March 25th, 2008

Nathaniel’s response:

I would like to comment on David Patten’s A New Year Provocation for 2008:

On Artists

Lunatic or not?

I recently attended a very good symposium organised by Celine Condorelli (support structure) and Andreas Lang (public works) ‘Institution and Initiative’. A lot of the issues raised here were also present at the symposium. The audience and speakers were made up of mainly artists and architects and although a common language emerged amongst the group, I still felt there was a distinct difference in psyche or attitude? The architects were very utilitarian in their approach to public projects; they were concerned with quantifiable outcome and sort of ‘quest for good.’ Even so a sort of American pro-bono fifty hours exercise (is to probably to harsh) kept popping into my head. The artists on the other hand were much more unashamedly selfish. They took their particular form of art into the public realm, into the institution with an ad-hoc, suck it and see sort of attitude. This approach is one that I believe many artists have in the present, especially when the work of many artists is still relational in approach and outcome. And I do wander if the lunatic (relative to popular public opinion) is the common position of artist.

This position will lead to separateness in a projects development, but in some ways this is the strength of the artist. The aloof space an artist occupies is also a very furtive space where they can be reactionary and creative.

A double-edged sword. 

On Curators

Artists as curators, curators as artists.

We are increasingly seeing new types of exhibits in our galleries and museums. Curators are boxing up social interest items in slick Perspex boxes and art is placed in foyers, atriums and corridors, the lines of art object, artifact, museum piece and a new type of social interest readymade are blurred. We are making artists of curators, and networking collaborative roaming curators out of relational artists. Can we, as artists as curators, even come clean if we wanted to? Do we know our true intentions? If we are after the artist fee, after the exposure of a public work, using one-another’s skills and attributes to further careers or forge new ones, does this make us guilty of ‘theft and shenanigans.’?

On Agencies

I love David’s use of the wikipedia entry on the personal shopper. And I agree that, because agencies are a business, that this is a strange conflict of interests given that a public art project shouldn’t be privatised.

On Getting there first

I think that the relational nature of art today, the de-skilling, de-commodification of art, has led to everyone wanting to be a curator, convener or even agency, and many of these roles are being consumed by artists anyway. So I think David is right – we all need to put our cards on the table, those in the position of releasing funds and commissioning artists should clarify why they want an agency, why they want an artist, why they want a curator, and not be ashamed or made to feel ashamed of their motives. Even better, as David rightly suggests, they should: “learn how to hold the door open and not stand in the way.”