There was an engaged audience and lots of very relevant discussion at the Beyond the Commission Symposium at Bournemouth University last weekend. The day offered a fuller and more nuanced perspective than usually available of the highways, byways and hidden twisted lanes that constitutes an artist’s route through life. (And yes, on the whole, dead ends were avoided although a couple of Cut Throat Alleys were publicised).
I had the pleasure of meeting Alistair Gentry, whose Market Project has really caught my imagination. A consortium of eight artists and one curator, their strapline is ‘Economic and Professional Research by Artists”. I haven’t fully worked out exactly what the project is. But one of things it does is confront some of the sacred cows of current art practice and policy. Market Project events appear to be a platform for honest discussion about what an artist is, what their roles are, how much can be expected of them, how much they are paid or not; indeed, whether there are too many artists. (See Alistair Gentry’s write-up of the workshop he led). What stops this being po-faced and worthy is the non-politically-correct stance. I don’t mean by this that the opposite happens – bigotry, ignorance, offensiveness. Simply that Market Project seems to have created a space where accepted norms can be intelligently queried, behind-the-scenes dealing can be brought into the open and arts Group Think can be challenged.
It’s one of the most refreshing projects I’ve come across in a very long time, and Gentry a most unusual and original artist. I recommend checking out the Market Project website on a regular basis, as I now intend to do.
And finally, it has to be said: well done Arts Council England for giving the project substantial two-year funding.