For the love of it

Past Project 2013

A one-day conference on 15 May 2013 that explored the assumptions, expectations and myths of working as an artist today.

This conference untangled how issues such as education, money, collectivity, status and community impact on an artist’s practice and influence their goals. A day-long event, it looked at how artists control and shape the context they work within, asking whether it is still relevant to say that we do it ‘for the love of it’.

In the run-up to the conference, four provocation articles were prepared and are published on this site: read value, success, collectivity and research.

Keynote speakers

Professor Lynda Morris, Chair of Curation and Art History Norwich University College of the Arts. Lynda Morris is best known for her work with over 500 British and International Artists as the founder and curator of EASTinternational  1990-2009 and as curator of the Norwich Gallery 1980 to 2009 at NUA in Norwich. Her M.Phil thesis at Royal College of Art 1973 was Three Models for the Future of Art Education: Art Language Coventry, Joseph Beuys Dusseldorf and The Projects Class at Nova Scotia. She has worked on numerous exhibitions and publications, and organised the first UK exhibitions of Bernd & Hilla Becher, Agnes Martin (SNGMA) and Gerhard Richter.

Sonia Boyce came to prominence in the early 1980s as a key figure in the burgeoning black British art-scene of that time – becoming one of the youngest artists of her generation to have her work purchased by the Tate Gallery, with paintings that spoke about racial identity and gender in Britain. Since the 1990s Boyce’s practice has taken a more multi-media and improvisational approach by bringing people together to speak or sing about the past and the present. Since 1983, Boyce has exhibited extensively throughout the UK and internationally and has completed an AHRC Research Fellowship at Wimbledon College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London with her concluding research project the Future is Social.

Breakout workshops and speakers

Value – How do contemporary society and artists themselves value the role of the artist? How do you work to and/or with the aims of other people, such as funders or commissioners? With artists Amy Feneck, and Neil Cummings, and researcher and curator Sophie Hope

Research – How do artists work inside or outside institutions, and what can be learned by artists and non-artists working together? How can the richness of such learning be fully understood and grasped by a broader public? With Tom Freshwater, the Contemporary Arts Programme Manager for National Trust, and artist Rona Lee.

Success – How do we understand achievement? How is it defined by professional practice programmes in higher education, our peers and the art ‘market’? With artists Doug FishboneDavid Blandy and Edwina fitzPatrick.

Collectivity – How do artists and audiences work together or against each another, and when do audiences become artists? With The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home.

Polemic – Ellie Harrison

“If you can’t make art without making a permanent imprint on the physical aspects of the world, then maybe art is not worth making.” Lawrence Weiner 1969

Way back in the ‘60s, when it first became evident that our system of capital might be the cause of an approaching environmental crisis, artists began to question their role as ‘producers’ within it. Was it ethical to continue to selfishly produce art ‘for the love of it’? Or should we all be taking more social and environmental responsibility for the consequences of our actions? Now, with the forty-plus years of relentless free-market expansion that has occurred since, these questions seem all the more pressing.

In this concluding polemic, Ellie Harrison will consider how we can continue making art within the constraints of a free-market system, which often forces us to act in conflict with our ethical code. She will question whether we can use our work as artists to help understand this system – to learn to play with it as much as we learn to fight it – ameliorating contradictions and developing win-win ways of working that’ll satisfy us as individuals whilst also impacting positively on the world around us.

Ellie Harrison was born in London in 1979 and now lives and works in Glasgow, where she sees herself as a ‘political refugee’ escaped from the Tory strongholds of Southern England.

She describes her practice as emerging from an ongoing attempt to strike-a-balance between the roles of ‘artist’, ‘activist’ and ‘administrator’.

As well as making playful, politically engaged works for gallery contexts, she is also the coordinator of the national Bring Back British Rail campaign, which strives to popularise the idea of renationalising of our public transport system, and is the agent for The Artists’ Bond – a long-term speculative funding scheme for artists.

For the love of it was co-curated by Cecilia Wee. Colleagues at Creative Choices and a-n have written articles about the conference.