It has been a busy 2015, despite the big gap since my last post. In addition to a number of curatorial research strands I conducted learning evaluations for Gasworks Gallery, London, and Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, (in progress). Meanwhile I produced another annual review for the Sorrell Foundation on their National Art & Design Saturday Club and the new Science Engineering Club being piloted with Kingston University.
At the turn of the year I have embarked on a consultation and evaluation contract with the learning department at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, in an exciting associate collaboration with Amanda King.
Thanks to everyone I worked with this year and I look forward to projects with many of you in 2016.
I have been back in Istanbul this week visiting Ipek Duben and Iz Öztat, to continue my curatorial research funded by British Council and Arts Council England.
My main focus was to work with Ipek Duben, who is preparing for her exhibition at SALT Galata curated by Director Vasif Kortun. The multi-screen video installation, entitled ‘They’, represents a fascinating development in Ipek Duben’s long career and, realised in a substantial gallery space such as SALT Galata, it promises to be a landmark show for the artist.
As described in the exhibition publicity, They is a work…
…about how the majority of society in Turkey view those they consider as “others” and how these marginalized others perceive one another. The installation presents 24 people who come from a diversity of ethnic origins, belief systems, and sexual orientations. They appear on different screens and share their personal stories. Kurds, Alevis, Zazas, Rums, Armenians, Jews, Romanis, LGBT individuals, covered Muslim women, as well as women violated by their husbands, recount their experiences both to each other and at the same time to the audience. They discuss their attitudes, prejudices and preconceptions as if at a roundtable where their views come together in unison.
How arts institutions reflect cultural diversity in their programmes and policies was the subject of a talk I attended on Tuesday at Istanbul Modern. ‘Cultural Diversity and Its Representation within Visual Arts’ was a presentation by Tessa Jackson OBE, Chief Executive of Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) in London, an organisation I happen know well and have worked with in the past. This was actually the last in Istanbul Modern’s excellent ‘Museums Talk’ programme, in collaboration with the British Council.
Tessa Jackson’s presentation brought to mind the radically changed social, economic, cultural and technological conditions Iniva now works in, compared to the London of 1994, when it was founded. Under the chairmanship of the eminent cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall, and with the support of Arts Council England, the thinking then was to act as a ‘soft structure’ (i.e. without its own venue), to be an innovative model of culturally diverse arts programming. Founding director, Gilane Tawadros, organised the programme into thematic seasons, operating through parallel channels, including publications, conferences and pioneering digital and online commissioning. But at a time of aggressive capital investment in arts infrastructure, particularly due to the introduction of the National Lottery, it was not long before Iniva too manifested itself in the ‘hard’, albeit beautiful, glass and concrete structure of a bespoke David Adjaye-designed building on its Rivington Place site, opening its doors to the public in 2007. However Iniva has not escaped the consequences of a series of budgetary cuts to the public sector and, following a significant reduction in its funding settlement with Arts Council England, Iniva has announced it will this year give up its public space and operate as a smaller agency under new leadership and a new artistic team. Iniva will be based in Rivington Place during 2015/16 while it reviews its future accommodation needs.
Tessa Jackson rightly highlighted the achievements of Iniva and other UK organisations in extending arts programming beyond the over-represented white British majority, to include artists from the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds of British society. These efforts must go further, but they demonstrate not only the gradual lifting of barriers to opportunity but the mobilisation of artists whose collective contribution has reset the very terms of these institutions and their engagement in cultural production. Increasing the diversity of audiences, and their own staff, has proved a tougher challenge for arts institutions. Despite equal opportunities recruitment policies, the ethnic and cultural mix of their own headcount remains stubbornly stratified. Institutions need to ask themselves how to encourage applicants from less traditional or privileged backgrounds, in the face of serious educational, cultural and financial headwinds.
While in Istanbul I also spent time discussing plans with Iz Öztat and visiting exhibitions at Öktem & Aykut, and Pilot. Of particular note was the group exhibition A Century of Centuries at SALT Beyoğlu, from which I would single out Chto Delat’s three screen film-performance installation, The Excluded. In a Moment of Danger (2014).
Last week I completed my evaluation of an arts and numeracy project for Aspex Gallery and Portsmouth Teaching School Alliance.
Funded by Artswork, ‘Shape and Space’ was a pilot project involving sessions in three Portsmouth Schools led by Filskit Theatre. Children at Mary Rose Academy, Cliffdale Academy and Highbury Primary School explored aspects of the maths curriculum through group games, physical movement and narrative, culminating in a final performance at Aspex Gallery. Watch the video to find out more about the project.
I am excited to be hosting a UK visit next week by two fascinating artists from Istanbul, following on from my short stay in the city last November.
Ipek Duben (b. 1941) produces installations, sculpture, painting, video and artists’ books. Her training in political science, sociology and art informs all of her work which involves identity issues, and political and social criticism.
Iz Öztat (b. 1981) performs on multiple fronts such as making, gathering, writing, translating, hosting and mediating. Her process usually begins with archival research and initiated dialogues, which manifests as an animistic quest into the potential of objects and materials in conveying knowledge. Since 2010, she has been engaged in an untimely collaboration with Zişan (1894 – 1970), who appears to her as a historical figure, channeled spirit and an alter ego.
We will all be presenting a talk at Goldsmiths, University of London, on Thursday 5 March, 6.30pm, discussing the nature of intergenerational dialogue between artists, and their individual perspectives on Turkish identity, feminism, and history. During the week we will also be meeting a number of UK arts organisations about future projects we hope to develop.
My Istanbul trip, and this reciprocal visit by the two artists, are both part of my curatorial research, funded by Arts Council England and the British Council through the Artists’ International Development Fund.
The last couple of months have seen an exciting end to the year.
I was able to make a curatorial research trip to Istanbul, thanks to an award from the Artists’ International Development Fund (AIDF), a jointly funded programme between the British Council and Arts Council England. During my visit I made contact with the learning team at Istanbul Modern, and researched Salt Galata’s excellent biographical exhibition of artist, and co-founder of the Journal of Art and Education, Ismail Saray. I also began a fascinating ongoing dialogue with Ipek Duben and Iz Öztat, two female Turkish artists of different generations sharing a mutual admiration and certain resonances in their subject matter. Plans are underway for them to make a reciprocal visit to the UK in March 2015.
Closer to home, I have been evaluating an arts and numeracy project in Portsmouth schools, funded by Artswork, the South East Bridge organisation. Filskit Theatre are working with the children, many of whom have SEN (special educational needs), in a partnership between Portsmouth Teaching Schools Alliance, Mary Rose Academy and Aspex Gallery, where the final performance will take place in January 2015.
Congratulations to the young people aged 14-16, more than 1000 of them, currently exhibiting in the National Art & Design Saturday Club Summer Show at Somerset House in London.
I am pleased to be working again this year with the Sorrell Foundation on the external review of their National Art & Design Saturday Club. Since 2009 the scheme has invited a growing network of colleges and universities around the UK to open their doors every Saturday morning to nurture young talent. Find out more about it through the Sorrell Foundation’s new website: www.saturday-club.org
The Chasing Sputnik book (which includes an essay by me) is now available to buy HERE.
The book results from last year’s project by artists Roy Brown, Julia Flatman and Tom Hall, responding to the former rocket testing facility at High Down on the Isle of Wight. This BBC clip explains the remarkable history of the site. More details of the Chasing Sputnik project and exhibitions HERE.