Alistair Hudson Bound for ZKM

As reported in The Art Newspaper Alistair Hudson, currently the Director of both The Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery will be moving to ZKM in April 2023.

On one hand, this is sad news. What Hudson has achieved at both The Whitworth Art Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery has been outstanding. A highlight of this for me was the opening of the major Suzanne Lacey Exhibition ‘What Kind of City’ which opened across both venues in 2022.

As both a long-time colleague, collaborator and friend of Hudson’s, the opening of this exhibition was significant on many levels. For me, it was the simply the fact that, alongside the outstanding work of Lacey, the result of carefully cultivated long-term projects, there was a palpable feel of excitement, co-ownership and enthusiasm which buzzed around the venue. Compared to most exhibition openings (usual termed ‘private views’) this was a scene of bubbling discussion, exchange and ‘what next’ discussions about how museums could be used by constituents as tools for social change. Those who had participated in the production of the work exhibited by Lacey were clearly aware that they weren’t simply being represented in a civic museum space, but they had co-used the museum space as a tool of rethinking, remaking and as an open-source channel for speaking to power.

For me, this was represented most clearly on the night by the sound of the exhibition halls and spaces being filled with song and human voice.

Shapes of Water Sounds of Hope – Suzanne Lacey ‘What Kind of City: A Manual for Social Change’- The Whitworth Art Gallery –

Before Hudson leaves for ZKM though, we have a collaboration to participate in with Whitworth Art Gallery for their forthcoming exhibition ‘Economics The Blockbuster’ (ETB), which is currently set to open at the Whitworth in July 2023. Via my role as lead researcher of the Decentralising Political Economies online platform (www.dpe.tools), as well as in my current role as Researcher and Writer in Residence at The Whitworth Art Gallery, I’m really looking forward to working with staff and constituents in the development of this exhibition.

Decentralising Political Economies Roaming Symposium

Decentralising Political Economies: Roaming Symposium is a research event with art professionals (artists, curators, and directors of cultural organisations), academics, researchers, constituencies and practitioners who apply art as a tool to be used as a resource for social, economic and political change.

According to the recent usological turn, more and more art practitioners create works that welcome use, misuse, transformation, and repurpose in concert with constituencies.  The sessions, unfolding over a month, will explore how usership manifests within museums and institutions of education in particular looking at pedagogical models and toolkits as part of DPE.tools platform, which use the principle of Arte Útil and socially engaged art to rethink the composition of the curriculum by producing projects-as-tools.

Focusing on urgent questions animating the debate around radical education and the recent disruptions caused by the pandemic, the roaming symposium would be a moment to look closely at the proliferation of both online and offline platforms and methods which aim to facilitate the documentation, activation of case studies, and the application of toolkits.

Invited guests include artist Daniel Godínez-Nivón (MX), curator and art historian Gemma Medina (ES/NL), educator and curator Gabriela Saenger Silva (BR/UK), curator Lisa Heinis (BE/NL), artist Owen Griffiths (UK), Tŷ Pawb’s artistic director Jo Marsh (UK), the Center for Convivial Research and Autonomy – Manolo Callahan and Annie Paradise (USA), curator and researcher Kuba Szreder (PL), Lead officer and cultural coordinator at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Sarah Lovell, art collective The Alternative School of Economics – Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck (UK), the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery’s director Alistair Hudson(UK), artist Suzanne Lacy (USA), artist Tania Bruguera (CU), and others to be confirmed. 

The event is organised by John Byrne (Reader at LJMU and Director of The City Lab), Poppy Bowers (Curator of Exhibitions at The Whitworth), and Alessandra Saviotti (PhD researcher at LJMU). 

AAÚ Summit Whitworth Art Gallery

From the 10th to the 12th of June 2019 the Association of Arte Útil www.arte-util.org Summit took place at The Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester. This was an opportunity for members of the Association to catch-up, think through and begin planning the next steps of the Association’s progress for 2019/2020. As part of the Summit Alistair Hudson (Director of The Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries and Co-Director of the Association of Arte Útil) was able to show us the space at the Whitworth Art Gallery that will become a permanent ‘Office of Useful Art’ and which will house an activated iteration of the Association of Arte Útil’s Archive. Tania Bruguera, instigator and Director of the AAÚ, talked through some of her aspirations for the development of the Association and Stephen Wright updated us with further thoughts about 1:1 Scale, Double-Ontology and the difficulties with writing a plausible contract of the AAÚ archive.

 

 

Assembly Swansea

On 23rd of May I was invited by Owen Griffiths to represent The Association of Arte Útil at ‘Assembly Swansea’ which was organised by a-n (Artist Network). Owen Griffiths asked me to outline the work of The Association of Arte Útil and to also participate in a discussion about Constituencies and alternative ways of developing socially engaged art practices around use and use value. Griffiths, who has worked on The Trebanog Project, and who is also collaborating with HMP Prisons, Social Services and the edible land and community workshop space Graft (a soilbased syllabus) also gave a talk about his work and a tour of the garden school that he has been developing as part of the National Waterfront Museum. During the visit I was also introduced to Karen Mackinnon, who worked with Griffiths on the Trebanog Project, and who has recently taken over as Director of the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea. As a result of this The Association of Arte Útil invited Griffiths to participate in the forthcoming AAU Summit at Whitworth Gallery Manchester and we also agreed to explore the idea of possible collaborations between the cities of Swansea, Liverpool and Manchester.

 

The Constituent Museum. Constellations of Knowledge, Politics and Mediation – Online

An abridged .pdf version of the book The Constituent Museum: Constellations of Knowledge, Politics and Mediation is now available online here via the L’Internationale ‘Bookshelf’.

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Edited by John Byrne, Elinor Morgan, November Paynter, Aida Sánchez de Serdio and Adela Železnik, the edited online .pdf version of the book includes

  1. Table of contents
  2. Editors’ Introduction byJohn Byrne, Elinor Morgan, November Paynter, Aida Sánchez de Serdio, Adela Železnik
  3. The Rainbow Wrasse byFrancis McKee
  4. Negotiating Jeopardy byJohn Byrne
  5. ‘Give her the tools, she will know what to do with them!’
    byNora Sternfeld
  6. Revisiting and Reconstituting Networks from Japan to Beirut to Chile byKristine Khouri and Rasha Salti

Joy for Ever: How to use art to change the world and its price in the market

On Thursday 28th of March 2019 the exhibition “Joy for Ever: How to use art to change the world and its price in the market” opened at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

Instigated by Director Alistair Hudson, and curated by Poppy Bowers, the exhibition celebrated the 200th anniversary of John Ruskin’s birth whilst, at the same time, providing a space in which constituent ways of thinking, making and doing can be undertaken at both Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries. According to the Whitworth Art Gallery website:

“Joy for Ever will kick start a new way of thinking that revisits the Whitworth’s origins as an Institute founded on civic purpose and the use of art in a mission of social change, whilst combining this with radical new approaches to the role of museums and art in the world today. This exhibition also marks the start of a two-year project with the Manchester Business School, which will culminate in the exhibition Economics: The Blockbuster in 2022.”

As a starting point the exhibition took a creative and critical look at two lectures that John Ruskin delivered in Manchester in 1857 which were titled “The Political Economy of Art, or, A Joy Forever (and Its Price in the Market).” In these lectures, Ruskin, given against the backdrop of the ‘Great Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester’, Ruskin took a critical aim at the city of Manchester which, at the time, he saw as exemplifying the dehumanising ills of the new industrial world. This two part lecture was to become a turning point for Ruskin’s own work – a shift from art critic to social commentator – and later became the book Unto This Last which, in turn, inspired the founding manifesto of the Labour party and also influenced Gandhi’s post-colonial reform of India.

As part of the exhibition I was invited to write three short gallery polemics that were made freely available in the exhibition spaces themselves. Also, I was invited to host three open gallery talks, each of which addressed one of the issues addressed in the written polemics. These were: “The Political Economy of Art”, “Art and Social Making” and “The Architecture of Politics”.

Instigated by Director Alistair Hudson, and curated by Poppy Bowers, the exhibition celebrated the 200th anniversary of John Ruskin’s birth whilst, at the same time, providing a space in which constituent ways of thinking, making and doing can be undertaken at both Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries. According to the Whitworth Art Gallery website:

“Joy for Ever will kick start a new way of thinking that revisits the Whitworth’s origins as an Institute founded on civic purpose and the use of art in a mission of social change, whilst combining this with radical new approaches to the role of museums and art in the world today. This exhibition also marks the start of a two-year project with the Manchester Business School, which will culminate in the exhibition Economics: The Blockbuster in 2022.”

As a starting point the exhibition took a creative and critical look at two lectures that John Ruskin delivered in Manchester in 1857 which were titled “The Political Economy of Art, or, A Joy Forever (and Its Price in the Market).” In these lectures, Ruskin, given against the backdrop of the ‘Great Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester’, Ruskin took a critical aim at the city of Manchester which, at the time, he saw as exemplifying the dehumanising ills of the new industrial world. This two part lecture was to become a turning point for Ruskin’s own work – a shift from art critic to social commentator – and later became the book Unto This Last which, in turn, inspired the founding manifesto of the Labour party and also influenced Gandhi’s post-colonial reform of India.

As part of the exhibition I was invited to write three short gallery polemics that were made freely available in the exhibition spaces themselves. Also, I was invited to host three open gallery talks, each of which addressed one of the issues addressed in the written polemics. These were: “The Political Economy of Art”, “Art and Social Making” and “The Architecture of Politics”. All three of these polemical papers can be found here on the pdf: Byrne Joy For Ever Three Polemical Gallery Papers

The Whitworth: Economics Seminar

On Friday 15th February 2019 I was able to participate in a seminar at The Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, which forms part of the lead up to a forthcoming show on Art and The Economy (currently slated to open in late 2020 or early 2021). Organized by Alistair Hudson and Samantha Lackey, in conjunction with economist Ismail Ertürk, this was an opportunity to begin thinking of how this show could be developed as an open, ongoing and constituent project, via the forthcoming Office of Useful Art (which will open at The Whitworth in Autumn 2019), that will reactivate alternative thinking about how art can be used as a catalyst to rethink forms of both economic and non-economic reciprocity, exchange and use-value. As a means to develop thinking around this subject, our good friends Kathrin Böhm and Kuba Szreder presented the Company Drinks project as an example of how an art project can work across different scales, locations, communities and identities (both economic and otherwise) and, also, some of the key questions that this kind of 1:1 Scale practice now raise for the contemporary art world and alternative plausible art worlds.

The Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries Collaboration

In January 2019, and as part of my role as Director of the Uses of Art Lab at Liverpool John Moores University, I began a collaborative project between LJMU’s School of Art and Design and The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery. Over the next years, this will see me develop a role as a Researcher and Writer in Residence at both The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery and, consequently, this will enable me to work on a long-term basis with staff and constituents of The Whitworth and the Manchester Art Gallery, as well as staff, students and constituents of Liverpool School of Art and Design, via The Uses of Art Lab. Initially I have been attending a series of Ruskin Reading Groups, led by Luke Uglow, at The Whitworth and I have also been working with Curator Poppy Bowers to develop Constituent practices via the forthcoming Ruskin show ‘Joy for Ever: How to use art to change the world and its price in the market‘, which will open at the Whitworth on March 29th 2019. I will also be collaborating on the development of a permanent Office of Useful Art that will open at The Whitworth in the autumn of 2019 which will also house the Archive of the Association of Arte Util. I would like to thank long term collaborator in use, and Director of The Whitworth and Manchester Galleries Alistair Hudson, as well as my Director of School, Caroline Wilkinson, and LJMU Faculty Dean of Research John Hyatt for making this collaboration possible.

AAU Summit and Coffee Table Mapping

On October 5th 2018 the Association of Arte Útil summit took place at Company Drinks in Croydon, Middlesex. The morning session was given over to discussions about the next steps and developments of the Association of Arte Útil and, in the afternoon, a series of open discussions and workshops took place around the ‘Redrawing Artistic Economies’ project initiated by Company Drinks. Information on the day itself, including an audio recording of the Association of Arte Útil’s ‘coffee table’ mapping tool presentation can be found at the Company Drinks post for the Artistic Economies Event.