Assist

Current project Featured 2019

Up to £3,700 to help artists from under-represented backgrounds find work assisting more established artists.

Assist is a pilot project to connect artist-assistants from backgrounds under-represented in the arts with more experienced artists who need support at a key moment in their practice. Artquest will support three artists to employ an assistant and contribute up to £3,700 toward their fees, set at above the London Living Wage.

Read more about the programme: pilot participants / about the pilot / why is this project needed?

Pilot participants

Rachel Ara (artist-employer) and Kate Howard (artist-assistant)

Rachel Ara is a data and conceptual artist whose work explores the relationships between gender, technology and systems of power. The outcomes are varied, from large scale installations to smaller interventions. Rachel has over 25 years in the tech industry and is a trained cabinet maker. Projects are fabricated and programmed by Rachel in her studios in London.

Projects in 2018 include Artist in Residence at the V&A, responding to their data; The London Open 2018 (Whitechapel); American Beauty (a Trump L’oeil) (Barbican); The Lumen Prize Presents: Measures of Life (Humber Street Gallery) and The Transubstantiation of Knowledge (V&A). In 2019 she is exhibiting in Vertiginous Data (MMCA Korea); the Vienna Biennale, (MAK); the V&A; and completing her first public sculpture commission in London (colLAB).

Kate Howard has an experimental sculptural practice that investigates notions of gender and sexuality. Their work playfully challenges and undermines prevailing sculptural traditions – that of monolithic masculine modernist sensibilities – and is deep-rooted in the histories of sculptural practices and techniques. Kate was born and raised in Essex and lives and works in London.

Kate studied an undergraduate degree in sculpture at Camberwell College of Art (2013, UAL) and graduated from a Masters in fine art from Goldsmiths (2018, University of London), where they were awarded the Acme Goldsmiths Studio award. They were shortlisted as a top 20 artist for Saatchi and Channel 4’s New Sensations, exhibiting at Victoria House, London. Their degree show work was published in Fleich, a German publication drawing together artists from around the world who’s work explores ideas around sexuality and gender. This year Kate was invited by She Performs to tell a short story at the Tate Exchange as part of She Hears, and is currently working on a new body of work for the exhibition Out of Shape (PEER).

In September 2019, Kate will be helping install of one of Rachel’s large scale works at the V&A for London Design Festival. Kate will also assist Rachel on her new public sculpture commission for UCL, due in November 2019.

Barby Asante (artist-employer) and Rayvenn D’Clark (artist-assistant)

Barby Asante‘s artistic practice is one in which she creates situations and spaces for dialogue, collective thinking, ritual and re-enactment. Using archival material in the broadest sense, she is interested in breaking down the language of archive, not to insert or present alternatives to dominant narratives but to interrupt, interrogate and explore the effects and possibilities of the unheard and the missing.

Barby is an artist, writer and PhD researcher. Over the last 20 years of artistic action she has created projects that have explored liveness, performativity and sociability to think about issues of place, identity and belonging. Her practice critically reflects on race and social justice through performances, films and institutional interventions, reflecting on the histories and legacies of slavery and colonialism. Recent projects and exhibitions include Intimacy and Distance, Diaspora Pavilion (Venice Biennale, 2017); Declaration of Independence (BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts, 2019) and Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers (Somerset House, 2019).

Rayvenn D’Clark is a UK-based, self-taught (digital) sculptor, writer and curator. She graduated with an MA in fine art from Chelsea College of Arts (UAL), and is Junior Editor for Shades of Noir, Head of Creative for the Alumni of Colour Association (UAL) and an Associate Artist for Fevered Sleep. Rayvenn is currently represented by Ju Mee Kim Gallery (2018/19).

Rayvenn’s practice explores the digital hybridity of sculpture following the affirmation of media, exploring the nuances of identity that pivot between hyper-visibility and invisibility, offering (re-)imagined collective perspective. Her work chronicles the elevated reframing of black anatomy – unencumbered, in traction – the mediation between three-dimensional processes alongside the handmade aesthetic within an extended analysis of ‘Objecthood’; the resulting objects emerge contextually abstracted from traditional representational aesthetics – embedded in the everyday, collective experience through methods of display. Such ideological positioning shifts the normative function of figurative practices within this mode of self-referential questioning, which engenders a self-sustaining (non-)fiction rooted in authenticity and criticality that allows audiences to break free from reference once and for all in a new form of hybrid realism.

Rayvenn will be working with Barby to develop her archive and forthcoming commissions for 2020/21.

Erika Tan (artist-employer) and Yuxin Jiang (artist-assistant)

Erika Tan’s practice has evolved from an interest in received narratives, contested heritage, subjugated voices and the transnational movements of ideas, people and things. Her work arises out of processes of research and responses to the unravelling of facts, fictions, and encounters related to events, locations, audiences and specifics that may already exist. As an extension to her practice, Erika teaches fine art at CSM (UAL), is the current 2018-2020 Stanley Picker Fellow in fine art and curated Sonic Soundings, an on-going geolocational sound project in Venice.

Her work has been exhibited internationally including The Diaspora Pavilion, (Venice Biennale, 2017); Artist and Empire (Tate Touring, National Gallery Singapore, 2016/7); Come Cannibalise Us, Why Don’t You (NUS Museum, Singapore, 2014); There Is No Road (LABoral, Spain, 2010); Thermocline of Art (ZKM, Germany, 2007); Around The World in Eighty Days (South London Gallery / ICA , 2007); The Singapore Biennale (2006); Cities on the Move (Hayward Gallery).

Yuxin Jiang is an artist and co-founder of pic.london, a platform that supports early stage artists working in photography and media arts.  She was born in Shanghai and is currently based in London. Her work is concerned with the politics in everyday life, linguistic and visual forms of ideologies, and the role of art in society. Current ongoing projects investigate issues of national identities in a transnational and post-colonial context. She holds a MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Westminster.

Yuxin is currently taking part in Parallel 3rd Cycle (2019-20), a European-wide artist and curator development programme for photographic practice, and Syllabus V (2019-20), a collaborative artist learning programme. She was awarded Lianzhou Foto Festival 2018 Jury Prize winner, and was a finalist for Jimei x Arles Discovery Award 2017. Recent projects include translation and research for The Key Concepts: Photography by David Bate (2018-19), programming After School – Collective Strategies (pic.london / London College of Communication, 2019), and visual work Five Events and Some Observations on Identity (2017).

Yuxin will be assisting Erika on a range of works: including her ‘mothers’ archive, upcoming publications, and new work for the Stanley Picker Fellowship.

About the pilot

Artquest is funding £3,700 of fees for artist-assistants, who will work up to 48 days over a period of six months, with artist-employers contributing to fees.

This project is intended to support artist-assistants from working class and / or minority ethnic backgrounds to sustain a career in the arts, and to support artists with a minimum of ten years’ practice at a transformative moment in their practice.

Assist intends to support artists at a ‘transformative stage in their career’, such as receiving a major commission, a first solo exhibition at a publicly-funded gallery, or another large-scale project outside their previous experience. Such an opportunity will be likely to come with a budget – either one the artist has applied for, or from a commissioner / gallery etc, and we are asking for a contribution to help support assistant fees. It can also support artists who are facing major life-changing episodes in their health or caring responsibilities, and in exceptional circumstances Artquest may consider paying 100% of the assistant fee.

Artquest is paying the first £11 per hour of the assistant fee, with the artist-employer paying the equivalent of £3.50 per hour. Over a period of 48 days, 7 hours a day, this is a total of £4,872 (£3,700 from Artquest, £1,172 from artist).

Artquest has developed Assist through 18 months of research, focus groups and reflecting on our project management experience. As we have found no similar project during this research period, and there are no models for us to emulate, Assist comes with a low but real risk of failure. We are seeking artists who can be flexible, work with us collaboratively, and feed back to us about how the project is progressing in an open manner. We do not know how many applications we might get, and therefore the exact timing of the process, but will work with potential artist-employers and artist-assistants openly and professionally at all times.

Findings from this pilot programme will feed into a report (due April 2020) about the needs of artists at a key moment in their careers and strengthen understanding of alternative, non-academic routes into the arts specifically for artists under-represented in the art world. Should the project prove successful, we intend to continue and improve it in future years.

Why is this project needed?

The arts workforce, particularly in London, fails to reflect the capital’s social and cultural diversity. The 2018 report, Panic! It’s an Arts Emergency, highlighted that only 4.8% of the music, performing and visual arts workforce were from minority ethnic backgrounds (who make up 40% of the London population) and 18.2% were from working class backgrounds (around 22% of the UK population). A lack of defined, paid roles and alternative routes into the sector contributes to this situation.

Artists who work as an artist-assistant can earn an income while learning more about how the art world operates and build new networks. Research commissioned by Artquest in 2017-18 found hardly any guidance on working as, or employing, an assistant, and that such appointments tend to be from an artist’s immediate social network. There is no single definition of what an artist-assistant does, and wide variation in pay and conditions. Artists report needing extra help at a transformative stage in their career, such as receiving a major commission, a first solo exhibition at a publicly-funded gallery, or another large-scale project outside their previous experience. Assistants are often recruited through word-of-mouth, compounding the lack of sector diversity and development opportunities for a broader workforce; artists struggle to understand how to employ people legally, ethically and responsibly, perpetuating poor practices.

To address this, the Assist programme will:

  • Help artists at a pivotal moment in their careers to find an assistant, and advise them on how to employ people
  • Help less-established artists from backgrounds under-represented in the arts to earn money, build networks, and understand how the art world works at a more senior level
  • Test the viability of continuing the programme in future and report on our findings
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