I was interested to hear how the artists I spoke to conceptualise a context for their practice, how they locate it. i.e. as ‘art’, in terms of the galleries or locations they show in or potential audiences.
Emma Smith is interesting because she works with collaborators outside the field of art who may have their own (e.g. academic) interest in working with her. She suggested that she is not really bothered how others conceptualise it (as art or not). But it is important to her, and the core is about tacit knowledge. This is something that can be researched in art, it seems the most apt language mechanism for it. She thinks that in art you can ask things that you can’t in other disciplines. You can also translate and show what you are doing without having to make it fully articulate. I guess this latter point is in contrast to an academic who might write a paper as the outcome of a project and it needs to have clarity in verbal language.
Emma has worked at ‘art’ venues including Zabludowicz Collection, The Showroom, Tate Modern, Wysing Arts Centre, she is currently a resident on the ACME Fire Station scheme. So she is definitely positioned in an ‘art’ context but she is not commercially represented. She said there are some object outcomes to her work which are more easily commercially viable but this is not because she is interested in selling. Rather she is interested in distribution and how things shared. She would like her work to be broadly used and distributed. She expressed that she did not have a sense of ambition in the form of careerism but that she wants to “do it for my whole life.” This is what is most important to her, to be able to continue researching and making what she is interested in.
With Erica, I was very aware that she has an active online profile via social media and blogs. This was one reason I wanted to talk to her. These formats are conceptually relevant to her work but also serve an important role in building profile, audiences and relationships. She expressed it as a way of “always keeping in touch.” When I asked her about the relationship of her work online to exhibiting in gallery spaces, she thought that both have the same/overlapping audience and that showing in a gallery is a ‘crystallisation of moments.’ She considers her blog to be part of her work too.
Erica expressed similar feelings to Emma in relation to the idea of ‘success.’ Being an artist/making work is something that she wants to be able to continue through her life, but on her own terms. She said that the dynamic of London is that someone you’ve been down the pub with might become really successful. She didn’t understand this success when she was younger and how this dynamic can lead to a feeling of competition or keeping opportunities close to your chest (not mentioning residences/opportunities to other artists). For her sharing is important, for example she mentioned being involved in a crit group at Banner Repeater. It sounds like an attempt to create an environment that is supportive, recognising what others have done but acting with humbleness and without superiority.