The Event Talks: Live blog #theevent09

The Event Talks

Saturday 7 November, 2-5pm at Eastside Projects

This is a programme of talks looking at the role of the artist led festival within contemporary arts practice. Hashbrum went along to liveblog the event.

Speakers include:

Katy Woods (Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum)
Milika Muritu (Cell Project Space)
Chris Brown (a-n and g39)
Chaired by Adam Sutherland (Grizedale Arts)


Chair: artists think they need to be within formal spaces – but that it not the case.

Milika: in London there has been a great commercial stage, but the challenge is finding ways to get the message out there.
The economics have changed and people just can’t set up any more

Chair: look for new ways of working. There are always new ways of working.

Q in a provincial town its really important to have a fixed location. You need to build a community and a social scene about openings.

Chair: the problem is, you develop a scene, get attention, it is then assimilated. Be conscious of what might happen
Glasgow: always intended to get a scene


Q: Cov not far from Brum. Artists don’t move around much. Funding opportunities are there, group together with artists from other areas. Ignore the official geographical boundaries. We will travel more.
Artists almost have to be shown away from home before they can have success at home.
We should learn from each other
on regen: agree and disagree. Its a top down thing: regen agencies use the model in a different way
We need to see good examples and use them in our own way.

Q: Even without splitting the areas up, there are walls, Cov is insular.
Q: Universities compete. Councils compete. Try to move across council borders to mix things up.

Q: Bham has got its eyes open to regen opportunities and to use them in our favour. Some organisations are used by regeneration projects and can become stale


Q : comment: as a new graduate, been wondering about the studio system. In Cov people are trying but I am in the void/the gap. how can I operate creatively there
Should I move?
How can it become more than a cultural death spot
There are some great students on the course, there is a need to keep talent /artists in the city

Milika: some people use the void to their advantage. Look for something that can feasibly work
The idea of a room above a shop.

From the floor: tap into a wider support network. The artists led scene is based on small funding, and favours

Q: Unis don’t do enough to support artists
Outside institution but also outside the system

Milika: be entrepreneurial. once you’ve got something to talk about

Katy: the situation can evolve over time. Respond to something that is happening
Maybe that would be starting something in Coventry

Milika: in London because it was so big, the arts scene broke up into small exciting areas
Glasgow: there are factors there where the arts scene works, the more gaps the better.


Q: there is a gap – curators, artists look at what they can exploit. If they live in their area they will benefit if the area explodes
Artists move in for a cultural opportunity.
The council are doing deals with developers – develop, but bring art in with you

we have to be careful not to fall into the arts for arts sake situation
If you go that extra mile to meet the expectation of the non-practitioner then that is a risk
The idea that art has function, and no function, at the same time.

Chris: If you can negotiate your way into getting your own way – creating work on your own terms and meet the needs of the audience, it will strike a chord.


Point from the floor

Art encourages people, they need things so shops crop up, then more accommodation

Q: there doesn’t seem to be any value in the argument. Chelsea New York, Hoxton Sq, there is so much evidence – and it is so useful to use these. You can see it happening.

A: these huge shopping centres are built – but they think if there are cafes in there, it emulates the artists cafe culture. But the organic stuff does happen

Chris: I wanted to not let art slip back into this instrumental use. They shouldn’t compromise what they do.

Mlika: you can accuse artists of being complacent and enjoying success, but to an outsider they look like developers.
When artists move in, some become successful commercially, others become part of development that looked so unobtainable

Adam: Birmingham regen agency is trying to replicate the organic growth that has been seen in other areas.
No artists are thinking commercially

A lot of developments are not coming developers, they are encouraged by Govt policy
they bring artists into that to encourage development


Positive examples where it has happened

Hoxton Square
(also St Ives)

Hoxton Sq Example: A transient community of artists has attracted a much stronger permanent community of artists

Should we have a culture heavy development or should we be aiming for a more balanced approach?


He claims that there is a gap in evidence between arts and regeneration

How are benefits achieved?
They can be brought about by other means

He is not saying there isn’t a link, but that there isn’t the evidence


A video project called Pixel – 60 second silent films projected onto screen in the high street

not convinced that the activity that we do has any affect on regenerative properties in Cardiff
Looking at more recent writing:
New Flow Tim Joss – available online


Lottery FUnding: the emphasis had to had civicity at the forefront
It changed how they rationalised their project
They also had an outreach officer – which brought another aspect to their programme
Working with the wider community
Chris Evans (computer programmer turner artist)
Interactive light art on a pavement – with paddle game driven by people stepping on a screen


There is a debate about art and its regenerative properties

There are a few seminal documents that have played a part in this development

eg 1996 – Charles Landry – the Art of Regeneration

Art regeneration from an economic model
How cultural projects are playing an increasingly important role in regeneration

Michelle Reeves: “Measuring social and economic impact of the arts”

Taking arts in different directions
All these papers talk about art in an instrumental use, not in an intrinsic use


It was not a strategic route, but very hands on with peers
A collective ownership idea

they were relative newcomers to Cardiff so they had to build that from scratch
(easy to do as such a call for it)
Arts school, peers from respective colleges,

By the time they opened there was a sense of anticipation


Pre-G39 there were other artist led projects in the city and venues but there was no platform for the new and emerging artists to have a permanent base to develop and show new works

The Artists Project, The Pioneers

But there was a gap for newly graduated students

G39 started with that track


G39’s history

3 storey building in Cardiff
Right opposite: a huge commercial and shopping area
4 football pitches big, 0.5 million pound cost
It would be ludicrous for us to claim any kind of influence for this regeneration

It was a forgotten corner of Cardiff.

They were looking at the DIY ethic in London in mid 90s – which was starting to spread
Antony Shapland spent a period after he graduated working in East End and saw these artists sidestepping the traditional gallery system and moving into vacant premises on temporary basis

The building – at that point – was a shop and they started using the 2 top floors
It became an artists studio
The possibility was that it could use the London model and have it as a platform for generation of new artists


they think there are flaws with this

We need to make sure these arguments are cast iron before we start peddling this to urban planners, councils etc
We can’t rely on anecdotal evidence

There are a few other arguments that have used a similar position.
The idea that artists are perpetuating the economic model that puts them at the bottom of the pecking order


Presentation 3

Chris Brown (a-n and g39)

The idea of art and regeneration
An argument that artists keep using:
artists will move into a downbeat area and by their activity they will create a comminity
From that, other people are attracted
Eventually artists get displaced from that area via economics
Developers move in, have the money to use the space for more lucrative means
its to everyone’s benefit apart from the artists


Local councils have really latched onto this
Mandelson has brought out a community interest initiative to help companies grow organically
It recognises the limited company and what they bring to it

The best way to form a charity is to form it before its successful, its a nightmare to do it AFTER it is successful

IF you can get funding, great, but most people self organise with their own money.

By bringing artists from outside the UK and outside London they are gaining points for the Arts Council funding


They try to keep everything quite low budget in the way they present themselves
They don’t want the pseudo commercial route
They have developed their posters for every project which are collected by the Tate
They are so important now and they can;t stop doing it, even if they wanted to

The role of the artist run space in the recession
How things have changed and how the spaces became commercial some have gone under
It’s also to do with regeneration, and people wanting to live and work in these areas
The gentrification of these arts areas are desirable and expensive


They also like to give artists the chance to make specific work
It was called the Beginning of the World
A lot of artists run spaces have decided to go commercial and some have been v successful
They didn’t want to do that
The nature of project would have to change
They are more interested in working with, and developing, artists
There is a real need for that
How would you do that if you were in a commercial space in Bham?
The artist led initiative could lead how to become a commercial space in a provincial city
Take projects into Europe, try to do promotional things



Collaboration between N55 and Open Zoo
they made a myth about how they could grow 4 leaf clovers
It was about generic engineering and mythology


a doorway into the idea that there would be a space made by invited artists

Their programme was extending outside of the practice
A lots of arts organisations were looking at art in the public realm
They were looking at outside shows, the artists inner sanctum collaborating with each other


they curate the shows to create a communion with the artists
Its a response to the kind of space
A very DY attitude and aesthetics
The early shows (eg Easy Rider) a lot of artists were invited
There were a lot of artists creating new movements in art
They were invited to make a show about an action
It was a potters wheel in the shape of a motorbike
The idea of making art with this free will
The audience would make the art around the space
Artists would diagramatically explain how they made their pot


They got a large grant for a severely disabled artist for work
They can provide funding for shows through studios
They are having to make more studios to make more money but it means they are autonomous to choose what they fund
The market is more buoyant so more people are willing to become partners
A few law firms have worked alongside them
Because the are self financing, they are expected to create the partnerships and seek funding too


They got Arts Council funding to gut a building
(actually easier to get a large amount for a large project)

They wanted to compete with public spaces but wanted autonomy

They wanted to bridge the gap between arts school and being picked up for a curated show
A lot of artists were having to show regionally before they were considered for a public space
They also saw a lot of exciting things happening around the UK from this model in London

A lot of London artists are trying to make connections regionally


Bad Lady was the launch of the first venue
Bands and artists for the event (as there were studios)
It was bringing the community together but also a survival thing
Once they had taken on a big building, they had to tell people about
They had a big launch show, an agreement with landlord with lease

They offer artists to do something site specific, v little money but with the climate as it was, that was a luxury to work in a building for a couple of weeks
Enthusiasm was great


each building they took on, they learnt from the last
Eg Rates.
They admit they were naive at first, but eventually they got lawyers, and leases with get out clauses
If the landlord wants the building back, he has to prove he is going to redevelop it
They didn’t realise that taking on a property on a lease is almost like buying
You are expected to maintain it AND pay the rent

Funding: because there are so many public spaces it is hard to get find a way to apply for maintenance funding. You have to do it yourself
But that creates different things


If you take on the lease, you tend to get all the stuff with it
Landlords call it “sitting on an an investment”
You can cant keep a building empty any more
You have to pay rates or get tenants – which has helped a lot
It’s kick started regeneration activity


Presentation 2
Milika Muritu (Cell Project Space)

Interesting to look at how artists survive
They founded the space when East London still had a lot of empty warehouses
There was property to use and a lot of people looking at it as workspace
But it was either that, or get on a waiting list for studios
There was a limited amount of space
They found a floor of a building in Dalston
Every student is looking for somewhere to work.
For them it was a necessity


Presentation 2
Milika Muritu (Cell Project Space)

Interesting to look at how artists survive
They founded the space when East London still had a lot of empty warehouses
There was property to use and a lot of people looking at it as workspace
But it was either that, or get on a waiting list for studios
There was a limited amount of space
They found a floor of a building in Dalston
Every student is looking for somewhere to work.
For them it was a necessity


Bad Lady was the launch of the first venue
Bands and artists for the event (as there were studios)
It was bringing the community together but also a survival thing
Once they had taken on a big building, they had to tell people about
They had a big launch show, an agreement with landlord with lease


There were a lot of people doing the same thing
Some were taking on whole building, but also the idea of a salon space
It’s been a wave right across the world of DIY ethic to making an artspace.

Q why is it good to get contemporary art in a city?

A its good because otherwise there’d only been steel and football
Despite bad press a city needs contemporary art
Its also a great ad for the city


Q: How supportive are local council, arts council, local businesses etc

Arts Council yes
Council has never really supported it but have brokered relationships with other businesses for money
They don’t seem to get it
But that is just starting to happen now
Because it works, they don’t feel like they need to help


Q and A

Q Who is the festival aimed at? is it for the artists mainly?

A Because they are fringe activities, it is more about the artist than trying to promote
The way they capture the international art crowd it is a real opportunity to get your art out there
More about providing an opportunity for them
Artists tend to up their game for it


Sheffield Pavillion

The idea of portable art

The Book
10 artists at different career stages – given 4 pages each to do what they wanted

Sheffield Pavillion 2009

Scaf didn’t want to replicate the book – so they did a screening programme in Istanbul.
Inviting artists some of whom have never made films before
Some have done amazing jobs
Quite tricky to do but they used a hotel that was very international and central, which got a lot of attention

It can do a lot for artists and stretch their ambitions to take it somewhere else
It brings the international into Sheffield and taking artists out


final project included work – a total of 41 artists and 12 new commissions
asked to name an artists who they would like to see commissioned

They stick to the idea that there is no distinction between established and newer artists

Art sheffield 08

There was a more international perspective
Nomination process, artists were nominated the selected down on appropriatness
Notion of working and promoting, and never saying no to offers of work
Consider the alternatives when you interrupt that flow

Annaika Eriksson lit up a derelict building to give it some life
Winter Gardens: leaves project (had to be cleared)

Next one is Sheffield 10 6 MAr – 1 May


Katie Woods: Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum
Artistic programme coordinator
Involved in a number of activities
Not for profit company to further art in Sheffield

Joint marketing and audience development and opportunities for Artists

All work together to develop reputation from region, national, international

independent artists
representatives from venues

was born out what city was lacking

Artlink – 1st project in 2001

developing profile of Sheffield and getting people into things
8 grand was acquired – spent on marketing
had a bus to link the venues
real promotion exercise to give idea of a lot going on in sheffield

access it all really quickly

Art Sheffield 2003

took same starting point – temporary venues
not only promoting activity but also getting the press in (eg london reviewers)
local artists involved, ran for 4 weeks (so plenty of stuff happening)

Art Sheffield 05 – Spectator T

Gavin Wade proposed an a curatorial character for the event
started the idea of a co-curator

Gavin didn’t propose a theme but that character to be fictionalised
referenced art and language, audience A and B with different ways of spectating the art


The Event Talks

Eastside Projcts

Mona Casey: one of members of Bham contemporary arts forum
restarted in 2006 with aim of raising profile of artist activity in Bham

Better chance to promote activity together and getting greater visibility

2nd event (1st in 2007) and pleased so far

Adam Sutherland Prides Arts (chair)


we’ll look at the burgeoning scene here
where do you go? where next when developing this active group?

Let be something different and not ape London

Formal notion of the artist and the artist practice

lets discuss the different formats

Artist led
insitituion led