In September Bedford Creative Arts hosted an afternoon of lively discussion, sharing and debate on the question of ‘true’ collaboration between artists and communities.
Chaired by independent curator and writer Tessa Jackson OBE ,and introduced by Annie Bacon , Creative Producer and curator at Bedford Creative Arts, the symposium looked at new ways of developing and achieving deeper ‘collaboration’ and exploring the critical discourse around new developments and innovative approaches in socially engaged art practice.
We heard from leading artists in the field Andrea Luka Zimmerman, Neville Gabie, Jasleen Kaur, Shabnam Shabazi and Julie Myers and Maria Anastassiou who together created Clubhouse – our recent inter-generational filmmaking project set on two streets in Bedford. In addition Dr Cecilie Sachs Olsen a postdoctoral research fellow at the centre for the GeoHumanities, Royal Holloway, University of London, was invited to deliver a provocation to inspire debate.
The symposium concluded with the first public premiere of the short film Clubhouse by Julie Myers and Maria Anastassiou, and then a panel dialogue between the collaborators on the Clubhouse commission and film. This panel was made up of lead artists Julie Myers and Maria Anastassiou; community participants Fatuma Nassir and Rebecca Palmer; Kim Burrows, Community Development Officer for housing association bpha; Assistant Producer Emily Evans and was chaired by Annie Bacon, the project’s Curator and Creative Producer.
Each contributor’s session was recorded and can be heard using the links below.
Key questions discussed:
- What do we mean by collaboration and is it achievable in its truest sense?
- Can a collaborative process balance the needs of the artist and the community and still result in a worthwhile outcome?
- At what level can we create a sustained, shared process of art making that leaves outcomes open, to be arrived at through the process?
- How do we evaluate ‘quality’ of artistic practice and process within a critical discourse, in working with communities?
- How can communities enter, be part of the creative process and have experiences they can own?
- Can this way of working encourage greater freedom for exploration of particular artistic disciplines?
Andrea Luka Zimmerman
Andrea Luka Zimmerman is an artist, film-maker and cultural activist, exploring an often overlooked intersection of public and private memory, in particular in relation to structural and political violence. Her feature film Estate, a Reverie (2015, 83mins) tracks the passing of the Haggerston Estate in East London and the utopian promise of social housing it once offered, with a celebration of extraordinary everyday humanity.
Andrea refers to the following work during her presentation:
Cecilie Sachs Olsen
Cecilie Sachs Olsen is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the centre for the GeoHumanities, Royal Holloway, University of London. She is working on the research project: ‘Arts for Urban: negotiating the possibilities and practices of participatory art in urban development’ and the public engagement project ‘Urban Voices: the political arts of listening’.
With a background in sculpture, Neville Gabie’s practice is rooted in a site-specific response to place and community. Driven by working in specific locations or situations caught in a moment of change, his work is a response to the vulnerability of place. His interest is in establishing a working relationship within a particular community as a means of considering its physical, cultural or emotional geography.
Neville refers to the following work during his presentation:
Up in the Air
Jasleen Kaur is an artist currently living and working in London. Brought up in a traditional Sikh household in Glasgow, her work is an ongoing exploration into the malleability of culture and the layering of social histories within the material and immaterial things that surround us. Her practice examines the hierarchy of histories and labour using a range of mediums and methods including sculpture, video, conversation and cooking.
Shabnam Shabazi’s output of work includes performance, object, video, text, mixed media, installation and participation. Memories, dreams, rituals, journeys, the interstices between art forms and cultures animate her practice. Her work is autobiographical and archival and focuses upon notions of home, place, displacement, identity and the body. Recent and ongoing research includes the idea of ‘body as house’, ‘stories from within, stories from ourselves’.
Maria Anastassiou is an artist/film-maker working with analogue and digital media in moving image, social practice and curatorial projects. Her work is informed by experimental ethnographic approaches to documentary and structuralist film traditions; often collaborative and responsive, it develops through an exchange with other artists and the public, across disciplines, presentational modes and cultures.
Julie Myers lectures in Fine Art at Kingston University, UK. Her practice involves film, photography, sound, installation and locative technology. Projects respond to people and places through
collaborations with local communities, musicians, school children, senior citizens, scientists,
gardeners, architects, on-line participants and others.
Maria and Julie talked about their Clubhouse project for BCA and showed their film Clubhouse.
Top image credit: Cat Lane Clubhouse March 2018