Spaced Out

Spaced Out was a one-day conference convened by Artquest and DACS that explored the physical, political and digital spaces that visual artists use. Speakers reflected on traditional arts spaces, the impact of rising accommodation costs on creative workers, the post-colonial context of business spaces in London and how virtual spaces are used to exhibit, make and sell work. The conference explored the broad political and economic currents that are changing how and what spaces are available to artists and the arts, and considers the impact on future practice, culture and society.

We collect here quotes from speakers and audience at the conference – you can watch the whole conference again on Periscope.

On working with property developers

Nick Hartwright
For me it’s important to have conversations with people early on about how we might use space in one of our projects. If a building is going to be developed for artists workspace, we’d rather get them in at the beginning of the process than trying to plug their creativity in somewhere along the line. We need to understand what people actually need and the interventions that can also have impact on society. We have a social enterprise model that uses revenue streams to support creative practice.

You might be an artist now, but in ten years’ time you might be doing something totally different. The early influence of your artistic process makes a difference to what you might do next, and that then makes a difference to people around you: you start changing the way people in society act with each other.

Anthony Gross
There’s a hangover from the 19th century Romantic idea of the artist: making their work, needing their own space to create, the right space to exhibit, and how they are supported by patrons. That’s all been eroded massively by the current government and non-caring capitalism. To navigate as a contemporary artist you have to consider all the forces that buffet you: economic cycles, social responsibility, or the idea that you have no such responsibility. There’s a lot of artists who naturally want to make imaged-based, aesthetic work, work that is not necessarily socially engaged or audience focussed in that way, and it’s quite hard to do that independent of the external factors that will shape their practice.

After [completing an MA in 2001 at] Goldsmiths, I realised there were no squatted, Berlin-like art space in Deptford, and also a lack of small project spaces. I’m interested in ‘mid-studio’ art, between a studio and a commercial gallery, so I tried to set up that kind of project in a police station in Deptford, and then later with Enclave, an experimental artist-run infrastructure that supports the trajectory of the artist in their career.

But now it would be very hard to set up these kinds of spaces because of the timing of when they happened: some of them are protected by long leases, but some we have to keep negotiating with the local council. Some are opportunistic, like approaching a property developer who has an empty building so they could save business rates by having a charity occupy it. Those sorts of opportunities have dwindled. Support for the arts has been eroded. Individual artists are still trying to get Arts Council funding, but the idea of finding funding at all seems quite alien to me now. Artists might try to continue the Romantic thread but have to respond entrepreneurially to navigate it all.

Nick Hartwright
All those tactics like being a developer’s friend by taking on empty spaces and deleting business rates, they all work, but they’re time-limited: five to ten years perhaps, effectively meanwhile projects. The only way to really secure these spaces is to become developers or property owners yourselves. That shouldn’t be about building 15 storeys of flats with a tiny bit of workspace underneath like so much right now, it’s working with organisations like the Mayor’s Office or local authorities, working with schools, colleges, universities, and trying to work with developers or landowners to bring across real benefit to artists and the places they work.

That grows, that cluster starts to get rid of the old traditional means of keeping space for artists. Regeneration becomes actual regeneration of areas, rather than a displacement vehicle that just pushes people further and further away.

Question from audience
Sorry, I just find that a little bit hypocritical. If you’re saving property developers money by occupying their empty properties, aren’t you also feeding their profits? It continues the cycle of them moving artist communities in and then when it becomes trendy they sell it all on and turf them out.

Nick Hartwright
You’re absolutely right, and we’re trying to go against this by now securing long term or permanent property. For the last 10-15 years the focus has usually been on meanwhile spaces and temporarily empty properties. What we’re doing now is becoming co-developers on sites, so that rather than an artist getting pushed off we’re nurturing artists and creative businesses.

We are working with several property developers in about 13 sites in London. We then transition from short-term, insecure, meanwhile space into some subsidised spaces and some more commercial spaces. It means ownership in future to protect these spaces. The traditional model of “get artists in, make the area cool, then get them out and put the prices up” is broken, it doesn’t make any sense, it doesn’t work. We have to look longer-term, if we carry on doing that traditional meanwhile thing we’re all going to get screwed over.

Anthony Gross
There are short-term and longer-term opportunities. A commercial lease has a duration and when you leave you may have helped them [the building owner], you may not. It’s up to you to exploit them during your occupation. I’ve got buildings that are 10 year leases with the council, some are a 10 year lease with a private developer, one was a 1 year lease and we used it for free and got them to do all the studio build. It must have cost them £120,000 to do that project, we could never have afforded to do it ourselves. And yes, at the end of it they’ve got a culturally, socially activated site.

That was a bit of a one-off, an experimenting model. What’s interesting about your project, Nick, is how do you become a stakeholder of the gentrification – and I’m using the word gentrification on purpose – that you inevitably create as an artist: because you do, all of you do, and you have to accept that. If you move to a rundown area, you don’t want to displace people, perhaps you’re actually from that area and it’s not an outsider intervention. But you have to co-own, if possible. Artists occupying don’t put up property prices, the property market puts up property prices by exploiting micro-artist economies, and you need to exploit it back. By co-owning, you cannot be forced out of the positive situation you’ve created. You have to find a way to be a long-term tenant in what you’ve helped.

Question from audience
There is a thriving ecosystem of studios and studio providers in London. I work for ACME Studios, we’ve been doing this for over 45 years now. The reason that we can protect studio spaces in the heart of Bethnal Green, for example, is because we own those buildings. Although now we’re a big organisation and a success story we didn’t start that way. What is really useful is taking a multi-disciplinary approach. Artists have fantastic research capabilities, in the way that they focus on their artistic projects, and with that kind of sustained intellectual power teaming up with architects or economists and learning the language of development, it’s not that big a step to begin exploring it yourself. It doesn’t have to be a studio complex for 60 or 70 artists, it can be a terraced house for 6 or 9. It’s difficult to get space in the centre of London, absolutely, but why not do something where are you living? Most artists are not now living in the centre of London, so make things that work for you within a small ecosystem.

ACME and its peers have been around for a very long time: Space Studios, ACAVA, they’re all artist-led organisations that are dedicated to providing permanent, affordable studios for artists. The National Federation of Artist Studio Providers exists solely to provide information to help you on your way. We got lost in a single narrative about the traditional model being short life, but that’s one of a number of models that gets the most press. The way that Nick works is an excellent model, and really does help artists: it’s different from how we work and that’s necessary for a thriving ecosystem.

On post-industrial spaces in London

Russell Martin
The supposedly traditional model of ‘wild spaces’ was only available because there were a lot of big, post-industrial warehouse spaces left over after ports moved out of cities. [Duncan Smith, artist and former director of ACAVA, has talked about this phenomenon in Artquest’s System Failure series of talks.] What about the spaces that are being built now? Would they make suitable studio spaces or meanwhile space in the future – do you think that sort of re-use of spaces could happen again from the buildings being built now?

Nick Hartwright
They would need to be re-provisioned, just like the older post-industrial spaces, of course. We’re working on some pretty big sites at the moment, 20,000-30,000 sq ft. Those big spaces are important: you can’t just have a load of 200 sq ft studio spaces, which are important as well, but that’s not all that’s needed. Lots of artists are really, in fact, working in light industry, like set builders that are spraying things and banging bits of metal together.

You have to look at what happens on new large-scale development projects and where you can fit those larger spaces in. Cities have traditionally managed to make this work – London has always had industry right inside it, and I think that’s been forgotten a little bit. Now, that realisation seems to be coming back, and what we’re finding is you can build those big warehouse spaces to sit underneath a 30 storey residential block and still have good noise separation and accommodate industrial use. We need these spaces, London needs these spaces, not just for artists. I think it can work, you just need to get engaged with it.

On leaving London

Anthony Gross
London now is at peak property, peak development, and a lot of industrial space has been lost to residential property, which may just sit empty for quite some time as Brexit bites and growth doesn’t arrive and inflation and low wage and so on. London might flatline a bit in terms of property prices. There could, then, be a resurgence of unused spaces because of this development glut. Without being pessimistic about recession – recession is good for us in that way.

The same cycle that has pushed up London property prices has also pushed people out to other areas of the country. I know people who are moving to Sheffield, some to Bristol – I would be thinking of Margate. All of these places have their own art scene, and it’s entirely possible to leave London.

On resistance

Question from audience
What would a Forensic Architecture project on the UK art world look like?

Eyal Weiszman
Forensic Architecture deals with state crime, so we would probably start by looking at the way in which economic and other structural forces have almost invisibly been geared to attack creative practitioners in cities. I think that the problem is how the government only sees the utility of the creative, you know, artists, architects, designers. It’s purely in the economic value that we bring, not in what we say, not in a critique that we offer. We are used against ourselves.
We are becoming complicit in our dispossession and this should concern us: all issues of counter-culture are finally weaponised against the weak in society. This is the story of California and many other places. We need to ask ourselves why critique has never been enough. How can we resist attacks on our physical presence and stop being disregarded?

Artists really need find the toolbox to be able to counter-punch, to be able to punch back. Forensic Architecture comes out of an almost desperate attempt to find an effect in the world, a way we could steer and intervene in the political and judicial forces and processes that are all around us: rather than simple passing on a comment, actually having a real force in the world. How do we increase our own agency?

On domestic studio space

Sovay Berriman
I think about a studio within a domestic space. I have a small workspace in my domestic space, and there’s a limitation on the materials and scale I can use: hazardous materials obviously interfere with home life. There’s also potentially a question of isolation from an artists’ community you’d find in a more traditional studio group. But a domestic work space also offers a lot of positives: you can heat it at the same time you’re heating your home, you can get to it easily because you already live there. Most studio spaces I’ve had in the past have been cold and damp and a bit out of the way to get to, and I haven’t always felt that safe walking home at night from some of these places. Being able to snatch some studio time around employment or caring responsibilities is really important too: we don’t all have days on end to spend in the studio and actually an awful lot can be achieved over an hour or two.

On time, money, and autonomy

Sovay Berriman
Artists of all ages spend much a lot of time struggling to balance income with time for art research and production. They need to be in a good place for exposure of their work, for critical dialogue; they need to be flexible to take up career development opportunities; they need time and they need money. I know many of my fellow artists who continue to live precariously through their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. They often live in shared rental accommodation and they usually rely on part-time earnings from employment or from freelancing.
We’re in a situation where a funded PhD is attractive not necessarily because of its research progression but because of the period of financial stability it provides. As we grow older and perhaps have families, precariously living artists begin to think of the future and how precarious we want to be in our old age. When faced with this reality, many choose to give up professional practice. I’m aware of a number of people who have exhibited nationally, internationally, they’re registered with the HMRC as artists, they file their tax returns, they have years of professional activity behind them: they’re contemplating, or sometimes have already given up, professional practice because they can no longer bear the impact of such precarious earnings on their personal lives and those of their partners and families.

Let’s think for a moment about any other industry where a bulk of producers contemplate retirement simply because of the imbalance of financial gain to wellbeing. Let’s imagine that your full-time earnings are so little that you haven’t paid tax for years, where you rely on Working Tax Credits (now becoming Universal Credit) to pay the bills. You don’t get holiday pay or sick pay. This, again, is why we need to draw attention to the domestic space and lives of artists.

As an industry, ethically, we need to consider what the costs are of making art. How can we become a more responsible sector? There are, of course, projects underway that are pushing for change: the Paying Artists Campaign, the Precarious Workers Brigade, the Panic! survey and Artists Union England. These are just the beginnings of the attitudinal change I believe we really need. As an industry, we must be more honest about the realities of art production and the impact of lifelong precarious earnings.

We’ve become too glossy, too lifestyle-focused and, dare I say it, too Sunday-supplement-y. There’s too much focus now on what looks like art and ‘performing’ the art world, ‘performing’ the successful creative industries. We can’t sustain it, we can’t afford it, the majority of our sector is living on or below the breadline. So, it’s time to get our hands dirty. We know there’s not enough money in the art world to pay everyone for their time so we need to ensure that our workers are supported and encouraged to seek earnings that match their skills and their training. This might be outside of the art world. We need to support workers to develop their art practices without penalty. We know how much time artists need for residencies and exhibitions.

Art world employers: why not support the artists you employ to take time out for these opportunities? Their enhanced expertise and enthusiasm will benefit the organisations and institutions that employ them, even though they’ll possibly move on one day.

Artists: we need to develop our personal financial strategies, we need to be braver about how we earn. Art practice and education teach us to be entrepreneurial, problem-solvers, to be resourceful, and we need to use those skills in the cold hard facts of earning a living. Then we can pay for secure, comfortable domestic spaces and we can create a more sustainable future for art practices.

Construction is not perfect, nor is it the only area that will pay for skilled labour, but it is a good place to start looking for examples of self-employment, sub-contracting and flexible working where skilled workers are reimbursed properly for their time. I personally chose a route to train as a plumber. In 2015 I was living in a damp basement in east London on precarious earnings. My apartment was flooded six times in one year, and I saw plumbers come and go and get paid! A little light bulb went on in my mind, and at 43 I signed up to a City & Guilds Plumbing & Heating part-time course as a plumber’s mate. In 2016 I started my own business, Plumb Maid, whilst completing the NVQ that qualified me as a plumber. I followed that with a water regulations qualification, unvented cylinders and gas training to becoming a gas engineer, Gas Safe Registered.

I moved back to Cornwall, which is where I am from, and I can charge up to £60 an hour. My customers’ respect my skills and, importantly, they pay me promptly for my time. I choose how I balance my plumbing and art life so neither has to take precedence. Most importantly, my life is less precarious. It’s early days, but I have a reliable income, I have a skill that I can take anywhere in the world and I will be paid for it.

Audience
I used to teach at Dartington College of Art, where we very seriously had the idea that students would train to be plumbers or electricians or whatever alongside their arts degree. That’s a long time ago: it’s a different world now and I’m not advocating that directly. But I think there’s been a professionalisation of arts practice which leads to the kind of thing that you’re talking about, where a career becomes incredibly dependant on curators and other people, and a notion of how to be a successful artist is dependent on a sector that is saturated with artists.

Education has colluded in that. In the time that I’ve been teaching, teaching students how to plan for their careers post-art school becomes about writing an artist statement, learning how to network, knowing about curators. That’s not invalid, but let’s look at the reality of things: there’s just been a set of public commissions advertised in Essex, New Geographies, and 750 people applied for 10 opportunities. That’s disproportionate. There are so many other opportunities where vast numbers of artists are applying for relatively small sums of money, for example. We need to think about the ways in which we determine success. Ideas of sustainability need to be broadened out. The idea of being a successful artist becomes more about how to live, not just pragmatically but ethically as well. The ‘small p’ politics of being an artist. That’s individual and collective of course, but there is a question in my mind about the mechanisms of the art world that feeds into questions of agency and autonomy. Having control of your living situation is an aspect of that, but actually looking at who you’re giving control to in terms of your art practice is also important.

On Hepworth: living, working and raising children

Carol Tulloch
I write about taste and the practice of settlement that people in the Caribbean community engaged in through the 1940s to 60s. Beyond the home was racism and a ‘colour bar’ [segregation], but within the home they had the autonomy and agency to be themselves and to decide who to invite in. Since it was so difficult to go to pubs or clubs, people would have parties and events at home, like events my parents would have at home in the 1960s. I’ve looked at Svetlana Boym’s concept of ‘Diasporic Intimacy‘ in reference to this. Essentially, this is about how people from different parts of the world decorated their [new] homes: their taste, their choice in very floral carpets, in gilded champagne glasses, their music, whether it was Ska or the Beatles. It’s also about how their taste expressed their right to be who and how they wanted to be.

By creating their space and sense of self within their domestic space they grew in confidence and agency when they crossed the threshold to the outside world.
When Gilane first asked me [to talk on this panel about Domestic Space] I thought about Barbara Hepworth. She talks about how her personal life and her art were intertwined, all part of an integrated practice. The first time she experienced real fear was following the birth of her triplets, when she was still living in London in the 1930s, because she thought “How am I going to provide for them?”. [She and partner Ben Nicholson] were broke and in damp accommodation. They moved on to a place near where Piet Mondrian was living at the time and she had a small studio within her home. Ben Nicholson and Piet Mondrian’s studios were as immaculate and austere as hers was a jumble of children, frocks, sculptures, trees, importunate flowers and washing.

Then she moved to St Ives and realised that there she could have a real community. She moved into what she called a ‘shabby house’ in 1943 where she could have a studio near the kitchen, a room for the children as well as for Ben, and where they all could flow around each other and the children could grow up. Carbis Bay, where this house was where, “I did some of my best work, I had only limited space, a back yard, a room only 8 ft high and endless complaints about my hammering”. In 1949 she purchased Trewyn Studio which she said was a sort of magic – where she could again have a studio and a yard – “I could work in the open air and space.” It was a space for her and her family to work and to transform.

On connectedness and honouring what and who already exists in cities

Farzana Khan
Art is tied to our most human and fundamental need to connect with one another. That’s what we do through our arts practice – we connect, we tell stories, and we flesh out the human experience and what is happening to London now. [Thinking about previous discussions today around] gentrification: if you walk along Cambridge Heath Road [in east London] today you’ll see all these “creative spaces” appearing. These spaces are not intended for the communities that have existed there for a long time and who are creative by the fact that they’re navigating how to survive state violence: they are intended for a particular demographic and a particular set of people. A lot of the spaces that are now popping up, like ‘wellness spaces’ or bars, use the word ‘community’ whilst at the same time destroying communities that existed there before.

Change is very different from gentrification. Sometimes people talk about gentrification as if it’s a value-free transformation, but gentrification happens by making vulnerable people more vulnerable. We are capable of transforming our societies without this being at the expense of those who are already vulnerable. The idea that gentrification is not all bad because the area looks shinier or crime has gone down is widespread, but let me tell you what happens in our communities.

The area is first made unsafe and then over-policed and then over-surveilled. It’s part of the strategy of social cleansing to allow a space to first be unsafe. I’ve heard people induct tenants into housing estates by saying that it’s not as bad an area anymore because it’s more policed. More police might mean safety for certain types of people, but it doesn’t mean safety for me or people like me or communities like mine.

When we have these conversations and make policy decisions, whose voice is there and whose is not? Who do you believe has a capacity to change? Whose vision of the world do you want to live in?

When I talk about state violence I’m also talking about food poverty and the reproduction of harm as a result of violence done to our communities. In your community you might not have access to mental health support, a counsellor. We’ve had over 2,000 deaths in custody and those have disproportionately been mental health patients. We know that a lack of state services are also how our communities experience violence.

Right now, we’re seeing a spike of youth-on-youth violence, but the relationship [of this] to gentrification is one that’s really not discussed. One of the young people that I worked with describes how gentrification separates space. For example, there’s a new arts area in Limehouse, and kids used to hang out there – now that area is so heavily policed and surveilled that the rate at which they get stopped and searched, already racialised and disproportionately affecting young black and brown men, has escalated. These aspects of gentrification and state violence are often missing from our conversations. This is the way London is going, and the way it’s being resourced is only adding to that separation.

We’re social beings related to one another and, especially when you’re a vulnerable group, you have to rely on your community. If you live on an estate and you don’t have mature resources in the same way that other people do, you have to rely on your neighbours to pick up your kids or to feed you some days – that ecology of living together in deprivation creates community. Beyond that, it creates trust and interaction and a sense of belonging in a country where you don’t belong.

These buffers are being taken away, and we need to interrogate how we accept the curation of our spaces, because these new pockets of communities are not recognised as adding to the destruction of more vulnerable communities. One of the key things that strikes me whenever I talk about gentrification is the way that our communities are disappeared and disposed of, and you don’t know where people go. There was a shop, and now it’s gone. There was this family, and now they’re gone. That is a historical legacy, but also a present-day methodology, of colonialism: the ghosting of people that comes to seem so normal and mundane that it becomes acceptable.

We can’t do the work of changing our outer landscapes without understanding our deep connectedness to one another. We can’t reimagine London if our imagination can’t hold that someone that looks like me is integral to it. I always find it funny, especially in social justice spaces or radical left spaces, that everyone wants you to know they’ve read Marx and they want to talk about change as hinged in on an economic model. For the communities that live on the fringes of our society it’s more than an economic model – it’s also a spiritual model, a sense of who we can be.

If we really want to commit to building a London and a world that is really sustainable, it has to honour the ecologies of all of us that are already part of it. Right now, the way that society is organised means we exist compromised, assimilated or tokenised. Oppression doesn’t let us participate, so our work must be about expanding the space of participation. The work of resistance and liberation is about imagining ourselves with each other in that world and that we understand our inter-dependence to one another. It has to make room for those of us that are unseen to exist in the most truthful and most authentic way that we can. There’s a desire that art should reflect a truth and authenticity, but that truth and authenticity isn’t maintained by the way that our society is being engineered or curated. Resources go to people who control the dominant narrative shaping our society.

Right now, as communities of colour, as working-class folk, as other people who are existing on the peripheries of society, we are fighting for access, representation and power, and we need to ask the question: who has the resources to shape cultural production? In terms of cultural equity, how are we forcing institutions with resources to redistribute [them] to help us tell the truth about what London is and who we can be?

I invite all of you that are artists to ask yourselves: what is the value of your art, what is it hinged on? Is it valuable because it allows you to thrive and accumulate things individually or within your circle, or is it valuable because it expands the notion of the human condition and adds diversity to what it means to be human?

If you want your art to tell the truth, then maybe the work for you is to make space [for others who need it more]: it’s not about taking up space, it’s about you unseating yourself. It’s perhaps about you finding ways to redistribute your resources, the spaces that we all occupy, not just the physical spaces but also the ideological spaces, the whole fabric of society.

Alistair Hicks
Removing art from its pedestal is absolutely essential. It’s part of life and should add to it. That’s the human condition, a rather fifties expression.

What [Farzana] said about “community” as the buzzword is exactly the same as when the Deutsche Bank art concept was invented in the 1970s, and the great tragedy and sadness is that nothing really has changed. If anything, we’ve gone backwards: money is more and more powerful, and we have an art world that’s never been so dominated by money.

What you’re doing so well is finding a value for what artists actually do, making a contribution to the world around them. It’s about breaking down the borders [between art and life] that really matters, that’s really essential. That was the idea of the Deutsche Bank concept – the irony of it was that it is a big capitalist organisation, and you could argue it was to make them look good – but they also had a genuine desire to try and break down the barriers and to make art relevant to everyone who was working in the bank – it wasn’t for their clients that they started collecting art, it was for their staff and other people involved in the business, and the whole point was to get people involved.

When I arrived at Deutsche Bank they had a two towers right in the middle of Frankfurt each with 60 floors named after German-speaking artists. Between 2008 and 2011 we changed them so that they were named after artists from everywhere around the world. The art world’s problem at the moment is it’s promoting such a small minority – it’s just a mirror of the capitalist world. What’s actually going on around the world is far, far more interesting. We’ve got to move away from the American model, to challenge, and get every community to fight to make the world a better place.

Farzana Khan
We do not exist in a vacuum where art is separate from colonialism – it’s not.

Knowledge production in the world is based on Western philosophy and the key texts that you begin with are from Plato and Socrates. In Plato and Socrates art is inferior: reason is how that we come to know. This [valorising] of rational knowledge as the central way in which you are valid as a human being – I think, therefore I am, I exist because I know – has been the foundational aspect in which the world has been recreated, reflected in so many education models across the world. But if you look at the global south and look at black and brown communities, in our traditions prior to colonialism and existing in resistance to it, the role of art has been about participation. Within our music there were the stories of our people, within our song, within our dance. It was about participation.

Art was a site of knowledge, it was how you came to know one another. But art has become a commodity, a tool within the capitalist system, and by replacing those participatory values and what we value to be true it has and participated in making black and brown communities inferior.

Art that accumulates a lot of monetary value is not the predominant art that has existed within our communities or has been part of our language – it’s the art of a particular world and a particular demographic. I fully agree with you, the role of art is to push boundaries, but that can’t be done when the platform is held by those that have power. Pushing boundaries is the right of every single human being.

On physical and virtual spaces

Ruth Catlow
[The 2018 report] by Doteveryone about digital attitudes said that while 50% of people in the UK believe that the internet has had a positive influence on their lives only 12% think it has had a positive influence on society. This resonates for me: I think we know that society has been moving toward a model where we’re all atomised. As individuals, especially artists, we’re trained to think of ourselves as individuals looking after and developing our own identities. Far less attention is paid to the kind of society that we’re creating together in order to have a good life as an individual. All the stuff with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is starting to give us a way to think about this issue together, but it’s going to be a long haul to find solutions.

Why do we need physical space if we have virtual space? Well, in order to understand how spaces operate we need to bring bodies together into space. Art a social process and it’s much more pleasurable to be in a space together. We need to be able to talk about things face to face, and that, I’m still convinced, is important.

As a contrast, this is a quote from a London business magazine: Silicon Roundabout is dying. This is a story of gentrification hurting tech start-ups but it’s also the context for artists. There’s quite a lot of [digital-focussed] organisations that are dabbling in the arts or creative industry – think of NESTA and Digital Catapult – where innovation basically means market disruption for profit and economic growth. The Space also tried to apply professional production methods to art, trying to press art into a business framework. I’ve yet to see very many successful examples of art coming out of these collaborations.

There’s nothing wrong with people producing services or products for money, but I’m worried by the inequalities produced by the start-up business scene. They’re producing the gig-economy: the Deliveroos and the Ubers which give people precarity, pressures on wages, all of this kind of stuff.

 

Contributors to Spaced Out were:

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About the author

Russell Martin

Russell is a graduate of The Glasgow School of Art who has lived in London since 1998. Initially working in gallery education, his self-initiated projects include workshops, residencies, peer mentoring, artist-led galleries, radio programmes, and a series of interdisciplinary arts social events. Russell is director of Artquest, a member of the board at Block 336 and City and Guilds of London Art School, and an advisor for PRAKSIS, an artist residency in Oslo.

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