First people (not cars)

Posted in News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 8, 2012

Yesterday evening at the annual Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture the audience was charmed into seeing the world a different way and recognising our own failures in the process.  The lecture was given by Jan Gehl, an internationally acknowledged champion of urban quality focused on and driven by people and their well-being (rather than cars or egos).

In fact his critique of architects represented them as people who looked at the world from 3 kilometres up and dropped buildings into skylines.  His counter was that the skyline was not as important as the way that the building meets the ground.  In the analysis he offered us of Edinburgh, the topography and skyline are excellent, but the point where you move the human eye level you see the disaster.

His critique of traffic engineers was equally damning.  In his analysis the past 50 years have been dominated by the motor car at the expense of everyone and everything else.  In 2012 we need to make prioritising the car in public as unacceptable as smoking – that’s the level of challenge in effect Gehl was suggesting.

So much is true and in so many ways self evident, but the full ramifications of the analysis are wider and more comprehensive than you might think.  For instance, having a Department of Walking, Cycling and Transport?  Having the driver press the button at the junction to get permission to cross, rather than the pedestrian?  Having newspaper articles about bicycle congestion and demands for wider bicycle lanes?

What was a shame was that there were only a couple of artists in the room (lots of architects and obviously a majority of urban planners), but I didn’t see people who really ought to have been there – no-one from the VeloCity programme for Glasgow, no-one from Ayr Renaissance, and I didn’t recognise anyone from the health sector.

There was a really interesting question at the end.  The individual noted that Gehl had not used the word design once in his presentation.  The questioner contrasted this with the Scottish Government’s consultation on a new Policy on Architecture and Place-making.  Gehl basically said that he did two things.  He (and his practice) worked on “programmes and Strategies” and these set the tasks for the designers.  He (particularly in his academic life) worked on the in depth understanding of people and their experiences in public spaces.  These two obviously complement each other, but in essence he is ‘bracketing’ the designers – by evaluating (and that was his word) what works and what doesn’t, and then inscribing it into Programmes and Strategies, he is driving the design agenda.

For me this demonstrated an important articulation of the value of operating between the academic and the practice, as well as everything else he said.  It all seems so obvious when Gehl says it, but then you look around.

Maybe his books should be mandatory reading not only on urban planning programmes?

Collaborate Creatively

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on August 28, 2012

Workshop in association with World Event for Young Artists (WEYA) and a-n.

Nottingham, 12-3pm, 13th September 2012 open to participants in the WEYA event.


Drawing on his text for a-n Reflections on Collaboration, Chris Fremantle will explore with guest artists the principles and approaches to creating great collaborative relationships amongst artists and into other disciplines and contexts. Includes informal and facilitated discussion exploring how artists can realise their ambitions and a hands-on workshop highlighting contexts for innovation and guiding good practice.

Collaboration is one of those hot topics.  Missions, Models, Money have had a whole stream of work around the issue over the past few years, Grant Kester‘s new book The One and the Many theorises the subject, and a-n has been tagging articles as ‘Collaborative Relationships‘ for about five years.

Making Policy Public – MAS CONTEXT

Posted in News, Research, Sited work, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on July 18, 2012

Vendor Power, Copyright Kevin Noble for CUP

The Center for Urban Pedagogy‘s Making Policy Public series is a standout project engaging marginalised interest groups with designers and communities.  MAS Context provides and overview of the series here.  Its a good description, though it doesn’t offer a critical commentary.

New Growth Walking from Renton to Kilmahew, 9 June 2012

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on June 9, 2012

Funded PhD Opportunities

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on March 19, 2012

3 PhD Studentships (Reference IDEAS 12)
Grays School of Art, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
IDEAS Research Institute for Innovation, Design And Sustainability

Closing Date: 9th April 2012

Applications are invited from excellent candidates for PhD studentships in the IDEAS Research Institute at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. IDEAS is a multi-disciplinary research centre encompassing the disciplines of Architecture & Built Environment, Art & Design, Computing, Engineering and Environmental Science.

Theme: Creativity, Design & Innovation

Art in the Public Sphere: The Case of Feminist Manifestos

This PhD project will creatively contribute to the artistic and theoretical exploration of the unique interweaving of politics and poetics in this still under-researched genre of revolutionary discourse, the manifesto. The project will specifically address the contribution of visual art practice associated with second-wave and later feminist movements, focusing on lesser known British feminist manifestos produced in and since second-wave feminism, through the study of anthologised documents but also through archival research in libraries and special collections. One of the project’s aims is to not simply discover but also uncover feminist manifestos in unexpected forms and locations, in corroboration of the thesis that certain works of art, as well as the familiar written proclamations, may be considered as manifestos thanks to their reception, function and interpretation.

Dr Alexandra Kokoli: +44 (0)1224 263692,

Cultural Leadership, its role, processes and implications for cultural development

Applications are invited for a 3 year PhD to explore cultural leadership as a practice and its implications for social, cultural and economic development in a local and global context. Cultural leadership has emerged as a need that is sharply focused in particular in the fields of art and design. We do not sufficiently understand the practice of cultural leadership as it relates to art and design practices in particular in relation to coping with rapid change and increased levels of self organisation. This research will build on the AHRC funded Artist as Leader project (2006-8) initially mining this archive of 32+ in depth interviews with cultural leaders in Britain. The research will result in a framework for cultural leadership in Scotland that is informed by its rural culture. This research is timely because of the local initiatives in cultural development (City Gardens Project, related application for City of Culture 2017, national review of cultural delivery agencies, and emergence of new regional, lead cultural body: AB+).

The successful candidate will meet RGU’s criteria for eligibility and be able to demonstrate the potential to develop advanced research skills. They should hold a Master’s degree in Fine Art/Design, Art/Design History, Critical/Cultural Theory, or equivalent practice or policy experience. In the case of a practicing artist/designer or arts administrator, some experience in practice-led research would be an advantage. The prospective student should be highly self-motivated and have a keen and imaginative critical interest in the arts in contemporary life.

Professor Anne Douglas: +44 (0)1224 263647,

Smart Textiles for Health and Wellbeing

Technologically enhanced textiles can respond to a range of physical and psychological health barriers, which have the potential to transform lifestyles. Smart textiles can help manage body temperature, incorporate antimicrobial properties, provide insulation, breathability, compression, re-shaping, moisture absorption, articulation enabling mobility, constrain movement and improve circulation. Current textile products designed for medical application often do not provide satisfactory solutions because they don’t address the full range of an individual’s needs, which includes both the physical and the psychological. In recent years a number of technical innovations have shown potential but have not been successfully applied to provide solutions that meet the needs of individuals. Current products are related to monitoring health rather than providing a more interactive system that builds a stronger connection with the wearer, which are both responsive and adaptive and take into account an individual’s emotional needs.

We are looking for a design graduate with technical expertise to undertake a PhD programme of research with the aim of understanding how textile and clothing solutions can be designed to improve the quality of life for individuals experiencing long-term medical conditions, which have a direct impact on their mobility, self-esteem and wellbeing. Through the application of advanced technology and design, this project seeks to explore new wearable smart clothing concepts with direct relevance to a range of mobility related health issues. The project will investigate a range of new technologies from micro-scale computing (speckled) to combined laser scanning and laser cutting, and new materials in order to develop advanced clothing concepts that can be used to alleviate the effects of long term debilitating conditions.

The project is suitable for someone with a first degree in product or textile and/or fashion design. They should also have some basic knowledge of materials science and computer based technologies.

This PhD research programme builds on the current work of the Molecular Imprinted Textiles (MIT) group (a project funded by the Scottish Academy of Fashion), a Scottish Govt funded project ‘Future Textile Visions’ (FTV) and an AHRC network application currently awaiting decision. The project will be headed by Josie Steed, Course Director for Fashion and Textiles, and Julian Malins, Professor of Design at Gray’s School of Art.

Josie Steed: +44 1224 263678,

Candidates for the studentship must have a high quality Honours Degree (preferably a First Class) or a Masters qualification (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline. Each studentship provides full university fees for UK/EU applicants and a tax-free maintenance allowance of £13,590 per annum for 3 years. Additional fee support may be available to students who are not UK/EU residents and who would normally be required to pay the full overseas postgraduate fee. The studentships start on 1 October 2012.

Applicants should Apply Online at When applying, please click on advertised studentships and select IDEAS 12.

For further information on research at Robert Gordon University and in the IDEAS Research Institute, please see:

Informal enquiries may be addressed to potential supervisors or to the IDEAS Graduate School Leader, Professor Linda Lawton, + 44 (0)1224 262823/262473, email

Four Funded PhD Opportunities

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on March 4, 2012

Tim Collins, Acting Head of Research, recently announced that Glasgow School of Art hasa number of studentships on offer.

There are two Studentships within the School of Fine Art.

Areas of focus could include:

Society and Environmental Art
Prof Timothy Collins [
Additional supervisors include artists Ross Sinclair and Sue Brind, Justin Carter, and Clara Ursitti as well as Dr Ken Neil.

Art and Curatorial Practices
Dr Frances Mckee (}
Additional supervisors offering support in these areas include critics, artists and curators such as John Calcutt, Dr Ross Birrell and Dr Sarah Lowndes.

Photography, Painting
Prof Roger Wilson []
Additional supervisors include artists Prof Thomas Joshua Cooper, Dr Nicky Bird, and Stephanie Smith.

We have one studentship in the School of Design.

Areas of focus could include:

Design and Innovation
Prof Irene McAra McWilliam (
Additional supervisors offering support include designers Jimmy Stephen-Cran and Paul Stickley, Dr Gordon Hush and Dr Ben Craven.

Design for Health and Care
Prof Alastair Macdonald (
Additional supervisors includes Dr Paul Chapman, and Dr David Loudon, there is also co-support available in the MEARU research unit.

We have one studentship in the Mackintosh School of Architecture

Areas of focus could include:

Place, Memory and Practice
Prof Chris Platt (
Additional supervisors include Prof Brian Evans, Prof Thomas Maver, Dr Robert Proctor, Sally Stewart and Prof Florian Urban.

Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit
Reader Tim Sharpe (
Additional supervisors include Dr Masa Noguchi Dr. Filbert Musau and Dr Raid Hanna.

What are the key aspects of well-being?

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on December 16, 2011

The UK Office of National Statistics is currently consulting on a framework and headline indicators for measuring well-being.  This is an incredibly important development, intended in the long run to provide alternatives to simplistic measures such as GDP.

The consultation tests the assumption that the following domains add up to a sense of well-being (quoted in full because of the importance of this work):

Individual well-being  It is proposed that this domain should include individual’s feelings of satifaction with life, whether they feel their life is worthwhile and their positive and negative emotions. That is, this domain will include only the headline subjective well-being measures to be derived from the new ONS survey data. Subjective measures would be included with objective measures in the other domains.

Our relationships   This was chosen as a domain because it reflects many of the responses received during the national debate and because many theories of well-being report the importance of this area to an individual’s well-being. The scope of this domain is intended to be the extent and type of individuals’ relationships to their immediate family, their friends and the community around them.

Health  Includes areas which were thought to be important by respondents to the national debate.  An individual’s health is recognised as an important component of their well-being. It is anticipated that this domain would contain both subjective and objective measures of physical and mental health.

What we do  Aims to include work and leisure activities and the balance between them, all of which were common themes in the national debate responses. In this domain there are likely to be measures of aspects of work and leisure activities and of work-life balance.

Where we live  Is about individual’s dwelling, their local environment and the type of community in which they live. Measures will be sought which reflect having a safe, clean and pleasant environment, access to facilities and being part of a cohesive community.  ONS has taken Defra advice on the indicators in this area.

Personal finance  Is intended to include household income and wealth, its distribution and stability. Measures within this would also be used during analysis to address the concepts of poverty and equality mentioned in the national debate responses.

Education and skills  Various aspects of education and life-long learning were mentioned during the national debate. The scope of this domain is the stock of human capital in the labour market with some more information about levels of educational achievement and skills.

Governance Democracy, trust in institutions and views about the UK’s interaction with other countries, all of which were included in responses to the national debate, are intended to form the scope of this domain.

The economy  Is an important contextual measure for national well-being. The scope of this domain is intended to be measures of economic output and stock.

The natural environment  Is proposed as a domain in order to reflect areas mentioned during the national debate such as climate change, the natural environment, the effects our activities have on the global environment and natural disasters. It is planned to include measures which reflect these areas at the national level.  ONS has taken Defra advice on the indicators for this area.

If you then look at the measures, the issues become more troubling.  For instance, whilst generic issues such as climate change are referenced, there is no measure around access to greenspace within everyday life – the natural environment is remote.

The fact that there is no reference to culture is deeply problematic given the substantial research in the Nordic countries which demonstrates that participation in cultural activities has an impact on lifespan.

Finally, there is no reference to any spiritual dimension as contributing to well-being, and whilst modern over-developed Western culture is largely secularised, to omit this area is to diminish the scope of the understanding of well-being.

Responses to this survey need to be made by 23rd January 2012.

Tagged with:

Fear and Loathing in the West Highlands Pt 2

Posted in CF Writing, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on August 29, 2011

The Water of Life, a Spirit Not to be Exorcised, Lonely Piper, 2006


“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”

This is the infamous advice contained in Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl, and this seems to be another very apt quote to attach to some further thoughts on Nemeton by Norman Shaw, awarded his PhD in 2003.

What is Nemeton? There is a lot of psycho-geography around at the moment (Sinclair, Self, Sebald) and a lot of nature writing (MacFarlane, Mabey and perhaps also Monbiot and McKibben). Nemeton isn’t either exactly. Psycho-geography is usually defined as the exploring the emotional and psychological impacts of geography, about ways of exploring the urban landscape, about rediscovering somewhere and introducing its idiosyncrasies to others. Nemeton is not in the mode of rediscovery, although the knowledge is in some respects lost. Nor is Nemeton concerned with the urban. Rather this is a landscape that is known and inhabited, even if Shaw is transgressing what might be regarded as the perceived norms of communities in the Highlands (although Scotland has regularly been a place where transgressive communities can find refuge under the radar, on the periphery). But Nemeton does explore the emotional and psychological, in particular in relation to the spiritual. Nor is Nemeton nature writing exactly. It’s not a celebration of nature. Rather its a celebration of the specific spiritual dimension of the West Highland landscape.

“It was dangerous lunacy, but it was also the kind of thing a real connoisseur of edge-work could make an argument for.” (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p.80)

Edge-work is a term coined in Fear and Loathing. It captures the spirit of transgression that applies equally to both texts. The edge in question isn’t just the edge of consciousness, it’s also the edge of art, the edge of social acceptability, the edge of sanity, as well as working along the edge of what most people have experienced and then diving into spaces that they haven’t. Many people have been to Calanais, not many to the other stone circles, let alone carrying an electric guitar, modified amplifier, etc. seeking to capture the energies in the stones.

Just as Raoul Duke is searching for the American Dream in the hotels and conferences of Las Vegas,

“Let me explain it to you, let me run it down just briefly if I can… Well, we’re looking for the American Dream, and we were told it was somewhere in this area…. Well, we’re here looking for it, ’cause they sent us out here all the way from San Francisco to look for it. That’s why they gave us this white Cadillac, they figure that we could catch up with it in that…” (ibid, 164).

The Lonely Piper is looking for the Dreamworld or Otherworld of the West Highlands, the strange alternate universe of the faeries, of the mother….

The tour involved visits to selected nemetons in the Highlands, the fruits of which constitute the material gathered together in this publication. … As the project developed through accumulated visits and collaborations, a range of sub-themes emerged. Chance encounters during particular collaborations resulted in unforeseen iconoclasms and subversions, the direct result of unplanned happenstances and contingencies. These tangential developments were welcomed, and expanded upon, looping back into the main themes. (Nemeton, p.8)

Nemeton starts with an argument that magic mushrooms must have been used by the Celtic bardic culture to access the dreamworld and enter the faerie land under the faerie hills,

In my mind I was right back there in the doctor’s garden. Not on the surface, but underneath – poking up through that finely cultivated earth like some kind of mutant mushroom.” (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, p.65)

Talk about a trip… this is gonzo research.

Policy intervention renews free University movement

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on July 2, 2011

The Copenhagen Free University existed from 2001 to 2007 as a radical pedagogical artistic project.  The aim was to reclaim power and undermine the ‘knowledge economy’.

“We wanted to turn the tide. We took power by using the available means: a mattress became a residency, the bedroom a cinema, the living room a meeting space, the workroom an archive, our flat became a university. Opening our private space turned it into a public institution. The Copenhagen Free University was a real collective phantom, hovering.”

The Copenhagen Free University was abolished for the same reasons it was established: it is as important to abolish power as it is to take it.

Recently, members of the Copenhagen Free University received a letter from the Danish Government,

“In December 2010 we received a formal letter from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation telling us that a new law had passed in the parliament that outlawed the existence of the Copenhagen Free University together with all other self-organised and free universities. The letter stated that they were fully aware of the fact that we do not exist any more, but just to make sure they wished to notify us that “In case the Copenhagen Free University should resume its educational activities it would be included under the prohibition in the university law §33″. In 2010 the university law in Denmark was changed, and the term ‘university’ could only be used by institutions authorised by the state. We were told that this was to protect ‘the students from being disappointed’.”

As a result a statement (available here CFU Statement) has been issued,

“We call for everybody to establish their own free universities in their homes or in the workplace, in the square or in the wilderness. All power to the free universities of the future.”

A number of independent radical projects have reposted the statement as an act of solidarity including,

The University for Strategic Optimism

The Provisional University


University in Crisis

Please repost the statement.

Journal of Cosmology

Posted in Research by chrisfremantle on June 13, 2011

Open Academy Ulaanbaatar

Posted in News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on May 23, 2011

Jay Koh and Chu Chu Yuan of the international Forum for InterMedia Art has recently announced Phase II of the Open Academy in Ulaanbaatar.

Open Academy Ulaanbaatar is an art and cultural resource development programme and phase 1 took place in 2008 – 09. Workshops will be conducted from late May to July, followed by projects led by local participants that will take place till early October.

There will be 4 projects organised around the following categories:

  1. Project involving cross-sectoral collaboration amongst Ulaanbaatar residents, with ideas grown and negotiated between collaborators
  2. Project that emphasises practical execution of arts and cultural management knowledge gained from OAU
  3. Project that explores local historical and culturally relevant themes, to connect the past with present through practices, narratives, networks and/or structures
  4. Project on urban/rural ecology, to explore durational creative engagements with the ecology of communities whose livelihood depends on the land.

The workshops are open to all residents in Ulaanbaatar and all projects are led by local participants and selected through an open call process by a local panel. Workshop facilitators for Phase 2 are Chu Yuan, Jay Koh, Defne Aryas, Burka Arikan and Richard Kamler.

Open Academy has been carried out in Hanoi, Hue, Mandalay and Yangon since 2003 by international Forum for InterMedia Art (iFIMA).  Open Academy Ulaanbaatar is supported by Prince Claus Fund from The Netherlands.  enquiry:

What Art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, Research by chrisfremantle on March 24, 2011

Common Perspectives event

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on March 14, 2011

Common Perspectives are organising a lecture, discussion and film screening at the Pearce Institute in Govan Saturday.

1.30pm – 3.30pm
Sat 19th March 2011
Free Admission

Guest Speaker:
Ailsa McKay, Professor of Economics, Glasgow Caledonian University

Screening & Discussing:

Sylvain Froidevaux
“Onesimus Paradox and the Basic Income as A New Economy Alternative”

Slavoj Zizek at the RSA
First As Tragedy, Then as Farce: The economic crisis and the end of global capitalism

Making a Difference –
“Tae Sail On Them Is No Their Fate – Stories from the Fight Against Poverty in Scotland”

Part of the 2011 Glasgow Reshuffle…
The Pearce Institute
840 860 Govan Road
G51 3UU

0141 445 6007
0141 440 1937

Call for Hints and Tips on public art

Posted in News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on February 2, 2011

Following on from the my last post, PAR+RS has announced the collaboration on the development of a short publication series entitled Hints and Tips: four books (one for artists, one for project managers, one for contractors, one for inhabitants) of hints and tips on public art. All contributions will be permanently recorded on the PAR+RS web site and an edited selection will form the printed editions.

Heaven for the opinionated, ambitious, vocal, frustrated, determined, elliptical… and subtle people working in public… I’m thinking about my numerous bugbears, rants and offers of unsolicited advice.

Go to Hints and Tips · Reflections · PAR+RS for a detailed brief.

Ruth Barker’s Big Questions, No Answers

Posted in CF Writing, Producing, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on January 28, 2011

Ruth Barker’s blog post Big Questions, No Answers on the PAR+RS website asks some very important questions which turn the question of skill and expertise.  Taking off at a tangent, these questions are fundamentally to do with inter-disciplinarity, skill, competence and, as Ruth says, responsibility.

One of the sharpest critiques I’ve read draws on Psychology and applies Attachment Theory to recent trends within the arts and culture, i.e. if culture or the arts attaches itself to health to gain access to resources then it is forced to adopt the valuation methods used in health.  (Gray, C., Local Government and the Arts. Local Government Studies. Jan 2002.)

The danger is of course that the arts have attached themselves to health, environment, education (primary, secondary, further, higher and informal), social work, youth justice, criminal justice, etc… each bringing its own formulation and methodology for valuation.  Hence there is an under acknowledged process of specialisation particularly in the field of public art, where successful practitioners have indepth knowledge of very specific policy areas and are able to engage with managers, politicians and policy makers on their own terms.

I would cite for example Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison who can sit down with very senior environmental scientists, policy makers and politicians and engage in detailed discussion of watershed management strategies.  If you take a look at their publication Peninsula Europe you will find an analysis of the financial value of reforesting the high ground of Europe in terms of the amount of clean water produced.  This is only one example.  There are many others: Suzanne Lacy talking about the issues around rape or teen pregnancy.  In Scotland Jackie Donnachie has a relationship with medical researchers of this same quality, but I digress.

The question is whether in this process the artist also persuades these sectors that creative methods (of valuation) are relevant to them.  Whose terms is success judged by?

“We are not very good at love.”

Posted in News, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on January 25, 2011

Fascinating programme on BBC Radio 4 yesterday (Mon 24th Jan) on the various factors making Glasgow one of the unhealthiest places to live.  The programme discusses de-industrialisation (comparing with other parts of UK and Europe including Poland and Moravia), ghettoisation, genetics (not generally considered to be important), drink, drugs, violence (as the apparently default Glaswegian response) and Thatcherism as factors impacting on health.  Conversely the programme considers the problems associated with infrastructure focused regeneration, culture and the question of hope.   Drawing on expertise from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and the Centre for Confidence and Well-Being (“We are not very good at love.”), this excellent programme discusses the impact of childhood experiences and dysfunctional upbringings amongst the key factors.

BBC iPlayer – The Glasgow Effect.

Oral Histories A-Z – Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Posted in Research by chrisfremantle on January 7, 2011

More public time?

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 30, 2010

Thanks to Alison Bell for drawing my attention to the following quote from Rebecca Solnit,

‘Landscape’s most crucial condition is considered to be space, but its deepest theme is time.’

See earlier post Public time?


Posted in News, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 25, 2010

Artists & Activists Pamplets from Printed Matter

If you ask, Printed Matter will add the selection of Artists & Activists pamphlets in with an order.  Including polemics by Fritz Haeg, The Center for Tactical Magic, Ultra-red, Cathy Busby, Raqs Media Collective, Critical Art Ensemble, amongst others, they addresses rights and responsibilities from the perspectives of the peripheries, and there is much to be learnt from the peripheries.  And as Alasdair Gray says “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

Anger at the neo-liberalisation of education and culture

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on November 19, 2010

Angela McRobbie and Nick Couldry from Goldsmiths raging against the Browne Report and the transformation of all education into an economic equation.
Fulya Erdemci, Director of SKOR, raging against the same programme demolishing the social contract and the role of culture in the Netherlands.

Re: Fuelling ‘The Necessary Revolution’

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on November 8, 2010

Missions, Models, Money, the think-tank for the cultural sector, regularly produces interesting and provocative papers.  The most recent Guide, entitled Fuelling ‘The Necessary Revolution’: Supporting best practice in collaborative working amongst creative practitioners and organisations – a guide for public and private funders addresses the subject of collaboration.  This paper identifies a wide range of formats of collaboration and draws on the results of a two year programme of ‘action research’ involving six groups of organisations developing collaborations around a range of issues from marketing, to the management of spaces, from back office functions to programming.

Two other pieces of recent reading intersect with this.

Firstly, Bringing Humility to Leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leadership humility, by Morris, Brotheridge and Urbanski published in Human Relations 2005.  This paper is one of a growing literature seeking to articulate alternatives to the conventional charismatic models of leadership, and was useful in our work on The Artist as Leader.  The MMM Guide notes the importance of leadership within collaborations, but does not correlate important characteristics of leadership, as highlighted in this paper, with those of collaboration.  The paper on humility, having tracked ideas of leadership through history, notes three key characteristics:

Self-awareness, or knowledge of ones strengths and weaknesses;

Openness, or being willing to learn from others;

Transcendence, or being aware of something greater than the self.

MMM’s Guide goes into some depth on the importance of organisational self-knowledge and the competencies, qualities and attributes required including, ‘seeing systems,’ ‘wanting to learn,’ ‘building a shared vision,’ ‘building a critical mass for change within an organisation,’ ‘developing mutual trust and respect,’ ‘managing across boundaries,’ communicating effectively and appropriately,’ ‘confronting issues and managing conflict,’ ‘adapting to changing circumstances,’ ‘valuing risk taking, tolerating failure.’ The correlation with the characteristics of leadership are quite clear.  Just as the leader must want to learn so the organisation must build a culture that values learning amongst the staff and also as a whole.

What the MMM Guide doesn’t deal with, although it purports to be about creative practitioners, is the creative practitioner.  Interestingly, collaboration between artists is taken as an ongoing and recurrent aspect of practice, but for the purposes of this paper the practitioner only exists as an undistinguished part of the organisation.  In fact the relationship between the individual artist and the organisation is a particularly difficult area.  Largely, the individual artist is at the behest of the organisation, competing for contracts and subject to management guidance.   The Artist Placement Group‘s (APG) programme offers a structure for the artist to work with the non-arts organisation without becoming subsumed and instrumentalised.  This is driven by the concept of the artist as ‘incidental person’ and the use of the ‘open brief’ responded to with the ‘feasibility study’, the need for a host and conditions of work parallel with staff (not only in terms of pay, but also expenses).  APG remains an important example offering an as yet not fully absorbed model of working.  MMM’s Guide explores the potential for organisational collaboration, but it does not fully address the question of human creativity, i.e. how cultural organisations fully engage with creative individuals.  Given that within the cultural field there is now a real diversity of forms from artist-led galleries such as Transmission, temporary forms such as Vidokle’s unitednationsplaza and more permanent structures such as e-flux, through stable collaborative practices such as PLATFORM, one wonders if the lack of questioning of the forms of organisation isn’t a missed opportunity.

Secondly an important paper, Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and ‘The Nature of the Firm’ by Yochai Benkler, published in the Yale Law Journal, 2002.  Benkler discusses the emergence of ‘open source’ as a new means of production distinct from management and the market, the traditional organisers of production.  Focusing on the characteristics of ‘open source’ projects such as Linux and Wikipedia that make them successful, Benkler teases out the distinctive characteristics of this form of collaboration.  Whilst Claire Cooper focuses on management theory around collaboration, Benkler focuses on issues of movitation and its limits, and scale and its dynamics.  Benkler’s paper argues that the forms of collaboration in the information and (digital) cultural sector are driven by human creativity, and it is the high value placed on human creativity within this territory that makes his paper particularly interesting.

The advantages of peer production are, then, improved identification and allocation of human creativity. These advantages appear to have become salient, because human creativity itself has become salient.

Benkler argues that the motivations for participation in ‘open source’ collaboration are social-psychological, rather than monetary, ranging from personal sense of worth through to indirect career benefits derived from positioning the individual to secure monetary rewards for services associated with the ‘open source’ product.

The argument around scale is also interesting, focusing on the granularity of the tasks.  If each task is of a sufficient fine grain then the time required of an individual to complete the task is proportionate to the non-monetary value produced for the individual. Integration of the modules completed by self-selected individuals, and the associated quality management systems, are critical to success.

In Benkler’s terminology the MMM Guide focuses ways collaboration can make cultural organisations more competitive by re-organising the property and contract costs between organisations, rather than leaving them locked into individual entities.  Of course, the challenges identified by the organisations participating in MMM’s action research are precisely those property and contract costs which are not a factor in ‘open source’ models: “marketing, technology, fundraising and partnership, programming, environmental issues and professional development.”  But Benkler’s model provides a useful analysis of the challenge of unlocking large scale human creativity.

Attending the SKOR conference in Amsterdam

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 1, 2010

Actors, Agents and Attendants: Speculations on the cultural organisations of civility

On The Structure

SKOR (the Dutch Foundation for Art and the Public Domain) set out to focus on the shift from a welfare state to a neo-liberal state, and the implications for care and civility (health and state responsibility).  There were regular references to mega-changes, not only political.  The construction of discourse through multiple channels was embodied in the scenography of the conference (designed by architects) constructed as a podium or soapbox for statements, bleachers for discussion and a table for panels.   The multiple channels extended out of the conference to commissioned works in the streets of Amsterdam and a film programme presented prior to the conference.  It was also manifest in the preparatory seminars bringing together first politics and policy and then practice and research into focus.

Felix Meretis, the venue, is an independent European centre for art, culture and science and a national and international meeting place in Amsterdam.

The form of [a] poem is like the form of a new public sphere, like the structure of a new idea. Paulo Virno

On The Purpose

Superficially focused on the issues of arts and health, the underlying issues raised by the conference included:

  • questioning “the role of art and its assumed ameliorative function,”
  • exploring “care as a political and philosophical concept,”
  • the ability for art to be critical when it is also implicated in gentrification and “consensualising the increasingly capitalised infrastructures of public care.”

“We can say that care forms the core of public art’s aesthetic assemblage: that public art has been invented to produce ameliorative caring, performances and objects within a landscape organised by a welfare state.  So what happens when that landscape is radically withdrawn?”

Day 1 Fulya Erdemci, Director of SKOR, introduced the day which was chaired by Andrea Phillips.

Mark Fisher, a UK writer and philosopher, started his presentation by channelling the experience of precarious work: swipe cards to get into buildings; submitting bank details and forgetting which organisation you have done it for; logon details for different computer systems; emails from institutional administrators; occupational therapists talking about stress; psychiatrists prescribing drugs: the obverse of flexibility is contortionism.  Living with the impact of the business ontology and epistemology (business models of being and thinking) that have been imposed on health, education and culture.  The therapy culture which reflects everything back onto the individual and the family.  He suggested that the flip side of ‘no such thing as society’ is ‘the big society’ based on ‘magical volunteerism.’  I asked about the requirement that all activity be valued as work (caring for instance needs to be transmuted into work for it to be valued by society).  He suggested that there are two responses: refusal to participate or total adoption where everything is defined as work and accounted for financially.  Underlying this is the need to extend the discussion of ‘externalities‘ from the environmental discourse into the wider social discourse.  In other words to find ways to deal with those costs or benefits not ‘transmitted’ through price.  One strand of environmental policy seeks to ensure that environmental impacts, not historically acknowledged in cost, enter into the financial systems through, for instance, carbon taxes.  Is it useful to financialise the value of care any more than it is useful to financialise the value of bees?  Where attributing financial value to the negative environmental impacts of human activity should enable the costs of remediation to be met, attributing financial value to positives such as elements of ecosystem services can produce absurdities.  A good example was the news the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed with an impact measured in billions of dollars, that bees were worth some hundreds of millions to the economy.

Steven de Waal, a politician and social entrepreneur who argued (as I understood him) for the potential of the Dutch co-operatist system, where a significant part of the welfare state is delivered through private not-for-profit institutions, to adapt and engage with the neo-liberalisation of care by reducing the bureaucratic stranglehold and increasing citizen participation in their own care.

Alfredo Jaar, the art star speaker, in a conventional artists’ presentation, showed us a series of projects located in the ‘real world.’  NB his construction of his practice is split across the art world, real world, education – his distinction between the art world and the real world being about the audience expertise.  He talked about the role of artists working in public space trying to create the cracks in spaces of consumption to draw out resistance.  Although a clearly charming and skilled man, these projects were nailed by Ian Hunter as ‘the spectacle of empathy’.

[apposite quote of the day: USE AN UNACCEPTABLE COLOUR, Gavin Wade]

Edi Rama, the Mayor of Tirana in discussion with Fulya Erdemci, Director of SKOR.  Rama is famous for being the man who painted Tirana.  In a short film Rama talked about colour as ‘dresses’ or colour as ‘organs.’  He compared relationship of the Mayor to the electorate with the relationship of the artist to the audience.  Rama talked about the role of beautification in changing a culture and re-engaging the population in civic society.  His colour strategy was one of desperation on discovering himself in a kafkaesque town hall with no budget at all (no one was paying taxes).  When asked by an EU official responsible for repairing a bridge (?) in Tirana, “What colour should I paint it?” Rama replied the orange of the Dutch football strip!  This immediately set off a public discussion.  Based only on the fact that it was actually generating a public discussion of civic space, Rama continued painting buildings and urban structures in vivid colours.  He reported that they undertook a referendum.  In the referendum they asked two questions: “Do you like it?” and “Should we continue?”  He reported that something like 55% said they liked it but 75% said they should continue.

Anton Vidokle, artist, curator and founder of e-flux talked about his understanding of art, referencing the French Revolution and the use of the King’s art collection for public benefit.  Talking about the emergence of Manet and Courbet forty years later, the first artists one would associate with a critical practice as might be understood in contemporary practice, he speculated on a connection with transmutation of the royal art collection into a public art collection.  He went on to describe various e-flux projects.  I’ve written about Vidokle, e-flux and in particular the Martha Rosler Library before, so I’ll move on.

Chto delat?, the Russian artists’ collective.  Dimitry Vilensky challenged the core subject by arguing that care is maintenance of the status quo, and that care contradicts change.  “Where is violence in this discussion?”  He questioned the value of health, coming from one of the most unhealthy countries and reminded the audience of the misuse of ‘a healthy body is a healthy spirit’ by the fascists. Vilensky, in describing the ideological fight, drew out the relationship between the work of Chto delat? and the role of artists during the revolution, particularly highlighting Rodchenko’s design for a workers’ club reading room which Chto delat? have reused in exhibitions.  He noted the strategy of creating pedagogical spaces using furniture, murals and newspapers.  He asked “Where is the factory that we can seize?” and noted that there were no revolutionary masses outside the conference waving flags and supporting the important deliberations.  He commented on the importance of not only taking over the means of production, but also inventing new means of production (such as Vidokle’s e-flux).

Gavin Wade performed part of freee‘s spoken word choir event currently taking place at Eastside Projects in Birmingham, an artist-led space he has been involved in setting up.  Wade is known for amongst other works STRIKE and his involvement in the organisation Support Structure.  When challenged about something he had said about art not being useful, he referenced the Artist Placement Group and the complexity of working within non-art organisations without becoming completely subsumed by their agendas.  He also commented that although Eastside Projects is undoubtedly contributing to the gentrification of the area and generating increased wealth for the landlord, he said, “We are not the tailors of Utopia.”  They use a billboard (the only non-commercial one in Birmingham) attached to the building.  They produced a manual for Eastside Projects, making the operation of the organisation explicit.

Introducing Day 2 Fulya Erdemci reiterated the mega changes, e.g. welfare state to neo-liberalism, analogue to digital.  She also commented on commissioners becoming customers with their own aesthetic preferences (perhaps suggesting some recent experiences where SKOR’s aesthetic authority has been questioned).

Beatriz Colomina‘s presentation on x-ray architecture took us on a cultural historical tour of the relationship between the body and architecture by way of renaissance anatomical/architectural drawing, section and dissection, and the emergence of x-ray and the international style (not synchronous, but not unrelated).  Relating health to architecture she highlighted Le Corbusier‘s language and then demonstrated the relationship between sanatorium architecture and domestic spaces.  Referencing Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor Colomina talked discussed the reshaping of the city by illness, in particular TB.  She explored the evolution of CAT scans into architectural practice manifest in the increasing aesthetic use of sections.  One comment was that medicine is also the end of particular forms of architecture such as TB houses and leper colonies.

Hedy d’Ancona, politician, spoke about the influence of the built environment on wellbeing, the importance of the healing environment as a concept coming out of both healthcare and public housing.

Matthijs Bouw of One Architecture discussed the Jozef and Geertruiden Projects.  He said “We love markets because they encourage dynamism, teams, diversity and flexibility.  We hate markets because they promote atomisation, arbitrage and risk management.  Asked by hospital management to finalise the layout for a housing development on a site being vacated due to relocation of services, Bouw questioned the economic model and with the support of the hospital management developed a new approach.  On one site, Geertruidentuin, existing hospital buildings were regenerated as housing without the involvement of a developer.  On the other nearby site, St. Jozf, the ‘allied services’ (midwives, physiotherapists, etc.) dislocated by the hospital moving to a new site, but not themselves moved in the process, became stakeholders in a new healthcare facility utilising the remodelled existing building.  This important example involved questioning the ‘means of production’ (i.e. developer-led regeneration) through which more value (cash) was produced for the hospital and more value (dislocated services becoming stakeholders) was produced for the locality.  Bouw also raised an interesting point about the client/commissioner because the daily reality is that these are project managers, risk managers, quantity surveyors and legal representatives rather than individuals carrying the vision.

AA Bronson channelled St Paul’s letter to the Galacians setting out his own cv and then making clear he was addressing not only those present, but also those many different absent peoples.  He talked about art, death and healing.  Whilst in many ways adhering to the conventional artists’ talk, it challenged fundamental ideas about boundaries and limits.

The story took us from the early years of General Idea (“Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson of General Idea lived and worked together for 25 years. Partz and Zontal died in 1994.”), through the emergence of AIDS and its impact on their community,  their work and their lives.  Whilst AA Bronson did not describe in detail the process or experience of caring for his two friends and collaborators as they died, he did show us the works he made with them during that process, and he did allow us to understand how he has since woven together an art practice and a healing practice.  The weaving together of life and art is a constant process: Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal are diagnose with AIDS so pills enter their lives and so the pills entered the work becoming sculptures and installations, as large as sofas and as light as clouds.

Describing life after their deaths, AA Bronson developed his experience of healing built up with his friends and collaborators and how this began to form a fundamental part of his life.  He set out his healing practice as a thing in itself and in his art practice, creating therapy rooms in galleries, and seeing clients in them before and after gallery hours.  He described more recent collaborative work with younger artists (School for Young Shamans) and the group work (Invocations for Queer Spirits).   He talked about his role as a medium for individuals to speak to their own bodies.

Perhaps like Alastair McIntosh who, in Soil and Soul, addresses spirituality and environment without descending into new age waffle, so AA Bronson spoke about healing and art in a compelling and challenging way, straddling uncomfortable boundaries with a compelling presence and story.

Bik van der Pol‘s discussion of happiness started with a short anecdote about advice not to test your sense of humour on policemen in other countries, from which they developed an argument about cultural difference, but more importantly about happiness.  Touching on the World Values Survey and on Laughter Yoga, they talked about using nitrous oxide as part of urban public health programmes.

The programme ended with Willem Geerlings discussion of the challenges for health.  He is the Chair of the Board of the Medical Centre Haaglanden and pulled Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor from his pocket.

Public time?

Posted in CF Writing, News, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on October 21, 2010

Claire Docherty’s comments at the Mapping the Future (of public art in Scotland) event in Dundee yesterday were billed as a discussion of ‘public time’ and focused on the current state of public art. She seemed to be arguing around a need to move beyond a dichotomy of monumentalism or critical ephemeralism looking in particular at what she called public time. She described a number of projects which were iterative or cumulative or strategic, i.e. that, without monumentalism, tried to develop relationships with audiences and participants (the public?) over a period of time. She highlighted gardening and pavilion projects, slow food, conversation and referenced her own year long programme of One Day Sculpture across New Zealand.   The obligatory Ranciere reference – participation does not equal critical legitimacy – was made.

But her comments remained looking around in the (public) art world. Whilst time and space are different dimensions of the same experience, the focus of public art, certainly in Miwon Kwon’s construction, has been an evolution of the understanding of space and the abilities of artists and designers to shape and reveal space.

“Yet despite the meanderings of the last 15 years we often continue to use such a search for resolution in lieu of admitting that there is a need to understand the relative value of work that deals with time as much as space.”  (Proxemics, 2006, JRP Ringier, p.99)

Nothing is ever cut and dried, but when Liam Gillick raised the issue of shifting the focus from public space to public time, and I’m not sure if that’s where Docherty got the idea from, he prompted in my mind thoughts about the public experience of time, not artists’ construction of time.

Turn your thoughts to public time and approach that idea:
Waiting, waiting lists, waiting rooms, wasting
Travelling, delays, speed, dislocation,
Working, pressure, shifts, holidays, nightworkers, clickworkers, payday
Boredom, repetition, necessity, cuts, dole,
Queuing, waiting,
Shopping, retail therapy, footering
Beer o’clock
Timeless places, casinos without clocks or natural light, skara brae
Sleep disorders, postcode lotteries,
Today vs PM, rolling news,
“The geese from Siberia are three weeks earlier this year”
(the list is as long as the time invested in making it – half an hour yesterday, another five minutes today)

Time is a curious phenomenon. It is structured within society, historically by culturally determined cycles derived from the process of the planet’s angle and rotation around the star at the centre of our solar system. In Scotland, because of our Northerliness, the pattern of the seasons mean that our school holidays are different from England. We have different festivals (Michelmas has just passed, Lammas before that, and in the future Candlemas) with associated happenings, including food and drink. Marking time and the pattern of activity related to the seasons has slipped our minds’ because we shelter, light and heat our lives. Other cultures have a more present experience of seasonality, including for instance the Sami (image above).  We rarely extend our timescale to even one cycle of seasons, let alone thinking beyond our own lifespan.

If there is value in drawing attention to scale, then it is equally important to draw attention to value. Time is money. Or rather there is a more complex relationship where social position is related to time and money. Just as money is unspecialised form of exchange (and humans are unspecialised animals) so time (as we organise it in Western society) is an unspecialised form of measurement enabling a little of one person’s time to be valued very highly and a lot of another person’s time to be bought extremely cheaply. In this way time is like space. Public art is complicit in the gentrification of space. Can public art not also be accused of being complicit in the gentrification of time?

Detailed summary of all three Mapping the Future events on PAR+RS website.


"I always knew you were wrong." Ross Sinclair and David Harding on the train returning from the seminar.

Art Work: Ayr

Posted in CV, Producing, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 16, 2010

Artworkers won't kiss assTemporary Services‘ project Art Work has raised important questions about the personal economy and practice of artists. On the back of one-off newspaper-format publication, distributed free throughout the US and internationally, Temporary Services have kick started a discussion about the ways that artists and creative people use alternative economies to once again challenge the idea of competition and the market dominance of culture. Temporary Services produce exhibitions, events, projects and publications. They say “The distinction between art practice and other creative human endeavors is irrelevant to us.”

The Scottish Artists Union has invited Brett Bloom, one of the founders of Temporary Services, currently based in Denmark, to speak at the SAU AGM (7.00pm 30 September 2010, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh) about Art Work.

Brett Bloom will come to Ayr on Saturday 2nd October for a discussion with anyone whose interested in participating. It’ll be upstairs at Su Casa, a new cafe in the Lorne Arcade, between the Gaiety and the High Street at 2pm for as long as it goes on.

Preparatory Reading:

Art Work, the publication;

Helen Molesworth’s Work Ethic, catalogue of the Exhibition (not available online);

A response to A Call to Farms, a book resulting from a dérive organised by Temporary Services and Brian Holmes.

Expanded Fields at SSW

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 16, 2010

Dounreay: Atom Town

Posted in Research by chrisfremantle on September 1, 2010

Calendar Variations

Posted in CF Writing, On The Edge by chrisfremantle on August 4, 2010

Drawing in context, C Fremantle, 2010

Walking In Long Grass Score

Looking for an area of long grass.

Walking into the middle.

Deciding on a shape: a square, a circle, even a triangle.

Walking the shape until the grass is flattened.

Walking hands outstretched to feel the stems and seeds and chaff.

Standing back and admiring your efforts.

Going back in.

Looking at the flattened grass, or

Smelling the scent, or

Walking around the perimeter of the shape to make it bigger, or

Walking the other way around the shape, or

Lying down in the middle in the long grass.

Chu Yuan, Georgina Barney, Janet McEwan, Reiko Goto and Fiona Hope - Woodend Barn

AAAARG.ORG is gone

Posted in Research by chrisfremantle on June 10, 2010

I think aaaarg left ten days ago.  I didn’t notice until I wondered where the daily emails had gone.  At different times I have opened them every morning, or they accumulated punctuating my inbox for a while until I worked my way back through them.  There are still some in my inbox now, but they are suddenly meaningless.  Now I wish that they were all still there, hundreds of them, a history punctuating my life.   But change is often a new improvisation, a reconfiguration, rather than an abrupt break (those exist too: before aaaarg was not abruptly different.  It took a while to come into existence, and now it has gone it exists as a possibility and a memory).

What can I say? “Sorry.  Goodbye.  If you come back let me know.”

Health, Nature and Art: the GROVE project at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on March 2, 2010

New Stobhill Hospital Sanctuary, Photo: Laurie Clark

Invited paper as part of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh,  Theory in Practice programme:

“Health, Nature and Art: The Grove Project at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital”
2 March 2010.


This paper sets out the Art & Architecture collaboration resulting in the GROVE project for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s New Stobhill Hospital.  This project, based on a strong conceptual framework, uses artworks as part of the construction of a environment where the experience nature plays an important role in healthcare. The paper discusses the practical aspects of this major new public art work and looks at the theoretical ideas of the artists, architects and NHS Arts & Health team.

The author, as part of NHSGGC’s Arts & Health team, has worked closely with Thomas A Clark, lead artist-poet; Reiach & Hall Architects; four other artists, and NHSGGC’s Capital and Commissioning Teams to deliver the project.  The project was conceived and developed by Thomas A Clark and Reiach & Hall over a 6 year period prior to commissioning, and has been funded by Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Public Art Fund, NHSGGC Endowments, NHSGGC Staff Lottery, as well as a wide range of community groups.  It forms one of a series of Arts & Health developments as part of NHSGGC’s Modernisation programme.

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Language of Sculpture

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on January 29, 2010

Invited panellist, Language of Sculpture, International Sculpture Center Conference, London, April 9 2010.

Antony Gormley, Lucy Orta, and Peter Noever will headline the International Sculpture Center’s 22nd International Sculpture Conference, “What is Sculpture in the 21st Century?”, being held in London, UK, April 7-9.

This monumental event will explore topics including: The Languages of Sculpture; Public Perception and Investment; and The State of Education. In addition to the keynote speakers, conference highlights include an international roster of presenters, opening reception at Tate Modern, free admission to Henry Moore Exhibition at Tate Britain, daily ArtSlam sessions for attendees to show their work, workshop demonstrations at Chelsea College of Art & Design, and a gallery hop, as well as pre and post event optional activities.

Registration Deadline: March 16, 2010. Find more information and register online @ Questions? Contact or USA 609.689-1051 x302.

Working in Public Seminars

Posted in CF Writing, On The Edge, Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 20, 2010

Published on the PAR+RS Public Art Scotland website, an introduction to Working in Public (2007) by Prof Anne Douglas and Chris Fremantle.  This includes links to essays written by Prof Douglas as well as Wallace Heim‘s evaluation of the project.


Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

ARTWORK, a project by Chicago-based Temporary Services.  Well worth getting a copy of this newspaper which challenges, documents, proposes and otherwise stimulates thought about alternative economies in the arts.  With essays, personal stories and re-presentations of historical artworks, this is excellent food for thought, arising as it does out of the current climate which in the US is seeing the collapse of the art market, and in the UK  a significant shrinking in public-sector investment in the arts, whether the government changes or not.

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Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

How not to Commission by Ray McKenzie on the PAR+RS web site.

Well articulated challenge to assumptions about public art, both against works which are simply corporate posturing, regeneration ‘place-making’, or artist’s ego, and also against the overblown claims of socially engaged art.

McKenzie makes use of Nicholas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, but I wish he had also taken into account Grant Kester’s work, a more nuanced and subtle argument.  In the end the projects he discusses are compelling, and I am persuaded by his argument that the 19th Century monuments in our cities are not so far away from some contemporary public art, being focal points for community activism, celebration and memory.

An artist reports on COP15

Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

Read Aviva Rahmani’s reflection on attending COP15 in Copenhagen.  She sees hope, not in transnational engineering of negotiations, but in all the NGOs and projects seeking to make a difference on the ground.  It strikes me that the increasing attention focused on the periphery, whether it’s Eigg or Tuvalu, might be indicating a very basic shift (see posts on Landworkers).  The sharpness of the challenges faced in remote edge locations is matched by the imagination and energy brought to bear on them.  What is interesting is the extent to which these examples, of crisis or initiative, become visible and in turn become benchmarks and potentially become models.

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C words at the Arnolfini

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on November 16, 2009

Nina Möntmann’s essay for the e-flux journal, (Under)Privileged Spaces: On Martha Rosler’s “If You Lived Here…” is a useful analysis which could almost be written about the C Words show at the Arnolfini.  Many of the same issues are raised.

This essay was commissioned on the occasion of “If You Lived Here Still…: An Archive Project by Martha Rosler,” an exhibition of the archives of If You Lived Here… running from August 28 to October 31, 2009, at e-flux in New York.

The essay sets out the context of homelessness in New York in the 80s and 90s (for which we could substitute our own circumstances of climate change in the first decade of the 21st Century).  It is precisely the market, as unquestioned driver, which is challenged by both exhibitions.

It discusses the role of the institution, then the Dia and now the Arnolfini, and the decisions leading to this form of work being programmed, concluding by linking this work to wider discussions of ‘institutional critique’ or ‘new institutionalism’.

If You Lived Here… was, like C Words, initiated by an artist/artist group, and drew in work by a number of other artists, through a cluster of linked elements.  The character of documentary art raises questions about the role of art in public life, the reference to things that have, or are, taking place outside the gallery, and the questions that need to be raised about presence and absence, about knowledge and the senses.

One of the precursors to If You Lived Here… is evidently Joseph Beuys’ Free International University at Documenta 6 in 1977. In each of these cases, from Honeypump in the Workplace, through the Reading Room as Asylum Seeker’s home, to PLATFORM’s tent/boat/quadricycle, each seek to make the pedagogical space also a visceral, somatic space.  Each of these works disrupts the artworld production/exhibition/distribution structure.

“Art that can not shape society and therefore also can not penetrate the heart questions of society, [and] in the end influence the question of capital, is no art.”  Joseph Beuys, 1985

Of course the question of time plays a role, and we must be careful not to fall into a narrative structure that values avant gardism, making Beuys the greatest because he is the earliest, and PLATFORM an afterthought, as if it took 30 years for an idea to travel from Kassel, via New York, to Bristol.  Furthermore, whilst Möntmann’s essay provides an effective ‘art history’ of a work, it also leaves many questions hanging, such as the inability of members of the ‘artworld’ attending events during If You Lived Here… to do other than sit silently.

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Designing Environments for Life

Posted in Research by chrisfremantle on October 9, 2009

The Designing Environments for Life programme at the Scottish Institute for Advanced Studies.

How can we address the gap between the two distinct meanings of environment: that which surrounds us as haptic, somatic and experiential; and that which is planned, managed and described as an ‘urban environment’ or a ‘learning environment’ or a ‘fragile environment’?

Drawing together anthropologists, architects, designers, artists and other disciplines, we are exploring this complex double meaning particularly in relation to practices.


Posted in Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on September 18, 2009
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Posted in On The Edge, Texts by chrisfremantle on September 1, 2009

Pecha Kucha: 6 mins 20 secs

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Producing, Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on August 7, 2009

If you start with the sentence “My practice is focused by place,” then the next sentence that logical follows is “I’ve been working in … Ireland, Palestine, Siberia.” Whereas if you start with the sentence “My practice is focused by context,” then the next logical sentence can be any one of a very large number of things… [more]

This text and the associated slides were presented at the Pecha Kucha held at the RSA in Edinburgh.

Pecha Kucha Invite

Pecha Kucha

Posted in Research by chrisfremantle on July 31, 2009

Edinburgh Volume #5 at Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture
The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL +44 (0) 131 225 6671
On 7 August 2009  START 19:30  END 21:30  DOOR £5, £3 concession (includes refreshments)

Places are limited: to book e-mail

To compliment their two  “Lyrical Abstraction” exhibitions of sculpture (see in the interiors and gardens of William and Robert Adam’s Mellerstain House 14th June – 30th Sep. 2009, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House 15th Aug. – 31st Oct. 2009 as part of the Japan UK 150 Festival, Kate Thomson and Hironori Katagiri of Ukishima Sculpture Studio, in association with architects Gordon Duffy and Rebecca Wober of Studio DuB,  have organised a pecha kucha on the theme of relationships between Art & Architecture.
Pecha kucha is a great fun idea started in Tokyo a couple of years ago by Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein – two architect friends of sculptors Kate Thomson & Hironori Katagiri. It has gone viral and is now on in over 218 cities around the world.

Participants show 20 slides for strictly 20 seconds each, meaning that the audience experiences an exhilarating high speed journey through a kaleidoscope of inspirations, ideas and work, with the concise nature of the presentations keeping the interest level high. 6min40 seconds each means there is the opportunity to introduce more interesting speakers and still have time to move around and talk to each other over a drink during the interval and afterwards.

See for more information.

Featuring presentations by…
Jock McFadyen, painter
Hironori Katagiri, sculptor
Kate Thomson, sculptor
Calum Colvin, multi media artist
Charlie Sutherland, architect: Sutherland Hussey
Gordon Duffy + Rebecca Wober, architects: Studio DuB
Dan Brown: Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop
Alastair Clark, Assistant Director: Edinburgh Printmakers
Michelle de Bruin, sculptor
Elaine Alison and Pat Bray, sculptors
Chris Fremantle, environmental art producer and researcher

Resources on the history of climate change and science

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 23, 2009

A timeline of the development of the science of climate change (1800 to the present), part of a much larger site and educational resource created by Spencer Weart (author of The Discovery of Global Warming) and hosted by the American Institute of Physics.

An article on the history of Climate Change science from the Guardian in 2007

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Rural and city

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 4, 2009

Martin Wolf in the FT (3 May 2006) summarises Jane Jacobs’ arguments for the importance of cities (not countries) and their role in relation to regions.

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Berne, Switzerland?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, On The Edge, Research by chrisfremantle on June 3, 2009

Working at the University of the Arts, Berne

Presenting The Artist as Leader and doing a workshop with 2nd Year Graphic Design students.

Zentrum Paul Klee

Two visits. In the first (27 May) I find:

“Calculation and work. Trial and error, first on paper, then as a model, then eventually as a prototype on a scale of one to one, that is the method of the practical scientist Renzo Piano and his people. The design process oscillates between tinkering and totalling, the simplest hand drawn sketches and the most high-tech computer drawings are used. The search party takes side turnings, longer routes, gets itself out of dead ends, but every step takes them closer to an as yet undefined goal. The detours are necessary – they ensure that no short circuits, no apparent short cuts, lead to a rash, un-thought-out result. Anyone who commits himself too soon, locks himself in. Piano’s people approach their task like a team of researchers on thin ice.” p.24 Benedikt Loderer, Monument in Fruchtland in Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Short Guide. Hatje Cantz, 2005.

Also Dream and Reality: Contemporary Art from the Near East. The curatorial concept is very strong comprising firstly, contemporary works; secondly, elements of material culture chosen from an anthropological collection; and thirdly, a selection of works by Paul Klee. But in practice, as an experience, its not very successful. It’s not that the Klee works aren’t relevant. It’s not that the anthropological works aren’t relevant. Some of the contemporary art is very good. But in this category there are too many video works. But let me tell you about the three really good pieces. Firstly The Walid Raad/Atlas Group work that seems to be called either Untitled 1982-2007 by Walid Raad, or We Decided to Let them Say “We Are Convinced” Twice by the Atlas Group. Secondly the series of carpets by xxx variously titled. When you first walk down the stairs you see a collection of four carpets which are not quite hung in the same way as for instance the carpets in the Burrell in Glasgow. Then you start to question what you are looking at and you realise that they are modified, reconstructed into new forms, subtley different from the normal. Finally, the chair. I thought it was simply a chair with a small booklet chained to it which might elucidate one of the videos. The book started with a short text which explained that in both Europe and in Cairo there are lots of plastic garden chairs, but where in Europe, when they break they are thrown out, in Cairo they are repaired. A sequence of approximately 20 images of various repaired plastic garden chairs followed. The text suggested that visitors to the exhibition should treat this chair very roughly because the museum had agreed to repair any broken chair in the same way that the Egyptians were repairing their chairs.

For me this work articulated the potential for the arts to highlight the infection of one culture by another culture, and the potential for that to work in both directions. Asking the museum exhibition, conservation and curatorial staff to firstly assume that a piece of plastic garden furniture is an important cultural object, and then to suggest that it should be repaired in a very explicit way, is just great. Asking the people visiting the exhibition to treat an artwork roughly (though sadly it was not showing any significant signs of wear and tear), is brilliant. Definitely a sort of Fluxus Score or an Allan Kaprow happening, read through a post-colonial distorting mirror.

Kunstmuseum Berne (28 May)

Tracey Emin (I missed it in Edinburgh, so it was great to see it in Berne).
“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” Guerrilla Girls 1989.
If women are going to be naked in the museum then Emin tells us something about her experience of being a woman.
Walking through the gallery away from a video about being in a band, suddenly I heard screaming, screaming that hit me in the solar plexus. My immediate reaction was that someone in the next gallery was in deep, deep anguish. The pop music and the screaming.
In the sequence of polaroid or photobooth works it seems that Emin is saying “If you are going to look at my body, then you are going to see it as I see it, feel it as I feel it.”
There is a display of small images of early, post art school work that Emin destroyed. The pictures are presented like a collection of family photos. You can see that she has been deeply influenced by Edvard Munch. Someone also mentioned Egon Schiele. There is a work which reminds me strongly of Louise Bourgeois.

Conclusion: it’s a game of consequences – the statement is ‘if’ ‘then.’

Kunsthalle Berne (29 May) Zhang Enli

Second visit to the Zentrum Paul Klee (30 May)
Paul Klee: Carpet of Memory

It didn’t feel like an historical exhibition.  It was overwhelming, both in the beauty of the images and in the variety of tactics of the visual.  It’s not just a lot of squiggles.  The one image which was apparently simply a series of dabs of colour on a dark surface was infact a broadly applied impasto, overlayered with watercolour, and the dark colour was used to heighten the shapes of the watercolour dabs.

Conclusion: he asks which tactic will I apply here?

The sculpture park behind the Zentrum – five works – twisted and beaten coreten steel and cast bronze.

The Artist as Leader

Posted in CF Writing, CV, On The Edge, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 6, 2009

The Artist as Leader programme: I have been Research Associate since 2006 working closely with Professor Anne Douglas, in a partnership between academic research and practice.  We have recently published the final report from the first phase of work, and are in the process of developing new initiatives.

See Research and Writing > The Artist as Leader

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What am I reading?

Posted in Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 6, 2009

What art have I seen?

Posted in Research, Sited work by chrisfremantle on May 5, 2009 doing a van conversion, so that it will run on vegetable oil, at the Monument in Newcastle.

The facts – 35 mpg, 70 mph, 65p a litre (more or less) and it is ‘carbon neutral’.

In other words the plants from which vegetable oil is produced take up carbon through photosynthesis as they grow. When the vegetable oil is combusted in the engine and the carbon released, it is then taken up again by the plants being grown for more vegetable oil, unlike fossil fuels which take millions of years to produce.

Not as good as the solar powered cars they race at the Alford Transport Museum, but more sustainable.

Originally posted 13 June 2006

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What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, Research by chrisfremantle on July 8, 2008

Communication Suite at the Wolfson Medical Building, University of Glasgow

New site specific work by Christine Borland (who also curated the exhibition), Aileen Campbell, Alan Currall, Alastair McLennan, Kirsty Stansfield, and Clara Ursitti, complimented by work by Abramovitc/Ulay, Breda Beban, Mark Dion and Douglas Gordon.

What art have I seen?

Posted in Exhibitions, Research by chrisfremantle on July 4, 2008

Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom

Posted in CF Writing, CV, Exhibitions, Producing, Research, Texts, Uncategorized by chrisfremantle on May 6, 2008

What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Exhibitions, Research, Texts by chrisfremantle on March 27, 2008

Gavin Renwick‘s Home Office at the Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee.

Gavin invited me to participate in the last discussion in the series.

Gavin Renwick

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