I am tired; it has been a busy week. My head is swimming with the tasks for my Swedish course (finish reading a novel that I only bought last week, learn all the tenses of 10 irregular verbs, write and rehearse a presentation about my ‘homeland’, and revise chapter six of the course book for test next Thursday). In addition to this (and possibly to keep things in ‘balance’) I found myself coming up with ideas for a (short notice) installation opportunity as well as starting to think about how my experience of London studio groups might be useful in developing a strategy for the studios here now that the site is earmarked for redevelopment in three years.
Birgitta, who I worked with on the snow carving projects, asked if I was interested in doing something for an event she is organising on All Saints Day evening (Hallowe’en). At first I was stumped and could not think of anything that would fit the bill; outdoor, in a field, little or no technical support, undefined budget(!), one night only. Two good ideas came to me while running on Monday morning (it was a beautiful morning to be out early running along the water front). Birgitta and I met yesterday and I am delighted that she likes both proposals. Next week I am going to do some trials and see what works before I make a decision as to which one to develop.
A talk at Iaspis last Friday evening started me thinking about why ‘fine art’ and ‘elitism’ are often linked together. It struck me as a peculiarly British and possibly even English phenomenon. There is nothing intrinsically elitist about art (fine, contemporary, etc.). Most museums in the UK do not have entrance charges; I accept that many charge for temporary and special exhibitions. Commercial galleries might be a bit daunting to visit but again they are free, unlike the theatre, cinema and most sporting events. Art is perhaps one of the most inclusive things I can think of (but then I am an artist): you can often see it for free, you can do it on your own or with friends, it is often (though not always) text free so you don’t need to speak the same language as the artist … So how does it come to be thought of as so elite? Perhaps one thing that is required is time, and sometimes a lot of it! And in the UK there is an almost palpable sense that time is money.
My experience so far in Stockholm is that generally people have a far healthier relationship to time than they do in London. I also have the sense that people do not immediately think that (fine) art is elitist. Things are never this simple however the relationship between time and art is interesting.
Suhail Malik (from Goldsmiths) was one of the three speakers and presented an argument for an as yet unknown alternative to contemporary art that is “more real, more political and more social”. Given the chance I would argue for the exact opposite! After many years of projects that were too real, too political and too social I realised that the best thing I could do was to stop, go back to the studio and produce the best art that I could. The work that I started to make was so much more than the real, political, social stuff I had been producing (myself and on participatory projects) and in my mind it started to function as art rather than illustration. Not only that but also far more people became interested in what I was doing, and not just in the art world. The conversations I had with friends and neighbours (who are not involved in the arts) became much more exciting, dynamic and rewarding when we talked about forms, materials and colours. And seeing what my friends’ children and I could make out of scraps of old fabric was so much more creative than any project “about” recycling ever was …
It has been a busy week; productive, exciting, challenging, thought provoking – I am “good” tired!
It is also exactly one year ago today that I moved to Sweden!