A Critical look at Institutions and how they affect the Engagement of Audience in terms of Learning

 

Over the past decade there has been an increased interest in galleries incorporating education into their programs as a form of widening participation and inclusion. This seems primarily due to the educational turn that saw an increase of discussion around incorporating pedagogy in fine art and curatorial practices. As well as this, the government needs to show public outreach, and this can come in forms of encouragement to participate in British culture. This could typically involve attractions such as museums and galleries. However, it could be argued that some types of spaces lend themselves to educational engagement better than others. With increasing cuts in funding to Arts in Britain, it is now surely more important than ever to make art as inclusive as possible to a wider public to prove its importance within society and culture.

What is being explored in this dissertation through the writing and research presented here is whether an artist can engage with learners who are the audience in the same way even if the work in question is not within a ‘traditional’ gallery context. In this context the traditional gallery is taken as meaning an established institution recognised by the public as an existing space to exhibit works of art and funded for this purpose alone.

This dissertation aims to explore which context is most appropriate when trying to engage an audience and how each individual space or artist achieves it in comparison to the others. There are three different examples of sights for learning and how they affect the outcome of viewers in terms of both learning and inclusion: the first example being the Tate, which had both traditional and contemporary galleries, having well over 7 million visitors a year (Tate, 2014) Secondly, The Showroom, which is a gallery with an ethos centred on community and collaboration helping artists internationally having their first London solo exhibition, coincided with Casco, a project sharing similar interests in the Netherlands. Finally, the example of the artist Jeremy Deller who although having exhibited widely in all manner of spaces has created ambitious community based projects in public space. Throughout the text there is discussion around the positive outcomes, and the limitations of each of these ways to involve the public and pedagogical outcomes.

 

The Tate, a Public Institution

 

Tate houses art collections of great importance across its four galleries, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, Tate Saint Ives and Tate Britain. Alongside its permanent collection the galleries also have contemporary exhibitions from both national and international artists. The Tate is a major tourist attraction, the sites collectively have over 7 million visitors a year as stated on the website (Tate, 2014). The audience for the Tate galleries is hugely varied, from art enthusiasts all the way to first time visitors. What we are aiming to find out is to what extent the Tate is inclusively engaging its visitors and how much of an effect the institutional context has on this.

Galleries often have a conversation of education around them, especially public institutions. The Tate for example has an education department (Tate Research Centre: Learning); this is along with other public orientated galleries such as the Whitechapel and Camden Arts Centre which both have dominant values around education. The educational aspects of the galleries can exist for a number of reasons; such as access to funding- potentially the more inclusive a gallery is the wider and larger audience they could attract. As well this, the gallery may have a genuine interest for wider participation in the arts, together with a variety of other reasons. The Tate describes learning as a fluid infinite process which:

‘As we understand it, concerns itself with profound processes of change: personal, social, imaginative and cognitive. Change is continuous; it never stands still.’ (Tate, 2014)

This suggests that there is no definite end point to the research and progress. This is also the definition of learning that will be continued to be used throughout the dissertation as a constant comparison with the other institutions and artists.

There has been a significant change to the way the Tate has approached learning in the last few years. This is highlighted in their Transforming Tate Learning document found on their website. The Tate wrote that they wanted to:

‘Dig deeper into what is actually going on for participants when they engage with our work – what are they (and the institution) actually learning and what does this mean?’ (Tate, 2014).

Tate Learning, the education department for the Tate, published online their intention in a document called Transforming Tate Learning (TTL for short). The TTL essentially aims to make the Tate Galleries a space for learning through both action and reflection (Tate, 2014).

It is not hard to search for feedback on peoples Tate experiences; with a quick Internet search you can read thousands of comments about every aspect of the institution from specific exhibitions to the food selection in the cafes. In a world with technology is at arms reach everyone and anyone can make comments and voice their opinions about their experience, and from the point of view from a public organisation it must be a huge advantage. The Tate can take the opinions of the audience and use these to generate change in the institution.

The Tate does have a high general public profile, the galleries are extremely well advertised, posters appearing at Tube station across London, their own publications, and social media to just name a few ways they are advertising. The Tate brand is constantly in the public eye inviting the public to participate in complete contrast to how private galleries would share their brand. We see private galleries’ adverts a lot less frequently in public spaces or high profile advertising in mainstream media, but instead in more direct places, such as the high profile art magazines an example being Art Monthly or Frieze Magazine. From this we can conclude the private galleries are not as interested in drawing in a larger more diverse audience, and want specifically an audience of art enthusiasts.

It is clear that the audience is important for the Tate. The Tate is a publically funded gallery that wants to operate for the public, and they take a number of different measures to try to achieve this goal. An example of this could be their workshops, and artist’s talks. All their events are aimed at various age groups, communities and families, the list is huge and is undeniably widely inclusive. When put into perspective, Tate, unlike other galleries such as The Lisson Gallery, Pace or Gagosian that could be described as private, and that do not have to interact with a wider audience would not be putting resources into education, inclusion and participation but instead they have very specific people they want to appeal to, dealers, art fairs and critics; an audience in someway that could aid the worth of both work and the institutional brand. As for the Tate, their funds are not predominantly generated by sales of work, as they are collecting pieces to preserve and share with the public.

Along side the Tate’s varying resources, there is also an interest in artistic research. A research paper of particular interest on the theme of education and learning through art is by Emily Pringel who is head of the education department. Pringel conducted research into artists as educators inside gallery contexts. The research asked a series of questions to artists who worked with the AiSfL (Artist in Sights for Learning) and Tate. Emily Pringel looks at the relationship between art practice and education and found those artists’ with interests in, and a practice involving pedagogy inside the gallery could use the context as a platform. She found in her conclusion that the artists she interviewed could see the link between their own knowledge and artistic expertise and their engagement with pedagogy. Pringel noted there was an:

‘Enquiry and making meaning, with the dialogic forms of teaching and learning these practitioners aspired to’ (Pringel, 2009).

However, they also identified that although there was a platform, there were also limitations because of the institutional context. The artists found there was difficultly when trying to create co-constructive learning. This relates to the experience of artists who are part of such a significant institution and are in some way placed on a pedestal. In this sense, it is easy to see why the audience would perhaps be less inclined to contribute, and their audience may see these artists as experts. Although this in some way maybe considered flattering, the artists in the study have seen it as a disadvantage and a hindrance to their desired results. The conclusion went on to say that this created:

‘And unearthed contradictions between how these artist educators perceived other professionals (teachers and art historians specifically) and their experience of teaching in the art institution and beyond.’ (Pringel, 2009)

Overall, Pringel found that pedagogy informed and interested practices of the artists are beneficial to learners and the audience of the Tate and although it did highlight the complexities, the research did seem to have a generally positive finding. It seems that because of the changes in practices that vary from artist to artist there is really no way to measure how effective these things are.

Alongside this, often audiences speak of a very specific atmosphere that is found inside galleries. There appears to be a certain way people conduct themselves inside these surroundings. This was explored in Carol Duncan’s book Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. The book looks at the behaviours inside an art museum and why we perform certain ways inside them. Duncan wrote that:

‘Art museums have always been compared to older ceremonial monuments such as palaces and temples […] from the eighteenth century through to the twentieth century they were deliberately designed to resemble one’ (Duncan, 1995)

This explanation in Duncan’s writing seems to give an idea around buildings like the Tate Britain that was built in the 18th century, or the National Gallery in London. However, when it comes to more contemporary institutional building like the Tate Modern that is famously a renovated power station, why is the situation still the same? It can only be assumed that these monumental establishments have had an affect on our behaviours, and it has been mirrored in our more contemporary art galleries and spaces. With this in mind, artists and institutions are continually challenging this, and the whole concept of an Institutional Critique addresses similar issues as well as its more political concerns. Again, comparing the Tate to private galleries such as Gagosian, Pace and The Lisson Gallery, the Tate does seem to be taking a step forward in trying to break through the stereotypes and making their spaces accessible. However, again one can appreciate that these private galleries do not have the audience, and are there to uphold a certain kind of brand and exclusivity, which is why the visitor may often find security guards in suits watching their every move, and other less inviting aspects.

Alongside the other issues related to the context, there is also a general consensus of hierarchy and elitism. This is particularly mentioned in reference to the art world. As the art market is a multi-billion pound industry, there are individuals who are part of it with tremendous sums of money readily available and as a result fine art can often come across as a higher-class indulgence. In Civilizing Rituals, Duncan retold the history of public art institutions; she found that although institutions can claim to be public, the public’s interest has not always been foremost. She found that people from lower classes were discouraged from visiting certain museums; a situation involving the Met Museum in New York was of particular interest. After a prolonged protest the institution agreed to open their doors on Sundays so the working class could take advantage of this seemingly public space, it was written that merely weeks after this happened, the working class visitors felt unwelcome and uncomfortable, and thus stopped going. Duncan wrote that:

‘Museums went back to being an exclusive space for the ‘respectable classes’’(Duncan, 1995).

This happened because the trustees’ views were:

‘Complex and contradictory, a mix of personal and public ambitions, elitist and democratic sentiments […] scenarios that structure public art museums to this day.’ (Duncan, 1995)

Taking into consideration that this book by Duncan is now over twenty-five years old, it would be liked to think this is no longer the case. But galleries still struggle to shake this often-expressed issue of hierarchy. Duncan did state that the European art museums had a more humble beginning, nevertheless it is easy to see how this could have also been the case here in Britain. There is always a shortage of funding for the arts and sometimes museums may, due to pressures, have to make decisions that may not be in the best interest of the public, but overall benefit the institution economically. We can see a prime example of this from the Tate Britain funders BP. It is a company with a less than favourable reputation, yet donates large sums of money. Furthermore although people have protested profusely against it being represented within the gallery, the Tate continues to take BP’s sponsorship. Along with that it can be appreciated that the Tate, like other organisations, is bound by having to satisfy the varying demands of public funding bodies, making what they do more rigid and institutionalised as pointed out by Emily Pethick in her text Resisting Institutionalisation.

Wider participation and inclusion is essential to the Tate’s galleries’ ethos. However, what is more disconcerting is how these institutions created such questions. The galleries Duncan described in her writing, which claimed to be public, often used both public money and land, but then continued to only appeal to a certain audience or class by not making workshops, talks, language and learning easily available and accessible to the working class in particular, even though the spaces were free entry. Overall, with the Tate’s range of resources alongside more official aspects such as the Freedom of Information Act (2000) that allows the public complete transparency into the institution, we can maintain and see what is actually happening inside our precious public galleries. This is important because, we need to make sure the Tate continues to keep participation and inclusion at the heart of all the galleries.

In terms of engagement, overall in the context of the Tate, the gallery spaces can change the way people learn. The positives are that the context is critical and makes the audience think diagnostically about the work in front of them. Also there are so many different utilities that can be taken advantage of to help the audience engage. Unfortunately there are negatives also. There are lasting connotations of gallery spaces that are a challenge to any attempts to revolutionise approaches to art. However, the Tate is clearly changing and becoming a better place. The Tate does look at itself critically and they are aware of these issues surrounding the institutional context. Some are unchangeable such as the buildings, but it is clear to see they are trying to understand what exactly the issues are and through research trying to find solution. Furthermore, in the TTL document, the understanding of the process of learning really showed the commitment and passion of the education department. They were aware of the challenges, and the transformation that the gallery has to go through. They concluded a realisation though the research for this research will never end. The public needs are ever changing and to continue being such as successful public institution that Tate now clearly know and understand that they need to continue to adapt.

 

 

Other Galleries and Spaces with Public Interests

 

The Showroom and Casco both share similar interests around community, widening participation and a sense of critical engagement promoting education. The Showroom Gallery states on their website that:

‘We commission and produce art and discourse; providing an engaging, collaborative program that challenges what art can be and do for a wide range of audiences, including art professionals and our local community’ (Showroom, 2015).

Likewise Casco claims that it is an:

‘Open and public space for artistic research and experiments […] consider artistic practice as a way of engaging with the world’ (Casco).

Casco appears to run like a community, involving the city of Utrecht where it is situated, the space is described as open and public promoting inclusion (Casco). It seems important for organizations like this to have a strong ethos they truly believe in. Since it is increasingly hard to get funding for creative projects it seems key that these organisations prove themselves worthy to continue the artistic endeavours they have set out on, and through that gain support and funding. The Showroom is funded by a fixed-term grant from the Arts Council England, along with other companies and individuals contributing that are outlined on their website. They are described as a not-for-profit gallery, and are registered as a charity. Casco is funded by a variety of Dutch organisations that focus on culture, much like equivalents to the Arts Council England. Specifically:

‘Casco’s program is made possible with financial support from City Council of Utrecht, Mondrian Fund, DOEN Foundation, K.F Hein Fonds, and European Union Culture Programme.’ (Casco, 2009).

Without funding of these kinds, the organisations could not exist in the way they do. Both organisations do not put pressure on the artists they support to make sellable or physical work, as it is not the economics of art that are important to them, but instead community and the chance for these artist to be in an environment that allows them to fully realise and execute their ideas through process.

It should be noted that both organisations are significantly smaller than the Tate, and most likely significantly less well funded. This may be an explanation as to why there is less advertising of the exhibitions at The Showroom. The gallery is also not particularly well renowned in London especially where there are some of the world’s most well established commercial galleries. Although it could be imagined that it is not an important priority for them to engage with the whole potential audience of London, but rather to concentrate on the areas surrounding the gallery which they are engaged with. One specific program that The Showroom has is Communal Knowledge. The program specially seeks to invite artist to create their own projects involving groups in the locality of the gallery. It aims to benefit the surrounding community and:

‘Employs different forms of action and critical reflection towards building an accumulative shared body of knowledge.’(Showroom, 2010)

Emily Pethick was the director of Casco from 2005 till 2008 and is now the director of the Showroom Gallery London. Whilst in her transition between the organisations, she wrote an insightful text for the Institute of Contemporary Art London (ICA). The text Resisting Institutionalization was written as part of ICAs program Nought to Sixty that involved over sixty artists cross the United Kingdom under the age of 35. The program aimed to bring a new kind of energy to the ICA by representing artists with little commercial exposure. Along with that, there was a strong sense of social practice running through the program, as a lot of the artist would not usually be part of a ‘traditional’ gallery context. The program encouraged wide participation and collaboration between both the artists and the audience inside of the gallery walls. (ICA, 2008)

For this program Pethick wrote the text and specifically about Casco, saying that both Casco and The Showroom were not about the object, but about the production and realization of ideas:

‘Emphasis lies in discourse and exchange rather than presentation’ (Pethick, 2008).

This appears to be why these spaces often have a strong sense of socially engaged art practices, and community involvement. There is not this pressure placed on the artists to produce physical objects like a typical gallery or residency in a gallery, but to create interesting and dynamic works that can be experimental and challenge ideas of what a gallery space and art can be. Along with this Pethick wrote about how:

‘Conversation generates forms of exchange that are not fixed or static but rather sustain on-going processes of engagement, responsiveness and change’ (Pethick, 2008)

This was aimed primarily at Casco. What is fascinating is this idea of flexibility; these organisations have choices because they are self-led and relatively small in size. This is unlike the Tate where the institution is constrained by the boundaries of public funding amongst other factors. This seems to be the main difference between both of the organisations and with the Tate galleries.

In relation to both of the organisations’ attitude, there is a project that was supported by Casco that is an example of these non-gallery orientated community-based practices. The work called Hidden Curriculum is by Annette Krauss, who is currently also on the Casco artistic advisory board. This project happened through workshops with school children aged 15-17 and then was made into a video project (Showroom, 2012). The project looked at education and environment critically. Krauss’s on-going work examines the lessons you learn which are not on the official agenda, and uses schools as her place for research. This project was supported initially at Casco, but has since been to other locations, such as the Whitechapel Gallery in London when the artist was in residency there. Pethick wrote about the project saying that

‘These actions sought to counter the normal routines of both environments, expose the hidden rule structures that exist in public and institutional spaces, and reveal codes of conduct of which students were previously unaware.’(Pethick, 2008)

Krauss invited schools and their pupils to take part in actively questioning, thinking critically around the idea of the hidden curriculum. The Hidden Curriculum looked at spaces and questioned why we act in them the way we do. This mirrors the rituals discussed previously inside art galleries using Duncan’s writing. The children were asked to go into spaces inside their school and look at them analytically looking for things they would not usually search for. The critical enquiry skill these pupils learnt could then be transferred into gallery contexts where they could look actively at galleries and work, and perhaps change they way they thought inside of them.

Nina Möntmann wrote an essay called The Rise and Fall of New Institutionalism that gives a more critical view of these styles of spaces. Speaking from her time as part of the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, she found that these styles of galleries what were self-critical were not surviving. Möntmann described the galleries as:

‘Spaces that have internalised their institutional critique’ (Möntmann, 2007)

As well as saying that:

‘Criticality didn’t survive the ‘corporate turn’ in the institutional landscape’ (Möntmann, 2007).

Möntmann suggests it is because they are forced into curatorial programmes, however the immediately issue that springs to mind in the UK with the current government is the impact of underfunding for the arts. Referring back to the phrase curatorial programs, although in Roberts Smithson’s Cultural Confinement (1972) it is suggested that artists were forced into the ideas and constraints that the curators enforce, what perhaps should be challenged is other aspects influencing the decisions of the curators such as pressures from ‘higher places’.

Möntmann thought that only the biggest institutions and generators of money seem stable in today’s climate, using Guggenheim as an example of this, suggesting its success comes from political sources and sponsors over anything else. She concluded her doubts by saying the limitations of independent organisations were to do with the utopian idea of non-institutional ethically run organisations, which she does not think can exist. Möntmann said:

‘The need for facilities is an illusion, or rather a retroactive rationalisation […] produces a certain structure to desire, it enables a certain space where signifiers and desires can circulate, and in this sense it is just as futile to dream of a fully de-institutionalised space as it is to dream an institution would work’ (Möntmann, 2007)

In this sense, the gallery is not essential for community engagement but artists may feel the need to exhibit in a gallery space for recognition. As a result it is impossible to have a de-institutionalised space. To conclude, from the essay it seems a constant changing and rethinking is key to surviving. Möntmann wrote:

‘Rethinking existing relations and acknowledging that nothing is stable or fixed.’

This suggests that although none of these organisations are stable, the key to their success is continuing this never ending self-critique so they are able to continue as independent spaces and be less constricted. This also suggests that even though Casco and The Showroom have a variety of sponsors and ways to generate money that it seems to be important to keep whoever is helping with the funding of the organisation inline with the ethos. In addition to this, a similar conclusion was given in the TTL document where there was also a realisation promotion continuous change and revaluation.

Overall, in terms of engagement with audience, both Casco and The Showroom are not without their critics. The spaces both have so many things to offer the communities that surround the organisations and do engage with a wider public through critical and interesting projects. It seems as if both Tate and these organisations share this knowledge of understand around constant change to engage the audiences. The main difference that can be drawn is this focus on non-production. The artists who are part of these organisations don’t have as many constrictions as perhaps artists who are represented in Tate.

 

Jeremy Deller, Independent of Institution

 

Jeremy Deller is a British artist most notable for his Turner Prize nomination and well-established career. Having curated his first exhibition in his parents’ house while they were on holiday, Deller has always opted to exhibit in a wide variety of spaces, both in traditional contexts such as the Hayward Gallery, as well as more unconventional spaces like swimming pools and community centres. The work comes across as socially engaged, and has a huge participatory aspect. He often works in collaboration with other artists (DACS and Artquest, 2014); examples include work with Alan Kane, Dan Mitchell and Simon Periton, all three of whom have been present throughout his career. He is described often as influential and there seems to be a whole range of different reviews and opinions of his work at either ends of the spectrum, but nevertheless he has attempted to change the rules and perceptions of contemporary art (Hayward).

Along with his collaborations, he also involves a wide variety of people in the creative process by using a range of different communities and social groups. The theme in his work is predominantly British culture and it often has a political undertone. An example of this is his most well known work to date, Acid Brass (1997). This project saw Deller bring together the UK’s leading Brass Band along with classical producer Rodney Newton. This work produced an unusual combination of different cultures from the brass band, that Deller saw as a very northern working class tradition, and the new dance music (acid house) that was inspiring British youth culture at the time. The project created a collaboration that originally took the form of a concert. It has now travelled to a variety of spaces including The Louver Paris and Tate Modern London, along side more traditional brass band venues such as festivals and concert halls. The performance was of the band playing the classical re-arrangement of popular anthems in brass. Since the popularity of the project there was a CD produced in 2004, and then in 2011 a second album (Fairey Band).

There are undertones in Deller’s work of his interest in public involvement. An example being for the 10th anniversary of Own Art, an organisation that aims to make owning art more affordable to a wider audience. Deller was commissioned by the company, and after creating an animation for them, then created 10,000 still images where people could download an image for free, thus creating a global collective of individuals who could now deem themselves collectors (Own Art, 2014). This shows the extend of how much collaboration plays a role in Deller’s work, and also suggests an interest in everyone getting the chance to be part of and involved with art. The artist stated that:

‘Working with another person or people automatically makes the art a social experience’ (Deller, 2000).

This can relate back to Casco and The Showroom Gallery and their community-based ethos, the organisations have not used the term social experience explicitly, but certainly the people involved are the key aspect. However, instead of the whole organisation being involved with the engagement, it is just the single artist exploring this independently. The advantages of working in the public realm in this way for Deller include the chance to involve people who may not usually go to art galleries. Because of this, Deller seems to be breaking through a fine art hierarchy. Instead of thinking that art belongs only inside the walls of galleries, presenting the usual stereotypical vibes of art being precious, expensive and elitist, Deller has taken his work into public spaces; perhaps not in the traditional form art can take like painting or sculpture, but in the form of social experiments and spectacles.

However, it is important to make clear three major galleries in fact do represent Deller both in the UK and internationally, and this will be discussed later.

In terms of the audience learning through his work, it is not necessarily presented in a critical context. People could ignore the political or social message behind the work, however, this may be part of what makes his work so accessible. In Deller’s book Joy of People (2011), published at the same time as his mid-career show at The Hayward, curator, critique and director of the gallery at the time Ralph Rugoff wrote that:

‘His work can be enjoyed by passers by and be appreciated with no special knowledge of art.’ (Rugoff, n.d.)

Rugoff continues to say that the work is intended for display in real life settings. As much as fine art should be part of every day, real life situations, it is not part of every day life for the majority of the public. Deller addresses the every day settings by using mediums of mass media such as signs, posters and t-shirts. This is immediately cutting out the concerns with gallery contexts and hierarchy- although of course he has had many exhibitions inside institutional spaces.

Looking back on Duncan’s research again into rituals inside art institutions, there is a suggestion in the writing that these art galleries and museums were originally classist. This now becomes irrelevant when referring to the work outside of these spaces because there is now no building or organisation to house these issues. Along with that, there is no need for any previous art knowledge when viewing the work at all. Emily Pethick, in Avoiding Institutionalization questioned why artists would show work in gallery spaces when there are so many more interesting options available. Yet, additionally it is important to remember that Deller is a world-renowned figure, and furthermore, as well as his publicly displayed works, he has exhibited frequently in private galleries which is a reflection on his success. Without his ties to the high ‘art world’ and the galleries that represent him, his public works might not gather such a big audience or publicity.

Nevertheless, with Deller’s work being in the public, this does not necessarily guarantee an audience who will look at it critically; the audience could simply enjoy it on purely aesthetical basis. This suggests that because of Deller’s success he no longer has to conform to these spaces, but alternatively, if an artist was not successful they may still need the support of an organization. Deller said himself that the Acid Brass project made him realize he didn’t have to make objects any more. But in doing this particular work, because he was already successful it wasn’t an issue. This is where it can be imagined that Casco or The Showroom would come into play along with other platforms to help artist less established.

In conclusion to this, it seems clear to see that Deller is able to have his work in public with such ease because he does already have a name for himself creating a larger audience of people who have fine art interests alongside the rest of the public who may see his work as Rugoff described as being in real life.

Another comparison that could be drawn between The Showroom and Casco (and the Tate to an extent) to Deller’s work is one of self-criticality. As it has been mentioned previously, the organisations do so well because they are self critical and aware of their issues and continually change to address them. In relation to some of Deller’s earlier work, and in particular the I Love Joyriding sticker which Deller made and stuck onto a police car before photographing. Rugoff states that:

‘Deller’s photos also begged the question as to whether we can ever completely separate our public roles (and institutions) from our disorderly personal desires’ (Rugoff, n.d.)

By this, Rugoff suggests that there is an inevitable conflict between these elements in Deller’s art, that is reflected not only in its content but in where and how he chooses to display it – whether in a public space or in a private gallery. In order to do one he needs to do the other. This is not just an issue for individual artist though; also organisations can have these conflicts such as the issues with funding that was discussed earlier.

Through research and a comparison with Emily Pringle’s text The Artist as Educator: Examining Relationships between Art Practice and Pedagogy in the Gallery Context (2009) it does appear that both the Tate and Deller are seeking to achieve similar things. However, instead of creating a space where people can engage critically with art, as we have previously established, Deller is bringing it out into the world where the audience has no choice but to address it. What is interesting is how the artists that Pringle has used in her study specifically refer to themselves as artist educators. Deller, when questioned about this, did not appear to like to use the words ‘education’ or ‘learner’ in relation to his practice. Deller said in relation to teaching:

‘I don’t teach, I examine’ (See Appendix 4.2)

However, it could be argued that he examines situations and then responds to them accordingly, creating an environment of inclusion and criticality. Deller does not appear to teach, he comments on cultural or political aspects hoping to make them aware to his audience and perhaps relate to the view who face issues similar to the ones he is addressing. Although the point of this dissertation is to distinguish the positives and negatives of working inside institutions and what type specifically is more beneficial to the audience, artists cannot force people to engage with their work. Whether a piece of work is in a gallery space or not, the audience can still look at it on a purely aesthetic basis or, as artists may hope to achieve, a more critical engagement resulting in learning.

There is a similarity in the way The Showroom and Deller work. They help artists to realise ideas and intentions that will specifically benefit the communities and the space it is situated in. It could be argued that Deller is even using his position to draw attention to issues he raises.

It is essential however, that artists and galleries are careful about the vocabulary they use in terms of inclusion and education. For instance when Deller described his work as ‘social experience’ or the uses of the word ‘examine’ it does suggest a slight form of hierarchy. Similarly, when Galleries describe themselves as aiding communities, this could be seen as a comment rooted in hierarchy, and suggesting the galleries are doing something to ‘help’ people and are a separate entity outside of the community, although it could be argued that the Communal Knowledge program seeks to avoid this. M. Steedman, the curator for Create in East London, before leaving her previous position at Whitechapel Gallery, brought together a series of chaired discussions with various people to discuss this issue. The people involved with the collection of discussions mainly work for galleries that have interests in education, politics and community. Emma Smith who was undertaking a fellowship at The Showroom was involved in a particular discussion around the use of the word ‘community’. In this discussion recorded in the section What does community mean? Steedman along with Marta Crean from Spacex, Emma Smith at The Showroom and Frances Williams from South London Gallery aimed not to define the word but raise concerns. The conversation concluded that the word ‘community’ has changed drastically over the last decade (F. Williams, 2012). Emma Smith stated that she tries not to use the word community because of the variety of different meanings it can take (Gallery as Community, 2008). Smith offed up the word of the word ‘localities’ as she finds the word to be restrictive and exclusive to only certain groups and is essentially dividing people into categories. Deller seems to, after creating work, step back and observe what happens; in the same way these galleries do once their projects with the communities have ended. The intentions of the galleries, organisations and Deller seem good but it is hard to say whether there will be a way to irradiate this hint of hierarchal aspect. Although community and hierarchy are both important issues, the way this is key in terms of learning and education appears to be about the atmosphere and space we need to create to make engagement possible.

 

Conclusion

Overall, after the investigation into galley spaces, organisations and singular artists, and considering the many views and opinions held by artists and writers around this theme, it appears that the concept of education in fine art is largely more complex than first anticipated. There are a huge amount of different concerns about the different gallery spaces and institutions that were just not possible to include.

The original views that were held before the research into this began, were that galleries, no matter how they executed themselves, did always seem to have underlying intentions. However, after exploring the different aspects that affect galleries, such as funding, it is clear they are unable to work completely as they wish. In contrast to this, originally the opinion that was held on artists who work outside of an institutional context was that they are completely independent and did as they pleased. However again, after this research it is clear that artists, Jeremy Deller in particular, cannot ever be de-institutionalised and in fact, the ties he holds with private galleries has aided his career in public spaces greatly which is also probably true for many other artists in the same position. The position of his work could not have happened without the influence of the galleries that represent him, and also the private galleries that have hosted exhibitions of his work to help establish his name.

The research into this subject is important because although the clarity of the means of exhibiting to aid education is somewhat unclear, it has shown that the art world, no matter people’s opinions, is all inter-woven and one kind of space or one kind of artist could not exist without the other. All three examples of spaces in some way are linked to one another and dependent in some way on other issues.

Specifically, when referring to institutions and how they affect the engagement of audiences in terms of learning, there appears to be so many ways to try to achieve this, but is it possible to measure what space is more affective? Overall, the Tate does appear to have the most resources aimed at learning and inclusion, but Casco, The Showroom and artist who work in the public also brought up interesting ways to achieve this. The Communal Knowledge program at The Showroom brings together the community to share their concerns and address political shifts, and as the project title suggests, creates a knowledge shared amongst the participators. Deller also has a great way of communicating with his audience by such simple and accessible mediums, however it was disappointing to reveal that it was perhaps due to previous encounters with private galleries and big names in the art world that have made this possible for him and his work to become so well established. Nevertheless, it is clear his work achieves great participation.

Overall, it is still important for art to be accessible, as it was stressed in the introduction. With so many cuts to art funds it is undoubtedly harder and harder for artists in Britain and this is also putting stress onto the creative industry. Education is, of course, essential to this process. The more people know and enjoy learning through art the more people can be part of it, and the more people are going to be willing to invest, fund and participate in it. Along with this, it will also help with the art world’s image of being elitist and upper class and begin benefiting the communities and public of Britain by encouraging collective and diverse participation.

 

 

 

Appendix

Emily Pringel, Artists as Educator: Examining Relationships between Art Practice and Pedagogy in the Gallery Context compared with responses from the Artists Jeremy Deller.

Through interviews, various texts, readings and experiences, Emily Pringle has looked at Artist-led pedagogy specifically within the gallery context. Along with Arts Council England she has researched and written about Artists and sites for learning. A particular text of interest is from Tate Papers 11 published in 2009. This text is a comparison about what artists she used as research thought about learning in the gallery, and the opinions of Jeremy Deller. It is directed at Gallery contexts, and how artists teach within them through their practice and dialogue. From this, what is being explored through the writing and research presented here, is whether you can similarly engage with the audience in the same way even if the work in question is not within a traditional gallery context.

Emily Pringle explored how these selected artists engaged with learners and their relationship between their own practice and the dialogue between them and teaching. Through interviewing various artists, Pringle:

‘Found that artists drew on their own experience as creative practitioners to instigate a learning process that resembled their art practice’ (Pringle, 2009).

This information is important but is it subjective to a gallery context?

Although Emily Pringle interacted with 9 artists from AISFL and 5 from Tate Modern’s learning programme, Jeremy Deller has been asked similar questions to what is imagined Pringle asked her study group. From this, hoping to compare the responses of artists who do work in conventional gallery contexts regularly and Deller who is known for the variety of spaces he chooses to exhibit. Below is firstly the subheading that Pringle used in her text, along with the questions that were asked specifically to Deller. Followed by the key points of Pringles findings, and then Dellers response to the questions, and finally a summarisation of both responses.

This comparison is used as support and the basis for the dissertation previously.

  1. Artist Knowledge/What would you consider the most essential thing when you engage with the public?

1.1 Emily Pringle found that from her investigation the artists in her study thought that the most essential aspect of their artistic knowledge in terms of engaging with learners was firstly:

‘Enable them to realise their ideas’ (Pringle, 2009),

And the importance of learning through doing and:

‘How their knowledge is gained through practice’ (Pringle, 2009).

1.2 Jeremy Dellers response to this question was:

‘The public’ (This was disputed by Deller (2015)).

Although Deller did not answer this question in full, from texts around Deller, and in particular the book Joy In People (2011), and the project at Bexhill-on-Sea, it is clear that he is looking for opportunities to work with people. His main focus being public involvement, and in some way could perhaps could benefit people by raising the political and social issues he comments on.

1.3 As a comparison between the two situations, Deller creates work that seems more inclusive to social and cultural groups that would not necessarily be part of a gallery context, the most prominent example being the Bexhill-On-Sea project (2006). His work is accessible in terms of the audience needing no previous knowledge of art. In the book Joy of People it is written that Deller:

‘Pioneered new ways of making Art with different social and cultural groups’ (Rugoff et al, 2011).

So, as the most essential thing is to engage learners/public, Jeremy Deller seems to be giving the audience a situation or opportunity they would like to be involved with or interested in.

Whilst the artists who are part of the Tate, or AISFL group already have a situation in which they are going to be part of, it is almost as if they can take more time and consideration on other aspects of their work. However because of the space they are involved in, they may not have a diverse audience as Deller. They know because of the space they are in, that an audience will see their work; there is always the guarantee of people seeing it, and in terms of the critical discourse around the work, that doesn’t seem to be as important in Dellers response.

2 Artistic Skill/ When engaging with the public what do you think is your most essential artistic skill?

2.1 The text continues to express that the artist thought:

‘Active questioning and enquiry’ (Pringle, 2009)

Was key in the engagement with learners, along with:

‘Playfulness and Risk’ (Pringle, 2009)

Being a particular aspect of interest within the questions raised in this investigation. As a conclusion they thought overall that:

‘Conceptual enquiry that embraces inspiration, critical thinking and building of meaning’ (Pringle, 2009)

Was most essential.

2.2 Dellers response to this question was:

‘My ability to communicate ’ (This was disputed by Deller (2015)).

This response fits well with the theme of questioning and examination that the other artist also had. The ability to communicate comes from questioning and observing. This can also link back to the way his work is easily understood by any audience member no matter what their previous knowledge.

2.3 Both sets of artists seem to share their opinions on how engaging with the public and communication is key. Although Deller did not explicitly claim that:

‘Playfulness and Risk’ (Pringle, 2009)

Were his significant skill, these are aspects of his practice that do seem important in his work for viewers. As an example, Procession (July 2009) was a parade Deller had coordinated using a variety of society’s sub-cultures. For this you could not predict the turn out of an audience, or how the work would be received as it marched through Manchester city centre. As well as this, a similarity between both Deller’s and the other artist’s responses was what Pringle described as:

‘Conceptual enquiry’ (Pringle, 2009).

This doesn’t specifically refer to speaking directly to viewers of the work, but it seems more of an observation. Although Dellers work is socially engaged, there doesn’t seem to be an aspect of his work that is a dialogue between the public through speech, but I think the communication he refers to is through another medium and this enquiry, like the other set of artists, is conceptual.

  1. How do artists engage? /How do you think you engage with your viewers?

3.1 The main point taken from Pringles research on artist engagement was that they:

‘Drew on their own experiences as creative practitioners to instigate a learning process that resembles their artistic practice’ (Pringle, 2009).

3.2 Deller’s response to this question was:

‘Through my art ’ (This was disputed by Deller (2015)).

Because of the simplicity of this answer, taking from the book Joy In People it was written that Deller is:

‘Expanding our ideas about the shape that art can take, and the role that art can play’ (Rugoff et al, 2011)).

This could be interpreted as Deller trying to engage with the audience by creating these new and exciting experiences. We can link Dellers response to his answer from the previous question:

‘My ability to communicate ’(This was disputed by Deller (2015)).

It comes across that Deller, as a whole, seems to communicate through his work and that is how it is engaging.

3.3 Although Deller’s response was not very giving, and not directly related to learning processes, it seems fair to say that the majority of artists engage through their work. While, the institution that these artists are a part of does offer a platform, they did sometimes have an issue with it. Some of the artists expressed their concerns about being part of an institution with such significance and it did get in the way of truer engagement.

  1. What are artists seeking to teach? /What are you personally seeking to teach your viewers if anything?

4.1 The most important point which Emily Pringle drew from this investigation was that the artists

‘Aim to enable learners to draw on their personal experiences to gain understanding, develop new knowledge and articulate their ideas’ (Pringle, 2009),

And in no way seemed to show an interest in getting the learners to share the same views on the work as the artists but seemed to welcome other interpretations.

4.2 To this the response was:

‘I don’t teach, I examine’ (This was disputed by Deller (2015)),

However, it could be argued that he examines situations and then responds to them accordingly, creating environment of inclusion. Deller doesn’t teach, he comments on cultural or political aspects hoping to make them aware to his audience.

4.3 Whilst the artists at the Tate/AISFL seemed to want the pedagogical aspect to be broader focus more on teaching and learning as a whole, Deller seems to have precise things he wants viewers to realise. The use of the word examine in Dellers response does in some ways suggest a hierarchy where he is using his viewers for some kind of observation of his own, although this is not certain.

5 How do artists engage with learners? /How do you think you engage with the learners that are the viewers of your work? – Deller was insistent that the viewers of his work were not referred to as learners.

5.1 Emily Pringle found that the artists shared similar views to that of constructivism in being aware that learners gain knowledge from personal experiences and their personal ideas. However:

‘They resisted describing their practice as ‘teaching’ […] instead, artists sought to engage participants primarily through discussion and exchanging ideas and experience ’ (Pringle, 2009).

Describing themselves as ‘co-learners’, the artists showed that they wanted there to be no hierarchy present between the artist and the participant and that everyone’s views, experiences and knowledge was importantly shared. However, Pringle observed that once in group discussions and conversations it was more often that the artists would push forward ideas and questions if the audience were not contributing. This is perhaps again because of the platform the Tate provides and the significance of the institution creating an idea of greatness around the artist. Because of these overlapping issues in the artistic practices, the outcome often becomes dissimilar to the intentions.

5.2 The final response I received rom Deller for this question was:

‘Through what they see ’ (This was disputed by Deller (2015).)

Unlike the artists in the institutions, conversation and interaction with the audience did not seem key. It appears that he does not want to interject with conversation around his work. However, from previous responses it does seem that Deller has a confidence that the viewers will take away what he intends from the work, especially as he claimed that his most essential artists skill was communication and the ease in which people can see the criticality in his work.

5.3 Both parts did not want to be referred to as teachers. Questions have been raised through this research. Namely being, particularly from Deller’s correspondence, that the word learner is a word that could have many different connotations. More closely linked to his work, can we refer to the entire public as learners? Strictly speaking a learner is someone who receives education, but is sometimes used to describe a person who should be learning. The Tate describes learning as:

‘Personal, social, imaginative and cognitive. Change is continuous; it never stands still.’ (Tate, 2014)

However it can depend on which institution is using the word and what the full meaning is. The Tate has spent time trying to work out what the institution is giving to its audience and what they are taking away from their experience. You can see by the resources Tate shows online, in particular, the introduction they have to learning. They begin with stating:

‘Our vision is to inspire new ways of learning with art, and specially with Tate’s collection, that reach a wider audience and promote positive change, dialogue and engagement in contemporary cultural and artistic life’ (Tate, 2014).

Emily Pringle specifically went in search of dialogical and it appears from her research that without the walls of the institution, there are less chances of this happening. This is where it appears the strong aspect of learning is coming from. Deller’s main aim, on the other hand, does not seem to be one of education but it is apparent that he wants his work to be inclusive, interactive and enjoyed widely. Both parts are doing things differently, but as long as they are benefiting and interesting a wider audience, pedagogically or not, they are both continuing to be advantageous to British arts and culture.

Overall from this comparison of the two responses, it doesn’t seem as if there is a huge difference whether you are within a gallery context or not, although I did draw from the responses that you may be more inclined to respond to questions when you are linked to an institution. There was a much larger sense of formality from the Tate/AISFL artists than there was from Deller, who seemed disinterested in responding to my questions. There may not be a strong enough difference in opinions and intentions to draw a clear conclusion from this comparison. However, as a round up of how to interpret what has been said, Pringle put it as:

‘Plural interpretations are valid but each is only justifiable in terms of what it evidences’ (Pringle (2009),

Which seems an appropriate response to all of the information.

 

 

 

 

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