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?

IMG_9476.jpg

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.

[Read more…]

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…

View original post 135 more words

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.’

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

The Art of Valuing

The Flemish-Dutch House deBuren (“the neighbors”) presents beauty and wisdom of the Low Countries, and offers a platform for debate about culture, science, politics and the society, not only in Flanders and The Netherlands but also in Europe and the world. It is a place where artists, journalists, academics and politicians get the opportunity to voice their thoughts through panel talks and debates, lectures, book launches, film screenings, concerts, and more.

deBuren, Leopoldstraat

Gate-crashing a Brussels event aimed at Arts Councils and Culture Ministries is to physically visit what is normally a virtual world. This is the land of European Cultural Policy: a place with its own language (policy-speak), its own currency (creativity), and – like much of Europe – a struggling economy. Its religion, naturally, is Culture, whose earthly embodiment is an uneasy trinity of Art, Audience and Sector. There is a great deal of debate as to whether Culture itself, the object of veneration, can be directly approached by the masses or only by initiates. Much time is spent unravelling a mystery called ‘engagement’, which seems to be much like transubstantiation but without the red wine. Finally, there is the sacred quest of ‘evaluation’, which is either a holy grail brimming with eternal funding, or an attempt to look on the face of God and doomed to end in madness (depending on your individual belief and/or job title).

[Read more…]

The weight of the world

WP_20141018_029

Photo: Jon Price

There’s an enigmatic postcard on sale at the Royal Academy featuring an image of Norman Foster and the enquiry, “Mr Foster, do you know how much your building weighs?” I can imagine that a fair number of international curators may have posed a similar question to Anselm Kiefer over the years regarding the shipping of his artworks. The first work encountered by the visitor to the current Kiefer retrospective at the RA is a pair of huge glass tanks in the courtyard populated by metal submarines of varying sizes, suspended at different heights, some of them rustily sunk. Referring to Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov’s eccentric theory that great sea battles occur every 317 years, these are the first vitrines Kiefer has created for an external space and are dramatic, imposing and forceful. They do absolutely nothing to prepare the viewer for the monumentality of what lies within. [Read more…]

Energy Cities and Cultural Development

Walk Among The Worlds by Maximo Gomez. Photo: Alain Sojourner http://alainsojourner.com/nuit-blanche-toronto-2014-walk-among-the-worlds/

Walk Among The Worlds by Maximo Gomez. Photo: Alain Sojourner http://alainsojourner.com/nuit-blanche-toronto-2014-walk-among-the-worlds/

We’ve never been to a conference on the cultural and creative industries at a University that didn’t have someone providing a theoretical critique of the subject. On 1st October Robert Gordon University and the City of Aberdeen co-hosted an event which drew on the experiences of other energy capitals to understand cultural and creative industries development. Pacem critique, this was a morning full of insight into the sorts of strategies, policies and actions that make a difference to cities and see the arts thrive as part of their communities. It benefited from specific experience of being a European Capital of Culture (something Aberdeen aspires to) and it was a good renewal of the process of building a culture and arts development agenda for Aberdeen.

The subtitle was ‘Global Energy Cities and Cultural Illumination’ but the real point is that Energy Cities with strong industrial stories have specific challenges not answered by the narrative of post industrial regeneration.

Jon Price, Chris Fremantle and Mark Hope were amongst a number of researchers and research partners from or associated with Gray’s School of Art (part of the Robert Gordon University) attending the conference. These notes and comments are an immediate response to the presentations from the four cities represented.

[Read more…]

On The Edge in Utrecht

WP_20140622_006[1]

On The Edge researchers Anne Douglas, Caroline Gausden, Jon Price and Helen Smith collaborated on a panel session for the Participation & Engagement in the Arts conference at the University of Utrecht in June 2014. Challenging the idea that there is any single agenda of participation in the arts, the papers and debate explored some political and ethical contradictions emerging from practice which are too often hidden by common terminology. The event was co-organised by Leeds Metropolitan University and co-hosted by the Netherlands National Centre of Expertise for Cultural Engagement and Amateur Arts. It was good to see many old friends and to make a few new ones in the course of some wide-ranging, quality debate in magnificent settings.