CHRIS FREMANTLE

A Manifesto for a time when the environment bites back

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Texts by chrisfremantle on October 12, 2010

One of 30 presented at State of Play (Saturday 9 October 2010, James Arnott Theatre, University of Glasgow) an event organised by AHM.

AHM – Ainsley Harding Moffat ‘WORK AS IF YOU LIVE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF A BETTER SOCIETY.’ Sam Ainsley, David Harding and Sandy Moffat are a collaborative group working with individuals and institutions locally, nationally, and internationally, who share similar or related aims and aspirations – namely to place the arts centrally in the making of a new Scotland.

It’s not often that artists organise conferences and symposia, but in the tradition of Littoral, this one brought together an excellent introduction to the current Scottish cultural policy context from Philip Schlesinger; a reflection on a career trajectory from Christine Borland; a critical theory dérive on the statelessness, medievalism and prosumers from Neil Mulholland and some words of wisdom from the older generation in the form of Sam Ainsley and Sandy Moffat.  The next event is 2 April at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh.

It went a bit flat at the end.  I think there had been such a good range of presentations that the audience didn’t know how to respond effectively.  There is a sense of imminent doom, not least because of the underlying ideas shaping Creative Scotland, impending public sector retrenchment and the end of the buoyant art market.  But no-one could quite put the target in focus.  It was certainly helpful to have Peter McCaughey’s rallying call for the audience to join the Scottish Artists Union en masse.  There is a need to bend Creative Scotland into a relevant shape (the conceptual underpinnings having been shown to be deeply flawed and the current spectral suggestions that its role is akin to an investment bank being laughable).

But equally Brett Bloom’s talks Temporary ServicesArt Work initiative to establish a national conversation (in the US) on art, work and economics is also very much to the point.  I suppose my question would be, was Christine Borland the best choice?  She spoke eloquently about the importance of getting involved in Transmission and the challenges of developing a career, but there is a point where an artist is represented by one of the foremost galleries and is exhibiting in major international bienniales is reinforcing the existing model of artworld career success, rather than offering alternatives.  If one of the problems is, as Bloom suggested, the proliferation of MFA programmes producing young artists geared for a conventional route, and as Schlesinger commented, the current model works on massive overproduction from which a few stars emerge, then we need to explore alternatives rather than re-state existing models.

One of the real challenges for the future events planned in this series is to explore how fine art education can or is reinventing itself, and how artists are operating outside the artworld.  This was hinted at, and Christine Borland’s comments that there is evidence that doctors engaging in medical humanities as part of their education are demonstrably better able to deal with ambiguity than their peers was an interesting point of departure.  What is it about a fine art education that enables engagement with other disciplines to wider social benefit, and how can we construct pedagogical models that promote this?

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