(plus a wider thought on #class)



Join The Circle



On hearing of Fat Boy Slim aka Pizzaman; now very much Mr Norman Cook’s collaboration with David Byrne, I thought of previous days gone by when the then Housmartin’s tune Caravan of Love, hit the radar for himself and Paul Heaton (…can’t remember the names of other two).

I remember the tune was very much an anthem to a renewed post hippy ideology to “Join the Caravan of Love”, with the encouraging sing–along-lyrics on the lines of everywoman, every man, every child join in -come on.


Caravan 2

Long time gone! but some sentiments will always be around – it is human. Apparently Paul Heaton, who I believe gave input to the lyrics was moved to this by his Marxist, Christian or spiritual beliefs at the time.

Well I’m not dwelling on religion here, nor indeed spirituality, but the sentiment of lets all have a group hug, I’m guessing will always be there.


One thing I had noticed on thinking a little more on art and the artist’s dilemma, which was raised at the #class this month. With the social, physical, geographical and gender demo-graphs. I think most definitely has an impact on access, and the ability to join established networks of potentially remunerated art work ie; the art market.  This must, at some point cause internalized tensions, outward bickering or envy, along with acceptance issues when you are recognized and/or being paid for your labour.

An article on motherhood recently showed the emphasis on the strung out bickering of who’s doing it right, with all the subsequent jealousies and guilt. In this I saw a paradigm for the loner artist, art groups and art schools. It said that, essentially, mothers although having a choice to be one or not, want recognition for what they do – that they exist – whether working mothers or not. A labour of love if you like, with recognition rather than on going criticism for taking one or the other option (whether from other mothers or the state or whatever).

I’ll just make the distinction on criticism here; as being very distant from constructive criticism, which meant as a mover of ideas and can be adopted, or not; an observation. Rather than an aberration of an opinion or (possibly unaddressed) feeling.


So, this caravan thing – bare with the analogy for a moment; someone’s at the front yes? meaning someone’s leading  – the people at the back need to be heard so if a change of direction is needed a message has to be sent (ok, this analogy doesn’t include twitter or i-phones yet!) so a series of messages need to be sent to the front. And as in the very old First World War joke on a general at the front line hearing the call to advance,  sent a message back through his troops to ‘send reinforcements – were going to advance’ back at base they gleefully began preparations for a party on hearing ‘send three and four pence – were going to a dance’. Ok so it’s the Chinese whispers or telephone game thing. But groups, in order to communicate and not alienate (as far as possible) need to be just that, a group not totally front lead or trajectory strained.


Various philosophies for enabling specific artistic groups have used differing forms of the group aesthetic. The Bauhaus had an idea for an architectural future, they included all aspects of art in order to create a Whole – albeit in the main, aesthetically led by Van der Rohe and Gropius.

The idea was to collectively bring together a new school of thought, and as with a lot of things at that time had grown out a new age sort of thinking that prompted other schools of thought that required subservience to political ideologies about what exactly that direction of art and architecture, and well, everything really, should be. Not a good time to freely embrace or be embraced.

I have baffled this one for almost as long as I can remember, and one of the only things that comes close to a group led ethos I can think of is the Steiner Waldorf approach to education (aside, again from the penchant towards spirituality and possible gobbledygook depending on your views) the essence I think lies in the fact they allow freedom within individual schools, for the basic curriculum to be interpreted by individual teachers. Paced, within the overall philosophical framework of a child’s growth pattern and sensory engagement with their surroundings.

Literally run by the college of each schools teachers, and, endless inclusive parental meetings and cake baking’s (for sharing not competitions) the idea being I believe to involve the parents as much as possible with the general day to day running, upkeep and community knowledge. The college of teachers is, I think, as democratic as possible; the finance is also addressed by a board of trustees.


Someone mentioned art apprenticeships in one of the discussions during #class, and I was also reading today the article delivered by Andrea Frazer in a talk for the Harvard Crimson paper and her interpretation of art institutions citing its relevance for actually being there rather than something to run away from or be abhorred. I sort of agree that institutions are neither by themselves wrong nor indeed the art that is made in them, and having relevance because of that. But I keep coming back to a democratic approach.

Nottm university

Many Universities although have a surface organisation structure that looks democratic, a lot have non academic council members, any staff have to be elected and more often than not the head or chairman and vice chairman are invariably an outside dignitary or prestigious alumni appointed by the council.

Mary Warnock also mentioned her insider experience of former years as a female lecturer compared to today’s style; “Life in universities, at any rate, is vastly less enjoyable now than it was then. It is regimented, ill-paid, constantly assessed and it carries with it an obligation to produce a string of publications, often a joyless business, but necessary if your department is to retain its reputation for productivity. And no one can assume that she will not be sacked or her department closed around her”.

The method of running these places has so much of the traditional school top down structure in grained, including the recent shift from hierarchical-old-school-in-crowd-snobbery to new-school-in–crowd-image-mongering. The subsequent artistic statements and movements are part of this, which is where I agree that the resistance of artists involved in doing their work in these environments do struggle with that sort of magnetic repulsion as a subsequent part of their art.


Whether in established institutions or not I think apprenticeships and group boards can also go some way to get over this, by including one of the main points as in Steiner philosophy; being, they have a sense of inclusive community and work.

Now the hippy ethic can veer in, and the group hug can also turn into that other hippy trait of setting yourself apart from society along with hierarchical inward bickering (you only have to think of that doomed hippy ethic film, The Beach).

Tilda at her most paranoid in The Beach

But I think group hugs, hippy chic’s and spiritual marxists-caravans put aside there is something to be said for the Steiner basic approach to getting things done. Or an adaptation of that, within art groups and schools, substitute the parents for adult/adolescent artist apprentices or students and engage on that level.

Oh flibbertigibbet – now the detail!……

More detail…..and wider-ey type things….. plus #class….in Sundays post

NB NB! meant to mention got a blog name check in the Huffington Post! ;

Ok this is a shameless big up to self! or maybe not – cos this article is a pretty accurate look (from where I am) at the #class month from someone who was there in person – she lists all the bloggers (me included!) – and no doubt more to be added – who helped contribute to the events of an extra-ordinary time…. http://huff.to/dyWd13