Thinking Public

Brussels Comp

Last week on 22nd June, the day before the referendum, Jon Price delivered the keynote of ENCATC’s 6th policy debate focusing on our current AHRC funded research into Cultural Leadership and the place of the artist. We attended this Day of Cultural Leadership on the invitation of ENCATC, the European network of cultural management and policy. ENCATC is one of four partners in our current research within OTE including Creative Scotland and Clore Leadership Foundation.

Professor Annick Schramme of University of Antwerp’s Management School and President of ENCATC skillfully threaded the key issues of the debate that included a panel of discussants from the arts and cultural organisations: Koen Broucke, artist; Jan Bloeman, Managing Director of the Arts Centre Z33, Hasselt, Belgium; Phillip Dietachmair, Programme Manager Tandem Cultural Managers’ Exchange, Amsterdam; Sue Kay, cultural sector researcher from England and Marjolein Verhallen, Leadership in Culture (LinC) project, University of Utrecht. Artists, leaders of cultural and arts organisations from across ENCATC’s 40 member countries as well as policy officers in the European Commission joined the discussion.

Looking back, this was a poignant moment in the UK’s relationship with Europe. It marked one of many extraordinary opportunities to engage in discussion with European partners, widening our horizon of understanding across national borders, expertise and experience. This opportunity for debate now seems remarkably precious.
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Art and influence: On The Edge at the ENCATC policy debate

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On The Edge’s Jon Price has been invited by the European network ENCATC to give a keynote address to its upcoming 6th Annual Policy Debate in Brussels on Wednesday 22nd June. The event addresses European Cultural Leadership and the Role of the Artist and is targeted at cultural professionals, researchers and policy makers from all over Europe. Jon will be talking about his recent work on the Discourse of Cultural Leadership as well as the wider trajectory of On The Edge research on related topics, from the Artist as Leader onwards. [Read more…]

Holding the paradox

hands by Chris

photo: Chris Fremantle

How can art respond to complex social and ethical problems? When should the demand for solutions be resisted? And how might this affect our understanding of cultural leadership?

These were among the questions keenly debated in the first of our series of full day seminars on Cultural leadership and the place of the Artist which took place in Edinburgh on Friday 20th May.  Our thanks go to the artists, researchers and cultural organisers who attended and contributed so fully.  The day brought together participants from various phases of On The Edge research alongside new friends and colleagues from our project partners Creative Scotland and ENCATC.

Discussion ranged across different understandings of what is meant by leadership and how it relates to artistic production.  This led on to questions about the role of art in public life.  Some compelling suggestions were made about the distinctive capacity of art to embrace contradiction, to find potent material in the midst of uncertainty.  In a world of ‘wicked’, irresolvable problems, there is a value to being able to hold conflicting ideas in creative tension. Can art therefore help us to live with our difficulties?

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Introducing our artist in residence

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Image from ‘what remains and is to come’, a performance installation by Katrina Brown and Rosanna Irvine

On The Edge’s recent artist in residence call resulted in a wonderful response with high quality applications received from seven European countries across numerous different art forms.  We are delighted to announce Rosanna Irvine as the selected artist, and Rosanna has already attended the pilot event for Cultural leadership and the place of the artist at Woodend Barn, Banchory.

Based in Glasgow, Rosanna is an inter-disciplinary choreographer working with performance, digital media and writing practices. She works independently and in collaboration with choreographer Katrina Brown. She is also a researcher and lecturer with an interest in relational aesthetics and non-representational poetics. Her work offers an entirely different way of responding to the discussions, presentations and texts through which this project will develop. We welcome her to the team and look forward to seeing what form her interpretations will take.

We’re also very grateful to the other respondents to our call. It was a point of principle for us that there should be artistic input to this work and we were spoiled for choice. It was only disappointing not to be able to take more ideas forward. However, a really positive development is that a number of the artists who made proposals have chosen to stay in touch with the projects, correspond on the issues and contribute as participants to the forthcoming events.  Their perspectives and contributions are vital complements to the policy and training expertise contributed by our partners, and will help to maintain the central place of artists in this research.

We’re now looking forward to our first main project seminar which takes place in Edinburgh at the beautiful City of Edinburgh Methodist Church on 20th May. More to follow on this site about the key questions and ideas discussed at that event.

Questioning cultural leadership

Who do you depend upon to make your role in the arts possible? Who looks to you for support? What form of change would you most like to see happen – and who can help you bring it about?

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Photos: Graeme MacDonald

On The Edge posed these questions to a diverse group of artists, researchers and organisers at the first event of its new AHRC investigation, Cultural leadership and the place of the artist, on 14th March at Woodend Barn, Banchory. Each question was approached through the viewpoints of a range of archetypal roles: artist, funder, teacher, policy maker, board member, parent, venue manager, volunteer.  We built a network in miniature of the relationships and forms of influence through which our actions are shaped in aesthetic, organisational and social contexts.  Opening up issues of leadership in culture beyond the operation of hierarchies, we tried to understand the interplay between policy and practice; artist and institution; individual and structure; action and influence. Among the discussions that followed we introduced the ten-year trajectory of On The Edge research from The Artist as Leader onwards and tested ideas for the new project. [Read more…]

A postcard from Brussels

Benoit tearI’ve always loved travelling through Maelbeek metro station, as I often do when staying at my regular apartment in Brussels, going from local stop Merode towards the centre. Until yesterday Maelbeek was most distinguished for its fabulous station artwork, completed in 2001 by the Belgian artist Benoît van Innis.   This series of 8 faces would gaze benignly from the white tiled walls, deceptively simple line drawings fired in ceramic.  They look at first glance like someone has drawn them on with a marker.

Benoît’s faces, echoes and anticipations of the passing commuters who stared blankly back at them on a daily basis, have been a reassuring presence on this route through the EU quarter.  They are also a symbol of the city’s cosmopolitanism, with their sparse detail sufficient to suggest diversity and their open expressions inviting self-identification.  I found myself looking for their images on the internet last night. For me they now stand also for those whose journey ended at Maelbeek so grimly yesterday.  I know many of my friends have wished, in their kindness, that I wasn’t in Brussels at this moment, but in fact I am glad to be here. Those who know me well know I’ve long loved this city for many reasons – eccentric, problematic and sometimes misrepresented as it is.  Being here, I feel that I can stand with the city for a moment, in however small a way. I love it more than ever.

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Artist in residence call

On starThe Edge research (Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen), with partners The Clore Leadership Programme, Creative Scotland and ENCATC, is pleased to announce a call for an artist in residence role connected with our current AHRC funded project Cultural Leadership and the place of the artist.

We are looking for an artist in any discipline to act as creative respondent for series of international seminars taking place this summer in Scotland, Belgium and England. A fee of £1300 plus expenses is available.

Deadline for applications: 26th February 2016. Full details about this opportunity and how to apply are available here: Grays Artist in Residence brief Feb2016

Chris Fremantle: ‘ The Hope of Something Different’

A Restless Art

‘One of the most fundamental rights is to have your understanding of the world recognised and valued’.

Chris Fremantle

Participatory art is a rich and diverse practice. Much of its energy comes from the creative tensions between different theories and visions, as may be seen from some of the reaction to the Turner Prize jury’s choice. But art is not only intellectual and rational. It is felt, perceived, practiced and experienced. Some of the most creative discussions happen within projects, between artists and participants (or, as I’d prefer to say, between professional and non-professional artists). That is why I think of it as a restless art.

And so this project, in its conception and unfolding, is a space for discussion, reflection and development. Other voices are not just welcome: they are intrinsic to what it is trying to do. They are being heard in the meetings and conversations I’m having…

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Cultural leadership and the place of the artist

Traditional Sicilian puppets at Rustico's restaurant, AberdeenOn The Edge has secured a new £100,000 international project to develop professional engagement with its research into artistic and cultural leadership at Gray’s School of Art. Establishing new relationships with the Clore Leadership Programme, Creative Scotland and ENCATC (the European network of cultural management and cultural policy education), the work will generate events and discussions with the cultural sector in London, Edinburgh and Brussels. New publications will be produced and the project aims to inform new developments in cultural leadership training, theory and practice.

The year-long initiative is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with further support from the three partners. It builds on the longstanding ‘Artist as Leader’ research as well as Jonathan Price’s Ph.D research into ‘Discourses of Cultural Leadership’ (2012-2015).  Price will co-ordinate the new project while Professor Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle, the co-authors of the Artist as Leader report, will be Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator respectively.  Douglas said: ‘This AHRC award and the support of our cultural sector partners is welcome recognition of the quality of the research at Gray’s and its significance in the professional field. This opportunity allows us to build on our earlier work and on recent doctoral research in the School, shaping debates in the UK and Europe.’

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John Newling: The Map Room of the Last Islands

Woodend Barn, Banchory, Aberdeenshire
22 August – 23 September 2015

This major exhibition of previously unseen work is a powerful, and visually beautiful, illustration of the ways in which artist John Newling explores the relationships between the natural world and systems of value within society.

Since 2009, Newling has been creating art works that are constructed, primarily, through the growing, observing and preserving of Moringa Oleifera trees.  Often referred to as the Miracle Tree or Famine Tree, gram for gram, the Moringa leaves contain: seven times the vitamin C in oranges, four times the calcium in milk, four times the vitamin A in carrots, two times the protein in milk and three times the potassium in bananas. It is for this and other extraordinary properties of this tree that it has been referred to as the world’s most generous tree.

The paintings are maps of a kind, into and through which Newling explores his relationship to the trees and to wider ecology. They are a truly beautiful cartography of language, colour and shape; islands that Newling hopes may never be lost.

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