The Art of Disruption

Programming

How to present what you do, as a freelancer/contractor? How to be both descriptive enough to be credible, yet keep the door open to new collaborations? As François Matarasso puts it: “In this neoliberal world, where people are commoditised, a freelancer must be ready to stand in the shop window, if not the auction block, in his best clothes. We’ve all got an elevator pitch now.”

In a perhaps misguided attempt to cover all grounds, I’m currently using ‘Events Manager, Audience Developer and Translator’ on my business card. My ‘services’ page also lists Programme Management & Coordination, Research and Copywriting. I could go on – but I’m not sure that adding more specialities would make my achievements and skills look any better. In fact, such an enumeration is not even reflecting what I do overall.

That’s why I’m using ‘Cultural Producer’ on my ‘about’ page and on LinkedIn: because it’s not just describing the different parts of the process, but how they’re all converging.

Jeremy Deller, Procession (Manchester International Festival, 2009) via BBC Manchester website

Jeremy Deller, Procession (Manchester International Festival, 2009) via BBC Manchester website

I like this definition, used by someone called Gina Tarantino in her Penn State University blog:

A creative cultural producer is a professional that plans, designs, organizes and manages artistic projects that have a cultural impact on the public that will interact with them.

Play Me I'm Yours, 2012, Toronto (Mexico piano, University & Dundas)

Play Me I’m Yours, Mexico piano (Toronto, Canada 2012)

And even more this one, developed by London-based creative company Nimble Fish to describe their own practice, which they felt was not accurately reflected by the categories “Theatre” or “Theatre-in-Education”:

Cultural Producers establish, implement and manage a self-generated creative vision, typically outside the purview of traditional performance or gallery spaces. Cultural Producers are rarely restricted to a single artistic form, preferring instead to work with whatever combination of forms best suits a particular idea or theme. Cultural Producers often seek to animate or re-interpret public spaces in the context of the communities they serve, and consequently their work often has a strong component of community participation or co-creation.

City-wide flood simulation produced by La Folie Kilomètre and pOlau

Jour Inondable, city-wide flood simulation produced by La Folie Kilomètre and pOlau (Tours, France , 2012)

Arts Council England and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation commissioned a 2007 publication titled “The Producers: Alchemists of the Impossible” to “celebrate and explore the role of the producer in the arts” through 14 portraits of creative individuals.

One of the featured producers is Helen Marriage, co-founder of Artichoke, “a creative company that works with artists to invade our public spaces and put on extraordinary and ambitious events that live in the memory forever”. Artichoke will probably forever be known for the Sultan’s Elephant (see below), but they’ve also created, more recently, the city-wide night-time Lumière events in Durham and Derry-Londonderry, the giant spider in Liverpool and One & Other, Anthony Gormley’s Fourth Plinth Commission project.

Durham Cathedral, Lumière Festival Durham, produced by Artichoke (2009)

Durham Cathedral, Lumière Festival Durham, produced by Artichoke (Durham, UK, 2009)

In 2012-2013, Helen Marriage was awarded a Loeb Fellowship by Harvard Graduate School of Design, to “study the intersection of design, public art and urban infrastructure”. She has since embarked on a series of talks and seminars on the topic of cultural disruption and ephemeral urbanism, and her recent presentation at the Ramsay Gardens Seminar series is summarised on International Futures Forum’s website.

She retraces the 5-year journey to get permission to close streets in London and stage a huge peripatetic performance, recalling the shifting point that made it all possible and the self-discovery that ensued:

For the first three years the answer was always no. But in the end the mood shifted:  from “why would we do this?” (a plea for justification, outcomes, evidence) to “why would we not do this?” (an enrolment in playing a part in producing something magical).  Helen’s message – “it will be fantastic and you will be really proud” – finally struck home.

In retrospect, she realised that she herself had been the problem. She had been asking an impossible question – in asking for permission. They could not possibly say yes. But once it got into the minutes that the event was scheduled to happen, everyone assumed that somebody else had given authority and from then on their role was to help.  It was a valuable lesson and one that she now follows always: her job is to take responsibility, to be the bearer of risk for everyone involved, which frees them up to be as helpful and creative as they can without formally ‘owning’ the project themselves.

Artichoke: Sultan's Elephant (London, 2006)

Sultan’s Elephant, Artichoke & Royal de Luxe (London, UK, 2006)

Reviewing The Producers for a-n , Charlotte Frost surveyed a number of established cultural production agencies (listed below). Despite clear differences, such as the diversity of organisational structures, she finds them to share three key functions:

  1. Matchmaking collaborative relationships: combining artists and artforms, often assembling a custom back-end team, and bringing together projects and venues, funders and other supporters.
  2. Providing the necessary time and space: directly by providing physical space (Artsadmin) or virtual platforms (Furtherfield.org), and also through committing to the long-term durational process (Artangel).
  3. Being the “risk absorber” (Steven Bode, Director of FVU): “Every project starts from square-one in terms of the producer having to find creative partners, a venue and, usually, funders” (Electra Co-Founder and Director Lina Dzuverovic); “Its very important that all of us, Artsadmin, Artangel, Forma, and everyone else… keep encouraging new work to happen, if we don’t, everything will get very stagnant. That is, what is inspiring and compelling for us, and it is something that I would reiterate to Arts Council England, this experimental work influences the mainstream and feeds everything else.” (Judith Knight, Co-Founder and Director of Artsadmin).
Floating Cinema, Up Projects (London, 2013)

Floating Cinema, Up Projects (London, 2013)

The video below shows the LIFT Festival production of Haircuts by Children, an “aesthetically scintillating experience”  developed by Toronto-based culture production workshop Mammalian Diving Reflex that has already been re-created in 30 cities.  Artistic Director Darren O’Donnell explains:

Haircuts by Children involves children between the ages of 8-12 are trained by professional hairstylists, and then paid to run a real hair salon, offering members of the public free haircuts. The project invites the consideration of young people as creative and competent individuals whose aesthetic choices can be trusted. While providing atypical entertainment for the public, Haircuts by Children also shifts the traditional power dynamic between children and adults, creating a safe social space where children and adults who live in the same community can meet and share a unique creative experience together. The idea that kids should be allowed to cut our hair evokes the same leap of faith, courage and understanding required to grant children deeper citizenship rights. For many it is actually less terrifying to contemplate allowing kids to vote.

Links:

UK

artangel.org.uk
artichoke.uk.com
artsadmin.co.uk
electra-productions.com
forma.org.uk
furtherfield.org
nimble-fish.co.uk
upprojects.com

CANADA

www.mammalian.ca

FRANCE

www.lafoliekilometre.org
www.polau.org

Jeppe Hein, Follow Me, Bristol, 2009. Photo: Jamie Woodley­. Courtesy University of Bristol

The New Rules of Public Art

The Long Read

Public Art Now

Demand new rules for public art now!

An organisation born in Bristol, UK, Situations reimagines what public art can be and where and when it can take place. We like to think and reflect on what happens when the spark of an idea is lit. We test out new ways in which to share those ideas through new commissions, events, interviews, books and blogs – just like this, The New Rules of Public Art.

Sign-up here to receive a link to download your free ‘The New Rules of Public Art’ poster or scroll down to get hold of your very own rulebook. In the meantime enjoy, share and debate The Rules.

THE NEW RULES OF PUBLIC ART

Rule no. 01

IT DOESN’T HAVE TO LOOK LIKE PUBLIC ART.

The days of bronze heroes and roundabout baubles are numbered. Public art can take any form or mode of encounter –…

View original post 887 more words

Second Floor

Virtual Street Art: Tour Paris 13

Spotlight

Tour Paris 13 is an old crumbling residential tower in Paris’ 13th arrondissement marked for demolition in less than a month. It’s also, for that remaining time, allegedly the biggest collective street art project realised to date. Over 100 artists, coming from 16 different countries, were invited to use the 9-floor, 36-apartment tower as their canvas – from the basement to the facade and every single inch of the floors, walls and ceilings.

The art is as real as it gets and visiting the tower is free as long as it’s still standing, in small groups of 49 people maximum at a time for safety reasons. So what’s virtual about it? How we can experience it.

El Seed

El Seed

While the artists were working inside the tower, the project was kept under wraps and extensively filmed by Thomas Lallier – in preparation for a documentary – and audio recorded by French public service Radio France (well known for their excellent ‘création radiophonique’, or radio art), to create an immersive digital experience.

Second Floor

Second Floor

When ‘visiting’ an apartment, a collage of user-generated images scrolls across the screen, revealing the space by fragments, and the voices of the artists at work raise above the ‘soundtrack’: traffic, sirens, footsteps echoing in these empty spaces, doors creaking, phones ringing, and the sound of the spray can, with that clicking of the shaking and phrasing of the breathing, in long lines and short bursts.

Sébastien Preschoux

Sébastien Preschoux

The project was spearheaded by Galerie Itinerrance, a local gallery specialised in street art. It’s not the first time that it spills out of the walls: as well as representing artists and showing their work, gallery owner Mehdi Ben Cheikh has been offering ‘official’ outdoor tours to discover large-scale murals in the neighbourhood (presumably commissioned). In an interview available on the Tour Paris 13 website (with English subtitles), he talks about his remit, as a street art gallerist, to have an ‘urban practice’. He also tries to describe the tower project:

I don’t like the word exhibition. It’s something a bit strange… It’s not a museum, it’s not a gallery, it’s not a wasteland neither, it’s not a squat… It’s a mix of all of these. It’s something more or less organised, but that still has a soul.

He also talks about the role of the internet – and therefore of digital experiences such as the tower’s – in making street art “the first truly international movement”.

Shoof

Shoof

After 31st October, the Tour will be closed to the public, but the website will remain accessible. During the following 10 days, virtual visitors will be asked to ‘save’ the art by clicking on what they want to keep, pixel by pixel. The resulting archive will become a ‘witness’ of the artistic project.

Mosko

Mosko

Finally, the 52-minute documentary that will be released in September 2014 will reveal the creative process of the artists involved, but also the history of the tower itself and of the neighbourhood, pre- and post-urban renewal.

Sean Hart

Sean Hart

All photos are from Tour Paris 13‘s website; click on images to access the artists’ individual photo gallery, interview and biography.

Sleepless Night, Healthy Cities: the Nuit Blanche charter

Spotlight

It’s Nuit Blanche everywhere tonight: in Toronto, where I currently live, and where I’m hoping to catch, amongst others, Your Temper, My Weather, an intriguing exploration of collective meditation and bees at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the giant Ai Weiwei bicycle installation outside City Hall (where, ironically, the current mayor is not known for his love of alternative transportation); in Paris, where it all started in 2001 (or so the legend goes, but it appears that Helsinki’s Night of the Arts and Nantes’ Les Allumés have been paving the way since 1989-1990); in Brussels, where intrepid urbanites, smartphone in hand, can take part in an interactive game called Raiders of the Lost Archive; in Metz, where one of last year’s piece was this mesmerising all-night video mapping of the markings left by mysterious deep-sea creatures called paleodictyon nodosum, projected on the Centre Pompidou-Metz (below); and possibly elsewhere, as the number of participating cities keeps growing year on year, although some celebrate their participatory art extravaganza at other dates or under other names, such as Light Night in Liverpool.

Given the success of the event, an umbrella organisation, Nuits Blanches Europe, was created to enable participating cities to share their experiences and exchange projects and artists. The project does not seem to have its own website, but I found the following charter on the Nuit Blanche Brussels website, in English and French, which articulates the civic impact ambitions of the initiative:

(English)

  • NUIT BLANCHE is a free cultural event open to all which takes place every year from the end of the summer to the beginning of autumn and lasts one full night.
  • NUIT BLANCHE gives pride of place to contemporary creativity in all its forms: the plastic arts, projections, installations, music, performance art and street theatre, circus arts and travelling shows.
  • NUIT BLANCHE turns the spotlight on public spaces from every angle: places normally closed off or abandoned, peripheral locations or even prestigious or heritage sites, are revisited in a unique way by artists.
  • NUIT BLANCHE allows organising cities to reflect together on how life after dark in cities is currently changing and to put in place appropriate services and methods of organisation (local economy, signposting, lighting, safety, services, etc).
  • NUIT BLANCHE provides an opportunity to promote environmentally-friendly mobility: easier access for cyclists, use of the tram, public transport, river buses.
  • NUIT BLANCHE encourages interaction between city centres and outlying districts.
  • The partner cities of Nuits Blanches Europe decide on a joint artistic project to be implemented each year with a view to developing exchanges not only between cities but also between artists and European audiences.

(French)

  • NUIT BLANCHE est une manifestation culturelle ouverte à tous et gratuite, qui se tient chaque année de la fin de l’été au début de l’automne, durant une nuit complète.
  • NUIT BLANCHE privilégie la création contemporaine sous toutes ses formes : arts plastiques, projections, installations, musiques, arts de la scène et de la rue, arts du cirque et arts forains.
  • NUIT BLANCHE met en scène l’espace public sous tous ses aspects : lieux habituellement fermés ou abandonnés, lieux périphériques, ou encore lieux prestigieux ou appartenant au patrimoine historique de la ville, revisités singulièrement par les artistes.
  • NUIT BLANCHE permet aux villes organisatrices de réfléchir ensemble aux évolutions actuelles des nuits urbaines et de mettre en place des services et modes d’organisation adaptés (économie, signalétique, éclairage, sécurité, services…).
  • NUIT BLANCHE est l’occasion de promouvoir des formes de mobilité « douces » : facilitation de parcours à vélo, recours au tram, au transport en commun, aux navettes fluviales.
  • NUIT BLANCHE favorise les échanges entre les centres-villes et les quartiers périphériques.
  • Les villes partenaires de Nuits Blanches Europe décident, dans le but de développer les échanges entre elles et entre les artistes et publics européens, qu’un projet artistique commun sera mené chaque année.

Summer Summary 1: Art Everywhere

Programming

August is drawing to a close and to my horror I realise that I haven’t done much blogging this summer. I have a good excuse: I was away, on a working holiday trip to Europe. So to lessen my guilt of not producing much content for Art of Festivals, here’s a summary of what I’ve seen, heard and done this past month. I’ll start here with my encounters with free music and art in unusual settings.
(All photos by @artoffestivals, click on images to view a larger version in a new tab).

Part 1: Art Everywhere

Manchester Jazz Festival

I started my trip with 10 days of live contemporary jazz at the 18th annual Manchester Jazz Festival, allowing me to reunite with old friends and discover new and unexpected gems. There were lots of free gigs on offer, at the rate of 3 or 4 a day, and the paying gigs are usually priced at no more than £15. The festival uses a variety of venues and spaces throughout the city centre, from the “Festival Teepee”, a huge tent originally commissioned by Manchester International Festival, to the 300-year-old St Ann’s Church, the recently renovated Band on the Wall (which eventful 200-year history as a pub, then cinema, then live music venue can be found here) and the Grade-II listed Midland Hotel, where Rolls is rumoured to have met Royce.

Attending the festival – and not working it, as I had done for 3 years – was a great reminder of what it’s like to be on the other side. The festival team might be solving a crisis backstage – the next band is stuck in traffic, some volunteers haven’t showed up, or the horrendous weather is threatening to ruin the show – but nothing transpires stage-side: the gig starts bang on time, the sound is perfectly balanced, the performers are highly skilled and engaging, and the only real question remaining is whether or not to have that second glass of Pimm’s.

My festival highlight: spending lots of time with the great guys from Trio Journal Intime (Sylvain Bardiau – trumpet, Matthias Mahler – trombone, Frederic Gastard – bass saxophone), rescuing said bass saxophone from airline mismanagement hell and being completely blown away by their ‘Lips on Fire’ Jimmy Hendrix-inspired gig. Here’s a live performance video for further proof:

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

After my favourite festival, I went to my favourite sculpture park – not that I know that many others, but I can’t imagine that they can come any finer than this: 500 acres of landscaped park in the heart of Yorkshire, with a huge collection of works (featuring Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Andy Goldsworthy, James Turrell, Richard Long, Antony Gormley, Helen Escobedo – and so many more that it’s probably best to check the full list here), dotted here and there in the meadows, woods and formal gardens. The indoor galleries host infallibly exceptional temporary exhibitions: this time Yinka Shonibare MBE, on my previous visit Jaume Plensa. As for most cultural institutions in the UK, entrance is free, you only pay for parking; and there are many events, workshops and guided visits on offer for all ages.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, summer 2013

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, summer 2013

HaHa Bridge, Brian Fell

HaHa Bridge, Brian Fell

Ten Seated Figures, Magdalena Abakanowicz

Ten Seated Figures, Magdalena Abakanowicz

Buddha, Niki de Saint Phalle

Buddha, Niki de Saint Phalle

Wind Sculpture, Yinka Shonibare MBE

Wind Sculpture, Yinka Shonibare MBE

Panopticons

Panopticon (noun): structure, space or device providing a comprehensive or panoramic view

The following day, I set off with friends in the other direction for more outdoor sculpture fun. The Panopticons are a major public art commissioning project, meant to create new landmarks in the rural setting of East Lancashire. All four structures were designed by different architects and/or artists, working both as focal points and viewpoints and drawing from the local heritage. They were completed in 2006-2007. I have already written about the Panopticon project in my post about the research project Why Art Works, so I wanted to see them for myself.

Travelling in style in a red, white and chrome Triumph 2000, we created a public Google Map and followed the route suggested in this article by Nick Hunt, Director of Mid-Pennine Arts, the commissioning agency behind this cultural regeneration effort. We only managed to score 2 ½ out of 4, mainly because we spent so much time chatting about our impressions, taking photos, getting lost, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

The two structures we experienced close-up are Colourfields, a converted cannon battery site set in the very Victorian Corporation Park, and Atom, perched on top of the hill in Wycoller Country Park. In both instances, we walked in beautiful landscaped settings, taking in the sights, enjoying the fresh air and reflecting on the shaping of nature by culture.

While we were determined that we would make it to Singing Ringing Tree, we had to give it a miss when we realised that we were only a few miles away from Bronte Country (i.e. the likelihood of a good pub). And the remaining half Panopticon? That’s Halo, which we spotted from the motorway on the way back to Manchester.

Mid-Pennine Arts’ website states that the Panopticons “were designed to attract visitors into the countryside to enjoy the stunning landscapes that this delightful area has to offer”. This cunning plan clearly worked, as there are very few other reasons that could have influenced us to head to Blackburn and Burnley, and I’m immensely glad that we did!

Atom, Panopticon, Wycoller Country Park

Atom, Panopticon, Wycoller Country Park
Design by Peter Meacock with Katarina Novomestska and Architecture Central Workshop.

View from inside Atom

View from inside Atom

View outside Atom

Art Everywhere

I was lucky to be in England just in time for Art Everywhere – self-described as “A Very Big, Big Art show”. It’s a nationwide initiative swapping billboard ads for art posters, using the collections of the Tate (Modern and Britain) and other museums and galleries.

The exhibition ran from 12 to 25 August, featuring 57 different British works of art across 22,000 poster sites. I spotted quite a few in train stations in Sheffield and Manchester and all over London.

It’s public art in more than one way: it was part-funded by the public, through a crowdfunding campaign raising over £30,000, with rewards such as badges, bags, T-shirts and framed prints; the works were chosen by public voting, out of a longlist of over 100 artworks; and interaction was encouraged via a photography competition. It is estimated that 90% of the UK population will see at least one of these billboards during the course of the campaign.

The interactive map helps getting a sense of the huge scale of this project, and this video shows a few works in their newly found context.