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Virtual Realities (Part Three)

But for the first two hundred years of its life spectacle, associated in particular with stage technology – referred to as ‘machines’ in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theatre – was assumed to be an essential component of opera; indeed, as essential as music. In his General History of Music of 1766–89 the English historian Dr Burney

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Virtual realities (Part Two)

If you go to experience Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách at the Dublin Fringe Festival today, you’ll be greeted by hosts who’ll show you to your own little island, one of several green spaces dotted around the room. On it, there’s a headset and a white crate, where you’ll put your shoes (and other

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‘The MIAAW Monthly’, a cultural democracy email

For the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a podcast with Arlene Goldbard, in which we talk with like-minded people in the USA and Europe about community art and cultural democracy. I tag along really: Arlene is a much more natural speaker than me, while the technical side of is kindly and invisibly managed

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Four years to get here, four weeks to go

Exactly a month from now, on 7 October 2022, the second and final performance of La Gata Perduda will happen at the Liceu Opera House in Barcelona. It has ben a four year journey, through a pandemic, slowly building confidence and belief. What began as a simple idea—’Let’s invite our neighbours to create an opera

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Access ≠ Democracy

When I began in community art, the photocopier was new technology. In the printshop where I was an apprentice, we couldn’t afford Letraset transfer sheets so we copied and enlarged typefaces from the catalogue and redrew them for screen-printed posters (as in the example below). Our minimal office work was done on a typewriter with

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Old Words #6: Cultural policy in a post-political age (2021-22)

Neglecting the origins and principles of cultural policy is damaging because it will lead to to confusion at best and illusion at worst, both of which will make democratic accountability more difficult. In that respect, these developments are in keeping with the powerful—and dangerous—practices of many politicians in democratic societies today. Cultural policy is not immune from this infection.

Can you teach community art?

TL;DR? No. In the 1980s, when the first generation of community artists had been around for long enough to feel they understood the territory they’d discovered, and were beginning to cast their eye over other lands, with different attractions and rewards, there was a lot of talk about how to pass on to others what

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‘Write this down’

It was the end of a long day. We’d run out of time and the guards needed to get us moving. Goodbyes take time in Portugal, and especially in the prison. Handshakes and hugs for everyone, from everyone. A ritual of recognition. One young inmate—I’ll call him João, but it’s not his name, or his

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This is not a level playing field

Evaluation has become a dominant preoccupation in participatory art in the past generation. It’s a fascinating field, and I’ve played a part in its development, though my ideas have not always been understood as I intended. Indeed, I worry that current approaches to evaluation in the arts are misguided and even damaging. I’m working on

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Time to leave? (I’m getting grumpy.)

After 40 years working in the cultural sector, I have reached the point of being all but unemployable, except perhaps as a technician, like the plumber you call in for a blocked drain. It’s more than a decade since I applied for a job with a salary and a job description: I stopped when I

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