The weight of the world


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

Walk Among The Worlds by Maximo Gomez. Photo: Alain Sojourner

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


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.

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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Notes from Spectres of Evaluation Conference, : Rethinking Art, Community, Value. 6-7 February, Melbourne 2014 Centre for Cultural Partnerships, University of Melbourne and Footscray Community Arts Centre

Photo credit: Sophie Hope

Photo credit: Sophie Hope

Notes from Spectres of Evaluation Conference: Rethinking Art, Community, Value. 6-7 February, Melbourne 2014

Centre for Cultural partnerships,

Faculty of the VCA and MCM, The University of Melbourne with Footscray Community Arts Centre

This conference was a milestone in a three year research project on the evaluation of arts interventions in social contexts and communities. The PI, Lachlan McDowell, who is also the Head of the Centre for Cultural Partnerships (CCP), described the research as moving beyond evaluation as advocacy, exploring both quantitative and qualitative methodologies in ways that captured value and that are also critical, addressing the potential harm of artistic intervention. The research also positions community cultural practice in relation both to a global arena and in relation to so called ‘high art’. The area of Community and Cultural Development in Australia embraces social art practice, community art and socially engaged art and this complexity was reflected in the conference participants.

[Read more…]

A response to ‘Are dialogic and relational aesthetics relevant to all participatory and co-creative practitioners?’

This excellent piece (Chris Fremantle’s blog 6.1.2014) frames the debate on participation and co-creation in art and design as a priviledging of process (over product) and social concerns (over artistic concerns). This presupposes in some way a radical break with what has gone before that might have particular relevance at this point in time to design, architecture and new media.

There is without question a perceived ‘Social Turn’ in art (Lind 2005/6, Bishop 2006/12, Jackson 2011) and this is frequently articulated as a concern with process and the social (Bishop 2004). However, to play devil’s advocate for a moment (as Claire Bishop herself suggests in 2012), how are these concerns not true of all art and any time? Have artists not always situated their practices within the social? In what sense is this set of concerns a new endeavour, a turn in direction from what went before?

[Read more…]

Are dialogic and relational aesthetics relevant to all participatory and co-creative practitioners?

One of the questions we asked in the conclusions of the Practising Equality paper (2013), looking across art, design, architecture and new media at practices of co-creativity and participation, is whether the development of thinking about the aesthetics of participation in art has relevance to design, architecture and new media?

The emergence of a debate around the aesthetics of process and the social in art is one of the important developments of the past 25 years. Whether we are talking about Bourriaud’s ‘relational aesthetics’ discussing participatory work in galleries, or Kester’s attention to ‘dialogic aesthetics’ in situated practices, or Bishop’s interest in the perversity of participation, all are concerned with an aesthetics of process and social relations.

Suzanne Lacy, who is both the subject of one of Kester’s case studies and also a contributor to the discourse herself, draws attention to Allan Kaprow’s concerns. Kaprow’s practice is fundamentally participatory and co-creative, though not in any utilitarian sense. His ‘scores’ and ‘happenings’ presage many of the concerns of Bourriaud, Kester and Bishop.

[Read more…]

Mcgeorge Fellowship, University of Melbourne

Anne Douglas has been invited by the Centre of Cultural Partnerships (CCP), University of Melbourne to focus and consolidate  work on her two most recent research projects: Artist as Leader (2007-2009) and Improvisation and Experimental Knowledge (2010-2012) through the University’s Macgeorge Fellowship programme. The research will lead to a book manuscript, Leading through Arts Practice (provisional title). Aspects of its development will evolve in  collaboration with the Centre, working in partnership with Dr James Oliver, Coordinator of Graduate Research. The fellowship will take place from 1st February 2014 for eight weeks.

Time of the Clock and Time of the Encounter

2 leaves mirror image

Sounding Drawing establishes an encounter between music and the visual arts and between time and space working with artists and musicians from Belgium and Scotland. Where music is unequivocally time based, drawing is situated at a point of tension between time and space. Drawing is both an object and a process. In grasping the difference, how can we engage with each point of view towards a co-creation? How can we share what we create in ways that open up further participation and new, richer ideas about time and experience?

In this work we are not seeking to present a completed body of work but starting points for exploration and dialogue extending the experimentation through new encounters with participants, viewers and audiences.

[Read more…]

Shifting Cultures of Expertise Seminar

Gray’s School of Art Research. Robert Gordon University. Aberdeen, Scotland. UK.

Is the culture of expertise gaining importance or losing its place in society?

Is it evolving into a more complex culture of co-authoring?

Photo by ttstam on Flick

10am – 4.30pm   13th June 2012

Event funded by Institute for Innovation, Design & Sustainability Research

Keynote speakers:

Dr Amanda Ravetz Research Fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Amanda Ravetz is a visual anthropologist with expertise in the theories and practices of observational cinema; and the interdisciplinary connections between anthropology and art.

Dr Johan Siebers Senior Lecturer, University of Central Lancashire.

Johan Siebers is a philosopher, specializing in the history of German 19th and 20th century thought, speculative philosophy and the philosophy of communication and culture. [Read more…]