The sun was out today, at last, when I woke this morning after a week of snow and dirty skies in West Yorkshire. The ice is slowly melting, as the song goes.
I took the dog straight out for an early walk and as I walked, reflected on the last few days of planning, reading and thinking about using my a-n Re:view bursary.
For the bursary I identified three artists I respect working in Bradford and Leeds, across a spread of practices within broadly defined ‘socially engaged’ contexts both within and out with institutional frameworks:
Caroline Hick: Artist, curator and Fellow in Visual Arts at the University of Bradford,
Andy Abbott: Artist, musician and writer and Fellow in Music at the University of Bradford.
Sarah Spanton: Artist, director of Waymarking; former director of New Work Yorkshire; founder member of Leeds Creative Timebank.
Caroline Hick and Andy Abbott are collaborating on the upcoming exhibition ’Fieldworks: Co-researching Self-organised Culture’ : http://www.brad.ac.uk/gallery/whats-on/spring-summ…
These are practitioners who I know and have worked with in various capacities in the past but whom I would not otherwise have the opportunity for structured and formal discussion about my work. I’m very grateful to a-n for the bursary which will enable me to do this.
I hope to gain from the experience of these practitioners to develop my knowledge of methodologies in participatory and collaborative working and co-research which I then can apply to my own projects; and to critically discuss ethics and politics of participation (including power, ownership, access, hierarchy, authorship) which will help me to identify the socio-political contexts I want to locate my practice (e.g. co-operative or critical in relation to market and state institutions ).
My first sessions are going to be with Andy Abbott in April, who I want to talk to among other things, about art, activism and DIY culture, aesthetics, ethics and the politics of participation – so this week I’ve been doing a bit of thinking and reading around these areas, mostly the following essays:
Claire Bishop’s essay ‘The Social Turn and Its Discontents’ downloadable here: mafineartcontemporarypractice.files.wordpress.com/2010/…/claire–bishop.pdf
‘Francis Alys: When Faith Moves Mountains’ an essay on his work by Jean Fisher
and” Lessons in Futility: Francis Alÿs and the Legacy of May ’68” Grant Kester.
(downloadable here) www.grantkester.net/resources/Third+Text.pdf
As I walked this morning I thought about some of the ideas posited in the essays, particularly the arguments and counter arguments of Bishop and Kester around ethics and aesthetics of social practices and the nature of subjectivity. Is there, as Kester suggests, a
“privileging of dissensus over consensus, rupture and immediacy over continuity and duration, and distance over proximity, intimacy, or integration.” ?
I came home and waiting for porridge to cook, stumbled on Twitter across a link to Polly Toynbee’s column “Benefit cuts: Monday will be the day that defines this government” – a deeply depressing read about the government’s savage cuts that will push thousands of the UK’s poorest people into destitution.
“…disability living allowance starts converting into personal independence payment with a target to remove 500,000 people in new Atos medical tests…. jobcentre staff are under orders to find any sanction to knock people off benefits. New obstacles are strewn in their path: people must apply for their benefits online from computers they don’t possess; many of these claimants are semi-literate. When in dire straits, there will be no more crisis loans, only a card for buying food, with not a penny for bus fares. Trussell Trust food banks expect a great surge of the hungry, so they ask everyone to donate the price of an Easter egg…On Monday the budget of Citizens Advice for such cases falls from £22m to £3m. The few emergency cases still covered – families facing instant eviction – can only use a phone service, not face-to-face legal help. Law centres will close. There will be no help on school exclusions, landlord or employer harassment, or failure to pay wages.”
Immediately none of the stuff about the nature of subjectivity or the ethics of participation seems to matter, or be relevant. How can art change this desperate situation? A friend tweeted me:”Its up to artists to dream a better alternative” But how?
The only response I can feel now is despair.