The event marked the first a-n Assembly to be organised by a collective, and featured a range of collaborative projects from across the UK, focusing on the increasing necessity of artists’ communities to operate in this way.
Since the oil price crash of 2014, Aberdeen has been in the grip of a concerted effort to diversify its economy – and shift its identity – away from the energy sector. This has resulted in large-scale cultural venues in the city closing for a period of renovation, including Aberdeen Art Gallery which is currently undergoing a long-delayed expansion project.
In place of this institutional presence, grassroots artist and cultural activity has blossomed, defined by a deeply collaborative community of projects.
The day provided an opportunity to share collective strategies and foster connections between invited projects, those in attendance and Aberdeen’s developing community of artist-led initiatives.
Dundee-based project Dain’ Hings opened the event with a circuits-style activation, inviting audience members to move between three different material exercises.
Dain’ Hings was initiated by Duncan of Jordonstone fine art students Jek Mcallister and Saskia Singer as a way to invite fellow artists ‘to get back to the basics and just dae hings!’ Started in their local pub, The White Dove, to side step the planning necessary for gallery shows, they have recently worked with Bread Arts Laboratory, Ayr.
The day’s first panel focused on approaching communities as authors. It featured Jo Capper, Collaborative Programme Curator at Grand Union Gallery, Birmingham and Shetland- based artist-led project Gaada.
Chaired by CEO of a-n, Julie Lomax, the panel discussed their approaches to programming and community narration.
As an artist, educator and community developer, Capper’s practice has been based around local communities for 10 years. At Grand Union she has been working with residents of the Digbeth area to understand the cultural capital within the neighbourhood and to shape the collaborative programme within the gallery.
Gaada is based in Burra, Shetland and led by artists Amy Gear and Daniel Clark. Together they work with local groups, as well as invited individuals from the mainland to work in venues across the Shetland Isles, working to connect with the region’s unique heritage through contemporary means.
Next up, Glasgow-based artist collective A+E led a clay workshop exploring ‘practices of dialogue, meditation and biofeedback techniques in reaction to recent texts on intimacy and the ethics of coexistence’.
The collective describe themselves as a ‘multi species solidarity generator’. Their research and projects focus on increasing anxieties around agency, responsibility, risk and loss in relation to the developing global climate emergency.
The conversation considered strategies to further build endurance and stability within Aberdeen’s growing grassroots community as new developments such as the expanded Aberdeen Art Museum reopen. However, they also considered how access to space continues to be an issue, with the city grappling with a ‘post-oil’ identity.
Throughout the day illustrator Steven Affleck made drawings in response to the activities and discussions taking place.
To end the day, attendees were treated to a special screening of Workers!, a new film initiated by Collective, Edinburgh in 2016, between Swedish artist and filmmaker Petra Bauer and SCOT-PEP, a sex-worker led organisation in Scotland.
Workers! was filmed in the Scottish Trades Union Congress, a building rooted in workers’ struggles for rights and political representation. During their one-day occupation of this institution, conversations unfold that centre the voices of sex workers demanding to be seen as experts on their own labour and lives.
The collective approach developed for the production of Workers! has been inspired by feminist film practitioners who emphasise the importance of making films with their subjects, not about them. Regular workshops supported this process, enabling SCOT-PEP members and Petra Bauer to share their varied experiences of film and sex work.
Assembly Aberdeen took place on Thursday 4 July 2019 at The Anatomy Rooms, Aberdeen.
1. Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
2. Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
3. Tendency Towards, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
4. Dain’ Hings workshop, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
5. Dain’ Hings workshop, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
6. Dain’ Hings workshop, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
7. Dain’ Hings, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
8. Gaada, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
9. Julie Lomax, CEO a-n The Artists Information Company, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
10. Jo Capper, Collaborative Programme Curator, Grand Union, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
11. Gaada, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
12. A+E, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
13. A+E workshop, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
14. A+E workshop, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
15. Underpinning, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
16. Panel featuring D2. Underpinning and Wagon, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
17. Steven Affleck drawing, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick
18. Petra Bauer & SCOT-PEP, Workers!, film still, 2018
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