My text is on the I woz here project website here. I didn’t put footnotes in, but if you are interested in participatory practices and town artists, you might like to read David Harding’s piece on Town Artists here, and the Artworks Scotland programme here.
You have in front of you a typewritten text. It could be poetry. It is an invitation to action, but not exactly an instruction. It reads:
planting a square of turf
amid grass like it
amid grass a little less green
planting four more squares
in places progressively drier
planting a square of dry turf
amid grass like it
amid grass a little less dry
planting four more squares
in places progressively greener
This is an artwork by Allan Kaprow, a score in his terminology. Kaprow wasn’t a musician, and in using the term score he was borrowing the terminology of music.
Reading the ArtWorks’ programme’s International Next Practice Review by Chrissie Tiller and in particular the Participation Spectrum proposed by the James Irvine Foundation, it strikes us that this work could operate at any point along the passive to active audience spectrum proposed. It could simply be read by an audience, or at the other end of the spectrum, made by them. A group of artists and researchers from Gray’s School of Art took this score as a starting point to make new work. We called that Calendar Variations. Were we artists or audience? Were we performing Kaprow’s score?
But what was Kaprow doing? Would he have defined his practice as participatory?
We’d like to suggest that Kaprow is breaking out of the norms of being an artist. The score was a prototype for a co-creative relationship. Kaprow authored the score, but other people played it.
Perhaps Kaprow simply thought that music benefited from having three different roles of composer, performer and audience, where in visual art there might be understood to be only artist and audience. Of course the performer could be many things: composer; professional performer, hired to perform the work; or member of the audience who goes home and performs the work themselves. Is the person who whistles the melody also more than passive audience?
But it could also be another composer who creates new work in response to the original, or a painter who makes something in another form. The more improvisational you get, the more that the role of the composer recedes and the role of the performer comes forward. Kaprow’s Calendar score is something with which to improvise. As soon as you set out to perform it, you realise that you have to interpret it.
Having done a series of projects on social practices, we have recently been working on improvisation, looking to understand the aesthetics of social practice.
Currently we are exploring participatory and co-creative practices across art, design and architecture.
Professor Paul Harris, Professor Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle
Gray’s School of Art
This was just published as a provocation on the ArtWorks blog and is an element of a wider programme of work on participation and co-creation across art, design and architecture.
Tim Etchells’ piece Moon Story for the Arnolfini is a beautiful call to arms for performance.
This piece just went out on Public Art Scotland,
This Participation was the focus of the Imagining Possibilities conference at the University of the West of Scotland, but the conference is only a manifestation of a wider concern. The conference is part of the Remaking Communities project funded as part of Connected Communities. The Connected Communities programme embraces all the Research Funding Councils in a broad alliance to engage communities and thus increase impact. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is currently funding four strands of the ArtWorks programme, including one in Scotland. The Scottish Government is currently working its way through a new bill on Community Empowerment and Renewal and the Westminster Government has already legislated on ‘localism’. All of these programmes put community participation at the heart of, respectively, academic research, arts practice and local democracy.
First part of a report on The Essential Conference in Edinburgh,
“I feel uncomfortable with the term public art, because I’m not sure what it means. If it means what I think it does, then I don’t do it. I’m not crazy about categories.” Barbara Kruger
Working artists and curators don’t tend to talk about monuments as part of the contemporary public art. Not sure they’d be considered essential. The recent conference, The Essential Monument, held at the Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh (8th February 2013), proved everyone wrong. The provocation clearly worked.
Before talking about the conference I need to say that the new monument to Patrick Geddes installed in the Garden of Sandeman House is one of the finest pieces of sculpture I’ve seen in a long time.
I use this image (or an even smaller crop) , rather than a photograph of myself, when asked for one by websites.
It is the figure of Mercury from the Scottish Renaissance tempura painted ceiling in Cullen House, Aberdeenshire. Sadly it was destroyed by fire in the late 80s. If you are looking for more information on the Cullen House ceiling get hold of a copy of ‘Celestial Ceiling’, the publication of the On The Edge Research project. The book documents the process of remaking the lost ceiling as a digital projection, and commissioning Robert Orchardson to make a new painted ceiling for the house.
Hackerspaces and DIYbio in Asia: connecting science and community with open data, kits and protocols in Journal of Peer Production.
Frederick Huth Jackson kept a diary of his visit to New Zealand in 1883-84. Frederick Huth Jackson Diary 1883 lo res.
He was aged 20 at the time.
The first half survives, and was transcribed by Richard Fremantle in the early 70s. This covers his own journey to New Zealand on the SS Ionic and his travels through the North and South Islands. The second half, describing his time escorting Baron Hübner, is sadly missing.
So the question is, are museums part of the problem? What is the problem?
The problem is social and environmental justice. The problem is massively complex and multi-facetted. The problem is multi- trans- and inter-disciplinary. The problem is simple: it’s the financialisation of everything from the value of bees to the value of education, from culture as gentrification to the environmental externalties (the unquantified impacts, ironically the one thing that needs financialised). It’s so complex that it cannot be summarised into one or two sound-bites.
As Brian Holmes’ said in his post ‘Culture Beyond Oil‘,
The secret is out: less than 1 percent of our planet’s population is destroying our world for their profit.
So why are museums part of the problem? and for museums read major arts and cultural organisations.
There are at least a couple of issues:
One is about the ‘career structure’ of the artworld where a lot of people work for free or minimum wage (in their studios or communities or wherever) and a few people become incredibly rich (sometimes the artists, always the dealers). The Scottish Artists Union worked with the Scottish Arts Council and the resulting report showed that a very significant proportion of visual artists make almost no money from their work and have to support their practice from other work. The economy of the visual arts is very challenging and individual artists have always been some of the most precarious workers.
Another is the increasing corporate involvement in the arts – this has always been a factor in the US and the Art Workers Coalition campaigned on this issue forty years ago. In the UK it was significantly encouraged under the Thatcher government. One of the effective lines of critique is offered by PLATFORM with their challenge to BP’s funding of the Tate (as well as other cultural ‘majors’). They argue that this is a form of social license to operate. They need many different forms of legal licenses to operate, but they also need social permission. Cultural organisations, especially the large ones like Tate Britain and the Portrait Awards, are very effective means to demonstrate good corporate citizenship. Good corporate citizenship is not just judged on the funding of cultural majors, it is also a question of actual citizenship across the world.
The Arts of Occupation | The Nation. Intelligent analysis of arts in Occupy Wall Street addressing the complexity of the issue, including art interventions, the aesthetic tactics of the movement, alliances with radical arts practices, and the work on art and labor that forms part of the occupy ‘enquiry’ into the relationship between the 1% and the 99%.
Art is not simply at the service of occupy, illustrating demands, but it is also not autonomous and ambiguous in relation to occupy. Rather it forms part of the tactics and challenge.