While New Contemporaries is celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year – having been initiated by the Arts Council in 1949 – as well as the fact that Bloomberg have supported the organisation for two full decades, this year is also the first in which new writing is properly embraced as a form of artistic practice. This is not me having a dig at the organisation, on the contrary: it is a sign that with the adoption of publishing as a whole as artistic practice, and the proliferation of courses dedicated to writing as art, writing by artists as (part of) their practice has indeed gone mainstream and is now fully acknowledged as such.
Once again, I am working on the publication as copy-editor (the sixth year in succession, for those who are counting), which by extension is becoming a more fully integrated part of the ever-expanding range of activities that New Contemporaries as an organisation is undertaking, all to nurture and make visible work by emerging artists. It’s been great to see how activities now comprise a wide range of partnerships for different strands of its programming, including studio bursaries, residencies, a mentoring scheme, engagement with The Syllabus, opening up submissions to artists from non-accredited courses, symposia, and, last but not least, a collaborative PhD that explores the organisation’s own history with Nottingham Trent University. This year the exhibition – with work by 45 artists selected by Rana Begum, Sonya Boyce and Ben Rivers – will open at Leeds Art Gallery in September, before travelling on to the South London Gallery, where it was shown for the first time last year. Like the last two years, Hato are the designers.
It’s been a slightly longer process than with the two previous books in the series, but Curating after the Global: Roadmaps for the Present is now off to the printers. This time the team of editors had expanded to four: in addition to Paul O’Neill, Lucy Steeds and Mick Wilson, with whom I worked on How Institutions Think (2017) and The Curatorial Conundrum. What to Study? What to Research? What to Practice? (2016), Simon Sheikh was this time also part of the team of editors. Once again we worked with Valerio di Lucente from Julia, who is as pleasant and responsive a designer to collaborate with as one can wish for.
Although the range of contributions looks similar to the two previous books, quite a few of the essays/text/exchanges this time were significantly longer, some needing work in terms of structure and clarity, or serious expansions and/or reworkings from the presentation during the conference the book follows on from. All of which required more time than originally envisaged. In the end I’ve also managed to squeeze in a small contribution myself, about how anthologies like these are key platforms and mediums in the development of curatorial discourse, and my role in the care for words and the nuanced differences between the spoken utterance and the printed word on the page. Due out in the autumn, available via The MIT Press. Announcements about (a) launch(es) to follow in due course.
The ninth issue of PARSE Journal is now live, on the recently revamped website. Some further texts still to be added (and some texts still to be tweaked), but there is a lot to explore on issues related to artistic work, labour, working conditions, care and self-care through a wide range of texts. On the occasion of the launch, there is a series of events on 7 and 8 May, including a keynote by Martha Rosler. The issue so far includes contributions by Ciarán Finlayso, Dave Beech, Frances Hatherley, Patricia Sequeira Brás, Tero Nauha, Bruno Gulli and Josefine Wikström. Others to follow soon.
I have known Isabel Nolan for about a decade now, and fell in love with her artworks when I first encountered them, and have been following her practice closely ever since. I have also been intrigued by the odd speech I have had the pleasure of hearing her deliver/perform.* I laughed heartily at her introduction during the inauguration of her work at the Mithraeum in London last year. So no surprise then to be delighted to be asked to work with Isabel on a volume that will contain a selection of her writing. Due date tbc, as we decided it would be a good idea to take our time and do it right. As it should be.
Image of the work Rock Founded Place as installed at Isabel’s solo exhibition at IMMA in Dublin in 2014.
If you’re interested in hearing/seeing her do a talk, try here.
Recently I had the pleasure of doing two talks outside my normal teaching context (Birkbeck, University of London): one for the current cohort of students at the Royal College of Art’s Curating Contemporary Art, upon the invitation of my wonderful former colleague Ben Cranfield, the other for BA arts students across programmes at Manchester Metropolitan University, upon the invitation of the equally wonderful Judith Winter. While the emphasis of the talks of course differed – Ben had specifically asked me to use my research as focus/starting point, whereas Judith wanted me to keep things broader to try and speak to a very diverse group of undergraduate students – I used some of the same material for both, with slight adaptations. At the RCA I talked specifically about publications as a space in relation to curatorial practice and discourse, and our expectations about its use in relation to art and exhibitions, whereas at MMU I focused on the use of publications as space for artistic practice and its mediation. Below the two opening slides: spot the difference…
As I have done before, I used a facebook conversation Paul O’Neill and I had about five years ago, about the difference between curating an exhibition and curating a book, to kick-start my musings. Because I am in the middle of thinking and writing for several chapters in relation to my own research, doing both talks proved to be a welcome trigger to refocus.
After having worked as an associate editor on the series Fabrications for independent art(ists’) book publisher Book Works in 2006-2009, I am now a member of its board. I am looking forward to working with the organisation and the other board members in the years ahead.
This year has kicked off with a bang, with founding co-director Jane Rolo’s announcement she is leaving and the start of the recruitment for a new co-director (Book Works is, after all, a double-stranded organisation, with a studio and a publishing arm). A dream job, but definitely for someone else.
In the course of 2018 the Faculty of Fine, Applied, and Performing Arts at the University of Gothenburg has shifted its publishing approach. Rather than publishing PARSE Journal via distinct issues in both print and online, as it had done since its inception, it has gone mainly digital. As the new website states: ‘PARSE does not undertake or conduct research projects, but exists as a publishing, dialogue and conference platform for high quality international research that links the fields within the Faculty’. In practice that means that instead of thematic issues, longer-term research arcs explore specific themes that are announced and made manifest somehow on the website.
Coming up on the new platform will be essays related to three research arcs: ‘art and work‘, ‘art and migration‘ and ‘intersectional engagements in politics and art’. Where the open calls for contributions ‘encourages experimental forms of research publication including artistic research and practice led research’ the platform ‘invite[s] academic research articles (6000 – 8000 words), essays, creative writing, all forms of graphic visualization, photography, audio work, videos, interactive work, and other creative works. All contributions will pass through an open peer review process.’ The fact that the research topics are engaged with over a longer of time and through different modes of interrogation means that they are engaged with in great depth.
Over the summer I have been proofing (and copy-editing) essays mainly in relation to the last ‘normal’ issue, focusing on exclusion, led by Dave Beech, Erling Björgvinsson and Kristina Hagström-Ståhl, which is now online (see the introduction here) on the revamped website. More recently I have worked on texts related to the first research arc, led by Dave Beech, with editors Marina Vishmidt and Benjamin Fallon and Kirsteen Macdonald, and of which the last event took place on 5 December, titled ‘Never (Off) Work!‘. Watch this new space!