Neoliberalism, language and engagement - A workshop

Neoliberalism, language and engagement - A workshop

This is the transcript of my 3 very short provocations presented to stimulate discussion during my workshop at the Sound Connections Social Justice Conference at Cecil Sharp House on 30th November 2017.

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Elisabeth Murdoch's appointment to Arts Council England National Council is a corporate takeover of the arts - a takeover facilitated by Sir Nicholas Serota and his wife Teresa Gleadowe

Elisabeth Murdoch's appointment to Arts Council England National Council is a corporate takeover of the arts - a takeover facilitated by Sir Nicholas Serota and his wife Teresa Gleadowe

The appointment of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth Murdoch to Arts Council England’s National Council is not only deeply troubling, given her close ties to the Murdoch corporate empire, but is also a glaring example of how nefarious the UK arts establishment has become. The appointment of ex-Tate boss Sir Nicholas Serota as Chair of Arts Council England has clearly ushered in a new era of favouritism and nepotism in which a tiny select elite grease the palms of each other and their friends and family. This blog post explores a path from Serota to Murdoch via a Ukranian oligarch and his own wife, Teresa Gleadowe. It calls for an end to the corporate takeover of the arts!

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Robin Hood Gardens. V&A: The not-so-very-arms-length state-led artwashing of state-led gentrification and social cleansing

Robin Hood Gardens. V&A: The not-so-very-arms-length state-led artwashing of state-led gentrification and social cleansing

Much has been written about V&A’s decision to purchase a part of Robin Hood Gardens: an ex-council estate; more recently social housing.  The estate is currently being demolished to make way for Blackwall Reach – a luxury property development.  Campaigners fought to save Robin Hood Gardens: some because of its architectural significance; others because they believed in maintaining social housing.  Yet the estate was not saved.  This blog post argues that V&A are artwashing the demolition of social housing and the gentrification of East London...

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Rethinking the role of artists in urban regeneration contexts

Rethinking the role of artists in urban regeneration contexts

I was invited to lecture at Winchester School of Art on 3rd November 2017 as part of their Talking Heads series.  This is a transcript of my lecture along with a link to my lecture slides (with notes) and a link to an edited recording of my discussion with Nick Stewart afterwards.  The lecture covers a broad range of topics from my research including creative cities and the creative class, social capital, placemaking, artwashing, art and gentrification, anti-gentrification art, anti-art activism, the radical avant-garde, and examples of artists engaging with regeneration that do not result in artwashing or gentrification.  It's quite long but perhaps gives an overall illustration of my work and a taste of my PhD thesis, Artwashing: The Art of Regeneration, Social Capital and Anti-Gentrification Activism.

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Artists Against Artwashing: Anti-Gentrification & the Intangible Rise of the Social Capital Artist

Artists Against Artwashing: Anti-Gentrification & the Intangible Rise of the Social Capital Artist

This is a transcript of my paper I presented at the Edge | Situated Practice conference at Here East on Saturday 7th October 2017.  The conference was organised by the UCL Urban Laboratory and the Folkestone Triennial, with additional support from the Bartlett School of Architecture and Slade School of Fine Art.  There's a link to my PowerPoint presentation too.  It was a really interesting conference and I think my paper provoked some challenging debate.

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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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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 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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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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Art, theory, practice & politics: Differences, not "one culture". A response to François Matarasso

Art, theory, practice & politics: Differences, not "one culture". A response to François Matarasso

This blog post follows on from yesterday’s critique of Stella Duffy’s call for action towards the creation of a “new culture”.  It is a response both to François Matarasso’s thoughtful and challenging critique of my blog post and an attempt to answer the people who asked what my basis was for my critique, what my practice was, what alternative perspectives I might have.  I fear this post will prove unsatisfactory to many as I do not claim to offer singular nor even collective solutions that will ever be acceptable to “everyone”.  Nevertheless, here goes…

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Unlock the all-inclusive fun of a “new culture” with added “genius in everyone” NOW! (A reply to Stella Duffy's New Year provocation & arts "campaigns" like Fun Palaces)

Unlock the all-inclusive fun of a “new culture” with added “genius in everyone” NOW! (A reply to Stella Duffy's New Year provocation & arts "campaigns" like Fun Palaces)

A new year.  A cultural event.  Not all cultures.  Our culture’s.

Traditionally, at least in our culture, a time of misadvised, soon misplaced resolutions.  Most are very personal.  The one I want to talk about here is “for everyone”.  Yes, that’s right, everyone!  It’s an all-inclusive provocation.  A call for change, for cultural change.

The call comes from Stella Duffy on behalf of her Fun Palaces campaign.  The campaign manifesto claims:

We believe in the genius in everyone, in everyone an artist and everyone a scientist, and that creativity in community can change the world for the better.

We believe we can do this together, locally, with radical fun – and that anyone, anywhere, can make a Fun Palace.

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Opportunty areas Pt 3: The Artists and The Puppet Masters - A Cautionary Tale

Opportunty areas Pt 3: The Artists and The Puppet Masters - A Cautionary Tale

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.

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Opportunity areas Part 2: 'There for the taking' - (Re)writing gentrification & placemaking

Opportunity areas Part 2: 'There for the taking' - (Re)writing gentrification & placemaking

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.

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Opportunity areas - Part 1: Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle

Opportunity areas - Part 1: Unearthing socially engaged art’s complicity in the gentrification of Elephant & Castle

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.

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