Flight… from the ‘The Conspiracy of Good Taste’ – #DoncasterIsGreat for art and artists!

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Flight, the exhibition I’m involved with at Church View, launches tomorrow (20/6/13) at 5:00pm. I’ve had a sneak preview at David Jacques‘ pieces and I can highly recommend a visit. I’ve only been told about Heidi Dent‘s works, but from what I’ve heard I’m really looking forward to seeing them too. With live music from Dan Welsh it should prove to be a great preview event.

As for my own more humble contributions, I’m hoping to focus more on the creative process itself rather than the end product…

A highly developed cerebral cortex combined with opposable thumbs makes us the creatures who evolved to become creators. We are problem solving, pattern recognising, music making, mega-building apes with a passion for expression, and yet we live in a society which, for the most part, seems to treasure consumption more highly than creativity. ‘Professional creatives’ in all fields are treated as a gifted elite, and I have every respect for them, but I have yet to meet a child which wasn’t innately creative in some way or other. As the famous Picasso quote goes: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

We seem to inhabit a world which fears true creative freedom. Much lip-service is offered to freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but the vast majority of us are actively discouraged from freely expressing our emotions through the arts. We are all familiar with the Billy Elliot syndrome which is still an obstacle for many working class people, but the flip-side to this is the process which Stefan Szczelkun describes perfectly in his 1993 book, ‘The Conspiracy of Good Taste‘.

Time and again Doncaster is described as a ‘cultural desert’ and we are told that Doncaster people do not engage with the arts. This is, of course, nonsense; no community of people anywhere or anywhen has ever existed without some form of culture!

The real problem is one of access and communication rather than a lack of indigenous culture. Despite John Prescott’s ludicrous claims that we are “all middle class now”, we still live in one of the most unequal and class divided societies on the planet, so it would be foolish to think that our everyday (and by association artistic…) experiences are universal. Those who fail to see creativity in Doncaster do so because they fail to understand (or in many cases blatantly ignore) theΒ  – verbal, visual and emotional… – vernacular of the region. In other words the only ‘art’ the experts recognise is their art, not ours.

This is, of course, a two way process. We Doncastrians can be wilfully insular when our guard is up (we are all too used to people parachuting in to tell how to live before parachuting straight back out again once they’ve cashed the cheques). Either way the end result is the same, a continuous breakdown of communication and the continual reinforcement of blind (dare I say snobbish…) hierarchy.

But, as it says in my programme biog below, I have every faith in the democratising nature of digital and communications technologies…

Warren Draper is a self-taught writer, photographer & designer whose current work examines the democratising effect digital technology has on photography and the arts in general. Using a combination of donated ‘end-of-use’ computers, a (borrowed) compact camera and readily available Free Open Source Software (FOSS) applications, Warren explores techniques which have the potential to allow financially and/or socially excluded members of our society to express themselves creatively using photography and other digital media; even if they do not have access to the latest equipment and/or software.

Warren believes that a creative outlet (in whatever form) is essential to the human condition, and that any obstacle to free expression – which can range from outright cultural censorship, to endemic trends towards elitism, to socioeconomic exclusion – should be viewed as an affront. And that true progress can be achieved by encouraging the creation of new artists and new art-forms as we as new art-works.

As such I will be including a brief introduction to arts related FOSS applications as part of the exhibition. We’ll have a PC set up where you can play around with GIMP and Inkscape; the programmes used to create the art-works I’m putting on show… gulp!

Hope to see you there πŸ™‚


6 thoughts on “Flight… from the ‘The Conspiracy of Good Taste’ – #DoncasterIsGreat for art and artists!

  1. Lovely write up W.

    Minor point: 5 pm not 5.30, must end at 7 pm, so don’t leave it late.

    Also ‘culture’ = how people live and what they do, so of course where there are people there is culture. Officialdom has a narrow view of what counts as culture, usually confuses this with ‘the arts’ and should be criticised as such at avery opportunity.

    The people create culture. Creative activity goes way beyond the arts and should be much more inclusive, participatory – in just the way you describe – and much more a part of everyday life. Artificial divisions between ‘artists’ and ‘non-artists’ are – depending on your view – either a pity, as it makes many people think they are not and cannot be creative; or part of the wider dividing up of humanity into this, that or t’other, better/worse, qualified/unqualified, deserving/ un- you get the picture…

    That’s what we’re trying to break down at CV – even by putting on a fairly orthodox ‘exhibition’ – but involving people with either (or both) a critique of the above, or who’s work inspires people to think and act creatively.

    1. Oops, 5pm it is… duly ammended πŸ™‚

      There can be little doubt that the world needs more CV’s… be that the art world or the world in general.

      It’s refreshing to find somewhere which is so open to experimentation. Can’t imagine the Hepworth Gallery saying ‘yes’ if we had asked them if we could cover their walls with a giant mural, light a bonfire in front of it and then sing songs, tell stories and dance in the warm orange glow of marine flares? πŸ˜‰

    2. On the broader question of open access and democracy with regards to culture in general and the arts in particular, The Independent published a transcript of a Jimmy Reid speech which is as significant today as it was over 40 years ago. He’s talking mainly about the need for economic democracy, but the message also rings true for a need in our country for a new cultural democracy (I can’t help feeling that the cultural representation of the poor in the UK is on a par with its political representation, i.e. non existent πŸ˜‰ )…

      “To measure social progress purely by material advance is not enough. Our aim must be the enrichment of the whole quality of life. It requires a social and cultural, or if you wish, a spiritual transformation of our country. A necessary part of this must be the restructuring of the institutions of government and, where necessary, the evolution of additional structures so as to involve the people in the decision-making processes of our society. The so-called experts will tell you that this would be cumbersome or marginally inefficient. I am prepared to sacrifice a margin of efficiency for the value of the people’s participation. Anyway, in the longer term, I reject this argument.

      To unleash the latent potential of our people requires that we give them responsibility. The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing compared to the untapped resources of our people. I am convinced that the great mass of our people go through life without even a glimmer of what they could have contributed to their fellow human beings. This is a personal tragedy. It’s a social crime. The flowering of each individual’s personality and talents is the pre-condition for everyone’s development.

      In this context education has a vital role to play. If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with a full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession. The creative use of leisure, in communion with and in service to our fellow human beings, can and must become an important element in self-fulfilment.”


      1. Aye, my comrade James. That’s a great one, as is his book ‘Reflections of a Clyde Built Man’.
        “I am convinced that the great mass of our people go through life without even a glimmer of what they could have contributed to their fellow human beings” is what initially politicised me – seeing that at first hand and the accompanying: not being able to fulfil our potential, not or only partly realising what that might be, or more accurately, what might have been.
        What a culture we live in.
        Our calling: to make it better, much better, collectively.

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