Sunday, March 14, 2010

Longhouse Guest Editor - One week On

So, I have been guest editor on the Longhouse website for a week now. It has been a busy week - I have been at University working every day, and then trying to fit this in, in between - so a busy one. On top of that it was Pecha Kucha on Thursday night - so that was quite a bit to organise, and meant that I didn't get a chance to update the website that day. Thought for the Day for Thursday was not recorded on site until Friday night...but sometimes these things happen. I really feel that this is how things are for artists these days: juggling jobs, projects, writing, doing, exploring - we have busy lives, and have to be very flexible. I mentioned this to Keith Weston, and he said it has always been this way, especially when you are starting out - you have to be very enterprising - and really able to maximise every opportunity.
I think the Talking City ezine is going really well. I have been quite surprised by the willingness of other artists and practitioners to engage in conversations for the site - and feel that this in particular is turning out to be a successful element of the project. I think the conversations are really exposing some of the issues which artists working within the public realm face; and this is always worthwhile. There have only been a couple of people who have not responded to my request for a conversation; and unsurprisingly these are what I would describe as public realm employees - people employed in public sector jobs, and in charge of urban renewal, and cultural development. The fact that yet again it is the arts practitioners who are willing to enter dialogues, and be reflective and critical about the role of arts and culture in the city, and the public sector employees are disinterested, flags up for me the problems that we face. Until the conversation becomes joined up, and until those 'in charge' start to truly care about the issues, and becoming willing to push themselves and question their practices, we will always be stuck in a position of unhealthy status quo. It seems that they are always working to rule, doing it becasue they have to, and not because they care or want to.
Hewitt and Jordan speaking in 2004 drew attention, I think, to how artists can make work which directly dissents against the tick-boxing methods of councils and other public realm bodies, who employ art and culture as an easy option;
"We always try to avoid making something—
not even a video—not that we can make
video anyway. We know that we are
making it difficult for ourselves. I think
that the reason for this is a desire to focus
the attention on the intervention/process
itself rather than on an object—an object
brings ‘relief’ to the normal spectator of art."
-(Hewitt & Jordan, 2004, p. 47).
If what we make has no longevity, it cannot be used as tangible evidence for how well the local authorities are doing at investing in arts and culture (for change) in an area. Perhaps in Stoke-on-Trent we should have some sort of art strike - where we all refuse to make work for a week in protest over the lack of meaningful investment in arts and culture in the city?

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