Traditional culture and community art

There was a time when I dismissed traditional art as a medium for socially engaged practice. As a young community artist, I thought only contemporary forms could explore current issues. Like all prejudices, this was rooted in ignorance: I knew almost nothing about traditional arts. It was researching the Scottish fèisean movement that opened my … Continue reading Traditional culture and community art

The Pinning Stones

Portraits from The Pinning Stones by Ray Smith On Thursday, the residents of Scotland decide whether to leave the United Kingdom and establish their own state. Whatever your view of the possible outcomes, we should be thankful that negotiations are not being conducted with arms as they are now in Ukraine. Democracy has its failings, as elected demagogues … Continue reading The Pinning Stones

How to be an artist

‘I don’t care if you call my work journalism or art or whatever; whatever you want to call it is fine with me.’ Jonas Bendiksen Open for Business Over the past few months, I have been interviewing documentary photographers for a project about manufacturing industry. Open for Business is a partnership between Multistory and Magnum, … Continue reading How to be an artist

Regular Marvels, in Theory (RMT)

Regular Marvels

Geese 2One reason for creating Regular Marvels is to look for better ways of writing about people’s experience of art and culture. That experience is important and endlessly interesting to me, but any understanding of it, indeed the experience itself, is shaped by how it is told. So Regular Marvels sets out consciously to question how stories about artistic experience are created and shared.

It does so by trying out different ways of discovering, thinking about and recounting those experiences. If it is research—and it is deliberately not research in the sense that is currently approved by universities and research boards—it is research through practice. A Regular Marvel, for me,  includes the 18-24 month process of exploration, its evolving presence on this blog and the final book with its artwork. (I use the term ‘Regular Marvel’ rather than ‘project’ or ‘research’ precisely to free this work from association with existing theories…

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Portraying the change

How can you describe a cultural programme that has extended over 14 years, 9 countries and 3,000 projects? How do you account for its outcomes, the change it may have contributed to, and the effects on culture or society? That was the challenge faced by the small team of people who have managed the Swiss Cultural … Continue reading Portraying the change

The Swiss Cultural Programme in the Western Balkans

Next week, I will be in Sarajevo for a conference to mark the end of the Swiss Cultural Programme in the Western Balkans, (SCP) after almost 15 years. Set up by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and managed by Pro Helvetia, SCP has provided vital support to artists, cultural groups and activists from … Continue reading The Swiss Cultural Programme in the Western Balkans

The problem of ‘impact’ (MCV 4)

A conversation with Peter Wright at the Creative Communities 3 conference made me realize that it might be useful to explain why I no longer use the word ‘impact’ in relation to people’s experience of the arts. Peter, who teaches at Murdoch University in Western Australia, gave a rich presentation about his work with Big … Continue reading The problem of ‘impact’ (MCV 4)

Serious amateurs

The modern system of art is not an essence or a fate but something we have made. Larry Shiner, 2001 Members of West Bromwich Operatic Society can be sensitive about being called amateurs, not because it is inaccurate, but because of the perception that amateur has become a synonym for mediocre (and their work is … Continue reading Serious amateurs

Stories and Fables: Culture in Orkney

Download the report Stories and Fables - Culture in Orkney 2012 Orkney is an archipelago set in the wild seas of the north of Scotland. It has some of the oldest traces of human habitation in Europe. Today, it’s home to about 20,000 people and a cultural life of exceptional variety and richness. In 2011, I was … Continue reading Stories and Fables: Culture in Orkney