Welcome to #ITWArtistAssignments. Through these posts we're opening up 'Into the Wild' (ITW) so that other artists can connect with the ideas, information and thinking that is being shared by artists and artworld professionals. Activities are derived from the ITW sessions, but designed to help you develop your own practice and reflect on your specific context. We’ll be touching on issues like funding, collaboration and notions of 'success', posing both practical tasks and existential questions.
Before we start puzzling through these questions together, the first assignment invites you to reflect on where/who you are right now - the work you've done, your skills and interests, and the expanded network of people and resources that sustain your practice. Consider everything and everyone that feeds into your local artworld, and your personal experience of making art.
And from here, consider what you'd like to develop in your own practice - what do you need, what would you like to learn over the coming months?
There's no right or wrong way to do this, but it's helpful to be able to see everything at a glance. Your reflections could be entirely visual, text-based or abstract, and need not make sense to anyone else. The form is entirely up to you - feel free to bring these reflections together in a way that will be most helpful to you.
Did it feel good to familiarise yourself with the tools, resources and people around you over the last week? Did it give you a sense of everything that goes into that nebulous entity - your art practice? And did it highlight some of the things that you rely on, and which maybe, in turn, rely on you too?
Each week at Into the Wild our conversations touch on the importance of interdependence - those extended networks that keep us afloat, and which in turn we have a responsibility to keep afloat too.
We also constantly return to discussions on care: - the importance of self care and critiquing its commodification, - the way art is used as a substitute for social care, - questions of who is actually afforded care by social institutions, and is it based on genuine need?
These conversations always touch and overlap. When considering how we can care for ‘ourselves’, it’s often impossible to know where we end and these networks of interdependence begin. Rather than attempting to tease these things apart, this week take some time to sit with that tension between self and others, between caring for your own wellbeing and that of your communities. Initiate an act of care towards yourself - something that can become part of a regular routine to support you in your art practice. From the start, consider how to make it replicable and what might get in the way - when would be the best time of day to do this, and the right location? Draw on your thoughts from last week - what do you need? And at the same time, initiate an equally replicable act of care towards your community, or a specific thing that sustains your art practice. How can you build more reciprocity into the way you work, and make an active commitment to the things that you draw on for support?
This is the week of initiation, but reflect on these new acts of care at the end of the week, in a fortnight, in a month, two months… Give them time to become a habit and grow into something you can do with others. Refine them as and when you need to.
Last week’s assignment encouraged you to think about interdependence, the communities that support your art practice, and how you can sustain them in turn. In our weekly ITW sessions we encounter the concept of ‘community’ a lot, and we’ve tried to unpick what/who is being referred to in each instance (and why). …artists working with “communities”, community arts, artist communities…our thoughts about these different relationships and motivations have been supported through sessions with Jacob V Joyce, Rubie and Marsha Bradfield. Our conversations about ‘how to work with others’ is a work in progress, but here’s an assignment and an invitation to join in:
This week, start with some research: look at examples of art being commissioned and/or made in your local area. Where and how does ‘community’ feature in this work, and what’s the motivation behind it?
Next, think of how you could make some work with others. This is a real head-scratcher at the moment, and possibly not top of your list of priorities. But you might be keen to imagine novel ways of connecting with loved ones (or strangers) during the coming weeks. Who could you make art with? What would that process look like?
First: start small and make a date to work on something creative with at least one other person.
Next: together, work on a script, a text or a performance for multiple voices or bodies. As a start point, have a conversation about whether you’re a community (and why). What communities do you think you belong to? The work can be about this, but it doesn’t need to be.
Over the past few weeks these assignments have explored the importance of being familiar with your local artworlds. When Into the Wild visited Southend on Sea, the group were struck by how valuable it was to get a sense of other artworlds too - the things you have in common as well as how your experiences differ.
As a group we’ve started to describe our local artworlds as LADDERS. Members of the group are based in different cities and towns around the UK, and while they have much in common their local art ecologies are very different. The ladder metaphor has been useful for us, so this week we’re inviting you to think about what your local artworld feels like for you.
First: consider your experience of your local area and its creative infrastructure. How would you describe it to others? Look around you and build a model from any non-recyclable waste, scraps, junk you can find. It can be small or large, but it should visualise (embody? describe?) your local artworld. Take a picture of it.
Next: think about the things you’d like to change about your local artworld. What tools would you need to make this happen? Has self-isolating forced you to engage with the ‘local’ in a different way, or helped you to envisage how to connect beyond your local area? With these things in mind, break apart your model, and use the debris to create a new tool for changing your artworld. Again, take a picture and share both with us using #itwartistassignments
Throughout the programme we keep coming back to notions of “success”, and its flipside “failure”. While we appreciate that there’s no one way to be successful, it can be hard to cultivate a sense of what success means in relation to our own practices. In conversation with visiting artists we’ve discussed how hard it can be to feel successful, even while achieving widely-accepted markers of success. During her visit, Dr Marsha Bradfield encouraged us to think about the broad range of values that exist in our lives - “wealth beyond capital” - which can help us think beyond standard (competitive) ideas of ‘a successful artist’ and consider what we want to achieve through our work and how it could relate to others.
This week :-
First: take some time to reflect on what success (and failure) looks and feels like to you.
Then: send a letter from the future, describing your ideal ‘successful’ art practice to a friend, and how this practice embodies the values that are important to you. In this future, who will you be working with, and where? How will you spend your days? Where does money come into the equation, and how? Your ‘letter’ need not be a written text but do try to send it to someone, whether that’s as a video, email or physical package.
When we talk about 'our practice' or 'our work', we're often describing the act of making art in a very narrow way. It's important to acknowledge all the different kinds of labour that support and sustain our art practice. These things might feel very peripheral and we might even wish we didn't have to do them at all. They're almost always invisible and generally the kind of labour that goes under-appreciated or dismissed as an unavoidable part of life (the never-ending cycle of emails, job applications, tax returns, self-promotion, maintaining a website...) But it's not inevitable that this work should be undervalued - in fact, it's important to value it and explicitly see it as part of our art work. And not only our individual art work, but something reflective of the conditions that we're all operating in.
This week, focus on an art project that felt successful. Start to move outwards from the final work, considering all the different kinds of labour that led to this project being completed, no matter how small (in fact, the smaller the better). How many emails did you send? How long did you spend travelling or reading or making false starts? Who did you have to talk to and how much money did you have to spend? How much time did you take documenting and sharing the project with others? Add it all up and resist the temptation to under-estimate. Acknowledge and value the diversity of labour, and spare a thought for the time spent on projects and applications that did not come to pass.
Find a way to make this visible, and share your responses using #ITWArtistAssignments.