The Florrie and the Uses of Art Lab

During March and April 2016 a series of meetings took place between ‘The Uses of Art Lab‘, LJMU, mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), The Association of Arte Útil and ‘The Florrie’ in Toxteth, Liverpool. The purpose of these meetings was to begin an on-going conversation about developing the work of the Uses of Art Lab in direct partnership with the Florrie. A strong link already exists between the Florrie and LJMU/L’internationale – in March 2016 delegates of the Glossary of Common Knowledge ‘Constituencies’ seminar visited the Florrie as part of their discussions. The relationship between ‘The Uses of Art Lab’ and the ‘Florrie’, and their broader relationships within the context of mima, The Association of Arte Útil and L’internationale, mark a significant platform for the development of local, national and international research into constituencies and the development of ground-up and open-access educational resources for the Uses of Art.


Barcelona/MACBA – L’Internationale ‘Uses of Art’ Project Team Meeting December 2016

From December 12th to 14th 2016 the L’Internationale Project Team for ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacies of 1848 and 1989’ met at Macba (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) for their penultimate project meeting. Discussions included a set of themes for the final ‘L’Internationale Dialogues’ project, which will see a range of curators, artists, activists and thinkers discuss issues of ‘Use’. During our time at Macba the first of these dialogues ‘Art, Museums and Democracy’  – a discussion between Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid), Bart De Baere, General and artistic Direoctor of M HKA (Antwerp) and Charles Esche, Director of the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) – took place on December 12th.

These dialogues will uploaded to the L’Internationale online platform at There will be four ‘threads’ to the L’Internationale dialogues programme, these are:

  • Who is speaking?
  • What is true?
  • What needs to change?
  • Where is South?

The L’Internationale Dialogues can be found online at:

AAÚ and mima visit Granby

On December 8th 2016 Alessandra Saviotti and Gemma Medina, who run the ‘Broadcasting the Archive’ Project for The Association of Arte Útil, together with a group of constituents from mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) visited the Granby 4 Streets area in Toxteth, Liverpool. After looking around the area, and also seeing the work being done by the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust and Turner Prize winning group Assemble, discussions took place in the Granby Office of Useful Art around archiving, knowledge exchange, future practice and the potential of the Association of Arte Útil as a ground-up and constituent platform for developing open-source forms of education and use-based collaboration. You can find a reflection of Alessandra and Gemma’s visit to Middlesbrough and Liverpool in ‘Broadcasting the Archive 9# – Reflections on Participation on the Association of Arte Útil website at


‘Social Autonomy and the Use Value of Art’ – Afterall Autumn/Winter 2016

Afterall Autumn/Winter 2016

My most recent article on art, use value, and the work (or labour) of art ‘Social Autonomy and the Use Value of Art’ has been published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 volume of Afterall. Many thanks to editor David Morris for working so closely and collaboratively on this with me and to Afterall – for allowing myself and others included in the Journal to contribute toward this growing debate. Please find a link to the Journal here on Afterall Autumn/Winter Information 2016 webpage

I have also copied, below, the first two paragraphs of the Editorial which outline the scope of this Journal – and which also provide a clear framework for the job that has to be done in challenging our established, outmoded, outdated, limiting and (unfortunately) most cherished and comforting  notions of what art was or could be.

“Recently a group of artists, academics, curators and activists gathered in the north of England at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) to discuss the possible futures of Arte Útil.1 A concept and set of working practices initiated by the artist Tania Bruguera, Arte Útil proposes that art can be directly useful as a tool for social and political change. One moment from this summit feels especially relevant to this issue of Afterall. It occurred during a discussion of the Arte Útil archive, itself an evolving compendium of global projects that fall within the concept’s rubric. To date, the archive has taken various forms, from an online database to physical presentations within museum exhibitions – fairly effective ways to convey the purpose and potential of Arte Útil to a dispersed audience, but nonetheless fraught. Unlike other forms of art, even other forms of socially engaged or political art, Arte Útil is always meant to move beyond the realm of the symbolic and into the space of action. This, of course, poses an explicit challenge to the inherited conventions of art institutions. Addressing this, at one point mima director Alistair Hudson noted that ‘whenever the Arte Útil archive becomes a display mechanism or orthodoxy it dies. We lose the argument.

This tension, between art’s established modes of engagement and an impetus towards alternative forms of action, appears repeatedly across the coming pages. Walter Benjamin, in conversation with David Morris, goes so far as to claim that ‘art’, as we know it, is obsolete, which chimes with Bruguera’s emphasis on social transformation over more traditional artistic concerns. In a wide-ranging conversation with W.J.T. Mitchell, Bruguera discusses the development of Arte Útil; and John Byrne offers an astute analysis of the broader movement around it, from grass-roots community organising to international art museums, and the issues Arte Útil must grapple with as it continues to evolve”.


On Thursday 13th and Friday 14th October 2016 I took part in the ‘Curating The Alps” curatorial workshop, hosted by  ECAV in Switzerland. This gave me the opportunity to talk and discuss some of the ideas that I have recently developed around The Association of Arte Útil and also for the article ‘Social Autonomy and the Use Value of Art’ that I have recently written for the Autumn/Winter 2016 volume of Afterall. Being in Switzerland with, again, a wonderful group of people brought together by Benoit Antille, provided a real opportunity to continue thinking some things through and for developing ideas around use, use-value and the work, or labour of art. It was also really good to see Adam Sutherland, Director of Grizedale Arts, again. As always, Adam’s insights have provided some challenges and further food for thought around these ideas and issues. Also, the second issue of the ‘Creative Villages’ journal, came out (I have a short article in this – The Work of Labour of Art – on page 25). I’ve posted the .pdf of this journal in the writing section of this site and there is also a link here.

Creative Villages Journal 02_05-10-16

Constituencies at mima

From Thursday 8th September until Saturday 10th September 2016 mima hosted the ‘Working with Constituents’ event. This conference, developed by Elinor Morgan and the editorial team of the forthcoming L’Internationale publication ‘The Constituent Museum’ invited speakers and contributors including Anthony Gardner, Jesús Carrillo Castillo, Archivos en Uso, Alina Müller (The Silent University), Kristine Khouri,  Nikos Papastergiadis, Bini Araia, Céline Condorelli, Igor Španjol, pantxo ramas, Daniela Ortiz  and Burak Arıkan ( Graph Commons) to think around and further discuss the idea, concept and usefulness of the term ‘Constituencies’. The event itself intended to address the key question ‘What would happen if museums put relationships at the centre of their operations?’. However, the incredible discussions then ensued began to make us think that perhaps the title of the event should have been ‘Becoming Constituent’ rather than ‘Working with Constituencies’. After all, the premise of the event was to ask ‘What would happen if museums put relationships at the centre of their work?’ and to ‘explore the possibility of a museum in which the visitor is not a passive receiver of predefined content, but a member of a constituent body, who provokes, informs and co-produces programmes’. This, of course, was made particularly pertinent in the light of mima’s recent mission statement which is as follows:

‘Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, part of Teesside University, is moving forward with a vision of itself as a “useful museum,” or “museum 3.0,” under the directorship of Alistair Hudson and with programming by Miguel Amado and Elinor Morgan. The “useful museum” is a civic institution that promotes art as a tool for social change and is created by the sum of the actions of its users. The “museum 3.0″ establishes the gallery as a public site, beyond representation and participation and based on use value, with its meaning defined by its constituents’.