Artist Run Archive

Neil Mulholland (Producer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

Abstract / Description of output

1. Project Objectives

This project aims to:
• build on existing, and develop new, close working relationships with artist-run initiatives (ARIs, or ‘indies’) in Scotland and investigate their transnational cultural impact
• archive the activities of two key ARIs in Edinburgh and augment this archive in a shared online resource
• prepare to place the material archive in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) library to ensure it is safeguarded for future artists, researchers and educators
• help the indies to provide access to their projects and developments and ensure their flexibility, collegiate culture and loyal communitarian responses remain socially democratised and personalised
• ensure that Edinburgh College of Art”s key stakeholders (ARI members) are fully supported in the invaluable work they do in supporting and developing the careers of our graduates

The archives will specifically:
• feature in the Talbot Rice exhibition FAIR, organised by first year MA Contemporary Art Theory students in May 2013.
• feature in ‘Artists Running’, the Talbot Rice exhibition on artist-led activities in Scotland planned to coincide with the 2014 Commonwealth Games “25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland” project led by SNGMA and Glasgow Life.
• allow users to more to fully develop the implications of the cultural turn as far as it relates to
the symbolic realm of work and the economy.

In 2014 Collective will celebrate its 30th anniversary while in 2013 Embassy celebtrates its 10th year. The lazy myth that ARI activity in Scotland is dominated by Glasgow needs to be countered by research that firmly places the archives of east coast arts in the global context to which they clearly belong. Since ARIs form part of a predominately voluntary sector – as very small organisations they have no choice other than to erode the roles of producer, distributor and consumer – they rely on the input that academic researchers can bring to this pressing task. The archives in question stretch back to 1983 (Collective) and 2002 (Embassy and proto-ARIs) respectively and are in urgent need of rehousing. Lacking the resources of larger state-run arts venues, the ARIs are not in a position to do this on their own, a KTE is required to ensure that this vital work is carried out. Their important place in the history of contemporary art relies upon the way in which their impact is archived.

Postgraduate students in the MA Contemporary Art Theory programme in the School of Art will work closely with the ARIs, SNGMA and a network of artists, collectors and critics to ensure that the archives of these organisations are digitally documented and indexed. They will also inaugurate an online oral and video history document that relates to the collections currently held in the ARIs in question.

In 2014, this KTE scheme would extend to examine the archives of other neglected ARIs, balancing the unsubstantiated self-promotional accounts of independent arts in Scotland. The significance, value and impact of these ARIs is held in their archives and it is paramount that they be prepared for long-term preservation. It is hoped that the project can extend to incorporate the archives of Generator (Dundee) and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop into the SNGMA in the near future.

2. Outline of Project

This project seeks to consolidate and build upon the close partnership the School of Art has with Collective
and Embassy in particular.

• Supported by the MFA programme structure and continuously supervised, the School of Art’s postgraduate students will be assigned to either the Embassy and Collective Gallery to work on their archives to prepare them for inclusion into the SNGMA library.
• The postgraduate students will generate oral and video archives will for incorporation into and an online resource design to augment the SNGMA archive.
• Students will be involved in the analysis and discussion of these archives in order to assist in programming part of FAIR at Talbot Rice in 2013.

3.Target group and plan for how to reach them

The key aim of this KE is to make access to the ‘currency of creativity’ easier in an world in which the pursuit of safeguarding ideas is becoming both obligatory and inordinately expensive and thus, increasingly, the domain of larger art organisations or private collectors.

• The project targets the rapidly expanding international audience for contemporary art produced in Scotland, more specifically, the substantial transnational networks established by the Collective and Embassy Galleries in Edinburgh.
• This target group will be reached directly via the ARIs themselves as well as through partners that stand to benefit from the project (SNGMA, Talbot Rice). The network’s involvement and investment in the ARIs will ensure support for the process of archiving their activities.
• Working with SNGMA and the Talbot Rice ARI show will generate visibility for the project and ensure a wider discourse for this cultural activity.

The power of the ARI’s open networks attests that, for many fundamental forms of research, cooperation can prove superior to competition. The target group will find the project since it stands to benefit them equally as current participants in the ARIs networks.

4. Method of Working/Activities

The method involves experiential learning in phased stages of research activity designed to make a highly visible impact upon the field of contemporary art.

1. Postgraduate student archivists will learn how to prepare an archive for incorporation into a predetermined index.
2. Postgraduate archivists will, through their imbedded work, begin to invest in the culture and ethos of the ARIs.
3. The issues raised by the archive and the research process will be discussed and evaluated by the student archivists.
4. Based on their discussions, the students will provide input into the Talbot Rice ‘FAIR’ programme.
5. The FAIR will generate impact in the sector of contemporary art in the form of its programme.
6. This impact will resonate in future exhibitions (Embassy Programme & Professional Development, Collective Gallery Summer School, 2014 TR show), discourses and publications that relate to art in and beyond Scotland.

5. Major Milestones and Time/Activity Chart

• Sept-Dec 2012 : Working with the SNGMA indexing system, Deborah Jackson will lead MA CAT students in archiving the Collective and Embassy records and sourcing additional materials from the international arts community involved in these organisations.
• Jan-May 2013 : Identification and evaluation of key resources from the archives. Audio and Video histories compiled to augment key resources and placed online. Preparation of key resources towards FAIR at Talbot Rice.
• May 2013 : FAIR is held at Talbot Rice Gallery. Final evaluation of the project to follow the Collective’s 2013 Summer School programme.
• August 2013 – The Collective Gallery’s Summer School and archives will generate further research that can be incorporated into Artist-led Scotland at Talbot Rice Gallery in 2014.

6. Anticipated knowledge transfer outcomes/benefits

The KE partners will be benefit enormously from the research on and incorporation of their archives into the SNGMA library. The impact will be clearly measurable in terms of:

- the development of innovative experiential learning processes designed to both place students in the heart of their chosen industry and to encourage student participation in the pioneering public education programmes generated by this industry
- the KTE’s significant scholarly contribution to current discourses on contemporary art’s gift economies (‘freeconomics’)
- expanding knowledge of the legacies and futures of the ARIs in and beyond Scotland
- forthcoming exhibitions on the past 25 years of art in Scotland (2014-)
- the key involvement of eca in the establishment of these ARIs, and thus of Edinburgh University’s reputation as one of the world’s leading universities
- further opportunities for staff and students in the form of future KE and research activities established in collaboration with new ARI partners enabling flexible links with our supporting creative communities to emerge by encouraging the participatory nature of indie culture

7. Evaluation

• The archive stage of the project will ‘self-evaluate’ in the form of FAIR at the Talbot Rice in May 2013.
• FAIR will include a programme, generated by the postgraduate archivists in close collaboration with the Embassy and Collective Gallery staff, that will address the issues raised by the ARI archives and the process of their documentation and incorporation into the SNGMA’s library.
• Critical reflection of this process will be incorporated into assessment of the students’ work on this project.
• The project will be posthumously assessed, in September 2013, with the two KTE partners in order to ascertain how further research could benefit them in future years.
• We will consider also how the KE could be extended to assist other ARIs in Scotland and, in particular, how the research could impact upon the policy of the Scottish Government (Creative Scotland).
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherTalbot Rice
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2013
EventFAIR - Edinburgh, Talbot Rice and Embassy, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 May 201311 May 2013


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  • Artist-Run Archive

    Mulholland, N.


    Project: University Awarded Project Funding

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