Jamboree 2018 brought 150 artists, programmers and curators from across the country together on the idyllic Dartington Estate in Devon for four days from 28 June – 1 July.
Developed by Plymouth-based Low Profile, a collaboration between artists Rachel Dobbs and Hannah Rose, Jamboree created a supportive and open environment to meet new people, critically-engage and share ideas and skills through a programme of events co-delivered by attendees.
a-n has been supporting the development of Jamboree since 2015. So, what did we learn from the event?
1. Attendees as contributors, artists as experts
The Jamboree programme comprised almost 100 hugely diverse sessions including seminars, 20:20 pecha kucha presentations, communal making and walking discussion groups. Only five of these sessions were delivered by invited speakers: Alistair Hudson, Simon Morrissey, Sonya Dyer, Lucy Day and Ingrid Swenson. Every other session was co-delivered by the Jamboree attendees, activating attendees as contributors and recognising the value of artists as experts.
2. It’s not just the formal networking that leads to new opportunities
While some of the Jamboree sessions followed more traditional formats – seminars and presentations – it was often the communal making or ‘Walk & Talk’ sessions that enabled conversation with new people and potential alliances to form. When you are learning to make pasta or wild swimming together it’s easy to strike up a conversation and skip the small talk. With so much activity it was impossible to attend everything, but once you got over the fear of missing out half of the fun was hearing from other attendees about their highlights: mass silent swims, dawn walks, landscape painters anonymous. Everyone had a different Jamboree experience which provided lots of opportunity for sharing experiences and swapping notes. #wemetatjamboree
3. ‘Mince’ artists vs. ‘Sausage’ artists
I missed this talk (see point 2) but Rosalie Schweiker’s analogy of ‘Sausage artist vs. Mince artist’ was familiar to all Jamboree attendees by Sunday. To paraphrase: a Sausage artist’s practice follows a linear trajectory of exhibitions, commissions, awards, maybe commercial gallery representation – it’s straightforward. Mince artists, however, are more complex, they might be confusing, immaterial, difficult to document. Mince doesn’t know where it’s going, is often a collaborative endeavour and is full of potential. There was a lot of love for Mince artists by the end of the weekend.
4. Artist as instigator, art as process
Alistair Hudson’s provocation, ‘If we truly want to democratise art, should we abandon exhibitions for good?’, positioned artists as instigators, rejecting the art object in place of an art process – ‘art at work’. Hudson introduced Arte Útil and its proposition for new uses of art in society by addressing current urgencies. As Hudson begins his directorship of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery with the ambition of changing the artworld from the inside, this call to action encourages artists to use their skills to make a difference in their community.
5. The benefits of rules and restrictions on your own terms
On Saturday afternoon some attendees appeared with terms and conditions written on their forearms. Rosalie Schweiker had instructed her Walk & Talk group to create working policies for their practice, advocating for artists to set their own boundaries. T&Cs included: ‘Not to work with artists that look like me’ and ‘How are you going to employ me?’ Attendees were also set up with an accountability buddy to ensure they keep implementing these new rules.
6. Best practice for the health and wellbeing of artists with access requirements
All attendees were familiar with the impact that precarious art working can have on your wellbeing and how this can be amplified by access needs. On Sunday Ria Hartley introduced her recently launched initiative Ecologies of Care, which seeks to empower artists and art workers with the necessary tools to help them articulate and express their access requirements. Ecologies of Care is developing an open-source toolkit for use by those experiencing illness, impairments and neurodiversity, whether visible or invisible, ongoing or temporary to help us all work better together.
7. Artists know best what they need and how to respond to it
As long-term supporters of the artist-led this wasn’t news to a-n, but in creating Jamboree Hannah Rose and Rachel Dobbs have demonstrated what artists can achieve when they have the adequate resources to match their ambition. As a response to their own position as artists who struggle to meet other artists and curators, Jamboree shows the impact that peer-led professional development can have on artists’ practice and potential.
For more images and comment from Jamboree 2018, visit the a-n Instagram
1. Jamboree 2018. Photo: Andy Ford
2. AJ Stockwell, ‘Sonorous Stones’, 2018. Jamboree 2018 a-n Instagram post by Beth Emily Richards. Photo: Andy Ford