Briefs and proposals Developing Literature Practices into Pubic Art The Lab April 2010 Sarah Searson and Cliodhna Shaffrey
Poetry is all I write, whether for books, or readings, or for the National Theatre, or for the opera house and concert hall, or even for TV. All these activities are part of the same quest for a public poetry, though in that word ‘public’ I would never want to exclude inwardness. Tony Harrison
Boom Times and after Significant available funding and opportunities for artists to the Recession – less funding, drying up of opportunities. State Policy and ownership Public art national guidelines – 2004 and current review. Towards greater freedom and artistic expertise Local Arts Development or strategy Plans. Impacts and trends Public Art Specialists in local authorities (and their decline). Specialist Curators and the role of the artistic expert
What is the drive, force or need within your own practice that is drawing you to public art practices? What are your expectations of your own work What are your expectation of the conditions in which you will be working? Do you have a good grasp of this – and its a driver or a motivation for you? You
On close reading of the brief – what is telling you about the conditions and terms of engagement What is your sense of the commissioners understanding of including literature Response to the brief – sets the tone of your engagement with that process Commissioner
It is not the job of art to reach consensus across different 'publics'.
CURRENT PRACTICES EMERGING Flexibility for artists’ responses – site, functional socially engaged, process-research, event, social, decorative. Curated and programmatic approaches Off-site artistic programmes Growth in number of small-scale festivals and curated events Curated approach to commissioning Academicisation of artists practice and MA and PhD in Public Art / Contemporary Art Artists-led initiatives
CRITICAL DEBATES RAISED you’re asked to do something on the margin: you don’t get the main space, you’re put in the corner. (Vito Acconci) Institutional pressures (political, social and other) (Miwon Kwon) Artist as Ethnographer (Hal Foster) Education and improvement over solidarity Grant Kestler Censorship and limitations (Clare Dorothy) More in Critical Section publicart.ie
Whose history is represented? How does public art confront darker or more painful complicated considerations and not miss opportunities to act in solidarity? (Grant Kester) The lure of the local (Lucy Lippard) nostalgic versions of place. Gentrification, displacement, cleaning up and the drive for marketing of place - (Malcolm Miles/ Roselyn Deutche/ Rebecca Solnit/ Ed Soja).
Types of Practice & ways of engagement Artists who make work with little/no involvement of others except for technical expertise. Artists who invite participation Artists who embed themselves within the social fabric of a city or place. Artists who work from a collaborative basis – effecting a kind of social sculpture. Artists who act as investigators/ researchers/ anthropologists observing, mapping or tracking aspects of place or communities. From Clare Dorothy Curating in the wrong place, where have all the penguines gone?
Briefs ask for specific responses and definition; specifying , a particular medium, any associated requirements and the context eg Roads, Schools, Airports.
Open with appear ant greater artistic freedom i.e they offer flexibility in response. Local authority Programmes: In Context, S. Dublin/ Wicklow/ Breaking Ground
Writing your own brief: You determine process and outcomes – e.g. Fingal County Council
What do I need to do to realise this commission? Can I build Research Time in as part of the application? Do I need another’s input – a mentor or specialist? Are there ethical questions underpinning my approach? Am I up for a Challenge? Are there other projects, artists, or works that inspire me ? how does material work or change for this context?
TO KEEP IN MIND Develop and clear understanding of how you like to work and the potentials of this within your own practice development. What are the values of your existing practice, the intentions and ambitions and consequent responsibilities of developing a public Seek peer engagement, feedback and support in developing the workability of your ideas. (This maybe included as part of initial proposals )
What are main concerns in the brief and your response to it?
The artist? The public? The Commissioner? The Context?
Your responsibilities as an artist is to yourself, but in public art commissions it is also likely to be a strong emphasis
To others and collaboration
To the place and context
To the commissioner and funders
Address your practice how it relates to your proposal and the intentions in work. How and To Whom does it connect?
RESPONDING TO A COMMISSION It is tempting to apply because there is money on offer, but..... Do not compromise your artistic practice when making proposals (especially for public art commissions..... Many public art commissions require a context specific element (reflecting the community of place and interest) The key is to find a connection between your work and practice to the context be it the people, geography, nature of the place, identity, fiction, etc Collaborative practise – working with other artists or across artform / or with communities can prove very fulfilling. These require specialist expertise and approaches to working. Consider working with other experts both artistic and others on the commission
Sean Taylor’s 100 Paces Collins Barracks Dublin – the artists turned the commission brief to suit him
Structure your proposal based on what is required - feedback
Write clearly in a way that best communicates your ideas quickly
The opening statement / paragraph is important
Imagine who will be looking at it and reading it,
Try not to be too dense. Footnotes can help.
Do not be afraid of simple language or short sentences and keep paragraphs short.
Present in a style that takes cognisance of arts language.
Don’t be afraid – personality can come through – so can humour or mystery but best in a way that seems natural and close to your ideas rather than self conscious or clumsy and awkward.
Get someone else (a peer / another artist) to read your proposal, If you hate writing get someone else to write for you but check everything. New work and project development is a process, through process ideas develop – time-lines can often be very short, start early. Clarity emerges when you write and helps structure your thoughts, ideas occur. Check all requirements – what you have been asked for. Edit your material well, especially reference to your recent/past work – Keep the shit detector fully functioning. Do not submit much more than you are asked for. Do not submit too little to allow fair assessment Make it joyful, easy to move through, thoughtful and clear. Try and have the application reflect a little personality.
“ wresting poetry away from the dead hand of institutional powers and returning it to the people” John Lucas about William Blake
POETRY SOCIETY ARCHIVES Public Art These pages archive poetic public art projects between 1998-2002. You will also find more current examples in the Poetry Landmarks project. Poetry Society's public art projects Birmingham Public Art Project with Sue Hubbard - REPORT Blackpool Borough Council & Central Library/Bus Shelter - REPORT Civic Centre Plymouth/Wall - REPORT Renn & Thacker/Cricket Ground - REPORT Stephen Spender Memorial Trust (Oxford) - REPORT Sunderland City Library and Arts Centre / Walkway - REPORT Opening Spaces Read Sue Hubbard's contribution to Public Poets, Public Poems, Public Art (28 September 1999, British Library, London) on Public Art. http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/archives/publicart/