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.
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’.
On a rainy Saturday 3 September, Michael Simon (Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust member and Social Activist) threw open the doors on the new Granby 4 Streets Office of Useful Art. The plan for this exciting project is simple – to be the first truly ground-up, constituency led ‘Office of Useful Art’ which will use the existing Association of Arte Útil archive – amongst other available resources- to both partake in, and contribute to, the next steps of the Association of Arte Útil. As well as this, the Granby Office of Useful Art also marks an opportunity for LJMU to work closely with constituents from the Granby area as a means to use art as a vehicle for collaboratively producing, and re-thinking, forms of ground up education and access.
From 22 to 25th July the Association of Arte Útil Summit took place at mima. Amongst the speakers over the weekend were Stephen Wright, Tania Bruguera, Charles Esche, Núria Güell, Kuba Szreder, Sebastian Cichocki, Gemma Medina, Alessandra Saviotti, Annie Fletcher, Michael Simon (Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust) and myself. The Summit opened up a very broad range of debates and allowed everybody present to begin opening up ideas and new pathways forward for the Association of Arte Util. On Monday 25th July a final, and open, Association of Arte Útil Board meeting was held and a range of ideas and proposals for the development of the AAU were discussed.
Principal amongst these were the proposal to develop the next years of the AAU around the three areas of people (constituencies), Places (discussions of real and virtual exchange including those of ‘Museum 3.0’) and Methods (the development of a rigorous critical and theoretical framework for the practices developed by the AAU which could ‘beyond’ the current museological methodologies of neo-Kantian aesthetics. One of the key proposals was to develop an Office of Useful Art in Granby, Liverpool, as the first example of a ‘ground-up’ and constituency led Office of Useful Art which would, in turn, use the AAU archive in new, productive and useful ways.
The other key motion was for ‘Broadcasting the Archive’ to contact the artists and projects that are currently ‘live’ on the archive and to ask whether or not (and to what degree) they would be happy for other constituencies to take their ideas and develop them as independent projects. This, in turn, will lead to a rigorous debate around an alternative ‘creative commons’ of ownership and rights for the AAU which may begin to point to ways in which forms of adequate remuneration can be provided to artists and constituencies outside of the usual ‘object ownership’ of the current art market.
It was also agreed that the next AAU Summit will happen in the Summer of 2017 in San Francisco, at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts and will form part of a developing Syllabus for an AAU Summer School that will take place during this time as part of a broader Tania Bruguera show/retrospective. It is also hoped that LJMU and Granby 4 Streets Office of Useful Art will be able to collaborate on developing deliverable material for this Summer School as part of their collaboration around the development of ground-up forms of constituent education and the uses of art. In addition to this, and after an incredibly helpful conversation with Tania Bruguera, I committed the next five years of my research to thinking through issues of use, use-value and the work or labour of art via my involvement the Association of Arte Útil network.
Mima have kindly recorded the proceedings of the Summit discussions from and I will post a link when they are finalized and up online.
Here’s a link to is a recent interview, in ArtReview, with curator (and Association of Arte Útil collaborator) Charles Esche – Charles Esche on how art might respond to the European crisis.
In the interview Esche mentions a possible ‘Office of Useful Art’ in Granby, Liverpool,) and the need to develop a usable theory/aesthetic discourse capable of accounting for and articulating the new and emergent ‘transdisciplinary’ work that might no longer look or sound like art as we currently know it.
From Monday 28th June to Wednesday 29th of June the Editorial Team for the Constituencies research Strand of the L’Internationale project ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacies of 1848 and 1989’ met up in Moderna Galleria, Ljubljana. After a very intense, very productive and critically reflective two days the team has developed an outline for the forthcoming publication ‘The Constituent Museum’ and correspond symposium (to be held in mima in early September’) that we hope will act as a framework for developing further debate in the sector around the development of (and necessity for) constituent practices of production, display and distribution.
From March 27 to 29 2016 I was invited to attend and participate in the ¿Creative Villages? Seminar which was organized as a collaboration between the Ecole cantonale d’art du Valais (ECAV) and LAPS, Research Institute for Art and Public Space, Amsterdam
The premise of the seminar was to take the territory of Leytron/Ovronnaz in Switzerland as a topographical metaphor to address contemporary dynamics of art in public sphere. The seminar itself provided an opportunity to begin radically re-thinking the relationship of 1:1 art practice to the instrumentalization, and commercialization, of the public sphere through contemporary art projects. In the light of this, the seminar also provided an opportunity to also discuss the kind of work, or labour, that the work of art is now becoming under the present conditions of neo-liberal capital.
I’m very grateful for both the invite to this Seminar and for the opportunity to discuss some of these issues with my peers and colleagues. It is not often that we get the time to do this and, through collaboration, encourage ourselves to think a little differently. As a result I’ve agreed to write and extended essay for the project which, when it is finished, I’ll also hope to post on this site. I also hope to develop a working relationship with and to the project as a means to continue thinking through some of these key issues.
From 2 – 4 March 2016 The ‘Constituencies’ Glossary of Common Knowledge took place at Liverpool John Moores University’s ‘School of Art and Design’. Over the two day period of the Glossary (co-curated in this instance by Zdenka Badovnic, Bojana Piskur and myself) a Keynote talk by Raul Sanchez Cedillo was followed by seminar presentations and discussion from guest including Nick Aickens (Van Abbemuseum, NL); Marwa Arsanios (LB); Zdenka Badovinac, Bojana Piškur, Adela Železnik (MG+MSUM, SI); John Byrne (Liverpool John Moores University, UK); Lia Colombino (Red conceptualismo del sur, PY); Khwezi Gule (SA); Anders Krueger (M HKA, BE); Alexey Penzin (Chto Delat, RU); Ahmet Öğüt (TR); Meriç Öner (SALT Research, TR); Raúl Sánchez Cedillo; Aida Sánchez de Serdio (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, MNCARS, SP), pantxo ramas (MACBA, SP). Guests were also invited for a tour and talk of the Granby 4 Streets Project in Toxteth, Liverpool and were also invited for tours and dinners at ‘The Florrie’ and ‘Static Gallery’ (http://www.statictrading.com/).