Jamboree 2018 was a gathering of artists and curators at Dartington Estate near Totnes at the end of June. We were blessed with an incredible site and amazing weather, which was especially welcome when taking part in the many walks and talks and making sessions.
The organisers: LOW PROFILE is a collaboration between artists Rachel Dobbs (IRL) and Hannah Rose (nee Jones) (UK). They have been working in collaboration since 2003 and are based in Plymouth.
Artists arrived from all across the UK, me Brighton, many others from Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cornwall, Exeter, London and more places I’m sure. Having unpacked and set up tents-not always so easy…I headed to the main site for the introduction in the late afternoon and to meet all the other artists and collect a programme for the next few days.
Rachel and Hannah introduced themselves and welcomed us all to the event. It was inspiring to hear how they had maintained their practice by initiating their own residencies and projects to keep things moving along, and of course the Jamboree event to get 150 of us together was no mean feat.
There was an impressive line up of lead speakers who gave a snapshot of their talks that evening with the idea that we could sign up to a more in depth seminar and discussion with them the following morning. Speakers included Alistair Hudson, Director of Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth, Lucy Day, Founder Director & Curator at A Woman’s Place Project, Sonya Dyer an artist, writer and occasional curator from London, Simon Morrissey the Director of Foreground and Ingrid Swenson the director of PEER, London.
I signed up to hear Alistair Hudson, who was fairly newly appointed to the role of Director at Manchester Gallery and the Whitworth. His approach could be thought to be against lots of what the museum and gallery stands for in his approach for commissioning and working with artists that don’t produce objects but create socially engaged projects.
He is an advocate of social making, placing the community and art together and spoke about the really inspiring Arte Útil project and movement that he had been part of the initial development and set up, along with artist Tania Bruguera and curators from international institutions. The ‘social making’ projects and examples included artists such as Theatre Gates and his involvement in working with communities directly.
There were ethical dilemmas too that came up, in reference to Assemble and when there could be the perception of value, where the ‘art’ lies and the commodification of projects such as Assemble and the residents in Liverpool. I think this can be challenging with projects and commissions, especially when as an artist you are creating projects that utilise people and their stories. It is something that can be difficult to balance between demands of the commission and what you would like to create as an artist and then the communities involved directly with the work.
Across the rest of the 2 days artists who came along to the event could also propose making sessions, walks and talks and also take part in the 20/20 talks. I thought this was an ingenious way of really embedding all of the artists within the programme.
I took part in Lucy Steggals communal making session, after all the intense thinking, discussion, debate and meeting new people it was really lovely to do something with your hands! We were shown how to crochet using your fingers and then had a 1 hour silent making session. The idea was to think of lines whilst making and keep going, we then wrapped them around ourselves at the end with the help of fellow participants!
There were a number of walks and talks which you could sign up for, or just tag along. This format worked well in experiencing the estate of Dartington and getting away from a sit-down seminar and conference experience, it allowed informal chats in between the walk and was a great way to find out more about people’s work.
Themes around power structures, artists and institutions came up, as well as about working in your home town/city and how easy or difficult that was in terms of establishing your practice. For many artists, me included, it has been really difficult to have nearby commissions or paid work for my practice despite being in a place where there were lots of artists, arts activities, but perhaps that’s the reason.
It was inspiring to see how artists overcame this and worked around the problem too.
All whilst the different events and communal making sessions were running, were the 20/20 talks. All artists attending could present their work, 20 slides over 20 minutes. Quite a tricky format to get right…for me anyway, however, I really enjoyed being able to see and hear about different artists work. It gave a snapshot which was inspiring to experience.
The Jamboree event has been a great resource for me to learn new things, connect with artists, especially after the event and using instagram to follow more artists around the UK, has been really useful.
I’ve been able to share my experience of Jamboree with artists at an informal meet up and encouraged artists to sign up for Jamboree 2020!
A huge thank you to Rachel and Hannah from Low Profile and of course a-n and the bursary scheme. It has given me confidence and allowed me to take part in this artist event which otherwise with commitments and travel involved would have been really challenging. It gave me the space to see the context of how other artists are navigating working in site-specific, community based projects, as well as find out about other spaces in the UK supporting artists development and projects.