....Research Topics and Speculation about Art and Public Space by Scottish Citizen and artist Matt Baker

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Rammy no more

The two artist discussion forums in the last week have, by all accounts been brilliantly uplifting empowering and reflective in equal measure – just one of the incredible outcomes of recent times in arts in Scotland are that for the first time many of us can remember artists (never known for our ‘joining’ mentality) are feeling like we belong to group of fellow travellers. Ironically, given the discussion of specialisms etc re CS – it also seems like many of the disciplinary boundaries are also being cast aside in the movement of ideas is flowing....it is brilliant!

The challenge we now face is how to stay true to ethos of genuine equality in our debate while at the same time taking recognition of the fact that we are also in many other conversations, as a group, simultaneously. As a group we are also talking to the mainstream media, to Creative Scotland, to the political system and to the general public. Whilst many in each of those groups are interested enough to trawl the layers of communication in various media and understand the nuanced debate, most will extract their information from the mainstream media and, in the worst case, the headlines only.
I believe that, as a sector, we need to build a working relationship with the journalists that are reporting ‘The Creative Scotland Story’. The majority of artists will have complex and well-formed critiques of the modern mainstream media – about the dumbing down of dialogue and the simplification of events into an ever re-cycled set of nursery storys….maybe? We have two options…either we attempt to exclude the mainstream media from our debate (censorship?....not our style?) or we must form a working relationship with the media (like Creative Scotland and everyone else in this scenario).
At the moment we risk ‘our story’ being morphed into two media archetypes together: ‘Celebrity relationship hits problems’ and ‘David and Goliath’
Taking Ashley and Cheryl first…….the way this one goes is that there is an initial throwing of accusations and hurt by the ‘injured party’…..the public’s appetite is whetted for a fight….the media wants the story to roll…nudges are given to both parties ‘psst…tell YOUR side of the story’. We, the audience, start to hope for something genuinely dramatic to happen (on camera preferably) – but what we forget, very quickly, is that this is actually about two people trying to happy and support each other(well possibly not in the Cheryl/Ashley example…but u get the point) – what THEY need is to take time out and do some genuine reflection together and decide what is best for them….NOT what will make the best headlines.
We have done the first shouting…the work of the letter to Sir Sandy Crombie and Stramash etc al has been brilliantly effective in making an opportunity for us to forge the future we all want…..lets not forget that this is NOT about destroying Creative Scotland – we are artists and we believe in what we do and want our country to have the best possible system to encourage and grow creative practice for the benefit of everyone. I believe that this is what Creative Scotland want too.
Moving to David and Goliath….we are not well served by this archetype either. There is only one endpoint in that story – the giant falls. And then what happens…we bring down Creative Scotland – what next….do we get on a roll and think about forming a government? Not for me I’m afraid…. and for another thing – I do not want the arts to be an underdog any more I want us to loud and strong, confident of our worth in our society.
I believe we need to work fast and hard to pull back the ‘story’ (in the public mind) from ‘messy divorce’ and/or ‘plucky underdog growls’. Journalists like Phil Miller, Joyce McMillan and Charlotte Higgins have helped us get around the right tables with Creative Scotland and their masters – we now need to reinforce to these folk that if they really do want to continue to help us they need to genuinely understand what we want to achieve here and then maybe they might even advise us on how we could use their media to assist us in our goals.
Anyone up for an artists and journalists open space?