This article was first published in print in Sluice Magazine and then on their website in 2017. I've decided to publish it on my website because I hope its content still resonates in 2018. It addresses issues of instrumentalism in the arts, artwashing, living creatively and cultural democracy. As I wrote in 2017, I believe "it is still possible to conceive of art as part of living creatively, as part of everyday life, as local cultural democracy, as artistic autonomy." It's time to talk about how...Read More
This review was first published in November 2017 for Artworks Alliance. It was the first review of the book which is published by Bloomsbury and can be purchased here. I am publishing it on my blog in the hope of stimulating new discussion around cultural democracy, community arts and everyday art and creativity - an area I'm working on quite a lot at the moment.Read More
I believe that there is not enough emphasis placed upon understanding the theoretical and historical perspectives and contexts of 'participation' that are, for me, crucially important to both practice and research that engages with people, place, power and politics. Similarly, I also believe that, whilst this field is situated within 'the social', there is not enough emphasis on how practice and research may fit with broader understandings of art and society, nor, for that matter, with wider theoretical from other interrelated disciplines. Too often I attend conferences or read articles about socially engaged art, participatory art and Creative People and Places only to find an often insular, narrow discussion of practice which often is positioned within existing frameworks of practice and research which themselves are often ultimately defined by the state.
This article therefore attempts to open up new ways of thinking about community development and social engagement in art programmes like Creative People and Places.Read More
This is a guest blog by Martin Daws. Martin is a Spoken Word Poet and Community Artist. Full-time freelance since 1999. Young People's Laureate for Wales 2013-2016. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter.
Martin came up with the idea of paying artists to work with communities instead of "investing" millions of pounds in "capital projects" such as arts centres. We chatted about it back in 2016 a bit and he came up with some figures back then. My take is similar but different to Martin's. I favour a simple system based upon replacing infrastructure projects with 10 year funding for community artists based on a scaled system proportionate to the size of each city, town or village. I recently tweeted this question: "Instead of a £50m art venue, a city could pay 200 artists £25k a year for 10 years to work with communities; do what they want. What do you think?" That's sort of my starting point. Martin has kindly agreed to lay out his first draft in a guest blog to hopefully stimulate more discussion and debate about this brilliantly simple, yet potentially life changing shift in how we think about arts funding and how it is distributed more equitably. I will respond in a blog post soon...Read More
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?Read More
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.Read More
Did Assemble really play such a big part in Granby 4 Streets? How 'community-led' was the project? What was the role of the Community Land Trust? How did Assemble come to win the Turner Prize 2015? Who were the private social investors and what did they do to help make the project happen?
he intention here is to blow open the façade behind Granby 4 Streets, Assemble and the Turner Prize 2015 win.
his is a long read and part of my research into art-led regeneration projects that are often far more complex than is often portrayed.
argue that the media and art world picture of Assemble is overly simplistic and masks a far more complex and uncertain set of events that, ultimately, relied on 'mystery' private social investors to force local government to act in support of the project and to lever money from national grant funders.Read More
This is the final part of a three-part series about "opportunity areas". The first two blog posts in the series, Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle nd 'There for the taking', focused on three artists who I suggested were complicit in gentrification by working for state-funded initiatives like Creative People and Places and with property developers Delancey in the soon-to-be-demolished shopping centre at Elephant and Castle. I know quite a few people felt I had been unfair, aggressive, vitriolic, indignant and cynical. I was at pains to explain that the tale I told was not unique nor unusual. Socially engaged art is commonly used as a form of placemaking. The examples I described in the work of Eva Sajovic, Rebecca Davies and Sarah Butler were mundane. A perhaps crass attempt to illustrate much bigger problems in our lives that are mirrored in art practices.Read More
This is part two of a three-part series of posts about Opportunity Areas. Part one is here.
Part two explores Sarah Butler’s work in a little more detail. Creative consultations, writing stories for Creative People and Places, advocacy of socially engaged writing as part of regeneration agendas, poetry hoardings ‘covering’ demolished social housing sites whilst new builds spring up and working for the New Deal for Communities. It reveals, perhaps, how artists can be increasingly drawn into complicit relationships with local councils, the state, funders, charities, schools and property developers.Read More
Everyone loves an opportunity don’t they? What about a whole area of opportunities: an Opportunity Area? Investors love them. Property developers love them. Local councils love them. The State loves them. Even (some) artists love them. Opportunities for all! (Well, not people living in social housing … Oh, and not homeless people … Erm, and not market stall holders … Low income families who bought their own council home? No!)
This blog post explores the art world equivalent of MI5 – the socially engaged artists – the creative secret service for third wave gentrification, who, unlike the pioneering, colonial foot soldiers of first and second wave gentrification, do not necessarily live in gentrifying areas and are paid to infiltrate soon-to-be-decanted communities of social housing tenants, low income home owners, market stall holders and small shopkeepers, even, on occasion, homeless people.Read More
This is a little part of a draft section of my PhD thesis. It examines Creative People and Places, particularly, their People, Place, Power: Increasing Arts Engagement conference, suggesting empowerment may not be all it's cracked up to be, especially when 'delivered' by state-sanctioned, instrumentalising arts organisations and artists - the foot soldiers of state social art provision...Read More
Always Outsiders is about playing and experiencing the presence of people, environment, nature. It is a reflective piece about two pieces of cooperative work: amb ith Lee Mattinson; and orthernGame with Stevie Ronnie. Both pieces are set in the North Pennines in South West Northumberland, an area I made home for almost eight years. A space in which my wife and I often found a solace of sorts from the city. A place where our children first set foot in the world; where they were immersed in nature.
The full title of my paper is the deliberately clunky, lways Outsiders: Map-less Social Sractice Art in the Ancient Landscape of a Global Geopark. It attempts to fuse theory with practice, practice with theory. Thought and unthought experiences are proposed as mediators.
This blog post includes my Royal Geographical Society 2016 Conference paper as well as links to the presentation and a PDF version of the paper for printing.Read More
Smelt. Clart. Pitch. Clay. Pit. Hit. Bray. Hob. Hoy. Words overheard on map-less meanders over still-chartered grouse moors. Stories told and retold by blazing public house firesides. Cautionary tales.
This is the abstract for my forthcoming paper presentation at the Royal Geographical Society 2016 International Conference in London on 2nd September. The session is explores "The Nexus of Art and Geography: practice as research", is part of the Participatory Geographies Research Group activities and is convened by Cara Courage (University of Brighton, UK) and Anita McKeown (Independent Researcher).Read More
This was my prosecution witness statement from the excellent Participation on Trial event organised by the lovely Chrissie Tiller and Goldsmiths from May 2015.
I think it remains as relevant to me as it did more than a year ago but I would say that I was a little over-generous in my support for socially engaged art - a term now so completely appropriated by the Institution of Art that it effectively is THE SAME AS participatory art. Perhaps my views have hardened? Anyway, I now have claimed socially engaged art is DEAD - twice! Undoubtedly, I will do so again...
The (eventual) verdict was “GUILTY – BUT WHO CARES?” Do you care?Read More
I claim socially engaged art is DEAD. (Whether it ever lived or even existed beyond a category description is, of course, another question.) The Art World is DEAD. So, when the Art World subsumes the category description “socially engaged art” (and “social practice” and many more, for that matter) it must KILL the category description – the words.Read More