Saturday, 29 June 2013

Recently I was asked to contribute a show to Ort. a fledgling space in a run-down part of Birmingham.

My instinct, during a reconnaissance trip, told me this was no place to trumpet my own skills or achievements (‘a show’) but rather an opportunity to let others speak.

The resulting event could justifiably be described as ‘socially engaged.’ It featured a mix of mostly local people including professional artists, aspiring artists, amateur artists, adamantly non-artists, and some who made art for therapeutic reasons, or reasons which, when given in a contextualising statement, remained so obscure to others that the term ‘outsider’ seemed accurate and appropriate to apply to them.

Though ultimately successful in its own terms, the whole project felt purposefully risky, and I used this word when launching it. But what was the risk? Perhaps it was the possibility that, by refusing to apply habitual professional judgments and standards we might produce something of no value, little value or dubious value, or something that any audience beyond the immediate contributors themselves might find difficult to evaluate.

Having completed the event I’m certain that all those involved, and some visitors too, would agree that this was not the case, that our own collaborative experience, and that which we offered for others to share and evaluate for themselves, was of value, and was in fact of that rare, true value, the value of that which is truly rare - unexpected, different, ‘thought-provoking’, challenging and progressive.

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