Archive | June, 2010

Cross your fingers…

22 Jun

Waiting with bated breath to see how far the cuts are going to wound the already depleted Arts Council budget. Having already lost £23m of their 2010/11 budget they boldly made the statement that regularly funded organisations would suffer a maximum of 0.5% cuts.  However, even with all the leaks to the press, there is likely to be a few bombshells today as the Lib/Con coalition goes into their first budget.

Past form, and common sense, suggests to any politician that making huge cuts at the start of your term in office is likely to yield better returns at the ballot box than making them just before a general election.  Why not keep up to speed by following the service of another public body fearing huge cuts to their services here?

UPDATE: Finalising departmental budgets will be put off until the spending review in October, however George Osborne has stated that because “the structural deficit is worse than we were told” state departmental spending will be reduced by an additional £17 billion by 2014/15.

This isn’t good news for the arts. The in-year cuts that prompted the Arts Council’s statement last week were as a result of the DCMS telling their departments last month to find savings of 3% in their budgets. However, ACE, clearly not being considered a priority, was ordered to make 4% cuts, equating to approximately £19m, a figure subsequently extended to the £24m mentioned above.

Looks like it could be just the beginning.


Will paint for food…

21 Jun

It’s clear that the majority of arts graduates leave the nurturing embrace of college are shocked on entering the big wide world.  Arts training establishments do a good job of providing them with the luxuries of materials, tutelage and the space to work and exhibit, but fail completely in helping their graduates understand how to create a space where their bread and butter money contributes to their creativity as a whole.  So, applause goes out New York City for running artist centred business courses that seek to provide artists with the conceptual tools to monetise their practice.

Any Cultural Officials reading this please take note – we could certainly use this in the UK.  It’s all too common, and incredibly frustrating, on seeking business advice to discover that in practice most courses thoroughly misunderstand the subtleties of working in the creative and cultural industries. For example market research, a central tenet of business planning, can tell you what people expect – but I expect artists to exceed those expectations, not just meet them.

The (changing) Condition of the Working Class

18 Jun

An architects illustration of the planned Cheetham's building

Phase 1 of the Chetham’s School of Music redevelopment and extension is finally getting underway in earnest on the site of Hunt’s Bank opposite Victoria Station in Manchester.  The cranes that are moving in mark the start of what promises to be a major transformation for the area around Cathedral Gardens which aims to open up the Medieval heart of Manchester, currently hidden away within the Chetham’s complex, to the general public providing a new concert venue for the city as well as 21st Century facilities for the school.  You can keep up to date with the major changes taking shape via their webcam positioned over the building site.

Many people don’t know that the library at Chet’s is open to the public already – you just need to visit on a weekday and ask to be let in at the gate.  I highly recommend a visit, not only for the incredibly preserved architecture and atmosphere, a real rarity in Manchester, but also to meet Dr Fergus Wild, Senior Librarian, knowledge bank of all things medieval Manchester and possesor of fantastic vocal chords.

The work starting reminded me that Andrew Brooks and I carried out an experimental photo shoot there about a year ago, which included talking to Dr Wild about the rich history of the library and its associations with the writing of the Communist Manifesto.  A little of which you can listen to here.

RIP Sebastian Horsley

17 Jun

Sebastian Horsley
Only days after the play based on his autobiography “Dandy in the Underworld” opened at the Soho Theatre artist, dandy and peddler of immorality Sebastian Horsley has been found dead of a suspected overdose.

Having survived a bungled Crucifixion was it ever going to end any other way?

RIP Sebastian.


17 Jun

Upsetting environmentalists and oil painters in one fell swoop is no mean feat, but it’s an achievement that contentious tech arts group can now lay claim to.

In the wake of the largest ever man-made environmental disaster Ubermorgen have seen the unfurling spectacle as an opportunity to reassess fine-art painting as “an oil slick the size of Puerto Rico paints the coastline”.

Interestingly the artists have only release a limited statement of intent.

Upsetting and insensitive, perhaps, but it raises questions about our willingness to gorge ourselves on images of condemned wildlife, destitute fishermen and devastated coastlines, reacting as though the news footage is little more than an unfurling drama that entertains as much as horrifies. Given that the story being sold to us, in the UK at least, is the devastation of British Pensions and the threat to our individual wealth rather than calling for imminent action to curb an ever more desperate oil dependency, perhaps the aim is to hammer home Marshall McLuhan’s old addage that, by alienating ourselves from the real world behind flat screen TVs, iPads and meaningless social media, “the medium is the message”.

Ironic that I’m sat here writing about it on a blog really.

A horse walks into a bar…

17 Jun

Tonight Castlefield Gallery opens their new group show “A Horse Walks into a Bar…” featuring work by Corey Arnold, Richard Billingham, Andrew Bracey, Lorraine Burrell, Maddi Nicholson, Dan Staincliffe, Chiz Turnross, UHC and Mark Wallinger.  Bringing together a broad range of media and practice the exhibition promises to explore the boundaries that supposedly separate human and animal kind questioning the role of man to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” etc…

Good to see emergent Manchester talent been given the opportunity to exhibit alongside Turner Prize winners and nominees.

Exhibition preview tonight from 6-8pm with an aftershow gig from 8:30-10pm featuring Biltone.

The exhibition runs from Friday, June 18, 2010 to Sunday, August 08, 2010 13:00 – 18:00 Wednesday-Sunday only.

Ce n’est pas une pipe

16 Jun

Very excited to see that Sylvain Chomet’s latest feature, The Illusionist, is opening the Edinburgh Film Festival this evening.  Having been a huge fan of the incredible Les triplettes de Belleville I’m sad that I can’t be there for the UK premiere.

I’m just starting work on a piece about authenticity vs truth in constructing ideas of the Scottish capital so I’m especially intrigued by the attention to detail that’s been put into reconstructing Edinburgh in 2D; not just in terms the visual but also culturally.

It’s clear that Chomet’s team went to great efforts to capture the essence of Edinburgh; given his track record of conjuring the quaintly fantastic in his work I’d love to know more about the decision making process where authenticity and truth conflicted.  In describing part of the process in a recent Guardian article Chomet reveals a little about his own sense of authenticity from a stereotypically French cultural landmark, food:

We really researched Edinburgh of 1959 right down to recreating the famous chip shops of the time where everything, including the lobster, is battered. You know I miss Scotland a lot, but it is true the food is a bit special. This idea that you have to do violence to food before you eat it. Batter it up good and proper.

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