Gentrification is a dirty word, so artwash it! My paper from AHRC CDT Conference at BALTIC

Gentrification is a dirty word, so artwash it! My paper from AHRC CDT Conference at BALTIC

This is my paper which I presented at the Northumbria-Sunderland AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training Art and Design Research Annual Conference at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead on 25th July 2017.  Powerpoint and PDF versions can be downloaded here too...

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An open letter to Simon Elmer & @ASH_Housing in response to "Ambition: The Green-eyed Twitter Troll"

An open letter to Simon Elmer & @ASH_Housing in response to "Ambition: The Green-eyed Twitter Troll"

Architects for Social Housing – or Simon Elmer and Geraldine Dening – have accused me of trolling and a whole lot of other things.  I have been rethinking my work in recent months and felt it was time to work together with people from a broad range of interests.  To admit I was being too purist.  To advocate for dissent and disagreement and for solidarity.  I still do.  I stand by my concerns about ASH but I also think they do a great job at raising awareness of the social housing crisis and advocating for the rights of social housing tenants.

This is an open response to Simon James Elmer who wrote the blog on ASH’s website accusing me of trolling.

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Carry on regardless: A response to "Rethinking Relationships" - a new report about the #civicrolearts

Carry on regardless: A response to "Rethinking Relationships" - a new report about the #civicrolearts

Two new reports were recently released about how the arts and creativity might engage with society and communities in more meaningful ways.  The first was Rethinking Relationships – an enquiry into the civic role of arts organisations commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; the second was Towards cultural democracy, commissioned by Kings College London.  Both reveal, for me, different and yet loosely interrelated attempts to find new ways to advocate for the arts or “everyday creativity”.  This is the first of two blog posts in which I begin to critically examine the reports.  The focus here is on Rethinking Relationships.

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V22 PLC. Artist studios, ex-libraries, tax avoidance:Transnational Artwashing

V22 PLC. Artist studios, ex-libraries, tax avoidance:Transnational Artwashing

I’ve written about the complex artwashing activities of Isle of Man registered V22 PLC and its “group” of associated companies before, first here, then an interlude, then a second piece here.  This blog post seeks to reveal some of the interrelated layers of complexity involved in the artwashing of London’s art studios, regeneration areas, communities, ex-libraries and public buildings.  It presents information and research.  It does not claim that anything illegal is happening.  It does, however, reveal links and interests way beyond the art world and, for that matter, London.  This is, for me, is perhaps the most intricate form of artwashing I’ve encountered.  There are links to alleged tax avoidance, scandals and corporate vested interests.  Nothing illegal but perhaps, I suggest, unethical.  This is transnational artwashing.  All of the information presented here is publicly available.  There is more to come…

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Artwashing: Social Capital & Anti-Gentrification Activism

Artwashing: Social Capital & Anti-Gentrification Activism

This is the text from my presentation delivered at Kings College London on Tuesday 13th June 2017.  It discusses artwashing, social capital, socially engaged art and anti-gentrification activism.  In the talk/text, I attempt to define five forms of artwashing and suggest that 'community artwashing' is the most pernicious and deceitful.  The paper is derived and developed from elements of my PhD research.

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Participating without power: The limits of instrumentalised engagement with people & place

Participating without power: The limits of instrumentalised engagement with people & place

 

This article seeks to reveal the limitations of state-initiated arts and cultural projects as well as spurious notions of ‘empowerment’ by examining them in terms of homogeneity, universality and technocracy.  It focuses on issues of instrumentalism with the arts and explores how state-initiated ‘community engagement’ programmes like Creative People and Places may effectively reproduce state agendas linked to social capital theory and thereby to neoliberalism.  It asks a series of questions: Whose values really underpin cultural value?  Who are ‘we’ and who are ‘we’ trying to ‘engage’?  Whose culture are ‘we’ trying to (re)make and why?  Do ‘we’ need new infrastructure; more managers?  Do people in areas of low cultural engagement have their own forms of culture that some may just not consider ‘cultured’?  If cultural democracy offers a different view of people power, so why is it loathed by the state?

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ASHwash: Architects for Social Housing AND for Establishment Values?

ASHwash: Architects for Social Housing AND for Establishment Values?

This blog post is about ASH - Architects for Social Housing.  It uncovers a different side to ASH's founder that is rooted in the establishment and seeks to work with local councils to promote citizenship and art as a public good.  It suggests that these values (and others) are at odds with the aggressive and passionately political persona often adopted by ASH.  ASH's work has been outstanding but is it all it appears?

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Artwashing: From Mining Capital to Harvesting Social Capital - Cardiff presentation

Artwashing: From Mining Capital to Harvesting Social Capital - Cardiff presentation

I did a talk at Diffusion 'Revolution' Festival Symposium at Cardiff University today.  I've uploaded my presentation with notes here.  Click the link below to read it and remember to turn notes on in bottom right hand corner of presentation when it loads...  The talk is called Artwashing: From Mining Capital to Harvesting Social Capital.

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Artwashing London #2: Art's complex web of financial investments - an ethical dilemma

Artwashing London #2: Art's complex web of financial investments - an ethical dilemma

The first post in this series, Artwashing London, explored V22 and its alter-ego V220 in a little detail, linking its group of companies to its headquarters in the Isle of Man.  It asked why would an arts organisation apparently interested in social impact want to register its activities in a tax haven?

This second post looks in more detail at some more of V22’s connections and compares its stated aims to its other directly or indirectly linked corporate interests.  This is a trail from London to the Isle of Man to Africa and back again.  I do not suggest that anything illegal has happened but there are several ethical questions that, in my opinion, should be answered.

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Artwashing & gentrification (or the deeply interwoven web of arts & corporate interests)

Artwashing & gentrification (or the deeply interwoven web of arts & corporate interests)

I recently wrote a blog post about Artwashing London.  It looked at V22 and its connections to corporate interests and offshore company headquarters.  I will write another shortly and more about different cases I think could be classed as artwashing after that.

It is important that I explain my rationale.  This is not a conspiracy.  This is global capitalism underpinned by neoliberal ideology.  Nothing illegal but perhaps unethical?

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Artwashing London – ‘Artist-led’ Studios, Library Takeovers, GLA Cultural Advisors, Property Developers & Offshore Tax Havens

Artwashing London – ‘Artist-led’ Studios, Library Takeovers, GLA Cultural Advisors, Property Developers & Offshore Tax Havens

London is awash with ‘artist-led’ initiatives that use ‘meanwhile’ spaces as temporary galleries, studios and all the usual stuff.  There are many bigger companies doing this too.  Nothing new here.  Sometimes, like in the case of Bow Arts and Balfron Tower, for example, they are rightly called out for artwashing.  There are many more cases of artwashing now than ever before.  More and more people are getting interested in its cynical misrepresentation of arts and culture as a ‘community good’ when really art is used as a front for big businesses, national and local government ‘regeneration’, property investors and a whole host of other people wanting to make a profit from, what is for many people, social cleansing.  Even artists are getting in on the artwashing act.

But why would any arts organisation want to set up its primary base in a tax haven -  particularly one who claim to be all about supporting local people and local economies?  And, why would Arts Council England and the Mayor of London (amongst others) be happy giving funds to a company that’s ultimately based in the Isle of Man?

This is the tale of one such case – V22, an ‘artists-led’ and, indeed, ‘artists owned’ arts organisation with a few different incarnations.  It’s a bit complex, but that seems to be how they like it.  It is one part of a mammoth case of interrelated artwashing that’s going on in London right now.

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The Idea: Profitable Business "As If" Performance Art (or The Complexities of Artwashing)

The Idea: Profitable Business "As If" Performance Art (or The Complexities of Artwashing)

This is a reblog (with additions) of a post that was originally posted anonymously on LSE Sociology blog.  I must explain a few things.  I wasn't comfortable being anonymous because, as a fellow activist said, anonymity is the greatest dispossession.  So here it is on my own site.  I stand by my work but must explain that my issue is not with the ESRC research nor with anyone involved in the forthcoming research project.  I am only interested in exploring The Idea - Platform-7 and what I consider to be an example of artwashing.  It is also important to note that this work is personal and not connected to anything else I am involved with professionally.  I consider this part of my ongoing activist work: an intervention; a performance; research as practice (praxis); art (or perhaps anti-art).  It is an act of resistance and a critique.  If this is problematic, I'm happy to explain more.

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Duty Now For The Future: Can #SocialAction really co-produce us out of this SHIT?

Duty Now For The Future: Can #SocialAction really co-produce us out of this SHIT?

SOCIAL ACTION NOW! A new anthem for "shared society" Tories and for all the compliant public sector workers. Social workers, community groups, volunteers, cultural organisations, everyone! SOCIAL ACTION NOW!  DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE! [Repeat ad infinitum...]

I ask: "Can social action really co-produce us out of this SHIT?"

This is a short blog post.  That's all I feel is needed.

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Tell me again, why do arts organisations (really) want to work in communities?

Tell me again, why do arts organisations (really) want to work in communities?

Tell me again, why do you want to work in Stockton? asks ARC Stockton chief executive Annabel Turpin.  Of course, this question could apply anywhere and, I argue here, it could also be applied more deeply, perhaps.

Annabel Turpin’s blog about the invasion of London arts organisations in ‘the regions’ reflects a growing sense of frustration within regional arts organisations who feel they are not treated as equals in many such ‘partnerships’.  I argue here that the same thing is in fact happening within the regions – that large Arts Council England funded ‘local’ arts organisations are going into their communities with the same lack of understanding and for the same reasons.

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