Many of the sector’s most talented, experienced and knowledgeable people were present. From that perspective it provided many exciting moments in terms of the conversations that took place between the timetabled sessions and around the edges of the day. But it wasn’t really a conference in any traditional meaning of the word. No issues were genuinely debated and no resolutions were passed. As Gillian Nicol in a-n points out the day was “highly controlled and tightly curated”. Artist Hannah Nicklin tweeted, or retweeted, the eloquent: “THERE ARE SO MANY ELEPHANTS IN THESE ROOMS”.
A tremendous amount of work went into the event, which was intense and vivid. But it didn’t acknowledge the considerable collective resource available – that is, the delegates – or find ways in which their collective expertise could be drawn upon to the sector’s advantage.
It seems to me – and to others, judging from the public commentary – that if there is to be a State of the Arts 2013, it would benefit from being clearer about its purpose and to be allowed to take more risks. That purpose could usefully be either or both of these:
1. To provide inspiration, ideas and leadership for the sector (requiring less modification from the current model).
2. To decide to be of practical use to the sector by structuring it more along the “unconference” or “culture hack” models. These new forms seek to harness the intelligence and experience of delegates to discuss and problem solve on specific areas, with ideas taken forward after the event.
In the exhausted aftermath, I wrote a rather scathing polemic about it for the New Statesman, which you can read here.
For a report of the day as it happened, read The Guardian’s live blog and its social media round-up. For other interesting and varied contributions, the sota blog platform curated by artist’s Hannah Nicklin and Andy Field covers a range of perspectives.