I am working as the Research and Development Coordinator for the Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Axisweb and Manchester Metropolitan University. My role is to coordinate the research project in collaboration with Professor Amanda Ravetz and Mark Smith , and facilitate the creation of the online platform through a series of research and development phases.
I completed my doctorate at the University of York, which focused on alternative histories of British monumental sculpture. This project gives me the opportunity to broaden my professional experience, and create something that will directly benefit contemporary artists working outside of the gallery system.
The principle of “Validation” is a complex and critical issue within the visual arts. Etymologically, the term implies an exercise of power by a higher authority; a “validator” - a person or body who has the power to determine who is deserving and undeserving, who is right and wrong, who fits in and who doesn’t based on their assessment of their artistic practice. I think that the question of How artists validate their practice? Who validates them? And What validates them? Are crucial to a fuller understanding of how artists operate in society, and the ecology of contemporary artistic practice.
I am interested in picking apart what validation means for these artists, not to critique those involved with the established gallery model of validation, but to address a fundamental gap in its reach. As an online platform and collaborative partner for the research already completed by Amanda Ravetz, Axisweb is in a unique position to host a new system of validation for artists with a socially engaged practice. By asking the question #whatvalidatesyou?, we will hopefully facilitate a wider understanding of the validation processes for artists operating #beyondthegallery .
My role as academic lead is to provide supervision and guidance on academic aspects of the KTP research.
As a direct result of carrying out pilot research on validation of art ‘beyond the gallery’ (with Lucy Wright), I am committed to understanding more about the values and experiences of artists and publics in this sphere. If we are going to create something of value we must be guided by diverse forms of hands-on knowledge and day to day lived experience.
All KTPs have to make a significant improvement to a business. Axisweb is a charity set up to benefit artists and those who work with them, and so we must be especially sensitive to the needs of these beneficiaries while also finding ways to sustain and grow Axisweb as a business.
As Lucy and I wrote at the end of our pilot report:
the diverse values artists bring to their work in this field must be carefully listened to and taken account of if there is to be a rethinking of systems of validation for those working outside of the gallery system. Any new provision should be artist-led and/or developed in close consultation with artists who have achieved a range of different kinds of validation already. Without this, artists could be disenfranchised through external values being imposed upon them in “top down”, regulatory ways. This in turn might undermine the existing quality and nature of artists’ work occurring within the broad category of socially-engaged / non gallery art.
This is the principle and the challenge we must keep uppermost.
As Executive Director of Axisweb, I’ve witnessed how many more artists are working in socially engaged practice – where communities and individual people, often unrelated to the arts, form the material and outcome of a practice. These artistic practices are challenging the language of display and the very idea of the aesthetic experience that forms the basis of many gallery programmes.
Yet, I’m all too aware of the tension created by not ‘fitting’ within existing frameworks and conventions. Recognition, support and value of such artistic ‘social’ practice is marginal compared to practice supported by galleries.
Is validation the answer? Validation increases reputations and opportunities for more work. And raises many more questions. Where do we look to tell us what is good and if it’s okay to like something? Is the reference for an artist’s career exhibitions in galleries? What if an artist’s work doesn't fit, does that mean it’s not much good?
My desire for the project is to explore how socially engaged practice is represented, valued, preserved and transmitted. If we can understand these implications then we can go some way of achieving our purpose of making artists work possible.
I’m a postgraduate studying Arts Management, Policy and Practice in the University of Manchester, and am currently undertaking a 20-week work placement with Axisweb. My role is to assist Dr Rebecca Senior with the Models of Validation project and to produce online content for the Axisweb membership.
The topics covered in the Models of Validation project, such as socially engaged art and creating an online platform, were related to what I had done last semester, when I wrote essays on digital media and arts participation. I will also help Rebecca prepare for interviews with diverse stakeholders and compile a bibliography of journal articles, news articles, blog posts, online reports, book chapters and another relevant online content on socially engaged art to create a ‘Library’ of content for the project. I will also be involved with creating digital content for Axisweb, including selecting artists and artworks for playlists and selections to be shared on social media and with the network of 3000 members.
Outside of university I love oil painting, and my art paintings ‘Stories in art studios’ were exhibited in Liaoning art museum (Chinese museum) during 12-16 Dec.2016 and in Luxun art gallery (Chinese gallery) during 24-30 September 2017.
Our Advisory Group will meet three times over the course of the project, and was formed to advise on key issues and opportunities facing the project. Membnership is not fixed, and we are keen to expand