Art Engagement+inhabiting practice analysis

within an Art Monthly (Sept 22) article, Lizzie Lloyd questions ‘whether an artist needs to describe themselves as socially engaged in order to engage socially’. i am interested in the friction, she supposes, between public engagement and funding models ‘that are largely predicated on the successful demonstration of public engagement’, with institutions creating an obligation to ”perform their ‘outreach’ credentials”. ‘if public engagement is expected from work that is publicly funded, will that engagement be central, genuine and sincere?’ working with Turner Contemporary, Camden Arts Centre and Whitechapel Gallery, where a major aspect of surveys are situated within engagement, often feels like ticking something off a list, but is this just a way of sustaining these new engagement models and ensuring a level of ‘outreach’ continues? perhaps the studio- to- gallery model would make a quick comeback if the ‘expectation’ for engagement was absent?

Lloyd also explores the definition of art engagement as ‘an act of social goodness, moral altruism and political upstanding’, any form of participation within a gallery or other institution is widely regarded as a form of resisting previous models a gallery may have upheld. this new engagement model is largely undertaken by the learning and engagement team, visualised by Lloyd as an ‘afterthought’, and created a ‘disconnect…between the prestigious curatorial programme and the often subordinate events programme.’ i found this to be true, to different degrees, in all the galleries i have worked in; creating an engagement programme for a specific exhibition can be challenging when the ways of doing this wasn’t thought about within the curatorial stage.

within this piece, Lloyd references a Sonia Boyce interview where she points out how her own art practice reached  ‘a more performative, social practice’. to ascribe broad themes such as gender/race/class that depend on relatability or empathy, perhaps it is more expected and crucial to introduce public engagement to make work or participate within it that rejects feelings of pity or exploitation. this extends to ways that an artist may ‘deal with the materials they generate through the social aspects of the works making’, what the ‘outcome’ may be and how this is archived in a way that is closely reflecting the engagement that took place. as much ‘material generated through a participatory experience remains publicly invisible, unevidenced, indirect’ and often found as a simple summary on a past-event tab of a website. a point i find interesting in this article is the ‘impossible task’ to ‘document your own engagement whilst actively engaging’, meaning the importance should be placed on the actual engaging rather than producing ‘evidence’ that is often necessary for future funding.

Lloyd, L. (Art Monthly) 2022. Art Engagement. 

analysis

I have been asked to research, design, run and document an ‘Open’ workshop that teaches an aspect of my practice to a group of peers. I’m not sure what a ‘practice’ is, or if I have one! How can I figure this out? I’m also unsure about what ‘teaching’ this in the ‘Open’ might involve.  If I do have a practice, how might I support others to learn it in an open way?

thinking about what a practice is and how this could be identified would be a good start to this scenario. when looking at this problem scenario i immediately thought about my own art practice and what i am making/researching at the moment. after more thinking about this i came to realise about ‘practice’, is it doesnt have to be obvious or something you are well knowledgeable about; it can be an interest to wish to explore or an hobby you carry out a lot and wish to ‘teach’ this to another person. this goes back to the art assignments where we took part in a range of toolkits to get a good idea of what they were about and what they ask of us as participants. these were simple exercises that the majority of people could do, but perhaps these toolkit ideas began as bigger questions, questions that, through much consideration and planning,  became fun to carry out and simple to understand and complete, whilst also being able to think of the theories behind it.

reading about practice theory and pedagogy was fundamental to get an idea of educational practice that is outside school and curriculum systems. i found Practice, the Body and Pedagogy: Attuning as a Basis for Pedagogies (pg.87-106) , where we learn how to enact situations of the unknown; how we interact and use resources around us to learn from and inspire. practices are emergent…knowledge required to perform as a professional cannot be fully specified in advance, this is an important statement to remember, that an unpredictability will always be forefront when facilitating workshops and hosting a means to carry this event out. the simplification of the workshop is an ideal way around this as discussions can emerge from straightforward activities but not so much if the starting point requires knowledge and specialised skill. i have found that keeping discussions going, whether with the facilitator or the participants, with open-ended questions is beneficial to keep an openness and receptiveness developing throughout the workshop.

this requires an acute level of planning to try to consider all scenarios and capabilities for all aspects of the toolkit e.g. having enough materials, knowledge about the subject, the space it will happen in, and what you want participants to ‘produce’ in the workshop. i believe the workshop should be seen as an ‘opportunity’ for everyone, including the facilitator, to learn and engage in a different way that may not go in the total direction intended. it is also important to document the workshop, visually or written, for the ability to look back at the workshop and consider what went well or what could be worked on to improve interactivity.  setting this up in the ‘open’ requires a theme that surrounds the workshop and something that is clearly required of the the participants, what are they getting out of it and how can they learn in an engaging and interesting space. the main thing is for the facilitator to centre the workshop around something they are interested in and want to know more about themselves, to ensure the workshop stays in a free, open, and fun space.

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