here are some long form winding art thoughts. i normally write so tight but it’s getting to the end of the year and it is nice to stretch out n feel the end of the bath with ur toes; ;
i often PROUDLY say that i don’t read ANYTHING and that it's ALL BORING BAR THE WHITE PUBE but last month Morgan Quaintance name dropped The White Pube in a v long text on e-flux so i literally had to read to find out por qué. however, knowing i didnt have the concentration 2 get to the end of it with my reading brain, i highlighted the words and got my laptop to read to me like bedtime stories to a king. this is a good life hack and now i’m turning every text into my own podcast an i feel SMART.
thus ~ i’ve been getting through the rest of Morgan’s writing with Siri and this week i heard his 2015 piece about the Turner Prize panel that granted Assemble the $$$. Quaintance argues/identifies that the jury’s own politics (that art should be useful and social rather than aesthetic-experience-art, a position explicitly held by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art’s director Alistair Hudson (see this series of videos on what he calls the Museum 3.0 - a model practised through mima)) meant a group of architects won the Turner Prize for their interior design processes in social housing, instead of artists bein awarded for their art. soz that was a long sentence with lots of punctuation but stick with me. ; What I thought was social practice with Assemble is actually just design isn’t it. I never looked that closely. the social practice part is the social work the Granby 4 Streets CLT (community land trust) is doing in the area to secure ownership and stop the nice big houses from being flattened to the ground. clearly Granby should have gotten the turner prize instead, or just local council commendation, whatever that looks like. SO i’m now I’m very disappointed with the turner prize 2 yrs on.
but more broadly in the essay, Quaintance goes on to say why such a social-focus in the arts might be dangerous, as it is ‘a boon to the current Conservative government,’ because (and I’m copy and pasting bc it’s worth it), ‘In the current national climate where public subsidy for the arts is being ruthlessly cut, where higher education for arts and the humanities is being turned into a business, and where artists and institutions are under pressure to make the economic case for art, it will undoubtedly send damaging ripples through the art world. How difficult will it be to make the case for projects, exhibitions and initiatives that resist quantification, challenge state power and provoke more questions than they do provide answers, now that policy makers will be able to point to the Turner Prize and cite contemporary art’s disenchantment with its own open ended nature?’ oooooooo 🔥🚨🔥
and it’s got me feeling that good critical doubt where i’m re-evaluating the things i thought i liked, like any good WoKe kid when she realises gwen stefani was racist that whole time, and is now here analysing every film/telly/music video/lyric that comes before her eyes and finding nothin makes the cut. it’s so difficult to be as clean cut with art institutions bc of their scale, so i always end up writing critically about exhibitions rather than full on ~ institutional critique ~ (morgan I’m looking at u again and your write up/down of Iniva). But i want to be more demanding of art establishments and in this instance i want to look at mima’s museum 3.0 model, bc it is something i am excited about, and esp with The White Pube being critics-in-residents at mima i should rub my eyes n look again.
its like an oasis. In the foyer of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art there is a yellow poster that reads, ‘A Useful Museum. We are an organisation with a social function. We focus on civic engagement and repurpose art as a tool for changing the world. Our programme is people-centred and addresses urgent issues. Our constituents, users and visitors shape our activities, and with them we foster citizenship through education, activism, and community development.’ it’s a behaviour they live, n one they presented to other organisations and representatives in detail at an Arts Council Collection’s Curators Day last week (lots of middle aged white women curators going on a day out to network and do a lil dance, make a lil panel, get sound tonight. I was there with my critics-in-residence hat on to learn through nosing). so it goes: the museum 3.0 holds the building should be a site of activity rather than jus strict display. I’m not here to mark mima against their own rubric bc i’ve been up enough times to believe they mean it; n more carefully, have been there as they meet people who wander in to see what happens inside the glass; and appreciated the language and manner used because it’s honest. - - - What i would add as annotation is that I don’t think mima kick up enough fuss about the display part of what they are programming. They have an excellent permanent collection (that is casually diverse af), but it's a bit out of sight upstairs and as with most permanent collections often not shuffled enough to give u a reason to revisit.
butttt against all this debate, morgan quaintance, mima, social art etc etc, what I doooo wanna put forward is my own position and solution to this associative art thoughts that does, i promise, i have a point. what else would u come here for, I’m not a journalist amma critic.
first, art people are mostly shit at producing, instigating, facilitating, and platforming the socially engaged art Mima champions. As with their most recent Gresham trojan horse project with artist Isabel Lima, they are clearing smashing it on this front. But as good as mima is, I don’t want to see a museum 3.0 in every city because i’m not optimistic and I don’t believe there are enough good people in the art world who speak on a level and think about legacy/about policy/who go to council meetings and have a worthwhile presence and do something without prioritising their own gains of being a Gap Yah-type, look I work with Real People in my art-type dickhead. (I can probably count on one hand people i’d trust to not be dickheads in the public realm. somethin honestly about the quality of certain people that jus get it). the way the Arts Council England grants for the arts funding applications want to know the public value of your project - - - it leaves artists who just want money directly for themselves and their art outta the running; or gives money to people who’ve made bad promises that they don’t really intend to keep. Does the arts council realise the money they give to many artist-led spaces puts on exhibitions that like, only the same 50-100 people see time and time again. that’s an expensive table to be sat at. argh.
Zarina was talking the other day about how within criticism ‘everyone wants the drama but no one actually wants to instrumentalise anger bc that takes work init’ AND SO let me put forward a good example that people could follow 2 solve some of the problems above. At the beginning of 2016, when AIR studio was thinking of doing a project in North Woolwich, Anna Hart set up the North Woolwich Curators Club with five local residents she had met there to figure out what they should even do, and only then wrote the arts council app that would go on to be match funded by Newham Council. the club met weekly throughout the year to discuss the shape of the public programme and strategise on how and where to deliver it. they were not arts professionals but still had an interest in creativity, for example one was a project manager who also photographed the boats that went down the thames, another was working for the council and had performed and sang in the past, and someone else was at that point unemployed but had previously enjoyed writing plays. Their shared excitement was that North Woolwich would be a site for contemporary art. i know this all in depth btw bc i joined Tidal Twirlings as Assistant Producer over the summer and it was good to not feel like alien arts people, just people with skills that could help make art happen.
Could institutions and artist-led spaces set up their own committees like AIR did in North Woolwich? That would go some way towards these spaces and their activities feeling truly public. ppl to keep you on your toes and demand better, bc clearly a lot of spaces don’t think outreach and engagement are even problems to deal with. but ye, imagine if those advisory boards were almost obligatory, in the same way registered charities need trustees to certify their organisation is fulfilling the stated charitable aims, and thus can retain their status as a charity. With such boards, art spaces of all scales might be responsible and accountable then; social, local, good. their activity would be considered, wanted, attended, and shared. yep ok thats the art world i wanna see. can I have that for christmas please. i want ur local ppl advisory boards in place by the end of january 2k18, thats my PROFESSIONAL OPINION.
because when i was at the Arts Council Curators Day in mima last week, i thought: all the attendees r talking so deeply about engagement but there aren’t any of the actual art-visitors in the room. These things never feel like a full discussion, ppl are always just alluding to the world as if it’s on the planet one along from theirs. i dun like that, i like to be involved. so many processes across politics and economics are rolling over us like the smoke in restaurants used to 2 when it was legal to light up indoors. I don’t want that for culture. The art world can decide its own rules, so might we b able to set an example by letting people have influence through local advisory boards pls. make it more choose ur own adventure than it currently is, cute. if this was the structure of the art world, things like Assemble winning the turner prize might not even happen because there could b alternative awards that more specifically supported that kind of social work-social practice collaboration OR they would win it with Granby 4 Streets. or these things would feel okay bc we would have a structure that better articulated how some art works, n then give credit where credit’s due. wouldn’t that be nice
edit: mima have a community liaison group so its literally possible for institutions, that's good news 8-)