Edinburgh Research Explorer

Artist-Run Archive

Project: University Awarded Project Funding

StatusFinished
Effective start/end date10/09/129/08/13
Period10/09/129/08/13

Description

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.

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).

Key findings

CHSS Knowledge Exchange and Impact Grant – Report
Project title, name of Principal Applicant and year that the KEI Grant was awarded.
Artist-run-Archive
Prof Neil Mulholland
2012
Details of the activity and whether/how this met the set objectives of the project.
Objectives:
build on existing, and develop new, close working relationships with artist-run initiatives (ARIs, or ‘indies’) in Scotland and investigate their transnational cultural impact [COMPLETED]
archive the activities of two key ARIs in Edinburgh and augment this archive in a shared online resource [PARTIALLY COMPLETED]
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 [COMPLETED]
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 [COMPLETED]
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 [COMPLETED]
All five objectives were met.
For events: Number of attendees, evaluation forms and results.
Supported by the MFA programme structure and continuously supervised, my postgraduate students were assigned to the Embassy or Collective Gallery to work on their archives to prepare them for inclusion into the SNGMA library.
The postgraduate students generated oral and video archives for incorporation into and an online resource design to augment the SNGMA archive. [Currently with Embassy Committee webteam]
The students curated an exhibition at Talbot Rice in May 2013 that featured elements of the archives of both ARIs and the new resources generated [400+ visitors over 12 days]
Students were involved in the analysis and discussion of that ARI archives in order to assist in programming part of the Collective Gallery’s Summer School in August 2013, an event that formed part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. [35 participants]

For events targeted to practitioners, policy makers or industry please attach the list of invitees as well as the delegate list, both including name, job titles and company/organisation. We will not use these without your permission but are delighted to help you follow up as appropriate.
n/a
Details of outcomes and evidence of preliminary impact. This includes any activities occurring as result of the event/project. For this reason, we encourage people not to submit the report straight after completion but closer to the 3 month deadline.
The project achieved its key aim of archiving the materials in the SNGMA, of working with the materials to make them available in an exhibition and as part of an educational programme open to the public.
Subsequent activities:
The students involved in the project each produced a critical reflection on the process as part of their assessed work. This was praised by the external examiner as an exemplary model for KE and placement-based learning.
The online resource developed by the students is now being maintained by the Embassy Directors (comprising three of the former students who started the project) as an ongoing post-net art project to revamp their online activities. This attests to the professional success of the project’s innovative experiential learning processes. Placing them at the heart of their chosen industry as students has directly led them, as graduates working in this industry, to continue to encourage student participation in pioneering public education programmes.
I personally used the archives to write ‘Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt’ an essay for the Reader Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland (Glasgow Life/SNGMA, 2014). http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/ten-years-in-an-open-necked-shirt(3e012250-c805-496d-9d95-6546cbf64336).html Generation was a Scotland-wide exhibition that lasted through most of 2014 and so this has been distributed and read very widely.
In connection with this essay I was commissioned by ‘The Glasgow Miracle: Materials for Alternative Histories’, Glasgow School of Art to write a play featuring things from the Scottish Arts Council’s Glasgow Gallery (1968-74) and the first ten years of Third Eye Centre, Glasgow (1975-86) based on www.glasgowmiraclearchives.org which is now published on that site. This draws upon the Edinburgh project to deconstruct the Glasgow miracle creation myth by framing the infrastructure in a wider Scottish, European and American context dating back to the late 1960s.
As a result of this, I was interviewed by the art critic Jennifer Higgie for the frieze film Our Glasgow to reflect upon the past, present and future of Scotland’s ARIs. The film was premiered at the Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the BBC Art Screen Festival 2014 and screened again at the ICA, London. video.frieze.com/film/Glasgow Shortly afterwards I was interviewed by Kirsty Wark for the BBC documentary Scotland’s Art Revolution: The Maverick Generation: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04bbfzt The frieze film and BBC documentary had large audiences and so significantly increased the impact of the project.
If a core element of the project is dissemination and engagement using the web, please provide stats on number of hits etc., as well as information on resulting engagement (i.e. responses, comments to blog posts etc) and, crucially, the enhanced impact (new target group(s), better understanding of research relevance, etc.) that has resulted.
Three students who worked on the project are now Directors of the Embassy (out of a total of 6 Directors) and have taken on this part of the project. Embassy have since developed and augmented the user-generated aspects of the online archive through projects such as C I R C U L A R - a participatory publishing project where participants worked collaboratively with a group of invited contributors, including the gallery membership base and artists including Arcadia_Missa and Marialaura Ghidini to produce material for a collectively authored printed and online publication. Workshops during the project are designed to activate a shifting of content between online and offline platforms, drawing upon ideas of downloading and uploading, reading and writing.
Implications of the project for the linked research – this may include increased impact of the research, new questions or focus areas identified, new collaborations established, new research applications planned or submitted etc.
The linked research has taken the project in two different directions:
“Canons have for the British empire been a doorkeeper to the law of social improvement; they have represented the conservation of the greatness of the perfect language as a model for social order. In empire, they have acted with the violence […] of ‘cannons’. Michael Gardiner From Trocchi to Trainspotting: Scottish Critical Theory Since 1960, Edinburgh University Press, 2006, p182. Generation was an attempt to canonise the art of the past 25 years in Scotland. The Artist-run-Archive generated invaluable materials to use to contest this imperialist practice of canon-formation and challenge the epistemicide it supports. This is something that is also clearly communicated in the linked research I did for GSA, frieze and the BBC.
The web archive has been developed by Embassy as a dynamic post-net work which is ongoing. This means that, while the material archive is in the SNGMA, the ARIs have taken control over the future archive and ensured that it remains a live component of their programme generated by their own user base.

Research outputs