Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Artist’s Manifesto

The idea behind this manifesto is that artists should be employed far more widely than they currently are in many areas of society, and that incorporating art into every level of society has many benefits. Too often art is either forgotten or added as an afterthought. In my opinion art should an integral part of our social fabric and whenever a new development is proposed art and artist’s should be involved. I know many enlightened urban authorities and property developers already recognize and act on these principles but I feel there is still plenty of scope for improvement.

I know many of the ideas in this are not new but I feel it is worthwhile artists collaborating in producing and supporting some basics idea that purchasing bodies authorities, investment fund managers and entrepreneurs can consider.

Lets get things straight isn't mere decoration, I believe art can transform and add value to the most unpromising locations at a relatively low cost. In this context an artist is anyone who has the vision to see hidden potential and can achieve this almost magical transformation of a specific location.

If you look at the examples of Barcelona, Paris or Florence, here are cities whose fortunes have been enhanced beyond calculation by the works of individual artists. These artists works have become a major draw to the city. I recently visited Barcelona, the city is buzzing with creativity and excitement and visitors are pouring in from all around the world, to see the works of Gaudi, Miro and Picasso. In Barcelona artists and designers are at the core of an urban renaissance. The city is almost synonymous with these artists.

Antony Gormleys Angel of the North has become an important landmark for the north east of England and features in almost every article on the area. Has the region benefited from its association with Gormleys sculpture ? The answer must surely be “yes”, perceptions have altered dramatically the area as a whole is seen as interesting and worth a visit these days, when 15 yrs ago it was perceived as an area of industrial and social decline.

It is now widely accepted that art is an important ingredient in urban regeneration. But enlightened authorities are still the exception, many of our provincial towns and cities in the UK have not seen the urban renaissance of the last 10-15 yrs and can still very often be soulless artless inhuman ugly places. All too often our modern provincial town centres look and feel inhuman and mechanistic, art can bring a human touch to these places.

City and town authorities can play an important part in this, and the wider financial benefits of becoming a known art location should not be underestimated. Many cities and towns plough huge sums into promoting their locations to visitors but have little to set them apart from many similar towns and cities around the world.

Its not just the larger cities that stand to gain from promoting specific artist’s as synonymous with their town. What has Monet achieved for the little known town of Giverny? I wonder if the residents of the small hamlet of Perry Green in Hertfordshire regret there long standing association with the sculptor Henry Moore ?

Wherever art is taken seriously and championed within a community and allowed to flourish it tends to add value to the location.

I feel investment funds can also be important to this, they should play a larger role in enabling large scale art projects, possibly with a view to gaining some of the additional rewards art can bring to a location. Artists and the entrepreneurs are allies in risk taking, creating art and investing in art is a risky business, but the potential financial benefits of one successful outcome are almost incalculable. What has been the economic return to Barcelona of enabling Gaudi to produce his extraordinary works ?

Recently Becks have produced their beer’s with artist designed labels, its clear that this corporation recognizes that art adds value to its product.

I suspect in the past artists have been there own worst enemies in terms of anarchic attitudes and their isolationist, elitist and esoteric tendencies but in this day and age, many artists are realizing they need to be both creative and business-like.

So where can we continue to improve our environment and make our towns and cities unique. Here is a list of some areas of society artists could be used more widely.

The rise of conceptual art has brought about a new awareness of physical space and its potential and qualities. I feel there is scope for these conceptual ideas about the qualities and potential of physical space to be incorporated into architectural practice to a greater extent than it is.

I would like to see artist’s brought into all new construction projects, at the planning stages and seen as a vital part of the planning and development process all too often a sculpture is simply plonked into a foyer or a garden as an after thought. In my view an artist is anyone who can transform a space and make it of interest to the rest of us. Artists can be brought into to help create interiors that are stimulating and will impress visitors. I’m thinking far beyond hanging pictures of reproductions on walls here.

I would include road building schemes in this. In France and many parts of mainland Europe art is incorporated into road construction and at roadside locations, enhancing a long journey. Many towns place art works on roundabouts, which might emphasise a locations past or industrial specialities. There is a sense in France that new road projects can be things of beauty and add to a local environment. In England a road building scheme is seen as the destruction of a local environment, a road scheme is never seen as a creative act. Would art be one aspect of a new strategy to make new road schemes more palatable to local communities ? Although there is an obvious need for care about the location of work to avoid driver distraction on our congested roads I still think there are thousands of locations were art could be incorporated into road schemes without creating a hazard. In mainland Europe tiling is often used to add design to what would otherwise be a bland concrete surface. I think ceramicist’s could be used far more widely in the UK than they are at present to create one of designs in tiles for otherwise bland and inhuman urban locations.

Art Hotels
I think Hotels should be using artists to create unique artistic experiences for their visitors. Personally when I visit hotels I want to experience something more than just an overnight stay in another corporate hotel, I want high quality food, high quality architecture and I believe this should include high quality art, to make my visit to hotel a new and unexpected experience. Art adds value. I would make a special journey to visit a hotel with its design obviously influenced by an artist I am interested in. Locally we have the Midland Hotel, Morecambe which is almost unique in that artists and artist craftsmen were involved in its design and construction. After years of being neglected and undervalued it is now seen as a high vale location and this is certainly because artists work was incorporated into its fabric.

The old BBC broadcasting house in London is a similar example of a building that integrated art into its fabric. Unfortunately today many new developments are built with little or no artistic input, or a token involvement of artists.

Housing projects and apartment blocks. How often do you see yet another housing scheme which incorporates the same tired old housing designs. As a developer how do you convince buyers that your development is more prestigious than a rival location and is worth buying into.. location itself is important obviously, but art can also add value to a location.

In general larger one off construction projects have improved massively over the last couple of decades. Architects are looking at locations creatively and producing artistic and innovative designs but even then I feel artists could still have a bigger role in this process.

The small things in life are important.
I think we all understand that major road signs need to be clear and have standardized and recognizable visual appearance but how often do you see boring mass produced information signs in non-essential locations and wondered why an artist can’t be employed to create something more interesting, stimulating and memorable? I would like to see local, regional and national authorities saying as part of their purchasing process that they will employ artists to create a greater percentage of signage.

Street signs are a good example of this.. beyond a simple requirement that they be understandable there is plenty of scope for artistic license in designing street signs.

Town and City gateways
“Welcome to Holby” signs create an impression for visitors and really should be used as a way of demonstrating that a city, town or village values creativity and artistic endeavour.

These are just my own ideas on possible uses for artists and artisans, I’m sure you know of other ideas and possibilities.

I am sure fellow artists will agree that these ideas are not new, but I still think we need to keep drawing these The idea behind this manifesto is simply to draw attention in the wider community to the value added impact of quality artistic endeavour.

I hope this article will stimulate other artists to come forward with their own ideas. Please feel free to respond to this article and leave your own ideas and suggestions.

I would also be happy to link to examples of projects and developments where artists have transformed or enhanced a location.

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