A Happy New Year!

This year is going to be an extremely exciting one for SPACER. However, as we embark on this new chapter, we have (once again) been reflecting on the concepts of leadership and power. This feels especially relevant now within Western politics that include ‘Brexit’ playing out in the UK government and Trump now facing a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.  More importantly there are the global existential crises such as climate change and anti-microbial resistance.

As part of our creative practice in the studios, we constantly question the fundamental societal structures we find ourselves in and challenge those that we think need challenging.

Art’s relationship with democracy, leadership and power is a lengthy and complex one. However, more broadly, despite how far the UK has come since women gained the vote in 1918, general concepts of leadership and power still seem (in most areas) to be embodied by older white men and the accepted display of power is demonstrably linked to money and level of public profile, rather than necessarily achievement and positive contribution to society (for example can you imagine people gaining more power the more they positively contribute to society?)

“We have to be more reflective about what power is, what it is for, and how it is measured. To put it another way, if women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power that we need to redefine rather than women?” – Mary Beard, Women & Power: A Manifesto

SPACER in its various forms has existed since 2003, and in that time we have made work as individual artists, as a collective and for other artists. Some of that work has been made in direct response to democracy, leadership and power.  So far, we have challenged ‘quietly’.

What is Power and What is Leadership?

We use this word very specifically. As we take this next step forward, we are asking what is power and what is leadership?  What is wealth and what is value?

As a creative organisation, we do not believe it is who is speaking the loudest or who is earning the most money. These are some of the current measures imposed on the creative industries in terms identifying ‘success’. It is relatively easy to talk with big numbers, to ‘play the game’ – for example the artworks we have been involved in creating across the UK have easily reached an audience to date of over 30 million people (we are still counting). This compares to, for example,  the Tate’s visitor numbers across its 4 sites of 2016/2017 of 8.4 million. However, what are the qualitative measures rather than the quantitive? Bigger is not necessarily better. Rather than counting the number of people ‘through the door’ surely we should be examining the impact of the work (and we don’t mean fiscal impact to local economies).

This year, we are going to begin a journey that will eventually achieve one of our lifetime ambitions; to build an award-winning, sustainable, interdisciplinary studio that embodies creative practice. Through this project, we hope to demonstrate a way to do things differently.

We hope to lead by example by encouraging dialogue, collegiate behaviour and collaboration. We will continue to be a learning organisation and one that shares knowledge gained. It is our intention to lead differently and not subscribe to the contemporary semiotics of power.

The need for an artist to make work, or for anyone to create, is not driven by Capital (early Agrarian Capitalism is still as late as the 16th Century which is 1000’s of years after the earliest evidence of creative practice) – therefore we are working to create a space both physically and organisationally that allows creativity and discourse without hierarchy. We expect this to continue to be a challenging approach for the team and those we collaborate with…

“At its best, art is an exercise in democracy; it trains our critical capacities for perceiving and interpreting the world. Yet art does not tell us what to do or how to feel, but rather empowers us to find out for ourselves.” – Olafur Eliasson

Blog authored by Sarah Craske, Director at SPACER

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