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Collections:

Collaborative
relationships

£5.00
CONTRIBUTORS: Faisal Abdu’Allah’s upcoming
projects include: limited edition artist book in
association with Autograph; Goldfinger collaborative
exploration with malevolent practitioners; and DIS-
ASSEMBLY, Serpentine Gallery school project.
Libby Anson is an independent professional and
creative development coach, writer, artist and
lecturer. Current projects include co-delivering
professional practice programmes for Cockpit Arts
Edited Rohini Malik Okon
and teaching at the National Portrait Gallery.
Publisher Louise Wirz
Design www.axisgraphicdesign.co.uk Ben Coode-Adams’ work is characterised by
developing innovative solutions that deliver complex
© writers, artists and a-n The Artists Information ideas and narratives in an engaging way.
Company 2005 He is co-director of Artefact Projects.
www.bencoodeadams.com.
ISBN 0 907730 56 6 Juan delGado’s work refers to social and cultural
representations of sexuality, trauma and cruelty in
Published by Western society. In 2005 he set up Cremer Projects,
a-n The Artists Information Company a platform to promote disabled artists on an
Registered in England international level. Contact arts.news@virgin.net
Company No 1626331
Bruce Haines is a writer and curator. He is currently Mah Rana, Beyond the Forest:
Registered address ‘Throw the comb behind you
First Floor, 7-15 Pink Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne Exhibitions Organiser at Camden Arts Centre, London. and even Baba Yaga will get
trapped by the trees that will
NE1 5DW UK Rob Kesseler’s NESTA Fellowship concluded with the sprout from the teeth of the
+44 (0) 191 241 8000 publication of a major new book on pollen* with Dr comb’, brooch, plastic (fine gold
metallized), 15x2.5cm, 2000.
info@a-n.co.uk Madeline Harley. Now working on a second book with
www.a-n.co.uk Wolfgang Stuppy from the Millennium Seed Bank, he’s Beyond the Forest is one of an
earlier series of work from the
in early stages of developing a project with University present theme Jewellery is Life.
Copyright of Oxford Botanic Garden. www.robkesseler.co.uk After previously working with
Individuals may copy this publication for the limited * Pollen the Hidden Sexuality of Flowers, Papadakis Publisher, second hand gold wedding
rings a new departure was to
purpose of use in their business or professional London, 2004, £35, 020 7823 2323. construct a visual language
practice artists. Organisations wishing to copy or use Rohini Malik Okon is undertaking a PhD in the
through traditional and non
traditional ‘goldsmithing’
the publication for multiple purposes should contact Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths College, materials to communicate ideas
the Publisher for permission. where she also coordinates the research project of memory, history and
narrative.
‘Translating the Image: Cross Cultural Contemporary
a-n The Artists Information Company’s publications Arts’. From 1995-2001 she worked at inIVA where she In an old Russian fairytale a
and programmes are enabled by artists who form the young girl is chased by a witch;
was involved with developing numerous projects she has been given advice that
company’s largest stakeholder group, contributing including ‘A Fruitful Incoherence: Dialogues with if she finds herself in trouble
some £340K annually in subscription income, with she should throw a comb
Artists on Internationalism’. behind her. The comb turns
support through revenue funding from Arts Council into a forest trapping the witch
England, and funding for specific projects from Keiko Mukaide’s upcoming projects include: a joint in the trees. The young girl
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, European Social Fund exhibition with Chiho Hitomi in Edinburgh, exhibitions escapes unharmed.

and Scottish Arts Council. at Tate St Ives and in Sweden and public art
commissions in Sheffield, Somerset and Inverness.
Edith Marie Pasquier is an artist who works with
text, sound and moving image. She has contributed
to various publications and has worked with ICA,
English National Opera and Cultural Industry/Artangel
among others.
Johannes Phokela was born in South Africa and
lives and works in London. He has won numerous
awards including a decibel artists’ award, John
Moores Painting Prize and BP Portrait Award.
Mah Rana’s current work highlights the ways we use
jewellery to mark occasions and events, significant or
everyday. This includes Meanings and Attachments,
held in different countries; an ongoing written and
photographic event recording people’s personal
connections to jewellery. www.mahrana.com
Giles Sutherland is a writer, critic and journalist.
His most recent publication is ‘With the Grain’ (Birlinn,
2005) – a study of the life and work of the sculptor
Tim Stead.
Alia Syed’s work embraces a range of film practices,
refusing to sit in a single, definable form. She won
the decibel Visual Arts Award in 2004, is represented
by Talwar Gallery, New York and has solo exhibitions
planned for 2006 in New York and at Millais Gallery,
Southampton.
A text-only version of this
Hilary Williams is Director of Ditchling Museum,
publication is available on where she recently curated an exhibition with artist
www.a-n.co.uk Jo Roberts and is co-organiser of an international
convention of artists working in rural environments.
2 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS
COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Editorial

Contents As part of the publishing programme that marks a-n’s


25th year we’re launching the a-n Collections series.
Editorial 3 Including anthologies of selected articles from the a-n
archive contextualised by new commentary, and new
Introduction 4 themed texts selected by guest editors, a-n Collections
Rohini Malik Okon
are designed to examine and analyse the ‘why, what
Trust in us 6 and how’ of artists’ practice.
Juan delGado The first in the series is Collaborative relationships.
and The Wellcome Trust For an independent eye, we asked Rohini Malik Okon,
A mutual arrangement 8 to select from a range of interview-based articles first
Keiko Mukaide and published in a-n Magazine in 2003-05 that set out to
Edinburgh College of Art explore the mutuality of a working relationship
between an artist and an organisation. By unwrapping
Time to think and space 10
to talk the intricacies of the relationship, the circumstances in
Faisal Abdu’Allah and which it came about, identifying where it worked well
The Agency Contemporary and less well and its long term direction, these
Eating grass 12 interviews provide valuable insights into the reality
Alia Syed and inIVA of the exchange and a commentary on the inevitable
agendas that inform any professional arrangement in
Gold rush 14
the arts.
Mah Rana and HAT
In her introduction, Rohini Malik Okon contextualises
Old and new masters 16 the choices she has made and, through analysis,
Johannes Phokela and Gasworks considers what the material tells us in a wider sense
Cross-pollination 18 about artists’ working relationships and how
Rob Kesseler and NESTA contemporary visual arts practice is best supported.

Gillian Nicol
Editor

a-n readers automatically receive a-n Collections that otherwise


cost £5 each. For subscription details go to www.a-n.co.uk>
About a-n>Join in

We welcome your proposals for further a-n Collections, send ideas


to edit@a-n.co.uk

3
Introduction

Collaborative relationships between artists and


organisations take a variety of forms, from brief
catalytic encounters, to dynamic exchanges and
dialogues, to long-term partnerships that evolve
organically and fruitfully over a period of time.
The ways in which these relationships operate,
as well as the stories of how they came into being,
reveal as much about contemporary perceptions
of the artist’s role in society as the tangible
realities of maintaining and developing a creative
practice.
Whether through invitation, application,
a chance meeting or a well-received proposal,
the collaborative relationships explored in this
publication have often emerged from a timely
coincidence of strategy and opportunity and have
usually led to mutually beneficial associations.
The remit of each organisation – funding body,
commercial gallery, higher education institute and
publicly-funded arts organisation, amongst others
– is different with respect to their affiliation with
artists. In some cases, the aim is to engage in a
greater understanding of contemporary art
practice by creating opportunities for artists Its fellowship scheme enabled artist Rob Kesseler Rob Kesseler, speaking in
front of staff members from
within dynamic and vigorous programmes as well to make work and develop ideas for three years NESTA at The Royal Botanic
as introducing their work to both new audiences under the auspices of ‘NESTA Fellow at the Royal Gardens, Kew, 5 September
and new markets. In others, the artist and their Botanic Gardens, Kew’. Like the Wellcome Trust, 2003.

work are perceived as a conduit for relaying the NESTA’s ultimate responsibility is to the public,
broader concerns of the institution involved, but as an organisation it is committed to
albeit in a creative and thought-provoking manner. developing organically in response to its
While some relationships are defined by a sense of experiences with projects and practitioners.
nurturing, where the organisation acts as a Where these sorts of collaboration are most
support structure for the artist, others are successful is when they are not prescriptive about
characterised more by a notion of cross- ‘outcomes’, where the focus for the artist is on
disciplinary exchange, where different enquiry and experimentation rather than
perspectives and ways of working come together production necessarily, and where room is left for
through initiated and managed opportunities. All the unexpected to occur. What they also highlight
involve some level of negotiation, and the striking is an increasing recognition of research as a
of a balance between structure and fluidity. fundamental aspect of artistic practice, and the
Although committed to promoting acknowledgment that artists are professionals on
collaborative ways of working that cut across a par with those working in other fields. There is a
traditional academic disciplines and professional slight danger however, where the contribution of
domains, The Wellcome Trust’s primary interest an artist’s practice is not fully understood, of
lies in broadening the public’s understanding and falling into a new form of commodification where
awareness of scientific rather than artistic values. artists are brought into a project solely for a value
Its artist-in-residence scheme, which invites artists they are perceived to have by being an artist.
to access an unparalleled array of resources and The widening acceptance of art as a form of
expertise on biomedical themes is, from the knowledge production is attested to by the recent
Trust’s point of view, about encouraging a more proliferation of Fine Art PhDs, AHRB funded
open interpretation of its collection and providing Creative Fellowships and artists taking up posts as
a ‘way in’ to its work for the general public. The Research Fellows in various higher education
practice of creating artists’ residencies in various institutions. Research Fellowships don’t
work environments has a long history. While such necessarily follow a particular model. For glass
projects may sometimes be challenging to artist Keiko Mukaide, her position as Research
establish, with expectations on both sides needing Fellow at Edinburgh College of Art evolved
to be carefully managed – artists are not there organically over a number of years from her initial
simply to illustrate or depict – when successful non-formalised role as artist-in-residence through
they involve artist and organisation in a mutual a stint as Teaching Fellow to, with the increasing
process of discovery and can alter the views of all pressure on higher education establishments to
concerned. Often a third party is involved, as a earn ‘research points’, her current position. For
mediator between the two, and/or as initiator of Edinburgh College of Art, having such a high
the collaboration. profile, internationally known artist on their staff
NESTA (National Endowment for Science, enhances its potential to generate income through
Technology and the Arts) claims to work in the its RAE (Research Assessment Exercise)
gaps between other funders, supporting submission, while Mukaide benefits from a fully-
collaborative and cross-disciplinary projects. equipped space in which to make her work as well

4 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

as the potential for inter-departmental Support networks can also emerge through less
collaborations and intellectual cross-fertilisation formal, more intermittent collaborations between
that her position enables. artists and curators, and between artists
Whilst some collaborative relationships might themselves, perhaps working with or through an
evolve over a few years, others last only a couple organisation or perhaps circumventing any form
of months yet their impact can be just as fruitful. of institution altogether. Artists may often work
For jeweller Mah Rana, the experience of together as a group to get a project going, and
undertaking a residency in Australia gave her time while there is a real energy in this way of working,
to step away from her usual commitments in the without sufficient funding these collaborations are
UK and she was able to reassess her reasons for not generally sustainable over long periods of
making. Often artists are so caught up with the time, and tend to remain invisible or marginal.
day-to-day demands of making and showing Increasingly, however, artists are also curating
work, that they don’t have time to reflect on their shows, and new modes of practice, collaboration
practice. Rather than a new commission, what is and institution are emerging in parallel to the
needed is ‘breathing space’, and to be offered a more established models of co-relationship.
space to breathe in the form of a residency that As artists today negotiate the pragmatics of
is part of an ongoing international exchange (as making and showing work, and as they attempt to
in the Here and There project) can be extremely balance a desire to be experimental and take risks
rewarding. with the need to make a living and develop a
Supporting the development of an artist’s profile, successful collaborative relationships with
creative process is as important, and in some a variety of organisations can often help shift
ways more important, than securing funding or their practice to another level. Functioning as
arranging publicity for a new piece of work. passageways, breathing spaces or springboards,
The relationship between Faisal Abdu’Allah and these relationships work best when centred
his gallerist Bea de Souza, Director of The Agency around a notion of trust and realised in a spirit
Contemporary in London, is characterised by an of generosity.
open and dynamic dialogue. At the start, de Souza
kept close, giving the artist lots of guidance and Rohini Malik Okon is a writer and researcher based
support, but as their relationship developed she in London. She is currently undertaking a PhD in the
also recognised the importance of stepping back Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths College,
and giving him time and space to develop ideas. where she is also the co-ordinator of the research
Confounding some of the negative associations project ‘Translating the Image: Cross Cultural
that commercial galleries attract, The Agency does Contemporary Arts’.
not constantly pressurise the artists it represents
to make new works, and maintains an ethos in
selecting the artists it wishes to work with.
Faisal Abdu’Allah, Hayley, Galleries and arts organisations that
Screenprint on copper and
stone, 50x50cm, 2000. Private
successfully balance visual experience with a self-
collection, USA. reflexive programme are distinguished from other
institutions and spaces by their emphasis on
seasons and strands of programming that adapt
to, and emerge from, the ways in which they work
with artists. inIVA aims to develop a clear,
continuous and open dialogue with both artists
and audiences, and stresses the importance of
context for the showing of work. As well as
offering a contemporary art, rather than cinema,
space for the showing of her films, Alia Syed
suggests that her collaboration with inIVA was
successful partly because of the context, political
and cultural, they developed to show the work.
The spaces in which works are made as well as
those in which they are shown, and the networks
and contacts artists establish with other
practitioners, curators and writers, may also be
Alia Syed, Eating Grass, film
still, 2003. Courtesy: the artist determined or shaped by an ongoing collaborative
and Talwar Gallery, New York. relationship. In its partnerships with artists,
Gasworks Studios in south London offers a stable
affordable workspace, augmented by an
international visiting artists’ programme and a
curated programme of exhibitions and talks in the
galleries below, but perhaps the most valuable
aspect of this relationship is the strong sense of
community and mutual support fostered by the
organisation.

INTRODUCTION 5
Trust in us
Libby Anson talks to Juan delGado and The
Wellcome Trust about his residency.

Established in 1936, The Wellcome Trust is an as a whole. Resident artists received a studio at
independent medical research-funding charity with The Wellcome Trust (to be open by appointment),
a mission “to foster and promote research with the a fee (paid in monthly installments), access to a
aim of improving human and animal health”. It also photographic studio, the facilities provided by the
“seeks to raise awareness of the medical, ethical Trust’s Audiovisual Services department and the
and social implications of research and promote resources of the Wellcome Library for the History
dialogue between scientists, the public and policy and Understanding of Medicine. In addition, each
makers”. One of the ways in which it does this is artist supplied monthly updates and written
to encourage access to its work and to the issues evaluation, attended meetings and presented public
raised via exhibitions (such as ‘Medicine Man’ at the and staff events. Such a thought-provoking process
British Museum, ‘Treat Yourself’ at The Science not only resulted in strong and powerful work being
Museum, and at the TwoTen Gallery within the produced but it also offered delGado unexpected
Trust itself) and through other science and art outcomes. He feels he achieved a certain
initiatives. The Exhibitions Unit in the Trust’s professional status, and he became self-employed
Medicine, Society and History Division initiated the Juan delGado, Angela, c-print, through the scheme.
Valencia, 1991.
annual SciArt grant scheme in 1996. A year later, Overall, the scheme made for a mutually
the Science on Stage and Screen Awards, a biennial beneficial relationship, within which, like an
competition for live theatre, digital and broadcast arranged marriage, occasional differences were
media, were launched; the two schemes later inevitable. Dr Michael Clark, Head of the Medical
merged. The latter initiative was introduced, Film and Audio Collections in the Wellcome Library,
primarily, to broaden the public’s understanding was one of those who provided practical help and
and awareness of scientific, rather than artistic support to those artists on the scheme who
values. The Trust has since supported diverse arts- required an introduction to the Trust’s wide-ranging
related projects featuring artists such as Franko B video collection. He sees the relationship as a
and Dorothy Cross, fashion designer Helen Storey “constructive business partnership”, with the artist
and Forkbeard Fantasy Theatre Company: “Our as a “favoured customer” and the Trust as “the
motivation in these activities,” says Dr Ken Arnold, supplier” of resource and research materials and
Head of Exhibitions, “is focused on the Trust’s developmental and exhibiting opportunities. The
commitment to engaging the public in informed main challenge was the last of the three objectives –
dialogue about biomedical science”. Describing the the interaction between the artist and the staff and
Trust’s approach to engaging with creatives as organisation. “The artists met many sympathetic
“broad and eclectic”, Arnold declares that its aims and interested individuals”, stated Arnold, “but the
Juan delGado, Anmia, c-print,
are to draw in and educate a wider audience, to Valencia, 1993. difficulty was getting people here to find the time to
exploit different languages through which to take an interest in the artists, when they were
communicate biomedical subjects and ideas, occupied with the demands of their own work….
to provoke reaction and to promote collaborative Part of the work of staff in the Exhibitions Unit was
ways of working that, “cut across traditional to manage expectations on both sides.” For artists
academic disciplines and professional domains”1. wishing to participate in the scheme, the selection
1 From Why Art?, Ken Arnold,
From 2000 to 2002 SciArt was coordinated by a Head of Exhibitions, The
criteria – even accounting for mature students –
consortium of the Trust, Arts Council England, Wellcome Trust. undeniably introduced an element of ageism which
British Council, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, made it exclusive. The relative youth of the artists
NESTA, and the Scottish Arts Council. The Trust has selected also affected the way in which their
re-launched the scheme on its own, with the experience was viewed by some within the Trust.
possibility of spending up to one million pounds Could they really know what they were doing?
on science and art grants over the next two years. Reactions against the unfamiliar extend wider into
The Exhibitions Unit also manages an artist-in- the fabric of the organisation as its activities and
residence scheme, run by Abbie Hampton under the interests diversify – from having a film library and
guidance of Denna Jones. Juan delGado was the links to youth theatre, to supplying materials to
sixth artist-in-residence at The Wellcome Trust women’s magazines. That such progressive forays
since the scheme’s inauguration in September 2000. have not been universally supported, it must be
Two six-month residencies per year have been said, is probably more indicative of a general
awarded since, via a submission process open to human response, rather than being unique to
artists who have recently completed a UK-based Wellcome. However, any ripples are bound to be
postgraduate degree in the visual arts. The end of most keenly felt by the single outsider – the artist-
delGado’s residency in August 2003 marked the end in-residence – leaving, perhaps, a certain sense of
of the scheme, which had previously featured inequality.
Andrea Roe, Aya Ben Ron, Alexandre Da Cuhna, After gaining a diploma in photography in
Gonzalo Paramo Pino and William Cobbing. Valencia, Spain, in 1997 delGado came to study
“Like many Trust initiatives”, explains Ken Arnold, Contemporary Media Practice at the University of
“the scheme ran for a set time and has completed Westminster, graduating in Media Arts in 2001.
what it first set out to do.” There were three key Over the past decade, he has produced an extensive
objectives: to encourage interesting young artists body of work – combining photography, installation,
to draw on the Trust’s resources, especially those of film and video – relating to the subjects of
the Wellcome Library, and to work with biomedical displacement, trauma and identity. The Wellcome is
themes, to produce interesting work whilst there the third residency with which delGado has been
and to interact with the staff and the organisation involved since 2002. At the Vivid Media Centre in

6 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Birmingham, as part of the PVA LabCulture, he bringing his special interests to bear on a particular
developed Who are you entertaining to? – a video area of the history/culture of biomedicine – namely
piece enquiring into cruelty while questioning his that to do with disability and some aspects of
social/political role as an artist. Under the AA2A sexuality…. He was clearly an artist interested in
(Artists Access to Art Colleges) scheme, in the idea of inter-disciplinary investigation – a core
collaboration with the London Metropolitan value of the scheme”.
University and bringing together various art In the context of any residency, artistic freedom
practitioners, he has made Flêche Sans Corps, and interpretation is an aspect that can prove
an interdisciplinary project which observes the controversial. It may seem curious that having
traumatic experiences that many so-called ‘illegal’ selected an artist – using a panel including both
immigrants go through after leaving their internal and external judges from the science and
countries. art worlds – that individual’s practice, during the
DelGado was attracted to the Trust’s scheme residency, is subject to veto and censorship.
Juan delGado, Untitled #2,
c-print, London, 1997. From
because it was research and development based, However, the Wellcome’s overall policy is to engage
The Wounded Image series. with production occurring after completion of the with the public. Its rationale is to increase public
residency period. He had been awarded a digital access to and awareness of its work and anything
media bursary via Artsadmin which he had also that threatens to repel the general audience it seeks
used to contribute to his research at Wellcome. to attract is likely to be regarded as unacceptable.
The basic premise of his proposal to the Trust was One could argue that this introduces a value
to consider schizophrenia from a social position – judgment, limiting subversive ideas to art that is
that of a disabled artist – not from a scientist’s or humorous rather than seriously shocking –
medic’s point of view. He wanted to use himself as particularly in publicly designated areas of the
the subject of a film and of five photographic trust. delGado’s photographic series dealing with
prints, to re-enact the disabled body. Throughout the themes of representation of gender,
the residency he researched books on the anatomy Transformers, 1989-1995 and L’Androgyne Sexuel,
of madness and psychiatry and illness – in 1994-1996, were presented at Bentley House. His
particular, for example, The Anatomy of Madness, video projection, Loving Machine, 1998, was shown
edited by Bill Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael in the reception area of the Trust’s headquarters at
Shepherd. He also studied early films on 183 Euston Road. The latter is an exploration of
schizophrenia held in the Iconographic Collections how technology takes on an existence of its own,
and historical images in the Medical Photographic eschewing the body and human relationships.
Library. The paintings, illustrations and etchings in delGado originally proposed to exhibit his more
the Trust collections also provided inspiration. disturbing yet compelling photographic series, The
Such research offered delGado insight into the Wounded Image, 1997-2002, for display. Beautified,
perceptions and the social and cultural constructions horrifying scenarios, these ‘real’ and timeless
of mental illness over time. images refer to violence and to child abuse; they
DelGado was also looking forward to the confront the viewer with the ‘skillfully arranged’
collaborative aspect of the residency, forming a aftermath of traumatic experience. Each tableau,
part, albeit temporarily, of a large organisation and like a still from a gruesome re-enactment, provides
engaging with its various departmental a mirror of the universal fears, anxieties and
communities. Like most established institutions, fantasised realities of the dangerous and brutal
the Wellcome is subject to bureaucracy, opinions, aspects of our society for which we are all
hierarchies and traditions. It is not surprising, responsible. They also question how we relate to
therefore, that hosting a single artist in the midst trauma and to its representation. delGado himself
of what amounts to a large, diverse group of people views this work, “as a visual discourse on the
is a task not without its challenges for both parties. subject of cruelty and the emotional relations that
The first of these is clarification of purpose. For this matter brings to the audience”, and a way to,
those more conservative in their approach, for “… give my past a recognisable shape so I can begin
example, the idea of an artist-in-residence to engage with a dialogue through which the
2 Juan delGado in represents the disturbing presence of an arbiter of unspeakable can be taken in hand”2. Selected in
conversation with Elizabeth non-scientific values. To others, the notion conjures 1997 for the John Kobal Photographic Awards, The
Cowie at the conference,
up an image of a superior interior decorator: “Some Wounded Image was considered too graphic for
Culture and the Unconscious –
of the ideas that the artists came up with inevitably display by the Trust.
Psychoanalysts, Artists and
Academics in Dialogue, School were new to the Trust’s culture”, concedes Ken Michael Clark thinks that through the scheme,
of Oriental and African Arnold. “Juan’s approach was highly distinctive… artist and organisation are, essentially, involved in
Studies, London, 11-12 July, a mutual process of discovery and investigation,
2003. with the artists providing unique connections
between items in the Trust’s collections. Ultimately,
this allows a more open interpretation of academic
analyses and dialogue, using the artist’s unique
3 Ibid. approach to combine “facts and the unconscious”3 –
the highly positive result of a fruitful, if
challenging collaboration.

Libby Anson
With special thanks to Dr Ken Arnold,
Dr Michael Clark and Verity Slater.

Contact:
The Wellcome Trust
215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE
020 7611 8888
contact@wellcome.ac.uk
www.wellcome.ac.uk

Juan delGado, Untitled #15, First published: a-n Magazine December 2003
c-print, London, 2001. From
The Wounded Image series.

TRUST IN US 7
A mutual arrangement
Giles Sutherland looks at the relationship
between glass artist Keiko Mukaide and
Edinburgh College of Art.
Born in Tokyo in 1954, glass artist Keiko Mukaide funding pie. Brutally simplified, the more points an
came to London in 1989 to study at the Royal institution gains, the more funding is released.
College of Art where she gained an MA in Ceramics Recognising this increasingly competitive
and Glass. In Japan, Mukaide had originally trained funding environment, in 1997 ECA appointed Dr
and worked as a graphic designer, with her work in Andrew Patrizio as Director of Research (Art and
glass merely acting as a creative side-line pursued Design). Patrizio’s role is diverse and varied but he
in her spare time. is one of the key players in developing ECA’s
Eventually, this pastime became all-consuming Research Vision that “recognises that research
and following her creative instincts she took up drives creativity, new knowledge and innovation in
glass-work as a full-time artistic calling. Such a leap all the subjects areas in which the college
was partially triggered by her participation in some specializes”. Thus, the continuing development of
life-altering workshops at Dale Chihuly’s Pilchuck research (and the appointment of Research Fellows)
Glass School in Seattle, USA. From such modest has become a crucial element in ECA’s evolution.
beginnings, Mukaide’s work has risen to a position From Teaching Fellow, Mukaide’s role was again
of international prominence. Her work is included transformed (in 1999) into Research Fellow.
in some of the world’s most prestigious glass Although most of ECA’s five other Research Fellows
collections such as the Corning Museum of Glass in were appointed in 1998, Patrizio concludes that
the USA, The Victoria and Albert Museum, UK, the Mukaide’s route was “a little different” moving from
Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark and the an already existing artist-in-residence post through
Kunstgewerbemuseum in Hamburg. to teaching and then research.
Mukaide’s artistic practice has evolved from Explaining Mukaide’s position, Patrizio says:
making one-off pieces for galleries and showrooms “Research Fellows are expected to do no more than
to large, site-specific installations that not only six hours a week ‘contact time’ but this is rarely in
resonate with the physical environment but, the form of teaching. Keiko does do talks, but they
crucially, delve deeper into a more poetic and are not regular. We do like to link research activity
spiritual acknowledgement of space and time. with teaching, but it varies in different cases.
Recent examples of this approach have included All Research Fellows have contracts and job
‘Elemental Traces’ (with Diana Hobson and Craig descriptions, but there is deliberately scope to
Mackay) at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh; discuss specific modifications of that role between
‘Miegakari’ (with Tokiko Furuuchi) at Charles Rennie each Research Fellow and ECA depending on
Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh and ‘Spirit mutual benefit. Keiko has had teaching and
of Place’ at the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice mentoring roles within Design and Applied Arts,
Gallery. On the strength of her plans to complete a though this has widened now to go beyond one
subtle, multi-layered installation in the garden of single school.”
Mackintosh’s masterpiece, Mukaide won a £25,000 The deliberately open-ended nature of
Creative Scotland Award in 2001. Mukaide’s post enables her to work in a way that
Mukaide’s links with Edinburgh College of Art ECA evidently believes will have maximum creative
(ECA) go back to the early 1990s: “I was a young benefits for both institution and artist. Mukaide
graduate from the RCA and I needed space to work. comments: “There is no formal structure for
I knew the glass department at ECA and its head, collaboration/communication between these
Keiko Mukaide, Secret Garden
Ray Flavell, who already knew of my work. individuals. I work for one and a half days a week. (detail). Jerwood Prize for
I approached him for the use of some working There is no such thing as a typical working day.” Applied Art – Glass, Crafts
Council, London, 1998.
space. The arrangement was that I was given this This arrangement, Mukaide believes, is
in return for teaching. It was an exchange: they beneficial for both parties. The limited space and Keiko Mukaide, Nacreous
gave me some accommodation and I gave them technical facilities offered by her own private Clouds. The Royal Botanic
Garden, Edinburgh, 2000.
some teaching. This situation continued for about studio spaces (located in the WASPS studios in
five years.” Patriothall, Edinburgh) means that by necessity she
Both parties agreed that the arrangement was must use the more extensive workshops offered by
working well with mutual benefits ensuing for both, ECA. This is particularly the case when preparing
although with no money changing hands. In 1996, for such large installations as those she created for
with funding from the Binks Trust, Mukaide’s her recent Helensburgh and Edinburgh shows.
position was formalised and she was officially Reciprocally, the pay-offs for ECA are various
made a Teaching Fellow at ECA. Her duties were and extensive. All publications and other publicity
primarily based on working with undergraduates created by Mukaide for her exhibitions must credit
in the glass department. ECA – as evidenced by the prominent ECA logo
As was the case with other art schools, the late (along with a host of private sponsors) in the
1990s saw the increasing formalisation of academic catalogues for ‘Elemental Traces’ and ‘Spirit of
structure and teaching practice at ECA. Assessment, Place’. As a Research Fellow, Mukaide is
teaching and learning as well as internal structures encouraged, if not required, by ECA to apply for
developed along the lines of more traditional, a range of funding opportunities and to seek
university-based education. With the introduction exposure in prestigious international exhibitions
of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and the venues.
awarding of funding from the Scottish Office (later Recently she has submitted an application to
the Scottish Executive) via the Scottish Higher the Arts and Humanities Research Board and
Education Funding Council, institutions such as directly links the 2003 tour of ‘Spirit of Place’ to
ECA effectively competed for a slice of the finite Denmark’s acclaimed glass museum at Ebeltoft

8 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

to ECA’s Research Vision. The stated aims of this


strategy are “that ECA enhances its international
profile as a centre for study, research and
innovation” partly by means of “conducting
collaborative partnerships across the globe”.
Having such a high profile, internationally-
known artist on the staff additionally allows ECA
to generate income through its RAE submission.
As Patrizio says: "When we are audited all staff
deemed to be working at a strong level in terms of
research are put in our submission. Keiko Mukaide
certainly is in this category. After all of the
universities and colleges have been rated, unit by
unit, the funding that comes to us is based on our
overall grade, the size of our staff, and our research
culture. We don’t view it as an atomised income –
eg, ‘this member of staff earns us this amount of
money’ – as the assessment process doesn’t really
work this way. It is more holistic. But yes, having
her on the books converts loosely into the
calculation of a core grant for ECA."
The ‘roving brief’ allowed to Mukaide through
her contractual position acts as a catalyst for inter-
departmental collaboration and intellectual cross-
fertilisation. She explains: “It’s given me more
opportunity to work with others who specialise in
different fields. Because ECA is an institution with
a departmental structure it’s easier to make contact
with and get to know others working throughout
the college. For example, at the Hill House show,
I needed the input of a landscape architect and I
was able to make contact with Tokiko Furuuchi, a
graduate of landscape architecture at ECA. She was
working in Japan but I invited her to come to work
with me in Helensburgh. Also, the head of
department helped me to find people who could
give me some technical input.”
The organic definition of Mukaide’s role is
clearly ECA’s intent, allowing for maximum creative
development through chance meetings and
Keiko Mukaide, Spirit of Place,
main installation spiral. Talbot naturally occurring collaborations. A more rigidly
Rice Gallery, 2003. Photo: defined structure would clearly produce different
Shannon Tofts.
but not necessarily better results. It’s an
Keiko Mukaide, Spirit of Place, experiment that is evidently producing excellent
detail of main installation results for both parties.
spiral. Talbot Rice Gallery,
2003. Photo: Shannon Tofts.
Giles Sutherland is a freelance writer specialising in
the visual arts.

Contact:
Keiko Mukaide
keikomukaide@hotmail.com

Edinburgh College of Art


Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF
0131 221 6000
www.eca.ac.uk

First published: a-n Magazine April 2004

A MUTUAL ARRANGEMENT 9
Time to think and space to talk
Rohini Malik Okon explores the evolving relationship
between Faisal Abdu’Allah and The Agency Contemporary.

When Faisal Abdu’Allah received a phone call from


Bea de Souza, Director of The Agency
Contemporary, in the summer of 1998 he had
seriously been considering giving up his practice
as an artist and concentrating solely on his other
creative pursuit (which he still maintains today)
as a hairdresser in the barber’s shop he owns in
Harlesden, West London. Frustrated at being
constantly pigeonholed as a ‘black artist’ and being
offered ‘education’ projects as opposed to
commissions, he had begun to feel that he wasn't
really going anywhere with his work. When he
received a call from the director of a contemporary
commercial gallery in the heart of London’s East
End offering him a solo show, he was more than a
little taken aback.
De Souza had been following Abdu’Allah’s work
for a number of years, after having come across
him in a show at the Photographers’ Gallery in the
early 1990s. The large-scale photographic portraits
of rappers screenprinted on to metal had a definite
impact on her, but at that point she wasn’t sure
what to do with the work. Wanting to know that
there was more to these portraits than their
deliberately confrontational stance, she waited to
see if they would resonate with her for a long while
after seeing the show.
They did, and she kept somehow coming back
to the work. While engaging with the media
stereotype of the young black aggressor, there was
something in the images which moved beyond the
initial provocation. A few years later when she saw
‘Heads of State’, a solo show which powerfully
evoked feelings of loss and a sense of grieving,
de Souza was confirmed in her desire to approach
Abdu’Allah with a view to offering him not only an Faisal Abdu’Allah, Eyes Faisal Abdu’Allah, SPA School
opportunity to show his work but also to represent without a face, installation, Black Heroes, screenprints on
2000. perspex, 2002.
him as his gallerist.
After their initial meeting Abdu’Allah felt Faisal Abdu’Allah, SPA School
Black Heroes (detail),
overwhelmed and was a little hesitant about screenprints on perspex, 2002.
entering into the relationship. He was anxious that
he would have to change his work in order for it to
Clive Kofi Allen and
be commercially viable. But de Souza reassured
Faisal Abdu’Allah, The Last
him that the reason she wanted him to join the Supper Diptych, 2 C-Prints
gallery was the strength of his work and she didn’t framed. Collection: Arts Council
England.
want him to change his practice but rather to grow
and develop as an artist. There is an underlying
ethos behind the selection of artists who are
represented by The Agency: while their material
processes may be very different they are all in
some way dealing with and questioning
representations of social reality.
Working primarily through photography,
screenprint and installation and appropriating
iconography from the media, religion and popular
culture, Abdu’Allah challenges cultural stereotypes
and questions preconceived ideas around identity.
For de Souza, it was important to represent an artist
who was working critically with contemporary social
concerns, while for Abdu’Allah it was important to
work with an agent who understood notions of
cultural difference, not by identifying him as a
‘black artist’ or jumping on the ‘cultural diversity’
bandwagon, but by engaging with both the material
and thematic qualities of his work.

10 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Like most successful relationships, that between Abdu’Allah’s profile, both nationally and
Faisal Abdu’Allah and The Agency has evolved internationally, has certainly been raised since
through a process of negotiation and has been being represented by de Souza, and he feels that
characterised from the start by an open and people treat him differently now and are more
dynamic dialogue. At the beginning de Souza kept careful in the way they approach him. The day-to-
close and gave the artist a lot of guidance and day stresses of having to deal with, for example,
support, advising him on which shows to the transportation and insurance of works or the
participate in, and perhaps more importantly gave distribution of slides and CVs have also of course
him the confidence to say “no” to people. been removed, and with the validation that having
While gallerists are often viewed with some a gallerist bestows, his work commands a far
suspicion and seen as being solely interested in higher price than previously, with the profits from
Faisal Abdu’Allah, Grace,
making money from the artists they represent, de Screenprint on copper and any work sold being divided equally between
Souza confounds this and talks about the invisible stone, 50x50cm, 2000. Private Abdu’Allah and the gallery.
collection, USA.
support that a gallerist can give to an artist, For The Agency, representing artists such as
catching them when they fall and acting as a Abdu’Allah who are dealing with socially relevant
sounding board for, and provocateur of, ideas. At questions through strong, provocative work, and
one stage she pointed out to Abdu’Allah that most maintaining an ethos in its selection of artists while
of his images were of men and that he very rarely not professing an overt and singular political
made work depicting women. He went on to agenda, has been influential. Ken Lum, an already
produce a series of powerful and moving female well-established artist, asked to join the gallery
portraits. De Souza also recognises the importance because he felt an affinity with its approach.
of stepping back and giving an artist time to think On being asked whether having a gallerist has
and develop ideas, and is not constantly changed the way he thinks about his practice,
pressurising Abdu’Allah to make new work. This is Abdu’Allah said that it has, in that he has become
of course of benefit to both artist and gallery – if more self conscious and aware of the implications
the artist is making stronger work, the gallery’s that his work might have. He is wary however of
profile and reputation is enhanced. becoming too analytical about his process and
For Abdu’Allah, being given time to develop his wants to regain in some way what he sees as the
practice without feeling pressurised to make a immediacy and spirituality of some of his earlier
particular kind of work has been extremely work. A commitment to dialogue, maintaining a
valuable. When he was developing ‘The Garden of space to talk, whether with de Souza in the gallery
Eden’, his recent and most ambitious project to or with his clients as he cuts their hair in his
date, he didn’t talk to de Souza for about three Faisal Abdu’Allah, The Garden barber’s shop, remains central to Abdu’Allah’s
months. Shown at Chisenhale Gallery in Autumn of Eden, Installation, 2003.
practice.
2003 and then at Aspex Gallery, ‘Garden of Eden’
was a powerful architectural installation (made in Rohini Malik Okon is undertaking a PhD in the Visual
collaboration with architect David Adjaye) that Cultures Department at Goldsmiths College, where
explored issues of privilege, exclusion and she is also co-ordinator of the research project:
voyeurism and engaged the viewer in a charged ‘Translating the Image: Cross Cultural Contemporary
physical experience. The work had been in his head Arts’. She is a writer and printmaker.
for a long time, perhaps even before he joined The
Contact:
Agency, and while knowing that this was not the Faisal Abdu’Allah
sort of work that would sell, it was important that faisal@fabdullah.fsnet.co.uk
he had time and space to develop and realise it. The Agency Contemporary
Although not directly involved in the production 18 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3PB
of this particular installation, The Agency was
First published: a-n Magazine January 2004
supportive of Abdu’Allah’s relationship with
Chisenhale Gallery and with Autograph, The
Association of Black Photographers, who co-
produced the work.
Introducing Abdu’Allah and the other artists
she represents to a variety of curators and writers
is an important aspect of de Souza’s role as
gallerist, as well as ensuring that their work is
seen by an array of collectors and represented at
international art fairs such as those in Cologne
and Basel. Abdu’Allah has had a number of solo
shows at The Agency itself, with the next one in
Spring 2004, and has participated in group shows
at the gallery with other Agency artists. Socialising
and networking, with The Agency acting as a hub
for making contacts and links, is a valuable aspect
of the relationship between artist and gallery, and
de Souza encourages the artists she represents
to give advice and support to one another.

TIME TO THINK AND SPACE TO TALK 11


Eating grass
Edith-Marie Pasquier talks to inIVA Director
Gilane Tawadros and artist Alia Syed about
their experience of working together.
“I was thirty minutes late as I couldn’t find inIVA’s Syed’s work is akin to inIVA’s vision of exploring
offices in Rivington Street and I arrived disgruntled Britishness and the mainstream and how difference
clutching a plastic bag full of films”, laughs Alia can impact or shake up what constitutes this
Syed remembering her first meeting with Gilane relationship, creating a catalyst for change.
Tawadros, Director of inIVA. “It must have been the Importantly, for Tawadros, her films articulated a
films that saved me. Steve McQueen, a friend of space, that is now being ignored by artists. “We are
mine, suggested I showed them my work, as I was very conscious that people seem to think identity
looking for new audiences and the gallery seemed is no longer an issue. In part this is because some
an interesting space away from cinema”. Within ten very visible figures such as Chris Ofili, Steve
months inIVA (Institute of International Visual Arts) McQueen, Issac Julien and Mona Hatoum have
was producing Syed’s first solo touring exhibition, looked at identity so that artists now believe there
‘Jigar’, derived from the Urdu word for ‘friend’ or is no more to be said. Syed’s work is mature, it is
‘lover’, bringing together work made over the past about the impossibility of a coherent narrative.
fifteen years and leading to a collaboration with the We had great discussions about how you express
organisation that was to last a further two years, different cultural perspectives coming together,
culminating in the production of Syed’s new 16mm how you articulate the experience of living across
film, Eating Grass. “On a personal level, Syed’s work more than one space simultaneously but without
really resonated for me”, recalls Gilane Tawardros. reducing this by being too literal, simplifying the
“I think most striking of all, apart from the work experience or celebrating it in a crass way.”
holding the ability to be amazed and carrying a In February 2002, ‘Jigar’ toured with
distinctive and powerful voice, it came from consecutive screenings at inIVA and The New Art
someone who knew how to make films, I see so Gallery in Walsall and later at The Turnpike Gallery,
much work and when someone knows how to use Leigh. At inIVA two films were shown; a single
their medium, that comes across.” screen version of Spoken Diary and Fatima’s Letter,
Alia Syed’s short 16mm poetic films reveal a filmed at Whitechapel tube station, told in Urdu
process that balances her attention to formal detail with deliberately out-of-sync English subtitles, Alia Syed, Fatima's Letter,
black and white still from
whilst exploring ideas central to her oeuvre; questions notions of documentary truth. Gilane 16mm film, 1994.
creating a synthesis of abstract images, spoken and Tawadros explains the importance of these
written narratives ambiguous in their comment on consecutive screenings: “We showed Fatima’s Letter
desire, memory, place, myth, translation and here for obvious reasons because we thought the
cultural identity – specifically some of her films work had resonances for this particular part of
focus on the Pakastani and Bangladeshi London and one of the reasons inIVA exists is to
communities of east London – in a dialogue that is show work that reflects experiences you can’t find
open, evolving and seductive. Whilst Syed is an elsewhere.”
accomplished experimental filmmaker, having When installing the show in Walsall other
shown nationally and internationally on the film narratives were developed with the three films –
circuit, she believes that her collaboration with Swan, The Watershed and Spoken Diary – arranged
inIVA was in part successful because of the context as separate installations that overlapped and
that inIVA developed to show her work. “I do interrelated to create a single piece of work. Syed
actually like the context which inIVA have created developed a physical journey through the work that
for my work – in particular the political context. was further textualised by showing Swan on 16mm
The organisation is interested in a notion of a projection, The Watershed and Spoken Diary on
culture that goes beyond art and the limitations of DVD (although shot on 16mm film then transferred
race and at the same time addresses the difficulties to DVD the film image became removed from the
for people who make work who are not from the physicality of projection), creating en route a
dominant ideology or those who produce work that deliberate mediation between the works. The shift
cannot fall into easy categories.” in focus away from the cinema to the gallery space
Gilane Tawadros is candid in stressing the was an important part of the creative dialogue as
importance of content and form when choosing an Tawadros explains, “Syed had only been shown in a
artist to work with inIVA but ultimately any final film context, it was quite new for her to be thinking
decision will be dictated by programming about showing in a visual arts base. So part of our
considerations. “Because of the way inIVA works we discussions was about what that means and how
do invite artists to come and see us – we do see lots that affects the work that is seen. I felt that a
of artists and obviously, we are not in the position contemporary art context would make her work
to give opportunities to all artists, no institution accessible to a much wider audience and I think her
can. Whilst the work can be very powerful, we have work lends itself to be shown within that context. Alia Syed, Swan, black and
to provide a context for that work. Some of that is It is non-linear, reasonably short and it invites you white still from 16mm film,
1989.
luck and timing and there is no getting away from to enter textually, as well as into its context without
that. It was obvious from Syed’s work that she knew a clear beginning, middle and end.”
how to make the medium of film deliver the Seemingly, that is where the collaboration
content, plus the content was very good. We were would end – at the last date of the touring show.
looking at her work in parallel to thinking about a Yet, Tawadros had further designs, which were not
season called Jubilee in which we wanted to present immediately realised in the timescale: “The original
solo shows and a whole range of work. We were ambition for the project was greater – we wanted to
thinking of the Queen’s jubilee and how inIVA as an do a monograph and we also wanted to help Syed
organisation has been engaged with Britishness.” make new work, but could not raise the money in

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COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

relationship with inIVA gave me confidence. The


gallery has informed my process. Although I knew
Eating Grass was going to be premiered in a gallery
I did not make any concessions because of this. As
a film it sits slightly uneasily in this space – its
actual duration is twenty-three minutes but its
emotional timescale is much longer. The gallery
reflects this emotional space better, in isolation,
it references other work, notions of boundaries
between cinema and gallery are explored. I am
interested in working in the gallery – extending my
experience of using timelapse and revealing how
light travels across a frame, taking still
photographs over the passing of time with a
sequence of photographic images.”
Gilane Tawadros draws upon another less
apparent aspect of their collaboration. “Syed had to
think about the commodification of her work, when
inIVA shows work and in Syed’s instance the Talwar
Gallery – a commercial gallery in New York – gets
involved, that is an important step. It is good for
artists to have gallerists who can support them in
ways that institutions cannot. Artists need to exist
in a pluralist economy. I believe Syed’s work should
Alia Syed, Eating Grass, film time. It is important for me that a relationship with be in collections and not just with private buyers,
still, 2003. Courtesy: The artist but in public collections, that is what I think inIVA
and Talwar Gallery, New York an artist is more than a one off. Whilst I think it is
so important showing existing work in a new should be ensuring. Whilst we offer an artist a fee,
context and making it accessible for new audiences, in terms of their livelihood artist fees are not
giving the artists the opportunity to make new enough.
work is equally as important – there are not enough “One of the things that has, for me, been
opportunities out there and there are not enough marked over recent years is that it is actually
people enabling new work.” Syed, building on the difficult for us to find partners to present work”,
success of her touring show and previous comments Tawadros. “Because venues are under
relationships with film institutions, made an such pressure to fundraise, to develop their press
application to the London Film and Video profile and get people through the door, they are
Development Agency for an Artists’ Film & Video more wary than ever before of showing artists who
Award for £20,000 to make a new 16mm film, are not known or established. Also, people shy
Eating Grass. away from work that they see as political and that
Her application was successful and she choose has always been an issue for us. We work, at times
inIVA as producers for the film. “I also worked with with politically sensitive ideas and that can be
my sister Tanya Syed who makes films and could politics with a small ‘p’ where the resonance is
support the production element, but inIVA beyond the cultural, artistic world. Gilane Tawadros
facilitated the whole process and were very believes that a permanent site for inIVA will come
supportive. I could speak to who ever I wanted and some way in addressing the problem (the
that was very helpful. It took me eighteen months organisation is ten years old): “inIVA and Autograph
to make the film, although I was supposed to make want to create, by 2007, a space that allows for the
it in one year. I never make my work quickly so continuous showing of work, a place that is an
when Gilane Tawadros gave me a horrendous identifiable venue for ongoing conversations, a
deadline to have the film finished by the time of F- gateway for international contemporary art
EST in October 2002 I thought I was never going to practice, ideas and photography. We actually have
make it.” no permanent stake in this city, in this country and
“Eating Grass, is based on times of prayer and is a permanent presence would develop our capacity
in English and Urdu with subtitles and filmed in to generate more money for programmes and give
Pakistan and London. I have a relationship to us leverage in partnership to work with the big
Pakistan which goes back to when I was six-months institutions such as Tate and the Hayward Gallery.”
old. Noski Deville was to be my cinematographer. Tawadros’ focus is clear; to develop a continuous
We established how we were going to work and open dialogue with both artists and audience:
technically with timelapse – a technique which was “It’s crazy just to have a one-off relationship with
relatively new to both of us – in London (Deville has an artist. I continuously learn from them. I think
worked with Issac Julien and Steve McQueen artists bring a lot to an organisation and if you give
amongst others), but because of the greater global that relationship space and time, I do have a very
situation it was not possible for her to come. I also strong conviction that artists are the soundings for
felt it would be more appropriate to work with a wider culture within society, a wider cultural
people from Pakistan.” Syed’s eyes dart back to that consciousness”.
moment as she confirms that despite her fears she
met the deadline: “I don’t know to what extent Edith-Marie Pasquier is an artist and writer.
Gilane Tawadros understood how much work I Contact:
needed to do to get the film finished or she inIVA
understood very well how much work I needed to www.iniva.org

do and she just wanted to give me a push. But First published: a-n Magazine March 2004
whatever the reason it was very good and I am
grateful because inIVA did help me raise money
from London Arts and with that extra £5,000 it
ensured that I could pay people to get it finished in
time.” Syed is happy to concede, “My whole

EATING GRASS 13
Gold rush
Projects and collaborations rarely spring into existence fully formed.
Hilary Williams examines a short project that developed into a major
programme, led to the setting up of a new arts business, and to jeweller
Mah Rana uncovering new tracts of material and experience.
The origins of the HAT (Here and There) project residency hosts and to the regions where the HAT
began in 2001 when Barney Hare Duke (then of jewellers lived, and is poised to tour Australia.
North West Arts) was approached by OBJECT (The Initial feedback about the show has been positive,
Centre for Craft and Design, Sydney, Australia) an with venues reporting that visitors are staying
organisation keen to work with artists in the UK. longer to study and unpick the individual creative
Within the contemporary crafts and design scene, journeys represented.
the North West of England was perceived to have Rana had visited Perth in Australia informally in
both an energy and considerable talent base. At the 2001 with a friend who was to undertake a
same time, North West Arts was aware of the need residency. Fascinated by the city, she was keen to
to extend the profile of artists, within its region, return to Australia in order to explore other cities
onto an international stage and promote the to see how they might vary from her initial
vibrancy of the region. This coincidence of strategy impression of the country. With her work often
and opportunity resulted in the Make Me project, executed in gold she decided she wanted to explore
and a positive response from both sides of the the history of the metal in relation to the Australian
globe resulted in a desire to continue to develop gold rush and how this, in some instances, has
the network. In 2002 the HAT project was shaped the social, economic as well as actual
formulated. landscape of Melbourne. Much of Rana’s work
By this point Hare Duke had been seconded by explores the resonance that a piece of jewellery
the Arts Council of England to develop the project might carry for the owner or the wearer (as part of
and he invited Jeremy Theophilus (ex-Senior Visual the touring HAT exhibition she has interviewed
Arts Officer, Arts Council of England) and Linda visitors about their own jewellery and
Theophilus (ex-Director of Exhibitions and photographed them wearing it) and the possibility
Collection, Crafts Council) to become involved. With of exploring the actual material would add to the
their combined knowledge of the crafts and design cultural context of her work.
infrastructure, as well as a wealth of contacts With her proposal accepted and her teaching
nationally and internationally, they were perfectly timetable taken into consideration Rana began
placed to develop a strong curatorial project hand- her residency in the Jewellery and Metalwork
in-hand with supporting and nurturing all of the Department of Monash University, Melbourne.
artists involved. The primary objective was to She had a flat on campus and bench space in the
develop research opportunities in an international MA studio, and an individual agreement with the
context, which presented a rare chance for designer- department also resulted in a fee for materials.
makers to extend their practice. Non prescriptive in its requirements of the artist-
Three other regional arts boards became in-residence, Rana was adamant that while she
involved – East Midlands Arts, West Midlands Arts gained from the experience the organisation
and the South East Arts. These partners began should also benefit from her time and she gave a
working collaboratively with five states in Australia series of lectures and weekend workshops.
to develop a project that would involve British In conversation Rana freely admits that “I didn’t
jewellers travelling to Australia to be in-residence follow the proposal word for word, but using this
for a period of two to three months in artists as a starting point I was allowed so much creative
studios and educational establishments. Similarly, freedom”. Rana visited the Sovereign Hill Theme
Australian jewellers would have residencies in the Park in Melbourne (site of one of the gold rushes in
UK. Lists of the artists were submitted to the hosts the nineteenth century) and from this point
to place artists in the most suitable institution to explored the city of Melbourne. Travelling little
ensure that both host and artists gained the outside the city she became fascinated in the
maximum benefit from the exchange. As Hare Duke ‘familiar Australia’ – the identical place names to
explains, “the hopes for the project were that it her London home, the travel companies and estate
would assert the value of research in practice and agents with the same names and logos, the
that it would be an articulation of experience.” supermarkets stocked with the same food stuffs –
It was also proposed that an exhibition should it was the ephemeral, the incidental that she started
be held at the end of the residencies. A curatorial to document. Working more in her campus flat with
decision was taken that the artists were not her computer and Photoshop than at her bench, she
required to show finished work, but rather the watched films and read, and with this distance from
exhibition was as a way to reveal the evidence of making she became more aware of her own creative
process, and seventeen individual approaches to process: “My work explores the relationship
making. Mah Rana, one of the jewellers from the UK between people and places, it’s like storytelling, the
who spent two months in Monash University, narrative of a film.”
Melbourne presented the list of films she had seen, Only with this time to step away from the usual
and books that she had read during her residency, commitments back in the UK does Rana feel that
feeling that the thought processes behind her work she has had time to reassess her reasons for
were revealed much more in her viewing and making. Other benefits of the residency included an
reading during the period. informal network of students, practitioners and
The exhibition has just finished a tour of the curators – a social network – who accompanied her
UK, visiting five venues linked to the sites of the to the cinema and exhibition openings. In the long-

14 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

term she feels that when she is able to go back,


connections and opportunities are in place to
pursue. This positive link to Melbourne has
resulted in a confidence to consider working in
other areas of Australia.
When the seventeen residencies were completed
the artists (including Cynthia Cousens, Claire
Norcross, Junko Mori and Vannetta Seecharran) and
the project team met in Manchester for a week long
residential conference to talk through the project,
exchange views and ideas and to see, in terms of
research, the individual outcomes. This creative
exchange was documented by the eighteenth artist-
in-residence, the documentary photographer and
film maker Johnny Magee whose images are already
illustrate the project website and are included in
the publication that accompanies the project.
Talking to Rana it appears that the project was
an extremely positive step for her. Well organised
and thought through, the outcome for the artist
seems to have been considered and centrally placed
at the beginning of this organically developed
project – where the creative path and process are
regarded and valued as central in nurturing the
development of practitioners. HAT has helped
establish a model for future artistic exchanges –
with Barney Hare Duke and Jeremy Theophilus
having formed A Fine Line, a company that aims to
establish international opportunities for designer
makers. With projects already in the planning for
further exchanges to Australia, and extending to
India, Pakistan, China and Japan it seems that the
HAT project has proved itself to be a more than
suitable framework on which to build. This model
may aid the creative journeys (in both the literal
and non literal sense) of many more practitioners
from the UK in exploring varying cultural contexts
for their work, and also adds to the artistic
infrastructure of the UK by the reciprocal visits
of artists from around the world.

Hilary Williams is the Director of Ditchling Museum.

Contact:
www.mahrana.com

More information about HAT and contact details can be found at


All images: www.hat.mmu.ac.uk

Mah Rana, Little Differences,


First published: a-n Magazine December 2004
May-June 2003. Series of
photographs taken during
residency at Monash university,
Melbourne.

GOLD RUSH 15
Old and new masters
Bruce Haines profiles Johannes Phokela’s ongoing
partnership with Gasworks in London.

Johannes Phokela and Gasworks is one of the of reflecting on one’s own practice through the
longer standing partnerships to have weathered process of art making and dialogue with others”.
the vagaries of the art world. For over ten years Over twenty workshops are currently active in
Gasworks Studios has provided Phokela with a countries as diverse as Venezuela, Ghana, South
stable, affordable workspace, augmented by an Africa, India, China, Australia and the UK. These
international visiting artists’ programme and, locations form what is known as the Triangle
of late, a changing exhibition programme in the Network.
galleries below. The building, situated near the For Phokela, being a Gasworks artist is a
Oval cricket ground, now houses thirteen studios privilege, especially since the studios are not run
and a gallery; ten studios are rented out to on a commercial or business basis, at least from
London-based artists while three are reserved for his perspective:
the International Residency Programme, where “The benefits of working in an environment
artists are invited to take a studio for a period containing short-term guests artists from overseas,
of up to three months. plus a project-orientated gallery space, outweighs
Throughout his tenure, Phokela has made his most conventional studio places. I have been able
mark both in the UK and internationally through his to focus my work, as well as use the opportunity
unique takes on Dutch and Flemish ‘Old Masters’, to build connections with people from numerous
among others, sending up their aesthetics and parts of the world involved in the arts.”
cultural specificity with breathtaking audacity and For the first four or five years at Gasworks,
great technical facility. Phokela’s beautifully artists programmed an incredible number of
painted versions of iconic images by the likes of residencies and exhibitions, more than twenty
Bruegel, Rubens, de Gheyn and Jordaens are shows each year. The gallery provided emerging
worked up deliberately from reproductions and and international artists with an opportunity to
his memory of the original. He changes the gender exhibit in London. With time the heavier
Johannes Phokela,
and colour of key protagonists from their North professional commitments on artists/organisers Saycheese, oil on canvas,
European origins to make deeply unsettling have made it more and more difficult to deliver a 168x198cm, 2002.
images that challenge nationalistic narratives programme without having to sacrifice other areas
around art history. In a painting from Jordaen’s of their practice. In 1998 Gasworks applied to
Johannes Phokela,
The King Drinks, Phokela depicts a Flemish family Lottery funding and the following year the gallery Apotheosis, oil on canvas
group gorging on a feast; with lascivious and applied to be supported by London Arts (now (arched Stretcher), 2004.

cannibalistic tendencies. He focuses on the abject known as Arts Council England, London) for
aspects of the original; food, vomit and excrement revenue funding as a small-scale gallery. Both bids
particularly coming to the fore. Phokela studied at were successful and enabled Gasworks to employ
the Royal College of Art, London. His South a residency coordinator and a gallery director.
African roots and move to the UK are linked to While the aim of Gasworks is to curatorially
these reinterpretations of the Golden Age in line and administratively support the professional
with the African continent. His paintings are as development of artists at earlier stages of their
much about the violent and twisted history of career, for Phokela the promotion of himself
Europeans in Africa as they are about the history comes second to the diverse benefits that the
of painting. Phokela’s extensive knowledge of the workshops and residencies brings. Although as an
subject is, though, underpinned by a great sense artist-run space Gasworks was showing all artists
of humour which he brings to a familiar, but often who had a studio, now that the programme is
misunderstood genre. curated it is not necessarily the case, though this
Gasworks started in 1994 as an artist-run has just happened in the case of Saki Satom.
space, based on the Bag Factory, an artists’ studio Having a studio at Gasworks leaves Phokela
and gallery complex established in Johannesburg relatively less stressed out from the ups and
four years earlier. Artists were involved in downs associated with creative practice.
programming and running the gallery and the As a publicly funded organisation, Alessio
residency programme. This created a strong sense Antoniolli confirms the pastoral role the transition
of community and mutual support both for local from artist led organisation to an artist supporting
and the visiting artists. Both are part of Triangle institution has brought:
Arts Trust, a network of artists and organisations “We feel a responsibility as well as a pleasure
initiated in 1982 by Robert Loder and Anthony in developing a programme that gives visibility
Caro. Here, over a two-week period, between to studio and visiting artists through a series of
twenty and twenty-five artists were invited to activities ranging from talks and seminars to
develop works benefiting from contact and workshops and other education activities.”
dialogue with their peers. About half of the From Gasworks point of view, the support it
workshop participants were from the country gives to artists is reciprocated by the time and
where the workshop took place while the others energy the permanently based artists give back.
were from other international countries. At the Phokela for instance has been very involved in
heart of Gasworks is a commitment to fostering suggesting artists and introducing curators to
collaboration from working alongside other Gasworks. Recently Gasworks has introduced
artists. This has provided an alternative way of a two-year contract for ‘permanent’ artists. In the
what Alessio Antoniolli, who runs the residency past artists were freer to stay longer but it was
programme, calls “learning by exchange, a way decided that a more frequent turnover benefits

16 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

the life of the studio and helps to keep the place


more dynamic.
Perhaps as just recognition for Phokela’s
dedication and unwavering practice, he was
awarded a coveted decibel artists’ award this year,
which he describes as “more than a grant in a
meritocratic sense”, and now is in a much stronger
position to realise his objectives. Johannes Phokela
and Robert Loder go a long way back, with many
mutual friends, a relationship that is a suitable
metaphor for the generosity that lies at the heart
of the organisation and which will ensure it
continues to go from strength to strength.
It seems vital to Phokela’s ongoing
productivity for him to maintain a position within
the community that Gasworks fosters, and which
mutual support should ensure that neither party
stands still for long.

Bruce Haines is a curator and writer.


Contact:
Gasworks
155 Vauxhall Street, London SE11 5RH
www.gasworks.org.uk

Phokela’s work can also be viewed on the inIVA website:


www.iniva.org/archive/person/203

First published: a-n Magazine April 2005

OLD AND NEW MASTERS 17


Cross-pollination
Ben Coode-Adams talks to Rob Kesseler and NESTA
about their symbiotic relationship.

The partnership between the National Endowment applicant. Indeed NESTA fellows are characterised
for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and by their independence of mind and self-sufficiency.
artist Rob Kesseler seeks to reawaken the fertile By chance, Kesseler went through two other
confluence between the botanical sciences and the members of staff before ending up with Alex
decorative and fine arts. Awarded the fellowship to Barclay, his main contact. Just as NESTA is not the
provide him with time, materials and equipment, average funder, it is not the average employer.
Kesseler says “It’s a wonderful opportunity to Disney was Barclay’s previous boss, followed by a
encourage visual awareness of a fascinating, yet holding company for which he managed five media
still untapped area of scientific research”. As ‘NESTA and creative companies. Barclay describes NESTA as
Fellow at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’ the “an incredible place to work. You’re learning all the
partnership provides him with a grant of £75,000 time. You have to be highly flexible. It is really
over three years. satisfying. Management of these projects is
Kesseler is embedded in two institutions; NESTA controlled improvisation”.
and the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. Although On 5 September 2003, Kesseler showed every
each has very different attitudes and goals, they are single member of NESTA’s staff around Kew
united behind the impetus to raise ‘public Gardens. Barclay described the day: “Rob is a
awareness of science’. This may sound trite, even fantastic verbal as well as visual communicator.
naive, but in this case it is not just lip service, but a He enhanced our understanding of the natural
genuine motivation. The frequency and quality of world. It was great to go from the abstract world of
the ways in which Kesseler’s work has reached the applications to the very concrete world of his work
public testifies to its integrity. at Kew, to see how our work impacts on the real
Like many artists, Kesseler is a natural jack-of- world.”
all-trades and master of many, expecting to fund Kesseler had never heard of NESTA when he was
and make work, organise exhibitions and asked to apply for a fellowship, and the application
publications and generate publicity as well as process was gruelling. It took him six months to
continuing to teach. The fellowship has put him in complete and then he almost failed to win the
the position of being asked to undertake projects support of the trustees, who make the final
rather than to have to initiate them, meaning that decisions, because the peer review process was not
administrative functions have passed to others, entirely positive. By his own admission, his
enabling him to delegate responsibilities such as proposal sounded dull. At the eleventh hour, the
publicity. intervention of the scout, who picked him out,
However, the fellowship programme does not reinvigorated his optimism in his application.
have an open application. Applicants are invited to He was awarded the application on his track record
apply by anonymous scouts who scour the country but also on his detailed research and profound
looking for suitable and worthy candidates. The knowledge of his subject area. Kesseler really loves
scouts are acknowledged experts in their fields, and plants. NESTA did not know how the fellowship
this allows NESTA to move into unfamiliar territory would pan out but they welcome risk and are Rob Kesseler, poppy, original
magnification x3k, 380x380cm.
in which they have not worked before. committed to innovation.
NESTA likes to work in the gaps between other Barclay has noticed a close alliance between the Rob Kesseler, hawkweed,
original magnification x2k,
funders, supporting collaborative and cross- or cutting edge of disciplines and cutting edge 100x200cm.
multi-disciplinary projects and teams. It seeks out technology. Accessible and developing technology
new arenas in which to work. It seeks out the enables creative people to be ‘niche-switchers’. Rob Kesseler, mayweed
pollen, original magnification
innovative, cutting edges of disciplines; learning all Technology is often the engine of collaborative x4k, 420x420cm.
the time, developing organically in response to its relationships. While Kesseler is not attempting to
experiences with projects and practitioners. In niche-hop, technology has been indispensable in
some senses the fellows have shaped the way allowing him to get really close to his subject
NESTA has evolved. through Kew’s array of electron microscopes.
Right from the start NESTA makes a These microscopes have been the locale of his
collaborative proposition of the relationship collaboration with Kew Gardens.
between institution and fellow. The organisation Being a fellow is no cakewalk. It piles on the
does not want to have creative input, but for the pressure by widening the possibilities. But with
applicant to be able to push their ideas into reality, that comes responsibility. Suddenly you are
maximise the potential of the project and ensure answerable to someone who is constantly asking
that its impact is as wide as possible, ‘NESTA “How is the public benefiting from this?” NESTA is
connects public money with brilliant individuals’. dealing with public money and taxpayers must
Given the enormous breadth of the areas in benefit from its awards. The fellowship raises the
which NESTA works, there can be no model for how stakes, and with it the stress. It is not for artists
each project pans out or how it is supported. Each who want a quiet life.
project and fellowship is taken on its own terms, The fellow must position him/herself so that
and support is tailored. when the fellowship ends there is no nosedive into
NESTA appoint a member of staff who will guide obscurity having just reached a career summit.
the applicant through the application process and One of Barclay’s main functions has been to help
represent the applicant at the crucial trustees Kesseler think strategically, to plan his workload so
meeting when proposals are judged. This is not he still has space to be creative. They have begun
nannying, but time for NESTA to get to know the to plan an exit strategy. Barclay asks all the fellows

18 COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS


COLLECTIONS: COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Ruskin and tea with Wordsworth. He began to


collect the pollen of Lakeland flora and contacted
Dr Madeline Harley, a scientist from Kew Gardens’
Micromorphology Unit. She is an expert on pollen
and now Kesseler’s long-term collaborator with
whom he plans a book.
Kesseler applied the images generated to a
120-piece dinner service. The project combined
the observations of John Ruskin and Dorothy and
William Wordsworth with images from a Scanning
Electron Microscope. This work culminated in a
dinner in the forest using the dinner service. He
happened, unknowingly, to invite a NESTA scout.
The event, on an unseasonably warm September
evening in 2000, was a magical combination of
Ruskin, excellent food (and wine) and swarms of
midges. It convinced the scout, a Ruskin scholar,
to ask Kesseler to make an application for the
fellowship programme.
For Kesseler, his work at Grizedale raised more
questions than answers and he was keen to
Rob Kesseler, corncockle, continue to exploit the productive subjects he had
he manages to plan up to fifteen years ahead.
installation view. Photo: the combined. He began work on installations at Dove
One of Kesseler’s principal gifts is for creating artist. The banners carry
digitally manipulated images Cottage, the former home of Wordsworth in
the right environment for chance encounters to
of wildflower pollen Grasmere and later at the Victoria & Albert Museum
spark beneficial opportunities. The exploitation of photographed on a scanning
electron microscope and are in spring 2001. The NESTA application was
such opportunities has been key to the success of
sited adjacent to the site from therefore opportune but it did not divert the flow
his fellowship. Kesseler is well networked in his which the pollen was collected
last year. The images are
of his work, indeed it supported it.
own right, despite describing himself as “not
printed onto vinyl mesh. Kesseler is funded to make the work he wants
clubbable”, but teamed with NESTA’s Strategy
to make. His profile and credibility is raised, giving
Communications and PR Department his ability to
him opportunities to work in the public domain
create environments conducive to propagating
with permanent and temporary works that might
opportunities is formidable.
otherwise have passed him by.
Perhaps the best example of Kesseler creating
He is currently working on a complex and
fertile ground for opportunities is the story of how
extensive installation for Sustrans (the National
he was nominated for a fellowship in the first place.
Cycle Network) on the route between Folkestone
A NESTA scout stumbled across him by chance.
and Dover called Flora Calcarea. His work was
Grizedale Arts was developing a craft-based strand
featured at Kew as part of the ‘Go wild’ festival this
to its programme of residencies. Richard Slee and
summer.
Kesseler were the first beneficiaries of this. Funded
by Grizedale and Central St Martin’s, where he
Ben Coode-Adams is an artist. His work spans
studied and now teaches, with assistance from
sculpture, video installation, photography,
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Ltd and The Ruskin
performance and curation. Working across disciplines,
Library, Lancaster University, Kesseler developed a
collaboration is a cornerstone of his work.
project based around the idea of having dinner with
www.bencoodeadams.com

Contact:
NESTA
www.nesta.org.uk.

Grizedale Arts
www.grizedale.org

Rob Kesseler
www.graft-uk.com/studies.html

First published: a-n Magazine October 2003

Rob Kesseler, Gathered, a


dinner held in Grizedale
Forest, 2000. Photo: Claire
Shoosmith. Kesseler hosted a
dinner using a specially
created dinner service
decorated with images of
pollen collected from the
forest.

CROSS-POLLINATION 19
To mark our 25th year we’re bringing out some new publications that focus on
the key issues for artists and their practice, provide contexts for discourse
and debate and support good practice in the visual arts.

FUTURE FORECAST GOOD PRACTICE


Entitled Future space (May), Social space (August), Curated Extending applications of The Code
space (November) and Outer space (February), this series is of Practice for the Visual Arts by
about raising questions, not giving answers, on the pros and demonstrating good practice in valuing
cons of future support frameworks and expectations for artists. and paying artists, the Artists’ Fees and
Payments series includes: Establishing
a-n COLLECTIONS a charge rate for a working artist;
Designed to examine and analyse the ‘why, what and how’ of Good practice in paying artists,
artists’ practice. Includes anthologies of selected articles from aimed at public sector arts employers
the a-n archive contextualised by new commentary, such as commissioners, consultants and trainers;
Collaborative relationships with Rohini Malik Okon (June), and the forthcoming Good Exhibition
and new themed texts selected by guest editors John Beagles Practice (September).
and Paul Stone (July) and Deborah Smith (October).

Subscribers automatically receive new publications as they come out.

a-n MAGAZINE
Revitalised with more News, Networking artists’ networks
and Opportunities, in print, online and back issues archive.

www.a-n.co.uk KNOWLEDGE BANK


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