating in the Wrong Way? Practice Based Research into Cultural Democracy and the Commissioning of Art to Effect Change at Birkbeck, University of London where she works as a lecturer.
Cameron’s rhetoric of the Big Society expects us all to be socially engaged, for free. These current shifts in political ideology are giving rise to urgent questions and creative struggles that address meanings and experiences of professionalism and volunteerism; the effects of unjust employment conditions and more broadly, the privatisation of culture and education. How do we position ourselves critically in this new terrain?
Andy Abbott is an artist, writer, musician and educator. He is currently undertaking practice-led research for a PhD in Fine Art at University of Leeds focused on socially-engaged, political and activist art exploring the boundaries of that which we might consider a socially transformative praxis. A critique of capitalism, waged-labour and work permeates his activity. His interests are primarily in Postanarchist, Autonomist Marxist, and Situationist theory .
Since 2003 Andy has worked as part of the artist collective Black Dogs and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent Black Dogs projects
include the initiation of Black Lab, an autonomous knowledge production project in South Leeds, and a dialogue-focused exhibition at MK Gallery that asked Milton Keynes residents to imagine and describe a future city situated on the recently discovered planet Gliese 581 g. Andy’s individual practice has ranged from the organisation of public events working with amateur and hobby groups in postindustrial towns (e.g. the Festival of Pastimes projects) to self-contained video and book works.
Andy continues to play in bands that tour the global DIY network and releases records through his own imprint and other independent labels. He lectures part-time in Fine Art on the foundation course at Leeds College of Art and is a steering group member of Leeds Creative Timebank, a project that alternative non-cash economy to help support artistic activity in the city, and Art in Unusual Spaces, a Community Interest Company that helps make vacant and disused city-centre spaces available to artists.
Presentation: Andy’s presentation will aim to contextualise and unpick self-organised artistic activity in terms of its potential as a practice of non-capitalist ethics. In discussions on art as a socially-transformative praxis, a recurrent theme is that of the production of a post-capitalist or non-capitalist subjectivity. How does the experience of producing and engaging with art offer a break from, or rupture within, the logic of capitalism? What radical qualities can be extrapolated from the experience of collective, not-for-profit creative activity? What implications and extensions exist for the values and practices of sharing, transparency, generosity, friendship and love that are common to much DIY activity? What room for antagonism, dissensus and criticality is offered in this and how do we make a bridge between these seemingly uneasy bedfellows? Andy will discuss the above in relation to his experience working with the artist collective Black Dogs as well as referencing his experience in both institutional and extra-institutional pedagogical projects.
Megan Wakefield is currently pursuing a written PhD in collaboration with Spike Island Associates programme and University of the West of England. She works with the Associates, where she helps to coordinate peer critiques, workshops, talks and events for a membership group of 90 artists, curators and writers, and facilitates a monthly reading group. Megan has interviewed members of the Spike Associates a number of groups around the UK. As well as this she reflects on her own participation and on her collaboration on projects like Tertulia (Arnolfini, ongoing since 2010), Reading for Reading Sake (Islington Mill, Salford and Bristol, 2010) and Art & Writing, Spike Island, 2009). Megan also gives regular lectures and talks on these themes both in academic and artist-led contexts. Her academic background is in art, language and literature and she also writes about practice for artists and journals.
Presentation: Megan is interested in peer learning as entanglement, emotional as much as intellectual, in levels and intensities of affiliation for survival and pleasure, as well as knowledge acquisition and in ways in which artists might construct time and space for their own experimentation, reflection, and development and as a strategy for managing the pressures of precarity.
Marko Wilkinson is a Bristol based artist who is particularly interested in what people do with their bodies in social and political spaces. He’s an active volunteer at Bristol’s collectively run Cube Cinema. In 2010 he went to Port au Prince with the collective’s Haiti Kids Kino Project taking a free childrens’ cinema around post-earthquake tent cities. He is also the co- curator of an ontological cinema project which specializes in staging free events, which include audio installations, performance and artists film in outdoor spaces.
The day is free but places are limited and booking is essential. Reserve a place by ringing 0117 929 2266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
FREE University of Liverpool
Initiated by Lorena Rivero de Beer and The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home (Lena Simic and Gary Anderson) The FREE University of Liverpool states it has been developed to provide FREE education for any student who is keen to study. Believing that critical thought and action are at the heart of changing the world we live in, The FREE University aims to teach about and practice cultural activism. A protest against the recent tuition fee increases and cuts to university budgets the FREE university is an attempt to create an alternative structure to the fee-paying structure of current educational institutions.
Currently open for applications the FREE Foundation Degree will run for 6 months from October 2011 to April 2012
Just Do(ing) It: Artist-led and self-organised cultural activity as resistance to Capitalism
Just Do(ing) It: Artist-led and self-organised cultural activity as resistance to Capitalism.
Saturday 14th MAY 2011 11am – 6pm at S1 Artspace, Sheffield
A one-day symposium event – initiated by Andy Abbott (Black Dogs and University of Leeds), in collaboration with Jane Tormey/Gillian Whiteley (Loughborough University) and S1 Artspace Studios (www.S1artspace.org) - aims to provide a space for discussion, critical reflection and evaluation of questions and tactics of self-organised activity.
Building on previous RadicalAesthetics-RadicalArt (RaRa) events that have focused on the theoretical and socio-political landscape of a ‘radical (art) praxis’, this event in an artists-led space in SHEFFIELD continues the exploration of strategies, tactics and work being carried out ‘on the ground’ by artists and cultural activists towards a better world.
- John Holloway (Professor of Sociology, Insituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico, and Leverhulme Visiting Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds. Author of Change the World without taking Power (new ed. Pluto, London, 2010) and Crack Capitalism (Pluto, London, 2010).
- Leeds Creative Timebank (Alternative economy initiative http: //www.leedscreativetimebank.co.uk/) - Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt (Sheffield-born writer and investigative researcher).
- Milena Placentile (Winnipeg based curator, writer, researcher)
with special video contribution from Gregory Sholette (US-based artist/writer on informal art practice, author of Dark Matter, Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, 2011)
How might we begin to understand artist-led or self-organised art activity in this light? What examples of DIY, informal or purposefully marginal art practices exist which aim to imagine, create, or operate within new spheres for cultural activity? How do such practices resist and/or maintain a critical relationship with the dominant order and state capitalism? How does the empty but increasingly inescapable rhetoric of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ effect or alter the stakes of such practice? What role do practices of subversion operating ‘within and against’ the system play in this struggle?
ADVANCE BOOKING is ESSENTIAL – to book a place please email Emma Nadin - E.L.Nadin@lboro.ac.uk
RaRa is a Politicized Practice Research Group project. See http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/sota/research/groups/politicise d/rara.html
A School Trip
Last November three members of Islington Mill Art Academy, including myself, traveled North-wards to Glasgow in order to attend, and take part in a series of workshops organised by Glasgow Open School (G.O.S) as part of the tenth annual Instal Festival. Given our status as an alternative art school organisation, and rather academically referential title, I like to consider our visit to be a kind of school trip.
Instal is an experimental music and sound festival, organised by Arika. For this tenth edition of Instal the aim was to present not just a festival of experimental music, but an experimental festival - challenging the conventional structure of a music festival, and exploring the dynamic between audience and performer. Improvisation and the denial of the subjectivity of the artist were central concerns. Nowhere was this explored with more dedication that within the evacuation of the great learning workshops, run by G.O.S. which we had been invited to take part in.
A number of individuals who had been partaking in G.O.S prior to Instal met with Ray Brassier, and Mattin to discuss what form these workshops would take. Ray Brassier is a philosophy faculty member at the American University of Beirut, and an proponent of speculative realism, Whilst Mattin is a musician/sound-artist exploring the anti-capitalist and revolutionary potential of improvisation, who also performed at Instal. They had been looking to the improvisational work of Cornelius Cardew, particularly The Great Learning as performed by The Scratch Orchestra (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNCI3u-Wan0) and, as such, the concept of a graphic score was prevalent, along with a somewhat confrontational approach to the notion of a workshop.
Just as Instal as a whole was seeking to interrogate the notion of an experimental music festival, so these workshops denied many of the expectations which the term workshop evokes. An Intense, sometimes unpleasant, and sometimes highly enjoyable experience for the participants, evacuation of the great learning certainly lead us three from the I.M.A.A to question our approach to meeting, learning and making.
At G.O.S HQ when I arrived the participating non-leaders were busy accumulating objects for making noise and could serve as props for the workshop. These were, however, in the end mostly ignored. Setting up the space before any participants arrived we began by arranging chairs into a large circle, the traditional method of seating a group so that theoretically everyone has equal power. However, we soon realized that in such a large group (around 50 participants were signed up to attend) the massive circular space would only intimidate some, and encourage others. With this in mind we rearranged the chairs messily; facing each other, back to back, upside down and every which way around the room. At first participants took chairs and sat amongst each other, however soon the group had organised themselves into the giant oval which we had initially rejected. Some of the participants became frustrated and demanded that ‘something be done!’, others were happy to quietly sit and listen, yet others still actively tried to avoid any action; certain G.O.S-ers notably ‘striking’ when plans and alliances began to form. From the beginning of the very first workshop every single action which was taken by anyone was interrogated, questioned and denied, and the suffocating lack of action which this entailed surely contradicted many expectations of an ‘improv workshop’.
On the first night evacuation of the great learning had failed in almost every respect, if it were to be judged as a traditional workshop; engagement had been nigh on impossible, after all what was there to engage with? Confusion and frustration reigned, and it is doubtful that anybody left feeling creatively empowered. However, in interrogating the notion of ‘a workshop’ and in exploring boundary-less improvisation it was judged to be a success. Those members of the G.O.S who were there, along with Ray and Mattin endeavoured to play a minimal role, denying their subjectivity and status as workshop leaders and arts practitioners.
Travelling to Glasgow and partaking in the workshop prompted us to reflect on our own structures and means of engagement at I.M.A.A. At the Art Academy I would generalise that we tend to favour action, over debate. Taking part in The Glasgow Open school has acted as a catalyst for us to re-address our engagement in debates and ignite more discursive meetings.
A defining factor of G.O.S, though they may not intend this to be the case, is that many of the ‘core members’* are friends. Whilst at Islington Mill our relationships seem to manifest in a seemingly professional way: we work together, we have meetings, but we don’t necessarily spend time together socially. This may be to do with the way in which G.O.S germinated within the Glasgow Art School, and as such attracts many, though not all, attendees of similar ages and lifestyles. Whereas within the Art Academy we have often found our differing lifestyles problematic, with some members working full time, some unemployed, some living in Islington Mill and some living miles away. In fact, a suggestion which arose from our experiences in Glasgow was that we should endeavour to spend more time together socially, in order to function better as a self-supporting collective taking something from our experience of G.O.S to develop our own collective means of action, education and debate.
* I must apologise here to Glasgow Open School for describing them in this way. The Open School is perhaps best described as a belief, or concept which anybody can partake in at any time, however for the purposes of this article I need to refer to the ‘group’ so mundanely.
Its been 3 months since the symposium and a number of links have continued between both speakers and attendees.
the TEACHABLE FILE
the TEACHABLE FILE (tTF) is a working catalogue of alternative art schools and a pre-pedagogical reference on experimental education. The file is forming itself through communicative action and engaged research.
Acting as ‘Filer’, Carson Salter developed the database whilst attending the Mountain School of Arts in Los Angeles, and whilst in residence at Bétonsalon & The Public School Paris. The project has generated a network of information through various tools and sources, including engagements with those who view and use the FILE. Devised as a practical resource the TEACHABLE FILE continues to grow – please use and share the resource with others. tTF is also gathering original documents from education projects in art.
If you are interested in contributing to the FILE you can send notebooks, ephemera, curricula, etc. to:
the TEACHABLE FILE
c/o D. Senior
11 W. 53rd St.
New York, NY 10019
More about Carson …
Carson Salter (b.1984) works in performance and publishing. His artwork and coordinated projects blur the borders between art, research and fiction. Salter’s work has appeared in many shows across the United States, including You have to have not been there… (curated by Salter himself) at the NY Art Book Fair, PS1, New York ; the PROMPT (curated by Michael Portnoy & Sarina Basta), Kunstverien NY with Performa, New York ; [Frieze] Frame (curated by Gintaras Didziapetris), Tulips & Roses at Frieze Fair, London ; Punctuation: four stops, two marks of movement… (curated by Chris Fitzpatrick and Matthiew Post), Right Window, San Francisco ; and at 16 Beaver, Bard College and Light Industry. His book collaboration with Garth Weiser was recently published by Onestar Press.
Review of the symposium by Jac Mantle
‘Is school a place, an institution, a set of facilities, a situation, a circumstance, an attitude, or a constellation of relationships of the transfer of acquired, invented, and accumulated knowledge?’ asked Raqs Media Collective in their essay for the 2009 compendium ‘Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century)’; MIT Press.
Taking this meditation as a starting point, the Manchester visual art journal Corridor8 staged an Art School Alternatives symposium at Liverpool Biennial which proposed to explore alternative concepts and structures of learning to a traditional art school education, calling on practitioners and artist-led initiatives from around the North West to speak about their experiences.
Coming at a time when discussions, symposia, and books addressing the future of art education are prevalent, and given the title “Art School Alternatives,” one might have expected some artists to call for radical re-thinks or advocate courses of action, but a common thread among the speakers was that they all viewed their positions as distinct from the zeitgeist. The artist and writer Derek Horton made the very good point that most of these discussions on the future of art education take place within academic institutions and between academics – and as such, may feel irrelevant to artists working outside institutions who have practical considerations.
Dan Simpkins and Penny Whitehead from Disrupt Dominant Frequencies outlined how, through the process of applying for a Masters course, they had begun to question the system and opted out, and were evolving a communal practice that meant they could have an equivalent education outside an institution. This included setting their own (fluid) semesters and organising research trips – actually mimicking the structure of the academic year. Horton suggested that the priority of most of these practitioners is to try to recreate what institutions offer in the way of critical dialogue, but without the debt at the end of it, whilst artist and educator Andy Abbott argued that much-used phrases “DIY” and “artist-led initiatives” are often employed simply to mean “non-institutional,” and signify an ethos rather than a practical approach.
Harry Meadley posited that traditional art school allows students to get used to institutional structures and problems, which are useful beyond graduation and into the real world – an invaluable education, as the presentation by Department 21 illustrated. Graduates of the Royal College of Art Bianca Elzenbaumer and Fabio Franz explained how they had set up an interdepartmental, cross-disciplinary, social workspace - Department 21 - within the College after finding that all the departments were insular and uncommunicative.
Some of the artists’ positions were underpinned by ethics, but in the main, the discussion wasn’t about how to avoid an institutionalised art education, or utopian models of pedagogy, but was focused on much more expedient issues, such as economic considerations in light of the recession and the fact that formal qualifications are no guarantee of employment. Although many of the practitioners had evolved their work in response to a localised problem or crisis that they perceived in relation to institutions or “the system,” there was no common feeling of crisis under which they had assembled for the symposium. Instead, the day progressed more as a varied collection of presentations of different interests and different ways of working, and had a refreshing plurality of voices.
With the aim, perhaps, of steering such diverse threads back into the discussion, Derek Horton reiterated on several occasions that there needn’t be a polarisation of art schools on the one hand and “alternatives” on the other, and that the important thing is “trying to find ways to do the things you want to do, whether within the system, without the system, or however.” Perhaps feeling suffocated by such expressions of tolerance and equability, an artist from No Fixed Abode collective pointed out in the Round Table discussion that we had yet to mention the content of our curriculum, self-imposed or otherwise: “All this talk about learning, about pedagogy – is just the fact that we are learning really enough?”
It was a good question, and unfortunately one that we barely began to address in the symposium… … …
read the full review here
for more information on Jac click here to visit her website
Infinite UnSchooling at School of the Future
School of the Future is a project about what a school can be. The mission/hypothesis of the future is that the best learners/teachers are the best teachers/learners. School of the Future invites anyone to propose classes, workshops, apprenticeships, installations, or moments that add to our active research about how to make a better education.The project defeats the notion that school is as it should be, and to offer witnesses of the school the freedom to experiment with what their learning and teaching process can be. In the process of exploring the possibilities of school, we aim to become a body of unschooled and educated teaching students.
Extract from Adam Phillips ‘Side Effects’: Talking Nonsense and Knowing When to Stop.
This is a quick addition to the Alternative Art Schools Discussion board, we are CIRCA Contemporary Art Projects, or Adam Phillips and Sam Watson as we are also known. We are really looking forward to taking part and hearing about the rich range of things going on as well as getting to experience the Liverpool Biennial for the first time.
Adam Phillips: I am fortunate enough to work in both an independent context through my work as CIRCA and within an educational institution as a tutor at the University of Sunderland. This balance helps to ground the work I do through dialogues with a diverse range of interesting and talented people. I wanted to share something that I was given recently by a friend, a really thoughtful teacher and artist, who handed me a copy of my namesake Adam Phillips’ fascinating book Side Effects. In particular I was intrigued to discover within the gift - a photocopied section of the essay entitled ‘Talking Nonsense and Knowing When to Stop’, which had been altered through scribblings which shifted the theme of the essay towards education. Through changing the context of Phillips’ essay to consider the side effects of arts education, I found it a thought provoking introduction to some of the peculiarities of trying to be involved with ‘schools’ (whether alternative or traditional). Most significantly perhaps the balance between control and a lack of it is very interesting; knowing how to create experiences which are memorable and surprising and how you might draw conclusions from projects that are in essence ‘never finished’.
Timetable of the day
10.30am Derek Horton in conversation with a selection of North West practitioners:
Zoe Sawyer from The Artmarket, Robert Quirk and Terry Slater part of No Fixed Abode, Dan Simpkins, Penny Whitehead and Charlotte A Morgan from Disrupt Dominant Frequencies and Andy Abbott, David Steans and Harry Meadley
11.15am Department 21
11.45am Megan Wakefield
1pm Kate Rich
1.30pm Heath Bunting
2pm Lady Lucy Introduction to the work of the Drawing Exchange
2.30–2.45pm COFFEE BREAK
2.45pm Paul Rooney Thin Air
3.45-4.45pm Workshops and Seminars
- CIRCA Contemporary Art Projects
- Penny Whitehead and Daniel Simpkins and Charlotte A Morgan.
- Drawing Exchange
- Islington Mill Art Academy in conversation with Terry Smith
5-6pm Round Table discussion and close.
Art School Alternatives
A Corridor8 symposium on alternative models of learning, at the Johnson Foundation Auditorium, Art & Design Academy, 2 Duckinfield Street, Liverpool L3 5RD
on 7th October 2010, 10am – 6pm.
Admittance is free but please email email@example.com to book a place
Is school a place, an institution, a set of facilities, a situation, a circumstance, an attitude, or a constellation of relationships of the transfer of acquired, invented, and accumulated knowledge…?
Raqs Media Collective, Art School: Propositions for the 21st Century, MIT Press (2009)
The search for new directions in art education by educators, students and artists alike has become an increasingly discussed topic, and in the present climate of austerity cutbacks, new and possibly radical ideas need to be aired. It is something that is close to our own hearts, as can be seen in our inaugural (and still current) issue of Corridor8 published last July, when the ball was set rolling for us by Derek Horton.
In his article ‘Sitting on a Log: Imagining the SuperCity Art School’, Derek provided an outline for a radicalised educational model, which he has since developed in his essay ‘Unmitigated’, published this year in Volume 3 of A Latento magazine. In Issue 2 of Corridor8, due for publication this October, he takes the discourse further in an article that simultaneously looks back at the Free School movement and forward to the ideas of contemporary artist-led initiatives.
The symposium brings together a range of practitioners whose work looks to the communal, collaborative and participatory, to explore new methods of learning and ideas of schooling.
The day will be split between a morning of presentations followed by an afternoon of seminars and workshops, facilitating greater discussion and debate. We hope to see you.