Reflections on participating in the Artists’ International Delegation 2018, Budapest: Dialogue, discussion, debate, and discourse.
1 A conversation between two or more people as a feature in a book, play or film.
1.1 A discussion between two or more people or groups, especially one directed towards exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem.
The delegation bought together a group of nine artists, myself included, and one writer, all hailing from the North West of England. The conversations we were to have were shaped by the remit of the original call out and application process, namely; to share strategies for, and insight into sustaining artistic practices in the face of political, social or economic challenges. This was to be our dialogue.
Though the topic and purpose were clearly framed by the organisers, within that each delegation member bought their own agenda and knowledge to the delegation. A very packed and carefully selected timetable for the delegation saw us meet a great variety of people working within the arts in Budapest, from artists, curators and designers, to academics and facilitators/administrators. As we explained and expanded upon our reasons for being part of the delegation at each of these meetings the dialogue was further shaped. By sharing our knowledge and listening to that of others we were able to reflect on our own thoughts about the purpose in relation to the new information we were taking on board.
By carefully framing the dialogue through the original call out, the selection of the delegates and the timetable, it gave a clear steer to the delegation. This approach ensured we remained focused, deviated infrequently, and made the most of the experience and limited time we had together as a group and with the people we met along the way. The intense focus for the dialogue remained with us throughout our journey and was key to the success of the experience.
1 [mass noun] The action or process of talking about something in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas.
1.1 [count noun] A conversation or debate about a specific topic.
1.2 [count noun] A detailed treatment of a topic in speech or writing.
During the delegation we took every opportunity available to us for discussion and for me some of the most valuable discussions took place between the more formal conversations that were arranged.
The delegation travelled across Europe by train and the role of this method of transport became significant to the way the group functioned. Taking a slower form of transport opens up a between time, where there aren’t such defined pressures on what you should be doing thus creating an opportunity to step outside daily routine. We weren’t always seated together, rather, we sat as smaller groups or at times pairs, which gave the space for us to get to know each other on different levels and learn who we were going to be spending the next week with. The conversation ebbed and flowed, stories, experiences and advice were shared. We ate, we laughed, we talked, we read, we snoozed and we learnt as a group.
There was also the opportunity on the trains to hold more formal sessions. My agenda for the trip was to focus on learning more about strategies for creating networks and programmes that might be able to help non-commercial artists sustain their practice in North Cumbria. Based on a video I had chosen to share with the group prior to us setting off, I led a discussion session based on our current networks and position as artists in the places we call home. What quickly immerged was the groups ability to generously share our different personal agendas, listen to each other and offer meaningful insights into our own experiences of sustaining networks and practices.
The theme of travel bringing about discussion continued throughout the trip, be it via walking, taking a tram, metro or a bus. Once at our destination, Budapest, we still needed to travel to and from all the galleries and studios we visited and the conversations continued in these between spaces. The discussions that took place as we travelled bought about cohesion of the group and cemented us as a team for the duration of the delegation.
So much was gained from talking with people I had never met before and it reminded me of the importance of being present in the world and to make the effort to connect with your peers and existing networks; to value discussion wherever it takes place and remember how much can be learnt through sharing valuable time and words together.
1 A formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote.
1.1 An argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved
Prior to the delegation I took the time to read a little about the current political situation in Hungary including the upcoming election (8 April 2018) and the impact the current party’s policies have on the arts and media. During the trip we didn’t hear many arguments for the current policies, due to the types of organisations we were meeting and steer of the delegation, however, the reading I had done before hand did give me a little insight into the different sides of the current debate. Each one of the individuals we met were very conscious of the political setting they were working within and the difficulties they were encountering. In turn I felt acutely aware of the importance of this as the background context for our discussions in relation to how artists in Budapest are dealing with political, social or economic change in their home country.
As an accompaniment to this I was keen to see some of the daily life of Budapest so as to put the art world and politics in daily context. Though time for this was limited I did manage to visit a couple of markets and consciously people watched whilst we were travelling about (the Hungarian people look tired, like they have had hard lives). I picked up a little on the difference between those living in major cities in Hungary and those living rurally who’s live are probably rarely touched by the (contemporary) arts or global influences.
We also had the opportunity to take a tour of buildings that mark key political periods in Hungary’s history and were told about the relationship between the building styles and the ideology of the time. On the same day we took a tour of the huge Fiumei Road cemetery where many important Hungarian political and cultural figures are buried. Both these activities helped to build a picture of Hungary’s recent, predominantly 19th and 20th century, political history which is complex and very different to the UK’s. I struggled to make sense of it all but the important point was to try.
The experience has been a reminder of how important it is to be aware of what is going on around you, to be open to different views and not live in a bubble. We are fortunate in the UK and should make the most of the things we have, particularly those on our own door step.
1 Written or spoken communication or debate.
1.1 [count noun] A formal discussion of a topic in speech or writing.
1.2 Linguistics A connected series of utterances: a text or conversation.
On returning to the UK one of the expecting outcomes from the delegates is that through continued discourse we will share what we have learnt with our existing networks in the hope that others can more widely benefit from our experience.
I have some clear ways in which this will happen. Firstly, I hope to reach an audience outside my immediate networks by blogging both here on the a-n website and on my own blog: http://lauramrharrison.blogspot.co.uk/
Following the completion of my MA I have maintained a close relationship with the staff in the Fine Art department at the University of Cumbria so later this month will be giving a presentation to the students on my experience of the delegation. The intention is to focus on key points that will help the students think about the importance of networks and how they might sustain their practices following education.
I am also a member of Art Crit Cumbria and will be giving feedback to the group next week. Prior to the delegation we had already had conversations about what I might look for whilst away and I was given notes of the groups ideas. I will be feedback on these specific questions and am sure we will have ongoing conversations about what I have learnt, and what strategies we might be able to use to improve networks and opportunities for non-commercial artists in our home county.
An unexpected part of the ongoing discourse is that it looks highly likely the delegation group will stay in touch. We were so lucky that we all got on really, really well so want to continue to regularly touch base as a group and continue to converse about what we do. Although I am unable to attend, there is already a follow-up get together planned and all being well we will be having a group film night in the not too distant future.
One of the wonderful things about being part of a delegation such as this is that so many, as yet unknown, things could come from it in the future for me and everyone else who took part. I shall wait to see what emerges with eager anticipation.
All dictionary definitions taken from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/ accessed 7 April 2018.