I have just received the exciting news that I have a place on a short course that I recently applied for. Sixteen years after finishing at the Slade I will be back at art school! The course – An Introduction to Artistic Research – is at Konstfack, is part-time over twenty weeks and is in English. Making the application I realised just how much has changed in the academic art world since my time at the Slade, back then artistic and practice-based research was in its infancy even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. Now it seems so established with its own distinct methodologies, terminology and networks.
This particular course intrigues me and I hope it will enable me to work out how my practice might sit within a research context. In the past I have been sceptical about the idea of using terms such as research to describe a/my practice, preferring to insist that my practice (all of it) is art and that art necessarily includes a great deal of research. I am therefore very interested to see in what way my practice can maintain its identity as art and at the same time contribute to what is a distinct academic discipline. Perhaps I am more confident than I previously was that my practice is sufficiently secure and established within itself to shape the idea of research rather than being shaped by the idea(s) of research.
It will be very interesting to find out if I am capable of doing the two different things at the same time – it feels as though it will be a little like patting my head with one hand while rubbing my tummy with the other! I mean that I want to keep making art and I want to see how it works as “research” – which to me two different activities being carried out by the same body. Already I am thinking about the applications to other courses that I have made over the years and how I have often times tried to fit my art in to what I imagine pre-existing frameworks to be, my aim for this course is to test out how I develop my practice on my terms in the context of artistic research and to investigate where this might lead.
One of the other students on the course is Ingrid who (with Anna) I have been working with for the last year on our Sandcastles in Greece project. I also noticed from the email list that another artist who was at the meeting when I met both Anna and Ingrid will be on the course too!
Taking a hard-copy application to Konstfack was interesting in and of itself. I experienced a very real sense of excitement as I approached the building, just as I did when I have previously visited KKH (Stockholm’s Royal College of Art). I really enjoy being in places of learning: schools, museums, libraries, and for me art school is the ultimate. On the day that I delivered my application I had also arranged to pick up the final version of the Ljusfältet film from the filmmaker who lives nearby, I was early and waited in the college café. It is hard to describe the senses of rightness and belonging I have at such times – I remember it was the same when I had lunch in the café at KKH before meeting the research coordinator there. The phrase ‘being institutionalised’ is often and popularly loaded with negative connotations and I am aware that I can make my friends squirm a little when I say that I long to be institutionalised … I mean, of course, being an active member of a good and healthy educational or research institution, a place of enquiry, collaboration and potential. I am absolutely delighted that for twenty weeks from the first of February I will be, albeit part-time, institutionalised again!
I am really pleased with how the Ljusfältet evening here at Wip:konsthall turned out – a good and fitting start to the New Year! The whole idea of doing something in early January is appealing; something to mark the arrival of the new year, a pleasurable way to re-engage with work after the holidays, the opportunity to catch-up with colleagues and …
The evening worked really well: the discussion was interesting and stimulating for both the speakers and the audience – it ran over by half an hour and continued informally afterwards; the gallery version of the installation looked good – the possibility and potential to make non-site specific versions of site specific work is something that I have wanted to develop for some time now and this was a great opportunity to see how it could be done and how the work can work in new ways; people responded really well to the booklet – there is something (perhaps something a little more intimate) about reading words on a page of a book that is very different from reading the same words on the wall of a gallery; keeping the look of the show simple seemed to create space for thoughts, ideas and discussion – which for me is really important; and not least the evening brought together a diverse group of people – the subject under discussion (the future of open and public spaces in the city) brought in a far wider audience than often come to exhibitions at Wip:konsthall.
Thinking around the idea of in-between space in both preparation for and after the discussion has raised a lot of questions for me and has led to interesting and intense conversations with friends and other artists at the studios. One subject that keeps coming up in various ways is the seemingly relentless pursuit of, and faith in, financial capital. Perhaps it is not surprising that artists find this difficult, especially artists with practices that are not solely commercial. Art can offer alternative value systems – how to do this in such image saturated and possession obsessed cultures appears to be a very pertinent question. It occurred to me that my avoidance of image and advertising loaded mass media could be part of my personal strategy for enabling me to see the art when I visit galleries and museums. As the in-between spaces in our towns and cities, as well as people’s mobile phones and social media networks, become more and more drenched in advertisements with their demand to buy, their insidious message that we are always lacking, is it any wonder that people do not know how to relate to (art) images which invite them to think differently, to contemplate something, to simply enjoy the image for what it is. Before the panel discussion I had not heard about São Paulo’s city wide ban on billboards – the conservative Mayor leading the campaign and calling them “visual pollution”, apparently the result has been hugely successful – it’s certainly something I am going to follow up!
It feels as though the evening was not only good for me but also good for the exhibition space. People’s enthusiasm for more discussions and events that give an exhibition additional dimensions is certainly something that could be developed as a core part of the exhibition space’s future programme.
Birgitta and I were not the only ones to kick off the New Year with something exciting. Last night the contemporary galleries in the Hudiksvallsgatan area of the city all opened with new shows. These evenings when the galleries open together are always enjoyable and last night there was a definite sense of excitement and energy. Going around the various shows I bumped into two of the panel guests from Tuesday evening as well as other people who had come along and people who had heard about it but could not make it – in total more people to stop and chat with than I would do in similar circumstances in London. I had a new sense of starting to belong in the art-scene here – and I like it!