Why we Need More Artists Talking about their Process
Artists have always spoken and written publicly about their work. To some extent, the arts have thrived on the publicity from artists speaking about art; whether at showcases of their own work, or in talks about art history or artistic movements.
Sometimes, artists take the time to speak openly about their process and how they create their work. I believe that we need more talks about people’s creative processes, especially given the increasing number of examples of artists experimenting and creating artworks with technology.
We also need to work together to share information about when and where people can hear artists talking in such a way.
Community Groups of Artists
So, where are artists currently talking about their creative process? Well, this happens in a number of places, in different ways. For instance, there is an increasing number of groups and spaces which host and connect people in the arts as well as accommodating other special interest groups.
Right now, across the UK, there are many community work spaces for artists. Some of these call themselves ‘studios’, others ‘incubators’ and some just ‘a space’. Each has its own purpose and brings together artists working in similar fields or geographies. These communities are incredibly powerful as artists share knowledge with each other and often collaborate.
Cockpit Arts, for instance, is a fantastic business incubator for designer-makers in London, offering studio space and business support. Elsewhere, the Pervasive Media Studio at Bristol’s Watershed provides a space for a community of artists, creative companies, technologists and academics that are exploring experience design and creative technology. Somerset House have now opened their own studios, to support artists and makers that are engaging with urgent issues and pioneering technologies. The list goes on.
Finding these Communities
However, the problem with this increased number of different groups is making sense of what is available.
How do artists, curators, experimenters, collectors and fans of the arts find these communities? Do we need to rely on word of mouth, or even a quick Google? How do artists learn about how others create their work?
I’m trying to do my bit here. I’m currently running a series of podcasts with Richard Adams, called TECHnique, where artists talk about their artistic process and how they work with technology. Alongside this, I’m running the occasional event for artists to talk about their practice under the same name. These are two ways people might learn more. However, I know I’m not the only one involved in events like this. Artful Spark, for instance, is another great event series getting artists to talk practically about their use of technology. Somerset House is also hosting a bunch of talks about artists using technology in music. Meanwhile, the V&A have a series of talks from artists talking about digital too. But what else is going on? What am I missing?
As, from a technological standpoint, the world progresses, like all industries the arts need to progress with it and find the best ways to collaborate and share information about what events are taking place. My request of you reading this is that you help by sharing what you know is happening.
‘Connectors’ in the Arts
For a little while now, I have been thinking about the concept of ‘connectors’.
Connectors are people that want to have a general awareness of current projects and programmes in an industry, so that they are in a great position to help others find what they need. It is a term coined by Malcolm Gladwell. In his article called ‘Are you a Connector?’, Gladwell describes connectors as ‘the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people’.
I believe that I have met a few people in my life that would fit into this concept of a connector. Each of these people have been formidable in their knowledge of their industry and they always seem to be full of enthusiasm about current projects.
Connectors seem to be all around the arts world, building relationships between people. In fact, this was one of the discussion points during my recent podcast with Martin Franklin, who was the Digital Projects Manager at the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the time. During the episode we talked about artists as hosts of events.
Martin described his view, that ‘there is a long history of artists as catalysts, as hosts of events and as connectors of people’. Some people, Martin explained, would not consider these as artists in their own right; at best, they might think of them as curators. Yet, there is a creative skill in finding ways to connect people where you can see a mutual benefit.
I completely agree with Martin’s viewpoint on this. There is absolutely a role for people in the creative industries to act as connectors and curators. What is more, this is an artistic and creative role in itself.
Perhaps they could be, in part, the missing link in connecting the public to artists speaking about their process.
A Simpler Solution
Yet, you don’t need to be a connector to connect people. You don’t need to know everyone, or about every project; you simply need to share what you do know with people that might be interested. We all do this, but perhaps we can be better at it and be more focussed in who we share it with.
Perhaps we should ask ourselves: how can we share what we find interesting to an audience that might benefit from it?
Images from TECHnique at Campus London (courtesy of Sara Bianchetti).