June 28, 2010

DIY7 - The Eavesdroppers’ Choir

The Text Festival partnership with the Live Art Development Agency call for participants:


A found-live-language speaking choir, based on a 3 1/2-day intensive collaborative workshop to explore techniques of gathering, creating forms with and improvising live with found language.

Who can apply?
DIY is a scheme for artists working in Live Art. However, many of the DIY projects are relevant to artists who are interested in Live Art/performance but may not have an extensive track-record of Live Art practice.

Deadline and notification
The DIY projects have an application deadline of Friday 16 July, 2010. If you would like to take part in this DIY project (or one of the others featured on the LADA website) you need to contact the DIY project leader and submit your application to them.

Each project has slightly different selection methods - most often you will be asked to submit a cv or biography and a short statement. You should check each project description carefully to work out what is required for your submission. If in doubt, email the lead artist as early as possible with a question to clarify what is required.

The lead artist will respond to your submission and let you know if you have been accepted to participate. They will usually do this within a week of the deadline. Sometimes they will request further information to help them work out if the project is right for you.

The deadline for submission is 16 July. We encourage you however to make your submission at any time leading up to the deadline.

How much does DIY cost?
Generally DIY projects are free to take part in; however, for some projects you will be asked to contribute to the cost of food and other direct expenses. Mostly you will also be asked to cover your own travel costs to and from the place where the project is taking place. Some projects provide participants for specified costs such as travel.

The artist:
Fiona Templeton
is a poet, director, performance/installation artist and teacher. She is director of the performance group, The Relationship, based in New York and London, which specialises in site-specific work, innovative language and exploring relations to the audience. Books and performances include The Medead (a performance epic), L’Ile (a citywide performance commissioned for Lille 2004), You-The City (an intimate Manhattanwide play for an audience of one), Cells of Release (an installation in an abandoned penitentiary), Delirium of Interpretations (on Camille Claudel), and Mum in Airdrie (poetry). Her current work involves Bluebeard and ventriloquism.
www.fionatempleton.org / www.therelationship.org

June 27, 2010


By way of excuse for my recent slim blogging, an update about things in progress:
I am now heavily occupied planning the Text Festival - pictured "The Silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated" by Joseph Beuys which will be in one of the shows - most of the key elements will be in place in the next couple of months; though the first manifestation of the Festival, the Live Arts DIY development workshop in September will be announced tomorrow. The planning is not being made any easier because the new Con-Dem Government's impeding cuts regime is making budgeting almost impossible. It has to be said that from the information coming though local government it looks more like the complete dismantling of public services. UK cultural life itself is under threat.
I'm also simultaneously working on 2 books - The Tragedy of Althusserianism and Tesseract - plus an essay on the future of poetry and academia, and a long blog 'maximalism vs minimalism'.

June 24, 2010

Lost Properties

arthur+martha artist Lois Blackburn and writer Philip Davenport will launch our new participatory event LOST PROPERTIES. You will find them at: Manchester Art Market, at St Ann's Square, Manchester City Centre, http://www.manchestermarkets.com Friday 25th and Saturday 26th June, 10am to 5.30pm. They will be exhibiting existing LOST PROPERTIES artworks and making new ones with the visiting public. Everyone is welcome. They will document works made during the event and photographs will be posted onto their portfolio site http://www.flickr.com/photos/arthur-and-martha/

LOST PROPERTIES is a project about caring. You might be a carer, need care yourself, know someone else who does, or help pay for care through your taxes. Care and support affects everybody. We are looking for ways to describe the people you care for most and the people who care for you. Lost Properties is an experiment in making art without using drawing or pictures, only words and secondhand objects. Who do you care about, and what reminds you of them?

This event has been kindly sponsored by Oxfam and Manchester Markets.

June 19, 2010

if p then q readings & book launches

@ Odder Bar
14 Oxford Road (opposite The BBC), Manchester, UK
23rd June 2010
6.30 pm [1:30 pm Eastern Time in the US]
Free admission

Joy as Tiresome Vandalism
Geof Huth
Tom Jenks
Lucy Harvest Clarke


6.30: Joy as Tiresome Vandalism present Nøjagtig Pamplemousse
7.00: Geof Huth (live stream – watch at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/geof-huth)
7.45: Lucy Harvest Clarke (watch live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/tom-jenks-lucy-harvest-clarke)
8.15: Tom Jenks: (watch live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/tom-jenks-lucy-harvest-clarke)

If you can’t be there in person use the above URLs to watch on the internet. Please be aware that all times are approximate.

June 12, 2010

Does the Cambridge School exist when you are in Dortmund?

Before going to Dortmund I was too busy to read much of the discussion of Robert Archambeau’s essay in the Cambridge Literary Review positing the existence of a Cambridge School (of poetry) by Andrea Brady and others in various posts, forum discussions and blogs. At least some of the debate revolved around whether or not the CS exists, but I remember the phrase that came absent-mindedly as it was going on in my background was: “What would it mean if the Cambridge School existed?” Before setting off to Germany I printed off as much of the debate as I could find to read on the planes/trains. Of course, coming to a debate after everyone has had their say and moved on is a bit of a cheat, as you can pick your way through all the previous ideas, the clever analysis and look to be bringing something fresh, even if you’re not. So acknowledging my connivance, I found that reading the Cambridge School debate conflated with the discussions of European cultural policy and social inclusion strategies. Indeed, although not formulated in the CS context, the insight I came to, that the imposition of social inclusion bureaucracy on cultural practice leads to the exclusion of artists themselves, was as much a feeling about the claims of a Cambridge School; that the effects of institutionalisation of the arts in the UK are, in my mind, replicated by the constrictions of academia. And so that question kept recurring: What would it mean if the Cambridge School existed?

The discussion frequently veered into questions about whether poetry could be politically effective, which I won’t pursue here. Part of the question relates to the word ‘School’. Unpicking this ambiguity raises doubts about the whole claim: a school is not a movement – the comparisons made between L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and Cambridge don’t stack up. The best you can claim for a school is that it is a source of influence, a generator of ideas. Clearly individuals who are being mentioned in this discussion are poets who command attention but I wouldn’t say that that constitutes an ‘incorporative’ effect across the UK poetry scene. Certainly, though I have read some but not all of the poets mentioned in connection with the CS epithet, I would have to say I don’t recognise any influence on my writing and I’m not sure I can see any particular influence on many other writers in the north. That might sound like a parochial observation from ‘up north’ but Chris Hamilton-Emery’s comment that “The British experimental crowd for whom Cambridge serves as a centre of gravity …” needs to be challenged. If anything, the thing that is most exciting about the UK is the ‘decentralisation’ of practice, the multiple and mobility of ‘centres of gravity’. I think it was Keston Sutherland who replied about the developments going on in Brighton for instance; I would identify what is happening in Manchester – practice, which I think influenced by the Text Festival, interweaves possibilities with the city’s sound art/performance art scenes.

And then there is the problem of ‘Cambridge’; from Dortmund (and the context of 300 delegates of 15 nationalities), the CS discussion seemed an increasingly localised irrelevance. Comments from Andrea Brady and Ken Edwards seemed to encapsulate the crux of the counter argument, a position I’d assume everyone who is not part of Cambridge or academics who want the association of reference would take. (“The problem of shipping everything under this CS bill…is that a great deal of really important poetry gets lost” and “Cambridge Poetry itself is NOT an adequate metonym for British innovative poetry”) To me the claims for it as a brand or a rallying point or even an actual School of poetry are irrelevant “springes to catch woodcocks”. Robert Archambeau commented that “what’s happening is that geography has become incidental, just as publication in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E became incidental to what was meant by Language Poetry. I use the term because that’s the term that seems to be coming into use.” Not round our way! My immediate response to the question what would it mean if the Cambridge School existed was: nothing. I have no contact with anything happening in Cambridge – I imagine that there are great people there, but, as far as I can tell, if it exists it has no influence on me or anyone I know, and don’t have any feeling that I am missing anything. If this term is coming into use, it is less than useless.

In Dortmund I reflected that there is more to the issue, especially viewed from outside the UK. It is surely self-evident that 21st Century cultural practice is globalised – geography is indeed becoming incidental. But the act of naming posits a future and a definition, a definition that has major implications if it is loaded with a geographic location and a particular history. Unchallenged, pinning the ‘British experimental crowd’ to Cambridge as ‘a centre of gravity’ limits UK innovative practice to a global (and local) perception of tradition – I don’t think anyone can see the word 'Cambridge' and it not trigger historic images. On top of this, Cambridge is globally synonymous with the University – what else is Cambridge known for? So putting aside the fact that the epithet does not represent the actual ecology of British experimental poetry, if the CS existed it could significantly distort UK poetics viewed from outside. Of course if CS existed it would carry an additional pejorative connotation within the UK which associates ‘Cambridge’ with elitism (in the English tradition of suspicion of the intelligentsia), allowing the mainstream hegemony of the banal (Armitage, Duffy, Motion, et al) easy unchallenged rejection of experimental practice.

So if the Cambridge School existed, if only for marketing reasons, it would need to drop the Cambridge. The ‘School’ is also a problem as above. In a way, the academic labelling of whatever is or has recently gone on in Cambridge is a decelerating act itself. I recall Ron Silliman telling us last year at the Text Festival that the meaningful label that ultimately sticks to a movement more often than not comes from your enemies. The leading players of something new are not usually that interested in labelling themselves. That is a little worrying for UK innovative poetry as the hegemony of the banal doesn’t have the imagination to come up with something good. The fact that the British mainstream hasn’t bothered to engage in naming its opposition indicates how little threat innovative practice is to its hegemony. However, I regard the institutionalising effects of the academy itself as one of the problems with British poetic development, much as the institutionalisation of other artforms through the State centralisation of culture have damaged UK artistic practice in general – and led to the exclusion of artists, I perceived in Dortmund.

In the Text Festival, I have been very conscious to locate it away from debates in poetry; as Ron Silliman observed of the last one: “Situating poetry in the arts, rather than in the academy, is of course exactly the right idea.” And to avoid the risk of institutionalisation, the 2011 Text Festival will be the last. As Geof Huth wrote in his excellent blogs about 2009: “Whenever you think you’re doing something right, you need to do something different. Otherwise, you’ll keep doing the same thing but think you’re moving forward. The good thing, though, is that Tony knows how to kill himself.” The process of the last Text Festival will inform the concept of what comes next – although it will probably go in the direction of the Language Moment concept which was developed last year.

(By the way Festival submissions have been coming in and more are welcome. There are some pretty exciting things which will be announced soon).

June 06, 2010

Dortmund - The Exclusion of the Artist

Dortmund. 15 nations represented at the Shortcut Europe convention on Culture and Social Inclusion. I must admit that I was a little uncertain as to why I was invited to speak during this event, and a little nervous, therefore, that my contribution might not be pitched at the level at which with no evidence I valorised current German theory-practice function. The event opened as I have previously experienced with welcoming speeches from the hosting organisations followed by an interminably dense academic lecture by a professor from the University of Tübingen. Long theoretical speeches at the beginning seem to be a German tradition. This put me at ease because while turgid it located where things are here for me. This was followed by a panel discussion – the themes of most of the panels tended to be ignored once the conversations started. The standout contribution came from Franco Bianchini (Leeds University) who was notable because his global research gave him a much greater range of practice to reference. He was the only one for instance who could throw latest developments from South America into the debate – especially how culture is being used in failing or semi-criminal States to rebuild civic engagement and community cohesion.

On the second day I was pleased to hear Christopher Gordon, a UK consultant who did the research for the European Commission on culture and inclusion policy across the member states. Gratifyingly, in passing he confirmed my view that the target culture of the UK regime was disastrous for culture. In the break I was told that the Germans are fascinated with the British system but only ever hear that it is good, because official spokesman UK usually present the official story. If that wasn’t an invitation for me to fire with both barrels I don’t know what could be.

Then we broke up into different theme panels in which I chose the one on the possibilities of public art. Oddly the case studies were a conceptual approach to a community park in Berlin – which had some good ideas such as a community dance group choreographed to clean litter as a performance at the start and finish of every event and turning the park into everyone’s living room at night by inviting all the residents to bring out their lamps to light it – and two mural projects, one high profile architectural approach in Lyon and a free-culture radical graffiti in Düsseldorf. I think I am not alone in reaching for my gun when someone proposes a mural commission but there is more of a tradition of the form on the continent and higher quality. I think the problem with the UK experience is that murals are usually commissioned to do something worthy and so tend to be limited to subjects of local heritage or happy-clappy communities. Graffiti is also much more prevalent in Germany; virtually the whole railway system is decorated with it. Generally I have an artistic problem with graffiti: mostly its praxis seems to be a progression from naming (usually the ‘artist’) through to either figuration or cartoon(figuration) – not actually that interesting at any point. There are rare exceptions of course and it turned out that I had seen some of the case study examples as I came into Dortmund on the train – a huge monkey head pondering “What to do?” and a small building painted like a bank containing a banker robbing passers-by. This latter was presented during the artist Klaus Klinger’s talk. He showed one slide of it after it had been finished in which the figure of the banker had been painted out with a grey square and joked that this was obviously the banker’s trying to censor dissent. I would have joked back that it seemed more likely to me that it was radical minimalists striking back at the excess of graffiti – but when discussion is carried out through simultaneous translation you are always slightly behind the conversation so the joke would have been lost (twice in translation). The Lyon projects were striking paint jobs that turned rundown areas of cities in the region into trompe l'oeil palaces or classical idylls – from the evidence presented these seemed to have been successful interventions both in terms of the effect on the living environment and the sense of community in those involved. http://www.cite-creation.com/eng/wall-paintings/frescos-lyon-painted-wall.html

Afternoon tours were the next thing but the prospect of being bused here and there on such a scorchingly hot day wasn’t inviting so I went to Dortmund Art Gallery & Museum instead – a nice collection though nothing special except, I was surprised to find some remarkably beautiful 17th Century German furniture, something I have never really appreciated before.

Saturday and on to my session. My points on the danger of social inclusion policy for culture and cultural inclusion couldn’t have been exemplified better if I had planned the morning myself. Just before me, a senior manager from another UK city proudly presented the strategic policy structure of her authority (which is exactly the same as every other authority in the centralised system): having clearly become inured in the mind-numbing fallacies of it and having not understood the dynamics of European theory her presentation became increasingly ridiculous. I actually do an ironic version of this sometimes to audiences of artists to show how bad things are. But it is even worse when it is not done with irony. The audience were visibly losing their will to live and in the end in their restiveness she asked whether she should continue and they said no. So when I came on and said the UK system is bollocks, I was just confirming what they had seen for themselves. I opened with the half-serious point that because I was actually presenting rather than just attending I had scored an extra 2 points in our next government inspection. This got a laugh but is true so just shows how stupid the UK system is. Apart from warning the delegates of the dangers of the top down monitoring approach to cultural provision, my main thread was an idea that had come to me during the convention: in all the discussion of culture and social inclusion, because it is a policy concept being imposed on a fundamental practice, a new group in society now experienced exclusion – artists themselves. It was noticeable I pointed out that artists had been hardly mentioned in the conference and in the programme I was the only participant listed as an artist (and curator). I gave a load of examples how in the institutionalisation of culture (including academia) in UK over the last ten years at least has created an environment of compromise and artistic constriction which, especially in its indoctrination of children and young artists, has damaged the creative possibilities of a generation. There was a very positive response from a Danish delegate Soren Ohlsen, the ENCC co-ordinator in Copenhagen, who shared my anger because that country also has this system, and also from a number of different German participants – as parts of the country are also moving in this direction. This was an important message I think because surprising to an English ear, the continentals still talk about the importance of artistic freedom and autonomy. When was the last time you heard someone talk about that in England? As I left a woman from Berlin caught me and thanked me for exposing the fallacy in the frequent use of the word ‘empowerment’; politicians especially appropriate it – empowering the community is dangerous to their control so empowerment is never what is meant. I made some interesting contacts including Kristina Volk, curator of the Reichstag Art Collection, which I will arrange to go and see, and Peter Kampf, chair of ENCC, who will hopefully visit Manchester in the summer.

June 02, 2010

What am I going to say?

The rest of this week I am in Dortmund at Shortcut Europe 2010, a convention predicated on:

“The EU is reacting to social tendencies of disruption in society from which culture is not excluded, as social and cultural exclusion often go hand in hand. Can cultural policy, cultural work and cultural education develop strategy against social exclusion?”

“Is the theoretically formulated demand of “culture for all” still present in the minds of the stakeholders and what does the actual praxis look like? Are there new approaches and methods of engaging cultural work in the European socio-cultural field? Where are exemplary projects being accomplished, that are worth being repeated elsewhere? Should cultural work include more local activities and approaches? How can socially disadvantaged youth be addressed more directly?”

Specifically, I will be initially talking about the conditions of cultural funding in the U.K. and my experiences with it – apparently there is a lot of interest in this. While there is a general acceptance of the social impact of the arts on the continent, there is a healthy concern about a loss of autonomy and freedom for artists in a system that demands concrete results which are not artistic ie all the social, educational, environmental and economic agendas that are loaded onto art projects in the UK. My criticism of the damage this centralised cultural policy has caused is perhaps why I have been invited to participate.

The convention will obviously feature loads of examples of good practice from around Europe and we will be visiting various projects in the Ruhr. There are a number of sessions that concentrate on issues related to disability, children and other disadvantaged groups but there are a number of theoretical questions underpinning that raise interesting questions, as much because some of them at least assume an analysis that is generally accepted but which I think is subtly distorted.

For instance: (3 June) ‘Cultural policies and social exclusion – what can cultural work accomplish?’ And on 5 June ‘Society and cultural participation – what can art accomplish?’ As above, the question of the status of the demand ‘culture for all’ is interesting. In the UK, the Arts Council’s new policy is called ‘Great Art for All’. The problems come from this idea being driven from public institutions which by attaching the funding to this agenda focus on the all rather than the art (great often not being a consideration). Because they are paying for it, the accomplishment of cultural work is rarely acceptable if the accomplishment is just culture. This is because in the UK at least culture is not fundamentally valued; so culture has to be justified through its accomplishment of other things – reduced youth crime, increased educational achievement, etc,. I forget the number of times I have sat in an arts officers meeting and someone has declared that all we need is a piece of research that demonstrates how the arts deliver the agendas of other socio-political priorities and politicians/stakeholders will take the arts seriously, and therefore fund them properly or at least not savagely cut them. Not only is this a mistake from the outset defining its importance as secondary to itself, I argue that these pieces of research already exist, that there are endless case-studies of how good practice has changed people’s lives, the convention will no doubt have lots; but fundamentally the politicians/stakeholders are not interested even when the evidence is there. There are two reasons for this in the UK: both intelligence and culture are suspicious values, politicians and strategic policy planners have a fundamental unease in these areas – which means the arts as icing on the cake, as societal luxury trinket are a much more comfortable notion (and so dispensable when more important economic forces apply); and second, and this answers the session on 4 June ‘Cultural work as empowerment: How can art and cultural work strengthen the actionability of individuals?’ artistic participation by definition makes things new, it creates new ideas, it creates the potential for liberation and resistance even. The constricted central agendas of government policy are not about encouraging actionability; they are about control. What is now called community arts started as part of the radicalized action of the 60s and 70s; it was about politically empowering communities. Over the years its language and practice has been appropriated while its political potential has been erased; fundamentally in Britain socio-culture (as the convention calls it) has become a decorative artform.

The main session at which I will speak is entitled: Where does that leave the arts?