Category: #Class

Lives of Artists: The Graduate



Sarah Smizz

I first met Sarah through the #class project’s webby-internet tweetings and noticed she already knew the organising artists, William Powhida and many of the people involved hands on at Ed Winkleman’s in NY. Including Magda Sawon from Postmasters Gallery who did a very lively talk and discussion on running such a place from small beginnings to very independently focused well run gallery.

So I was intrigued when Sarah’s work was also posted onto the #class web-blog by William Powhida. I knew Sarah was at Sheffield Hallam Uni and was either finishing or part way through a BA or MA course. Along with the vague idea she had recently been to NY.

But nothing prepared me for the sheer energy in her response when I asked her about a post in this series.

Mostly this is Sarah’s wonderful reply – I have to say it completely blew me away! – a lot of me doesn’t want to faff around changing anything (& styling it into a me-neat little blog post)…….at all!!

Take it away Sarah!…..

“so errrrrm about me?”

“I’m a working class kid from Doncaster, UK. (Souf Yorkshire) or as I like to call it – the DONXX in New YorKshire- hehe ;)”

George Dickie

“My story is an odd story. Basically, I grew up in a single parent family (my mom and my younger bro).

My mom gave birth to me when she was 16, and had no support so we’ve always lived in relative poverty really as she has no qualifications and racked up a crazy amount of debt.

And then my mom got super ill and we missed a tonne of rent payments and got kicked out of our house because it was a great excuse to then build luxury apartments in place of the place that we lived in.

As the world gets smaller

So I was made homeless for about 8 months in total when I was 15, with my mom.

But we got things sorted eventually and things went back to semi normal. (I bring this up cuz its key in how/why I position myself and my practice).

Sarah Smizz

I LOVE working in my studio –

feels like it gives me a sense of purpose and just really living the dream!!!

Shadow Cities Favela Nice

I got to university at 18 to study contemporary fine art – first 1 in my family – in 2006 – Sheffield Hallam Uni – without a foundation. I got accepted to all 6 Uni’s I applied to, but SHU felt like the right decision, and I still stand by it today.   After 1st year I went over and did Camp America – I worked in the craft shop at a camp and I LOVED it!!!

I hitched hiked half way across the US (as a 19 yr old on my own) and got frauded! so I had NO cash for the last 2 weeks of my trip. It was like Into the Wild for real; and I thought this was awesome!

Shadow Cities Favela Nice

I got back to England, started my 2nd year and realised I loved working with people on projects like I started at camp.

So I got a group of my hommies together (which extended as we put a call out for interest) and started a thing called StreetForm.

The return to Dollershiem

This is a non-profits arts organization which delivers contemporary arts workshops for free in schools in South Yorkshire – priority at deprived schools as a way to engage kids with different learning techniques and kinda re-inspire their ideas and interests.

This turned out really successful.


Slam jam


Slam jam night


Utopian protagonist


At the same time we just got this new professor called Michael Corris from NYC.;

He was one of the players in art & language NY – I was interested in how dialogue and artists groups could engage in criticality as a community.

As the world is getting smaller

So I started another collective group called CAAD (contemporary art as dialogue). We started as a project like – the art school in the art school.

We went by our own rules and did collaborative shows engaging in different ideas surrounding the periphery and the art world. We put on our own art festival which you can see from the website too!

Street Performances production of space


Street Performances Production of Space



Sarah NYC

Contemporary Luxury Studio Showflat


I was kinda taken aback by Michael Corris and he gave me some much needed confidence in my own ability as an artist – his knowledge is awesome in my research background – which was completely lacking in my other lecturers knowledge.

I felt like if I wanted to make it in the artworld (or critique it)  that I gotta experience it properly! and not just from Sheff art scene.


Poverty is a gift that keeps on giving


Poverty is a gift that keeps on giving

So I managed to name drop Michael Corris to Magda Sawon at Postmasters gallery in NYC (He’s good friends with David Diao who Postmasters represent).  I’m the type of kid that doesn’t get amazing opportunities like this, I don’t look good on paper – state school educated, totally very rough around the edges – veryyy hopeful – thus naive about the world surrounding me; (naivety = I still get annoyed by people getting opportunities because of whom they know, and not from experience/applications)

Lucky for me Magda is one of the most kind, thoughtful, smart, risk-taking and generous women I have ever met. And she took a risk on me and let me work for her during the summer of 2008 in NYC.  I Had of course saved up all my own cash, and *it* still – despite all the other stuff I’ve done – is like THE BEST thing I’ve done – I learnt so much, made friends for life.

Turns out what I was missing was a strong smart woman role-model in the artworld/general, and Magda is just that for me. It was perfect working at Postmasters for me, because it allows my research to be a lot more even.

Postmasters allowed me not 2 be completely judgmental towards this ‘elite’ art world. I learnt that it’s not all bad (despite what I’d like to believe purely because of my outsider position).

That there are people who are willing to take risks and don’t put shows on just for commercial success. And even though some commercial galleries are ultimately a business, they treat their artists like family.

It inspired my practice because it taught me that artists do have to be competent at what they do, relevant and risk-taking not just good at networking (although that totally helps).

Being in NYC at that time (during the boom) taught me how important criticality in an artist’s practice is. I just gotta accept that  I’m not that strong of an artist yet !. That’s ok though; got another – what 9 years? (me, with interjection …errr Sarah maybe!, just maybe a mold has been broken here with that one!!)

In my 3rd year I switched from BA to a MART course, which is half a masters- integrated course. You do an extra year doing double credits in your 3rd yr and the LEA still pays all your tuition fees.

I had my 1st real London show at re-placed.  And got published in two books one of which was released at the Canadian Center of Architecture.

I was interested in the idea against the white cube space, and how collectives can have revolutionary potential. I used to make collages of buildings and fly poster them around the city in run down places.

You can see this work on my website Sarah Smizz


#class a reflection (also placed on thier web-blog by William Powhida)


We also did a project where we critiqued the biennale structure of art festivals – focusing on the Venice biennale.  It’s focus (of the project) was on curation and collaboration.

We created a biennale in a book talking about the periphery! and released it at the Venice biennale 2009 (

It was a fantastic project that is still on-going!

I taught Spanish kids English over the summer of 2009 and worked in a bookies, lol, saving cash for my internship at AREA Chicago in Chicago for 3 months.

This was my research about the artist as a social double agent. Can collectivism help to make change? Is institutional critique re-invented?

Have u ever been to Chicago? I suggest you check it out if you haven’t, there is SO MUCH stuff going on. it’s this vibrant art community that doesn’t get acknowledged in the way it should!

Magda invited me to put some work in her emerging artist show in Dec 2009. And then obviously I saw the proposal call for #class which suited me perfectly with my background, my research interests and the plain rejection that I feel/felt by both academia and the art world, amongst other systems; and did that show.

I felt like after the class experience I truly needed to embrace this investigation into collectivism – to a new level.

So I took a risk and changed the look of my work. And I’m really enjoying it. I’m not sure whether the risk will pay off for my degree show grade wise.

We also just curated a talk at TATE Britain on the contingencies in curation – some of this debate was brought up at #class!

I hate degree shows. I think that they’re contrived. They don’t represent a person’s practice properly, especially not one that’s diverse and exists in a different format. And so everything is compromised.

As part of the MArt – the deal is that you get a MA Place – and it’s one-module-studio-work;  and it only costs £800 of your own money. I’m not finishing my degree next year into a full MA because it doesn’t interest me now I’ve learnt what I needed to learn.

I’m sure I will go back and finish it when I’m stacking shelves in Asda or something but right now, the institution has grinded me down.  It doesn’t really accept me because my ideas don’t fit into the ‘white cube’ or ‘relational aesthetics’ lark.

Yet out of my whole graduating year (BA and MART) I’ve been the most ‘successful’/done the most thus far. So it shouldn’t be the grade that matters to me, but I’ve had to overcome certain barriers to get where I have got right now.

On June 23rd I’m heading back to the USA for four months; two months in Boston working with kids and a residency. Getting paid for it all – and good pay!.

Then I’m going to Syracuse University in NY State to hopefully start a project with an amazing professor up there who has similar research ideals as myself.

Then I’ll do a lil’ travel and come back to the UK for my November Residency with international film festival DocFest – which is also paid.

After November – gosh knows what is in store for me! ha!

I need a normal job – to make ends meet and pay off my crazy over-draft. I’ll probably move back to Sheffield cuz its convenient and my network of folks from Uni lies there, just whilst I sorta relay adulthood out in my head!

I will be starting my new project though “temporary department for (kinda) academic research”. A curated project, and I want to release the bi-annual publication objekt that we set also set up this year.

I have an exhibition in Canada in May in 2011 to look forward to, (moving to Canada is on the cards for the year after).

I would ultimately LOVE to teach, from high school to university level as you have the chance to help change someone else’s future. But feel like I wanna give my practice a good taste of what it means for an artist to set up projects and continue in the real world with a 9-5 soul destroying job first.  I’m totally looking forward to it! (not liking the idea of paying council tax! haa) but let’s see how this optimism fades eh? 😛

For me the journey of learning and experience is just as important as the practice itself cuz for me it all just seems to add up/inform the research (in the best respects). I don’t have a specifically special focus. I’m just interested in the idea of power in systems – regardless of what system. The ideas of access/ and class boundaries are always present.

Dialogue is very important for me; it’s all interesting for me, that and collectivism, I truly believe art does have the power to change the world, but more in helping, teaching, helping people to be optimistic, bringing people together etc.”.


Work in progress

Sarah Smizz

And, if I were ever to think *what’s the point* as we artists all do at various stages for various reasons:

Sarah, I hold a torch up to you and your inspiration!!!

Back on Wednesday …….

Lives of Artists: The Artist



Man Bartlett

A few weeks ago the name Man Bartlett meant nothing to me, but that is I believe, down to my location Nottingham UK, and not New York US nor even London UK for that matter.

I think location can and does count. Ok not so much in these internet driven times but still location draws on the local, especially in the arts through live exhibitions and events.

However with Man’s work the first thing I noticed was he always seemed to include some form of internet access whether YouTube, Ustream or Twitter or all three depending on the type of art involved.

So, the first time I caught any of his art was of a webcam showing him blowing up balloons inside a gallery for 24 hours. The gallery being Winkleman and the overall project #class which I posted back in February and March.

This was a Ustream/Twitter interaction, with him all the while blowing balloons and engaging with responses, which after 24 hours became more fervoured, especially toward the end involving a mass balloon-burst.

Starting pile
Jerry Saltz in the nest

24h #class action
24h #class action

24h#class burst
24h#class burst
web-cam-view of the balloon burst



So on that basis I was not expecting the next exhibition to show quite the images I found. And in this instance I would have loved to have been able to actually see not just ‘cos it’s my sort of thing, (and no less the performance art either) but also sometimes the whole atmosphere, even the minutiae of things like the smell and sound of the space can enter into the work.

But that’s just me I always want to look further. And let’s face it no matter how much the net does for us, it doesn’t do that yet!.


Systema mundi installation
Systema mundi drawing
Systema Mundi Installation at Flux Factory


Man mentions on his web site, in small print and very briefly, that he is “also son of artist Bo Bartlett”

And in a city like New York many would jump at the chance to promote themselves through this avenue – I think with Man it is mere fact – an artistic family. Creativity comes in many different forms and within that individual meaning.

And as the daughter of a mother who realised too late, as she saw it, that she loved to write I sometimes wonder how many of us have creative notions left untapped.

I asked Man if he had any qualms; “Only that I’m still in the process (and hope to always be) of finding out what works and what doesn’t. Part of the construct of the performances is that they develop in real time. This can be a scary and exhilarating place to be. Some experiments work, some don’t.”

His next two performances certainly seemed to with these twitter based interactions:

#24hEcho at PPOW Gallery

#24hOpen at the Whitney Museum

Man’s description:

Beginning Thursday, May 27th at 6pm, I will spend 24 hours in the Whitney Museum.

I will remain engaged with the work on display, and conscious of the space in which it is exhibited.

Man equates with his work so: “While there is sometimes an element of endurance in my performance practice, I prefer the term “duration”.

This distinction draws attention to the fact that the performances are simply happening in an extended amount of time, not specifically that pain or suffering is an integral part of that time. Labelling is a tricky thing as I also create drawings and installations. So usually I just say I’m an artist with practices in performance art, drawing, and installation”.

He went on to add…. “I strive to make art that’s both fun and serious. Art that is solitary yet inclusive. Art that sees life through a lens of one part ‘everything is nothing,’ and one part ‘nothing is everything’”.

He has recently started a monthly block print sale on line,which he rendered this video of work in process.


May lens


“I’m still exploring different ways to earn income from the performances. One thing I’m getting more interested in is creating ‘tangible’ works from the detritus of these performances.

For example I affixed the Whitney admission sticker for #24hOpen to a piece of archival paper. This serves as both a document of the performance and a separate work of art.”

One of the earlier 24 hour performance durations before #class saw him walking round the streets of NY in Theseus.

#Theseus walk

“Additional References (besides the obvious):
– Spiral Jetty
– The mazes I used to draw as a child”

Man was a regular visitor to the #class debates and events, the points of which he is very much aware;
“The ideas raised in #class are still percolating. It was so much to take in. The accessibility aspect is definitely something I keep coming back to though.

Particularly with the performances I strive to make them entertaining/interesting/valuable to both artworld folks and to complete strangers, who may not be too familiar with art at all”.

There is no doubt Man is living in a very art centred city and with access to things like Marina Abramovic’s recent MOMA exhibition The Artist is Present……..

and his fun, insightful tweetings and images from that event as he queued and waited his turn for hours (for a thwarted attempt) to sit opposite her, highlights the double edge spin offs from being around those benefits.

Marina Abramovic the Artist is Present

Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present

image wikipedia


There in is an idea I think Man would maybe agree with. The energy of input for artist’s in places like New York is the draw. The benefit being, You Create.

And also in such places the pressure to make and pay your way with *more of the same* the accepted, the patronised, cannot be far away. I get the idea that this is not on the cards for Man.

“I will never compromise my work. I may adapt it when/where necessary, but compromise is really just not in my vocabulary”.

Quite simply what it means to create.

Thank you Man!

And Man’s up-and-coming events and happenings include:

A re-performance of #cleandream as part of the Escape From New York exhibition on June 12th.

Followed by a group show in Seattle at Platform Gallery (the details of which are being listed as this is posted) “where I’ll have an installation, opening July 1st.Then hopefully a few weeks “off”, before holding a solo show with performance in Houston, Texas in 2011”.

In the meantime, as well as being artist in residence at Flux Factory which involves a collaboration at Lumen Fest June 26th, Man will be planning on “assembling” a group show for the fall/early winter.

And I will be back on Sunday with more in this current series of Lives of Artists:

Fourth in this series is someone who I was completely blown away by. Her sheer enthusiasm and energy – for someone so young (in my terms!) – at 22 and a Graduate BA/MA fine artist Sarah Smizz

Sarah Smizz
I know this is Sarahs web-page and is not strictly her art but …..: )

Back on Sunday…

Lives Of Artists



With another #class event emerging any time soon, I have decided to take a look at the lives of a group of artists and people involved with them from very different styles and stages of their *careers*.


This will be a series of images and discussions with artists from different areas and countries as they find and negotiate their way through the art world. Some fresh from degree shows, others still navigating them.

Whether established or aspiring to be established, this series of posts will endeavour to take a look at the very different and sometimes novel approaches on how they continue with their work. Addressing compromise, locations, and *the day job*.

But no less important, also a look at individual pieces of work and the artists behind.


The group include:


The Curator

Louise Starkey,who curated Cruel Britannia at the T & P Fine Art Gallery in Philadelphia last year.


Sadly the gallery itself had to close, even with the enthusiastic team that ran and supported it:


“After thirteen openings and showcasing 100+ international artists, T & P Fine Art will be closing their doors at the end of November, 2009. It may not have been ideal to open an art gallery at the beginning of the worst recession since the depression, but we found a cool spot, in an incredible city, showed some superb art, and had blast the entire time. Thank you to all who have supported us, patrons and artists alike. We hope to see you one last time between now and the end of November.”


T & P Gallery

T & P Fine Art Gallery


Cruel Brittania Poster

And back from Cruel she decided to recycle it, mash it up, and add to it. Her most recent exhibition also includes up and coming if not already established  contemporary urban artists from the UK with Stop Robbing The Rich in Nottingham.


Stop Robbing The Rich Poster

Stop Robbing The Rich, group exhibition

Castle Bar
The Castle Bar, opposite Nottingham Castle




The Photographer

Helen McCabe from London who has just finished her degree in Nottingham. “I hope that by carrying this on alongside a job, Photography will continue to be something I do, because I enjoy it and not just something to keep me in a living”.


 One of Helen McCabe's Soldier Portraits

One of Helen McCabe’s seven portraits



The Artist

Man Bartlett, who as son of US artist Bo Bartlett, is finding his feet as an artist in New York:

Echo 24
Man Bartlett’s recent #24Echo held at P.P.O.W Gallery

in his words : ) By Man Bartlett and The Internet.

He pledged to repeat anything and everything that was tagged with #24echo via twitter feed and relayed over Ustream for 24 hours

“Labelling is a tricky thing as I also create drawings and installations. So usually I just say I’m an artist with practices in performance art, drawing, and installation.”

“While there is sometimes an element of endurance in my performance practice, I prefer the term “duration.” This distinction draws attention to the fact that the performances are simply happening in an extended amount of time, not specifically that pain or suffering is an integral part of that time”.


Systema Mundi Installation
Systema Mundi Drawing
Systema Mundi exhibition at Flux Gallery earlier this year:


“Flux Factory presents Systema Mundi, an exhibition of drawings, installation and pyrography by artist-in-residence Man Bartlett.

The works in this show include a “circle drawing” in which thousands of small circles are tightly clustered, and form a rectangle. From a distance it appears as a solid mass, but closer inspection reveals a chaotic yet ordered composition. A pyrography piece consists of small burned dots that appear to create or mimic the pattern of the grain of the wood beneath them. In opposition to these maximalist tendencies lies a minimalist earth and water installation, sourced from in and around the Flux Factory building.

This juxtaposition of means is of critical interest to the artist, whose work often deals with the union of paradoxes from within a wide spectrum of art history and human experience”.

Both images and above text sourced from Flux Gallery.




The Fine Art Student

Tim……who half-way through his degree is embarking on a stint at a Cork Street Gallery in London for 2 months – despite his reservations about working in the midst of all things The-City-And-Art stand for.

NTU Fine Art Bonington Building
From NTU bonington Fine Art Campus

Cork Street,London

To Cork Street’s short but wealthy 1/4 mile


Stop Press! slight alteration….Tim has been called away to help in a performance, hence I will be coming back to him later in the next series.

So the fourth in this series is someone who I was completely blown away by. Her sheer enthusiasm and energy – for someone so young (in my terms!) – at 22 and a Graduate BA/MA fine artist Sarah Smizz

Sarah Smizz
I know this is Sarahs web-page and is not strictly art but …..: )


The hashtag project first rolled out in February at the Winkleman Gallery for a successful month of discussions and with it delving into the ins, outs and polarities of the art market in the midst of that very art-centred city of NY.

The illuminating and upfront discussions took place with artists of all types and cultures – some relatively well known others from over the other side of the world.  Gallerists, Dealers, Critics, and Collectors also being invited to be in on the call. Enabling face to face and honest discussions about location, class, education, money, who exactly pulls the strings-who are the gatekeepers, those with specific agendas and the minefield of art protocol that tempts or repels artists and can exclude them from engaging on those basis.

With that very much in mind my first stop in this series is to address amongst other elements a local exhibition held over three days in a non gallery setting curated by Louise Starkey.


Starting this Wednesday!………

Categorical Twist ( Plus a timely recap on #Class; The Feminists Tea Party)





Categories, categories, categories, I was warned about them by an artist once……..”your work is very feminine (?) you will be categorised… oh yes you will!”.


The work I was producing at the time was sculptural as now, but no more or less feminine I don’t think. Perhaps it was because I had used fine white thread to make labour intensive (on my part) pom poms which I hung by equally fine thread from the ceiling at various lengths. I suppose soft, fluffy and snow-white would enter into the description.


But the work was no less interconnected with the stuff I am doing now, using crude oil, rubber, and jet; dark hard and even repugnant materials does that fit feminine too? No, silly me! that is just based on stereo type images, pink for girls blue for boys stuff.

I suppose my art is bound to reflect the fact that my gender has an impact on how I function in the world and therefore can’t help but be shown through what I do – though I am no more aware of using feminine gestures, materials, or ways of expressing, than Joe Bloggs or indeed Jo Bloggs on the wide spectrum of x, y and z chromosomes.


My works are, and always have been about products, labour, consumption and the social-human condition. So as far as being specifically feminine well – I am female and that just about covers it.


This is not an easy thing to flat-line because as a category women and artists can fit into that female catch-all group and do have similar basic dilemmas; simplistically put, child bearing and dogma. But from there they can have widely different bench marks.

Recapping on one of the discussions at the extremely energising #class  – which by all accounts they are having another bash this summer – (hold on to your seats and watch this space! plus their website for details).

T party
The Feminists Tea Party


The event description;

Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe will host a Feminist Tea Party, an event that lies somewhere in between a contemporary consciousness raising group, a panel discussion, a performance, and a joke. They will create an installation of sorts, with a table set for tea, complete with tablecloth, porcelain cups, finger sandwiches and cookies. While attempting to maintain a visual and stylistic protocol consistent with an afternoon tea party, they will engage visitors in a dialogue around contemporary women’s issues that contrasts sharply with the formal, prissy setting.

During the discussion, someone suggested that the term feminism had actually come to represent an angry word and for many people this category had become representative of an angry movement. A lot of the idea, stemming from people who felt threatened by it in the ‘70’s, and describing them as family destroyers.


I was only a whippersnapper at the time so I never really picked up on the feminist thing, only what was reported in the press and shown through TV sit-coms, fashion etc.,. The general consensus if you like.  Even the feminists themselves found that their camps were split into what kind of life should be led by women; stay at home or have it all (like now) as though the word and world of feminism needed to have a firm identity stamp of approval on it rather than a choice. Toe-ing the party line.

During the discussion the idea was bandied about that female art is still very much unrecognised or underrepresented, (now where have I heard that one recently? oh yes! women parliamentary candidates and MP’s). Concluding also in the discussion that art media is still perpetuating a certain idea of women and that these roles are still relevant – and no less so in the general media either. With front covers showing the most coveted prizes of image, style and whats accepted and hot.


Galleries too, joining with that idea that women and art have a certain place. Although as a specific example in ’93-’95 when Times Magazine had front coverage of all male art, it is not true now. Things do change, attitudes change, but as with a lot of institutions the dogma is slow to move and a comfy sense of business-as-usual tries to prevail staving off any boat rocking.

Artists do not tend to work in tandem either, they are individuals and like writers sometimes there may be drifts of genres or movements but ultimately the writer is alone with the page as is the artist with their materials. I’m guessing here, but change by artists is absorbed on different levels and at different rates. Rather more individual beginnings than group shifts. Although the groups and the categories come later.

I mentioned Laura Shapiro’s book Something From The Oven in my last post; if you haven’t read it she describes very wittily how woman’s roles in the 50’s were morphed post war into a new era of perceived domesticity and bliss.


Laura Shapiro's book

The *advert* had a lot to do with selling the idea and the products that drove it. A prosperous new era for all, and certainly for production and the economy. If you take the art of the era and juxtapose the general vibe of the times, the artistic shift, gender specific or not sort of shows its own pattern.


1950’s advert: a post war progression, graphic and embracing tv/cinematic style mini-ad


50's advert


1950’s artists;  a progression from earlier artists, but in general a desire not to be literal with the image

De kooning - woman
Willem De Kooning: Woman

Barnett Newman

Barnett Newman: Zip

Jackson Pollock: No 5

Bridget Riley 1961 movement in squares
Bridget Riley: Movement in Squares, 1961, a shift again as Pop and Op art brimmed over with geometrical and semi-literal images of industrial and consumerist culture.

I had to search hard to find women artists (there were, of course) but with the popular artists, the ratio here is not quite right, probably more on the lines of 7:1 if that.


Categorising has always been a useful way of joining-up social ideas and wider constructs to form ways of understanding and also popular ways of doing. Not social engineering as such but how policies can shape peoples thinking about certain areas of their lives. Such as the domestic bliss of the 50’s linking to consumerism, different ways of approaching wants and needs; literally buying into the lifestyle, including the domesticity needed to go with it. And art reflecting that.

Fay Weldon of  She Devil fame, came out with a remark in The Observer recently, also relating to women and their *position* in society;

“Marriage, according to Weldon, is often a commercial exchange in which a woman swaps “services of a domestic and sexual nature” in return for her keep. “I married for love because I could afford to. As soon as you can keep yourself, you can afford to love.”

Fay has made mucho money and got herself in the position to enable her to do this. And as a female and a writer she is no less vulnerable to the whims of changing society than any other artist.


I think many artists – have a slightly different agenda though when it comes to being self supporting ie; the oh-so-important day job!.

But as far as women being solely reliant on someone to earn for them while they have children, for example, or through choice or lack of choice – illness or similar. I don’t think this is particularly gender specific apart from the physicality of bearing children. I guess people have wrestled with this one for years – to be reliant on someone is or can be a damaging position for some – for others it is their redemption and works. But values and traditions have usually tried to *encourage* women to rely on someone even if they are seemingly having it all by working, juggling, and running round like headless chickens in doing so.

And according to Catherine Bennett in the Guardian this week, after the election results came in. The pecking order of attention that our policy makers hold dear appears to be somewhat like this;

“With their working wives, but no female colleagues, neither Cameron nor Clegg did better. Judging by the last few weeks, the political consensus on female respectability places elegant wives and mothers in the first rank, followed by nurses (also known as “angels”), horny-handed “mums”, caring grandmothers, cancer victims (treated to a special Labour scare story), single women with children, followed by childless single women who cannot be bribed with tax credits, women politicians and, lastly, the widow, mum of two and former prime minister, Baroness Thatcher. Thanks to Labour’s vision of a women-free public life, reinforced by both rival parties, it should be generations before her freakish achievement is ever approached, let alone repeated.”

Stereo-type categories may benefit our understanding of society but choice is the main component. It frees us from those categories that can so easily be manoeuvred by policies and public opinion into places where many feel they have no choice but to be in them.

I do like the idea though that Fay was getting across – that a woman, artist or no, should not swap an idea of love for an exchange of monetized reciprocation.

I also think that in general women and women artists have had dogma stacked against them for a long time including bad press for the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies, a lot was also tied in with liberal and left of centre thinking which also fanned the flames of the counter-press. Along with wider *femininity* issues being given equal dogmatic resistance from women as well men.

Sometimes I wondered if a lot of it wasn’t just old fashioned jealousy, never mind the element of control.

But all in all I liked the sentiment that Sam Taylor-Wood (who also must have given up the day job by now)…. came out with on all the shock-horror press she received on hitching up with Aaron Johnson.

In a recent interview, she criticised the attention paid to the age gap in her relationship with Johnson, saying that men with much younger female partners did not receive the same treatment.

“How come no one says anything about that? It’s totally sexist,” she said. “I try to ignore it. In my life I’ve never really listened when people start forming opinions on how you should be doing things.”

Categories, categories …. choice and change eh!.

And on the lines of change and categories and artist Jen Dalton also had an interesting view, talking about ethics in art.21blog, suggesting art has its own category agenda:

Jennifer Dalton, who co-curated the recent #class exhibition with Powhida, pointed out, “The art world is not such a tolerant place.” She continued, “We don’t like conservatives, even socially-liberal-fiscally-conservative ones . . . . Our commitment to free expression is limited to the types of ‘transgressions’ we are all entirely comfortable with.”

AND !!

NB; Escape From New York…..

The exhibition Escape From New York (which also involves Jen Dalton, William Powhida, Man Bartlett and An Xiao from the #class project) is about to start this Saturday 15th May;

I know I posted the link about a month ago but Art Fag City has also updated the event and shows the specifics of what looks like being really good event (wish I could get on a plane and wizz myself over there!).





Back with more on Sunday…..

Shed Loads of Space


As a child I used to play in the garden shed whether or not the weather was inclement. It was full of stuff like hammers, and chisels, saws, even wooden fencing – I had to negotiate my way round these things and had cleared a space for me to sit at an old table, that must have been my first idea of a studio. I used to sit and paint, and read comics and dream, and make up games to play with other friends who would come round.



I guess it was in a way, also my first and only gallery. One spring day way back, after a recent spate of particularly good painting sessions (I thought they were!) I put up a notice on the front gate saying “This way to the exhibition at number 11 Gallery” (our house number). I chalked arrows down the garden path toward the shed and arranged mums old wooden clothes ‘horse’, a gatefold style thing that allowed me to peg my paintings in an outdoor extension of the exhibition by the shed door, where I had also strategically placed a bowl of freebie sweets bought with my pocket money .

Mum didn’t know, and the first recognition of anything that was going on was when neighbours started going past the kitchen door down to the bottom of the garden. I had roaring traffic all day and actually sold about 40%, although they were sold at a snip and I did accept a few toffee bars as collateral as well.

If only it was that simple – well perhaps it is?. After the #class last month a couple of people involved with it also set up a discussion about studio space – affordable space, makeshift ones – ideas people have thought up to get round the problem of extra rented space. And studios surely can double as exhibit space sometime, if, for example it is shared and there is enough room.

Affordable and realistic studio space still needs thought though, this is one area where other people’s experiences and adaptations can add to the mix – the people who set up the twitter discussion about affordable studio space, had some pretty interesting suggestions ranging from caravans, converted trailers, mini prefabs to, I think, a bus!…….It does seem a bit like horses for courses though, if you’re work has the potential to fill an aircraft hangar – then it’s that or compromise.

Silk mill

The exhibition space some of the NY #class artists along with other artists, are renting en-mass for a group exhibition called Escape from New York next month in a old silk mill over the river in New Jersey. They also have a similar idea, in as much as creating their own space to show.

There’s nothing wrong with galleries but for the sake of argument, I have a feeling there are far more works of art than actual gallery space, never mind the demographics of galleries clustering together in big cities. I am not going to delve into the area of good art and bad art for now, nor market forces and gallery tastes. But the fact is simple; so much art never sees the light of day, for even if the artist finds space to get messy or whatever, and can afford it, the other hurdle is finding space to show and hopefully to sell. Now, the NY exhibition looks as though it won’t fail in attracting people, dealers or buyers judging by the response many of the artists are already receiving about their work in the well-renowned-art-city.

Berlin’s art quarter and its almost inevitable morph after the Wall fell, into the bourgeois-boho arty district of recent times, shouldn’t really be sniffed at either. People are interested in paying money for works, it’s just the fact the few artists who are reaping the benefits of this interest, or should I say, being paid for their work instead of someone wanting their services for free, are overshadowing the many who are not.

So that’s Darwinism in action for you, you may say. But the property and rent also took a hike, creating a no-win situation, the collective creative vibe, if you like was whittled down to a few revered artists who were patronised by buyers and so could afford to stay – sort of ghettoising themselves in the process.


Auguststrasse, this was an artist squat circa ’92

Auguststrasse 4 was squat '92

Auguststrasse 1

Auguststrasse ballroom cafe
The Ballroom Cafe houses among other things dance and performance art


There were some letters discovered recently written by Frances Bacon to his Dealer when he was starting out, constantly asking for advances and relating to real no food on the table problems, never mind affording his paint and materials (ok he had a gambling habit also) but it’s not a new concept. Eventually he made, or his works were sold for thousands; a wealthy man in his twilight years (quite lucky then!) some don’t get recognised till pushing up daisies. But writers are the same, affording the time to write before a book is sold, advances are not willingly given especially these days. Everybody wants their money up front.


I was lucky, as a child in my shed with plenty of time outside school hours to paint, my parents bought me my paints, and well – I was at quite an elementary stage – watercolours and rough brushes etc., the paper was fairly basic. I was also lucky to have a garden and shed to go to – I don’t have outside space like that now, living in the city centre, outside space is a premium but I have my garage with a sink, yup! that’s my artist’s studio!, but it does the job for what I am doing at the moment and I have a study with good light, so I’m certainly not complaining.

Any idea or initiative though, that is enabling for someone to carry out their work and facilitate the showing of it, has to get the thumbs up from me.


The Arts Council in the UK are apparently digitalising all of the collection that they have accumulated over the years, which are stored in warehouses waiting to have light of day when galleries send in a request. Only a small percentage get exhibition time, and the arts council believe by digitalising and grouping the works in an online gallery, this will not only show potentially hidden works but also generate the demand to be seen in real life.

I think this seems a really sound move, and really do think online virtual art has a place to offer the dilemma of where to show and what to do with it, storage isn’t the problem but viewing is.

If a sprawling thing like the Arts Council can get its act together online with all that work. Then it can’t be past some artists and groups and organisations to do a similar project.


There are things like Galleries Online that provide a service for free for the art community to join, there is a 15% commission if a buyer uses the insurance for them mediating in a 10 day acceptance period and release of money. But the buyer can choose to wave that fee and deal direct with the artist.

This though, even with the artist’s forum and blogs, gallery events, listings and additional connections, seems to be effectively a one-stop art shop albeit run by artists. It houses a lot of unrelated works (all categorised into groups like wildlife, sea, abstract, digital etc.,) and for me is a bit like a trawl round TK Maxx; a bit overwhelming with the sheer quantity. I’m not knocking it – it’s a really good site and venture, but for me it’s a bit like a needle in a haystack time.


I do like the idea of these virtual galleries. And even more the idea of the work already being partially curated  (even if in a virtual site-specific place). In the way the works are juxtaposed, showing potential for group exhibitions. So that real life gallery owners wouldn’t have to fully curate, apparently this is a big draw for some galleries especially after a heavy run or season of exhibitions.

The artists already having acquainted themselves with each other’s work and a group exhibition almost seamless in waiting, it has to be a plus point from a real gallery’s point of view. 3D also seems to be the way to go, for sculptural as well as ‘flat’ surface images, not 3D interactive that is extremely ambitious and probably not necessary for online art-viewing (unless already interactive art). It will never replace the real thing but it is a sure way to generate group images for a convenient screen view with comparatively few overheads.

I’m keen on this idea and would certainly give it a go – the software for 3d is there – I think it will be a while though, before a curated self contained and maintained virtual site, with adequately reproduced and 3d built graphics will be within my miniscule techno brain’s sight, but once I get an idea going I tend to stick with it.

I would be interested to see how other artists first relate to each other’s work – that might be the start – when things click on that level. A basic, introduction style, 3D website with a sister site housing curated results….. hmmmmm

Artist seeking similar…….must have GSOH!

Cupid heart

Back on Sunday……..

Hard Facts and Ambiguous Spaces


(some ideas from #class)


Ok I’m bashing an idea out here; its still on the lines of how #class or similar can further forward the momentum and positive discussion outcomes achieved over what must have been an intense month of organising and doing – so whatever I’m writing here are ideas in motion – ideas maybe to think about and see if they could be updated or adapted and ….well, read on…. like I said not set in stone…..

Artist dilemmas.

I’m an artist;

Please don’t tell me that I have to say exactly what I am going to do before I have done it. You see I want the artistic freedom to create from moment to moment. And so on-etc., etc., along with various other arty anomalies that have echoed around studios, galleries and schools on and off since, well, since art became something other than a paid creative job in the renaissance, or church echelons of medieval and Greek times.


The thinker

Freedom to Create;

Got no time, and no money….


And another side to that story…..


Jennifer Dalton mentioned in this interview the other day on one of the positive changes mentioned in #class; “Advocate for artists to get paid fairly for their work, both at the gallery level (this may mean contracts!) and at the museum and non-profit level (asking for exhibition fees when often there are none in the budget).”


Art can be very ambiguous, in-flux, controlled or whatever but the nature of art is for it to express itself. So the point raised here about individual contracts falls into the need, I agree for artists in general to be more organised on that level; a contract means there are no ambiguities and therefore reduces the sometimes half-truths or misunderstandings that may occur (on either side) on completion of the work and the transaction.

And at the other end of the scale….

I mentioned before Chris Offili expressing his very real unease in having to don his artist-in-front-of-the-art-media hat as opposed to his Man U supporting artist at home hat, causing him problems in actually doing and growing with his work because of market and media pressures to perform differently.


Stuckists chris ofilli

A very cruel portrayal of the artist’s dilemma portrayed by Mark D of Nottingham Stuckists


Schools of Thought.

Groups, Schools and Organisations part 1;

Hard facts

I came across this book recently called Hard Facts (Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense). Which as part of a much wider topic addresses a fact that many businesses which have hitherto used a command and control management, keeping-the-workforce-in-check-model are, seemingly failing with the false work-hat and home-hat personas that they encourage their workforce to adopt; not only does it apparently induce over the top in-fighting within these companies but it is also failing to address the general shift to a more open; this is who I am, not a who you think I am, attitude among many workers these days – they are just themselves, they mix, they socialise, they interweb with each other – and it is changing.

The book also points to business’s like the US South West Airlines, who are more inclusive of their staff. John Lewis in the UK with their staff as partners and their shared profits also springs to mind. But more than that, the general  jekle and hydeness of these tight control formats. For example if you were to suggest in a family setting that your brothers and sisters were your competitors ( I know it happens) but  it’s not generally a bench mark for sibling rivalry instilled by the parents, and  further, if you were to organise say, a family event and extended family members were involved, the general gist would be to let each family member do their bit without checking up on them to see that they were pulling their weight (I said general gist!).


But essentially a group effort for the good of the group, rather than a leader controlling check up to ensure no one was slacking, causing rivalry.

This I think exudes outwardly from businesses, showing a similar sense of that kind of competitiveness towards other business and so on.

Stressful aswell? possibly

The book does point out that a few businesses or organisations do well with competitiveness encouraged; like the military. But the service industry is a glaring example of not.

Groups, Schools and Organisations part 2;

Finance was one of the areas I didn’t address when I was bandying on about the Steiner style approach to schools, but they do have an inclusive attitude toward funding finance, and a sliding scale contract which each parent in the UK anyway, sign up to (in Holland or other countries where Steiner receives state funding it is different). They ask you to pay as much as you can afford – there is a top level income that determines whether you pay the full set fee per term, anything under that and it is pro-rata and below a certain level, ie; benefit income, you pay small a token fee.

But no grading anywhere else; you pay what you can afford and everybody receives the same education or service.

So people still feel, as much as possible that they are contributing fairly and for the good of the whole objective (which includes their child’s education – so also prime motivator to be involved).


typical kindergarten circle


Groups, Schools and Organisations Part 3;

Back to 1997 and Mojacar Southern Spain.


A good friend of mine Tim, was at the time an artist of no fixed abode or institution – a free spirit, he eventually went on to study and take up a place lecturing at Norwich University College of The Arts. At the time I met him though, he was in his 20’s, sleeping in his car and/or on the beach and he wasn’t quite in the mood for entertaining an arts degree. This was still at a time in Mojacar and Southern Spain’s recent history that had attracted a lot of musicians, artists, film makers to the region from the 50’s Beats and the 60’s hippies onwards. An obvious bohemian atmosphere still prevailed as late as 97.

It was around then that Tim mentioned a local artist residency. Set up in 1989 in a converted mill, the idea being to allow artists to stay for a nominal fee, provided they communally cooked and basically helped out, while at the same time having a relatively uninterrupted space to create. A while ago I came across the same residency on the web and they have now joined the arts residency organisation ResArtis. Which also started out similarly in Greece with a Dutch guy who, on meeting people from other cities and residencies, decided it would be good to host group meetings at each other’s places in order to create a network and framework for better residency organisation.


Fundacion valpraiso
Fundacion Valparaiso


Looking at their membership mandate and fees structure, it seems to be aimed at providing a service for individual groups or organisations (governmental grant based or non) to link up and share information, experience and generally aiding a more professionally linked up outlook while at the same time retaining the principal of providing internationally (and with that, socially, politically, and religiously diverse) linked up communal spaces for artists to engage with their work for a number of weeks. As well as their web site community they encourage members to visit diverse destination General Meetings to further experience and contribute face to face with the group; provided, I assume you can afford the travel costs!. But I’m guessing with its organisation-to-help-other-organisation structure, the benefit works both ways (so that is their prime motivator for people to become involved).

The potential for some sort of fairly-run-for-the-good-of-the-whole idea for #class and things like it could work.

Zac Cohen mentioned in a recent blog post on the subject – taking small steps.


Not necessarily an organised group but maybe a framework of intent.

So clearer interactions can also take place in the wider art community with less of the ambiguity which sometimes hangs around artists like a misplaced hippy-esque, post-victorian mist.


Going to put this one down for a while and let it do its thing – Back to more stuff on  Wednesday!

In With The In Crowd

(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….


Sheep and Wolves plus #class +



I was looking at the Gaping Void‘s shiny new site and noticed his drawing of the Wolf, with the text rendering the idea; think carefully before you decide to be a sheep or a wolf – you can never be lonely as a sheep but you can (stick your head above the parapet) and be a very lonely wolf.


And as a reflection of this hashtag month was prompted, by it has to be said those real stalwarts of the event, Jennifer and William, this particular cartoon came to mind.


I did email Mr Void (MacCloud) to ask if ok to use the image, but hopefully this will suffice.



All through the last months to-ings and fro-ings I had noticed the lack of lonely stances. Yes, people agreed to disagree but I believed this was a good thing because it represented, for me, a more rounded debate that was neither sheep led nor had lonely wolves on the peripheries. If anything the debate itself was sticking its head above the parapet inviting disparate sections of the art market and art world to engage.

At first glance as the project’s early discussions streamed from the blog I picked up on the energy that was coming over. So with eyelids sometimes drooping (the UK/US clock thing) I determinedly boarded the train that was to become hashtag class.

This evolved into a rich, sometimes strident, sometimes resolute, but more often than not insightful rapport into the investment of the future of art. It was definitely more than the sum of its parts. And with those kinds of maths, exponential may well be a word to describe the (inevitable) growth of what seems to be a fresh approach to thinking and doing the business of art.

I’m up for it.

First off for me; thinking of ways locally and through local art groups, schools and social media to bring people to the table with this (and ongoing?) #class project(s) as a central reference point. To try and expel, or at least discuss the mind set of us and them.

But I also had a reflection of my own from an experience a few years ago when an ongoing discussion group was set up at the Design and Textile Museum (London) to address organic and fair trade cotton products and the fashion industry as a whole. Though not the same as the hashtag class maybe has some sort of relevance.

Apart from the bigwig designers and groups for and against (action for this, and action for that), one of the groups that became most involved were the fashion education people (and surprisingly, Central St Martin’s and London College of Art who, I thought at the time wouldn’t want to rock their high ranking safe-status by projecting ethically sound students onto a reluctant industry).

But they found that area ripe for their students who, on leaving college would find, with the best will in the world, the practicalities of setting up with this kind of ethos in mind almost impossible as the infrastructure; lack of factories producing, and guarantees of the process from beginning to end being totally organic and fair trade was just not there.

The designers who got involved in that project were Katherine Hamnett (who had sold off her existing business, bought and set up a farm and factory in India to guarantee the process from beginning to end) and Roland Mouret, who hadn’t : ) and all credit to him for engaging on that basis alone.

But more than anything it was so good how the fashion colleges really took to the debate.



Here’s an extract from the ecologist magazine in 2008

The future of fashion lies in the hands of the next generation of industry players: fashion and textiles students. Increasingly, undergrad and postgrad courses across the board, from Textiles Design to Retail Buying to Fashion Marketing, are tackling ethical and environmental issues, and more students are incorporating these into their work.

Fashioning an Ethical Industry (FEI), a Labour Behind the Label project, has compiled a database of eco/ethical elements in fashion courses in the UK: visit
Courses with ethics and sustainability at their core:

• MA Design for Textile Futures , Central Saint Martins
• BA (Textiles) Design & Technology Management, University of Leeds
• MA Ethical Fashion, University College for the Creative Arts (Epsom)
• The Textile Environment Design (TED) project, Chelsea College of
Art and Design. A collective of eco-principled designers/educators.
• New: MA Fashion and Environment, London College of Fashion
(will be proposed for validation in 2008)
• London College of Fashion is founding the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF), scheduled to launch in April 2008, to promote sustainability across the entire fashion sector supply chain.

A non for profit organisation originally focused in London, this debate has been taken around the UK with European Union backing.

Its fashion; no it’s not the same as art, and it has as a fairly substantially backed but fledgling not for profit organisation had to well and truly stick its head above the parapet in the face of a very defensive fashion industry – equally defensive with the recession.

But the idea, that an idea or change in mind set can be agreed and reached through debates, shows I think, that the old guard force feeding of ideas and ideologies doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Art needs to make friends;

Show an idea to work while including people (no mean feat!), debate it and the rest will follow.

Wednesday’s post…..haste……

Wide Open Space (plus more on Hashtag)

Plus Briefly Back to Hashtag Class: Market U


I will touch on this part of the hashtag event diary as it bears a lot of resemblance to things that were going on during the project and now.


Wide Open Space part 1

Market U

I started listening to this via an audio recording I made, which I then realised was art-theatre. It came over subsequently as though I was listening to a Radio 4 spoof play. Which I guess is how it would have come across live in the gallery.

The idea was that the institution of ‘U’ aka (I think) any art university of reasonably renowned merit with all the stereo type baggage that comes with that kind of power structure: including the patronage of the famous, the rich, the inbred hangers-on and the cogs in the machine that keep it running for the benefit of itself and the good of it’s product: education.

Market U sounded like a really satirical look at this and how, even the art produced is manipulated so it can be perceived as it should; for the successful reputation of the institution. All this completed with a very politically correct Student Loan Forgiveness Goddess encouraging those with the biggest debt to play a game of lottery/roulette.

Sounds familiar anyone? I left my BA with just such feelings, like I had to get away from the institution in order to breathe. I did learn to weld though, and glass blow, and certainly made very good friends including staff, some of whom clearly saw the system at the time was not ideal, and if I look at uni from a devils advocate stance I did learn about it from that point of view, so my apprenticeship was not in vain. Bitter, no but I am glad I did this at a time in my life when I could fund myself through the circus.



Wide Open Space part 2

Which brings me to a couple of things that were also happening while the hashtag project was taking place. William Powhida was an unfamiliar name to me until about 6 weeks ago, a week into getting involved I noticed he had done what I thought was a fairly funny and also satirical drawing of another established power structure, with The New Museum Committed Suicide With Banality featuring prominent figures of the New York art scene. I looked further and found he had done another referencing the Art Basle Fair on Miami beach as a hooverville: showing the flashy established art fair scenario in the style of the doomed shanty town of hooverville originally depicted very satirically during the 30’s depression (only in this one Powhida showed caricatures of real art world ‘dignitaries’ carrying on as though nothing had happened ).


I recommend you go to William’s blog to get a better idea of what he intended

Now being a geographical outsider if you like I was, and still am fairly naive about the in and outs, the who’s who and the general politics of it all, but one thing I can see is as power structures go, they can begin to be insular and not open to levelled debate. Some of the empowered tend to get very defensive of their turf. You see it (unfortunately) in Unions, Government bodies, Public service bodies and no doubt the free and speculative Art Market is no exception.

As the hashtag events took shape so also did the Powhida drawing furore, to which it (the hooverville drawing) very timely produced another equally self evident affront by those depicted, during the final week of the project.

I believe the people who got riled at this saw it as either a personal attack. Or as an attack on their personal resuscitating efforts of an art machine that had hitherto high returns on the ‘normal’ art sales of previous years. One journalist or contributor to an art magazine took real offence and seemingly offered a violent response through a facebook page. One only hopes he gets his sense of humour back or he was ‘acting’ out a response.

Isn’t that just what we need though? It is not about us and them, its dammed healthy to have debate and not to take yourself so seriously (as in the really angry journo’s case). It’s a drawing! and whether it’s the art market or not the sensitivity to something like this smacks of power freaks, at best people with their head in the sand. We can satirise people yes? and no its not comfortable to be on the receiving end, but like comedy we’ve been here before, the drawings I believe are about an established business or market not personal vindication, even if personalities are involved. Bit like the Royal Family and even they have had to let go of the watertight grip on their public persona.

While he (Powhida) is very subtly making art a point, is at the same time drawing out the real fat controllers from their lairs, they really only have themselves to recognise and answer to.

Here’s a Piece sent out in December when the drawing first emerged a comprehensive article of the furore featured  in the New York Times.


William Powhida’s blog also gives an up to date reference from the artists point of view

Which in turn brings me to…..

Wide Open Space part 3

I’ve been humming the Mansun’s 90’s tune, while wandering round Nottingham thinking about the call to arms for help to get exhibition space bought collectively by among others Jen Dalton,  William and Man Bartlett called Escape from New York. They are planning on buying space in a building that is over the river out of the city so they can travel relatively easily (I guess – considering how big NY is) and I assume not alienate themselves by still being in the proximity rather than moving right outside of town: they  are looking at a building in spacious New Jersey. I was trying to get my head around a building that has space for rent in (rich?) New Jersey that a group of artists can afford?. I am though totally with them on that. The fact that with so many artists involved they can exhibit essentially from their own framework and agenda. With the added ongoing potential of the space being used for art, seems a sound way to go.


Silk mill

Exhibition and studio space is so much part of the problem (and this looks like a good way to solve): the fact that city studio space is pitched to fail as land and property is premium and artists are not usually able to take out a second rent bill as they have enough dealing with home rent.

I mentioned before about the very fetching  5th floor no-lift-space, I and other artists shared and rented (along with leaky roof and a family of pigeons) 12 years ago. This was bang smack in the middle of the club/music/fashion area of Hockley before it was redeveloped, forcing us to ‘disband’, relocate and basically find somewhere out of town. The beauty of the Hockley space was we were able to drag potential business from a few streets away into the space. We all lived in various places in an around Nottingham then, so we never found that central space again.

So I’m thinking and musing about this, and how these sorts of approach can be used in different ways.

* update : Happy to say Nottingham has re-invented itself in the wake of Nottingham Contemporary – with a hive activity in artist and artist run spaces in and around the city circa 2016 ! 


U Stream I Stream The (not so?) Final Hashtag Rant


The Not So Final Hashtag Night (please!)



That was a very special month and it wouldn’t have happened without Jen Dalton and William Pohwida’s foresight and certainly not least for Ed Winkleman’s. There was a point midway when I saw some on-line-joke to Ed ‘how to run a successful New York gallery into the ground – give it to Jen and William for a month!’.


Well, the project certainly broke many moulds, and now as all has been tidied away and the walls are bare of chalkboards ready to be graced by art after the constant etching of views and sentiments during the previous month, it can’t have done the Winkleman gallery any harm. In fact while the whole project was a virtual freebie from Ed, and his business was effectively on hold the fact that the whole premise of the events were essentially only about art and not product was a breath of fresh air in these days of discussions and media articles based around so and so’s new book launch or film or whatever.


I explained to a friend that I wouldn’t be able to go to a local award do, and my nights from Wednesday to Sunday suddenly became proper stay at home, because there were so many interesting events keeping me pinned to the computer (note to me; 3G/wireless phone on wish list) with sometimes not just a cup of tea to hand but matchsticks to keep my eyes open (Oh to have been in New York time) well New York actually, but I’m not complaining because a 1 in the morning finish isn’t that bad.


But sometimes with 3×2 hour stints in one day I was glad I had some recorded because I just wouldn’t have been able to have taken it all in.


I guess Jen & co. are really up to speed on that one because they seemed to breeze through very energetically. In fact that is what I felt right through – a vibrant energy – so much so when the final stream was switched off, I felt a sharp umbilical kind of wrench, a definite ’now what’ feeling which was thankfully quickly followed by lots of ideas and what-I-was-going-to-do-next.

The final Rant night was exactly that no slushy goodbyes or luvvie tear jerking moments – just full on rant (I now think I understand the term angry New Yorker) and this was a bunch of artists here! not that there was animosity but it was certainly animated, full on and humorous.


So, I will return to many of the discussions soon, but for now I will leave you with a cross section of the vibe of the last four weeks in one-liners:


On Labor Class (a talk about workers who help fabricate pieces of sculptural art in a foundry):

“Some workers didn’t think about what they were making as art. It was just stuff for rich people”

“That’s very sad – The fabricators were never told when the openings were, for the pieces they made”

On why The System Doesn’t Work:

“Problem: even top artists struggle to make money. In other industries, this is not common”

“Artists do power & maybe it can be leveraged in ways other than increasing their sale prices”

“We in the art world are somewhat responsible for inaccessibility of the art world”

“Problem: all the money is concentrated at the top. Pyramid has a very large base”

“There is a lot of bitching going on. That’s what you get when there are no guidelines to payment requirements”

“Could have called the project sour grapes or life isn’t fair, but we didn’t. Keep coming back to payment for art labour”

“If you haven’t broken by age 30, wait till you’re 60 – what does that mean?, stop showing stop promoting, stop dreaming?”

“Fundamental misperceptions in tonight’s discussion: 1 making art is parallel to putting out fires”

“Artists have MORE fucking power than ANYONE in the system: sites Jasper Johns”

“Artists are living a dream. There is a choice here”

On Man Bartlett’s imminent Balloon bursting:

“Balloon cave YES!”

“Starting to realize that the combination of ustream, twitter and Man Bartlett is shifting the possibilities of performance art”

“I want to buy the balloon project, install it in the MMFA but you have to insure that they wont deflate over time”

“Yes! Getting closer and closer! It’s going to be LOUD on the feed”

“Jerry Saltz is helping pop the balloons”

“Watching Man Bartlett and The Happy Gallerina makes me wonder why like events don’t happen anywhere else in the country?”

“Save the balloon scraps. They are a historical record”

“Yey! Awsome!”

“That was a strange and cathartic afternoon”

“Between your pumping (balloons over 24 hours) and Jen’s chair dragging it’s been great!”

Balloons film of film

On Zachary Cohen’s talk on Social Media as Flattening Agent:

“its more important to me to have 10% of something than 100% of nothing”

“Establish trust in the Art world by “suiting up” and showing up”

“Trust, so long as everyone is who they say they are, social media is good for business and art. Transparency”

On Various topics:

“And I quote: Sorry. We couldn’t decide”

“Being authentic means having a point of view, while recognising that your truth is not THE truth, leaving room for others to speak”

“A wise man once said an uneducated man makes a great painter because he tackles art with a fresh mind?”

And on the Final Rant:

“My rant is that this (project) will be over way too soon!”

“Make Better Art!”

“Art is not a luxury. You just don’t realize you consume it every day and need it to survive”

“We need to adopt the apprenticeship method again and bypass the university completely!!”

“MFA = Mistress of Fuck All”

“Some people couldn’t paint if their lives depended on it – it’s not in their blood they pretend and its really wallpaper!”

“I have been saying from the beginning…guilds, unions, work as a tribe…and allow disagreement”

( One participant on explaining her frustration as an older woman still not having made any dint/money etc in the art world expressed; “In fact I am SO pissed off I’m going to break into an aria” at which point she broke into a pitch perfect rendition of the final scene in Tosca (I think) saying “And we all know how that ends!”

“You are lucky! You’re artists living in New York and living the dream!”

“Get a part time job!”

“Just bumped into Jerry and Roberta walking arm in arm on tenth avenue. So cute. After the storm (hashtag project) back to normal life”

“Art needs to make friends”

: )

Winkleman gallery

Back on Wednesday …..