On the road, summer 2014

On the road, summer 2014 Tending plants beside Sarah Staton's 'Steve', Folkestone Triennial, 2014 Image: Sheila McGregor

Sheila McGregor looks back at a busy summer 'on the road', meeting our members and seeing some great art too

It’s been a summer of roadshows for Axisweb, starting with a lively session at Chapter in Cardiff in May and ending this week with a trip to the Folkestone Triennial in the company of artists from the Blue Monkey Network in Eastbourne and the Folkestone Fringe. We wanted to meet our members, share our organisational expertise and see some great art. On all those counts, I’d say the roadshows have fulfilled their original aim.

Tom Morton and Louisa Buck tackled the ‘problem’ of the artist’s statement at our Chapter and Chisenhale roadshows in May and June respectively, with charm, rigour and a certain amount of levity too. For let’s face it, the artist’s statement is in a literary category all of its own.

How do you write a good one? How many words is enough? What stock expressions are calculated to make the reader grind their teeth (to use a stock expression)? How do you convey the essence of your work without over-simplifying it?

Several artists had volunteered their statements for collective scrutiny. After the event, they went home and did some intensive re-writing. “ OK Tom Morton & @axisweb”, tweeted Judith Alder triumphantly, “after v useful critique of artists’ statements #ontheroad yesterday my new version is here!”

At the beautiful Mostyn in Llandudno in September we heard from artist Emily Speed and digital expert James Smith about how artists and curators are using the web to create, curate and disseminate new art and engage with audiences.

For Emily it all began with her desire to talk openly about the issue of never getting paid or at any rate never getting paid enough for the time and effort she had invested in making work or running activities. Her talk touched on the many ways in which artists have used the web as a vehicle for political activism, from her own Artists Talking blog on a-n to crowdfunding campaigns and the online agitprop of groupings like The Precarious Workers’ Brigade.

James runs this is tomorrow, a growing global archive of contemporary art which has recently begun to to broadcast UK artworld events. His talk explored some of the more esoteric highways and byways of art production and curation on the internet, including established platforms like or-bits.com and newcomers such as open your kimono. For many, I suspect, this was excitingly uncharted territory.

View From Gabriel Lesters The Electrified Line Folkestone Triennial 2014
View from Gabriel Lester's The Electrified Line, Folkestone Triennial, 2014

Our final excursion was to the Folkestone Triennial on 30 September, where curator Lewis Biggs talked us through the process of planning an event that fits seamlessly into its surroundings but is the outcome of patient, long-term negotiation and relationship-building. It was good to be reminded of the role of artists in place-making and the value of civic stewardship in transforming the public realm.

At all our roadshows we ran one-to-one advice sessions about how to develop your web presence. Our thanks go to all who turned up and gave us such interesting challenges to think about. We hope we helped you in some small way.

We’ll be running more roadshows in the future, that’s for sure. So if you have any ideas about where and when or what you’d like us to cover, please get in touch. And in the meantime, don’t forget that we’re always on the end of the phone. For once the saying ‘we’re here to help’ is really true.

Sheila McGregor, October 2014

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