For the avoidance of workplace contamination by culture

Well, we’ve all been rather quiet on this site for an embarrassingly long while. But the currently embattled state of the arts in the UK in the face of painfully evident government indifference makes it a very relevant time to share this previously unpublished Score, first performed by OTE members as an intervention at a starchy Aberdeen conference in 2014 in response to what we then thought was only a locally prevailing hostility to culture having any serious place in our lives or – heaven forfend! – careers. And those origins make this blog the most relevant place to share it. Perhaps more will follow, who knows? My appreciation goes to Steve Ansell and Arathi Suresh whose #Fatimadances at Stage@Leeds prompted me to remember this. Meanwhile, please follow these instructions precisely to lead a pure, productive, government approved professional existence.

Overheard in a cultural strategy planning meeting in Aberdeen, 2014:

“Culture is what you do in the evening after work…”

Rearticulated by the UK government, 2019:

“Fatima’s next job could be in cyber…”

SCORE:  For the avoidance of workplace contamination by culture

Art is strictly for the after hours

so snap off that radio for starters

unplug the distraction of music at breakfast

evict any lingering earworms with cotton buds

drive safe

drive safe and silent

do not hum or tap the wheel

do not drive and drum

gaze directly ahead

do not allow adverts or images

film posters, slogans, roadside graffiti

or even rude shapes drawn in filth on white vans

to remotely pervade your senses

avoid major routes with sculptures on roundabouts

squint to exclude any floral displays

park out of sight of places of worship

when you pass news stands

avert your gaze

once in the workplace be quick to dismantle

extraneous architectural features

employ, if necessary, colleagues for muscle

but by no means allow them

when working to whistle

take extra care with printed matter

if obliged to encounter reports or letters

ensure they are assembled by illiterates

and skip over borderline creative effects

such as rhythm, or layout, or meaning

outlaw the internet or in will pour

images, words, sound, video

hard to filter effectively, so

suggest simply ban it

that’s best

use the time saved to unpick each stitch

of designer suits or dresses

scour your desk for symbolic material

ditch any photos or keepsakes

refuse to do work that inspires or uplifts

indulge no feeling or sentiment

ideally, manage out the need to think

keep learning down to a minimum

managers, note: do not retain staff

known to indulge in dancing

they are disrespectful of rational control

they are thought to be unpredictable

follow this score to the end of the day

at the end of the day, go home

go to the bathroom

go to the mirror

and look

take a hard look

repeat five times weekly until dead



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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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

WR_image 1

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.

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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Chris Fremantle: ‘ The Hope of Something Different’

François Matarasso

‘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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How wolves change rivers

Mary Bourne highlighted this amazing short film.  We are only just beginning to understand the complexity of interactions between different living things in any system.  Wolves are not just top predators, it’s not just survival of the fittest, systems are not simple cause and effect, physics is not the correct metaphor.

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