Notes from Art For All.
discussion and book launch held at Shoreditch Town Hall, 19th January 2001

Hope you had a good weekend. I went to Yorkshire in the end, it was nice to get out of the city that's for sure.

The talk on Fri. night was a bit frustrating in a way. I didn't have a enough money to buy one let alone two of the books, but I'm sure we can get them elsewhere - it would be worth a read I think. The speakers were (and book I guess) trying to consider the impact of government initiatives for inclusion and accessibility etc on artistic practice and the role of the institution. The general consensus from the speakers and audience was that art and politics is separate and should be approached as such ('the artist doesn't owe the government a social policy and the government doesn't owe the artist a living'; artists shouldn't have to fulfill the state's social agenda; artists aren't social workers; art shouldn't be about change; artists shouldn't be responsible...

The subheading of the book is 'Their policies and our culture'. Stallabrass pointed out who are 'them' and 'us'? - them as the government and us as the remaining few with the will to 'subvert' (or rebel) Also pointed out how the unconventional (alternative, independant are now the conventional, dependant norm).

I thought it was it bit worrying how traditional / modernist everyone was being. Surely it is cyclical and obvious that governments and, down the line, institutions swallow innovations, experimentations in order to move on and allow for further innovations...it's an ongoing, completely linked process. There seemed to be this belief still that the artist exsists as an outsider who has some special autonomous power to objectively comment on the world. (critical distance and challenging is essential to the processes of interesting art practices, but that doesn't mean the artist and their work is outside of society or a community).

Need to discuss it more with you...I was thinking, we could go and see Ella at the Whitchapel on Saturday afternoon - perhaps we could arrange a discussion in Feb at the gallery, in the 'office' to get things out in the open - esp. after the Searle review and the City Racing retrospective at ICa opening. It would be spontaneous and very timely. Things need talking about (not solving, just need heating up), the Art for All? talk was packed so people are obviously interested and have stuff they disagree with...

Below is a copy of what I wrote to Celya from Attitudes in Switz. who was interested in what we were up to. Let's meet up this week...speak to you soon

Love Sophie

sent to celya just now...

This project I am working on is very much in the early stages, but we are basing it on a series of interviews with artists who work collectively or collaboratively to find out their motivations and methods of working.

There is an interesting exhibition on at the moment at the Whitechapel called Temporary Accommodation. As part of the show, Ella Gibbs has turned one of the galleries into an office and is co-ordinating a series of events and opportunities for artists to carry out projects over the period of the exhibition. This method of creating a space for experiments and conversations by a number of artists stems from Ella's 'project space' she set up in the mid-nineties called Belt. (the physical space no longer exists, but initiatives still happen all over the place).

I was thinking it would be quite interesting to organise a discussion in the 'office' at the Whitechapel, to voice some of the issues that have been raised in the press, and among those interested, such as why these artist initiatives have been swallowed by the institutions (made 'safe') and what are the implications? A lot of artist run 'alternative' spaces (set up in the east end in the early '90's) are now being 'displayed' in public galleries (the 'alternative' becomes the 'norm' throughout art history).

The different conversations we have with people; the differences in opinions and experiences will be transcribed and circulated to those interested in the debate (in the form of a newsletter or via e-mail). Hopefully this will create some heated cross-discussions and the need to meet up and fight it out. We also think it would be interesting / important to visit particualr sites of 'experience', where projects or activities have taken place to find out what and who they left behind.


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