December 07, 2009

The Montana Group

Taking part in the Lucerne conversations there were artists/creative practitioners with professional roles which put them in positions of management or institutional leadership. Organised by Metasenta in Melbourne (picture - Irene Barbaris of Metasenta and her research assistant Sarah Duyshart) and the University of Arts London, there were professionals from the continent, UK, northern America and Australia. It was agreed early on that the title of the conversation “artists in leadership” was problematic and so for now the dialogues will carry the title 'the Montana Group' – after the hotel in which we were meeting It was also agreed that although there will be a website and subsequent publication, the content of the conversations should remain within the group for the time being to allow people to speak freely about the issues they faced negotiating their practice within their institution.
So for now I’ll just say that the discussions were deeply thoughtful and insightful. My one frustration was the fact that so far I am the only participant who is not located in academia. The problem with this is the macerating distortions that the structures of higher education introduce into an artist's creative practice while seeming to support it. So the conversations had a wearisome propensity to drift back to assumptions that students and developing their opportunities are important and even a creative driver for artists. I am always happy to do what I can for young artists but students are of no interest. I couldn’t stay to the end of the sessions so without me there I expect the drift to a debate focused on art education was unabated. I don’t want to sound too critical though; as this was the first meeting of the group, it was natural for people to locate their thinking in their daily reality and with the other ten or so participants sharing the same experience it was inevitable. Despite these reservations, I am looking forward to the next one.

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