PROJECT ART WORKS for Change

Reading time: 4 minutes

Walking down the seaside in East Sussex during the pandemic you could pass by the windows of Hastings Contemporary and enjoy the show of Project Art Works. It is no news for the art world to visit a gallery without entering it. However, this time national lockdown was not a choice, and the show felt necessary to react to the hard times. The collective does, in fact, work in a world that has undergone the impact of the Corona virus, which has been manifold in the art world, let alone Brexit.[1] The repercussions of the pandemic on the art system as a whole pinpoints the interconnection between arts and society, which is particularly at stake in the practice of Project Art Works – the Hastings based collective of neurodiverse artists and activists that is currently emerging in British Art.[2]

It is in this scenario that enters the Turner Prize 2021. Since its establishment in 1984, it challenges conventional ideas and creativity.[3] The Prize is known for its selection of artists that reflect and challenge the society they are embedded in, namely the British society. Nearly willingly defining itself as subversive, it is conceived to set a standard for the future. The winner is chosen to become a milestone of contemporary art.

This year the premises are slightly different: on the one hand the singular moment in history, on the other the objective of the Prize itself that seems to be evolving. The list is entirely made up of collectives, there is no single artist participating; the protagonists “work closely and continuously with communities across the breadth of the UK to inspire social change through art”, says a Tate statement.[4] Basically, an effort to make art radical again.[5] So, is the Turner Prize trying to praise the effort of an art that shapes society?

On this note, Project Art Works is definitely giving it a try; their practice is on the NHS panel for services: it is described as responsive and collaborative approach to involve a “wide range of visual art based projects with people who have complex and high support needs”.[6] It is since the 1990s that the Hastings hub has worked with people with autism, learning and other intellectual disabilities to create art reflecting a neurodiverse perspective on the world.

The paradox of Project Art Works is in the fact that they do engage in community art and thus exit the constraints of the studio, however they need their personal and custom location to follow them everywhere and to serve them as a safe space for their practice. It is what happened during their residency at Hastings Contemporary that saw them work in the spaces of the gallery during the 2021 spring lockdown and exhibit in its public windows. Their website reads that such a continuing work through the pandemic, both online and in residency is what is praised by the Turner Prize jury.[7] In the introduction to Living as Form Anna Pasternak underlines the “rapidly growing movement of artists that engage with timely issues by expanding their practice beyond the safe confines of the studio”.[8] Yet, the case study of Project Art Works appears to be one of a kind for the way in which they exit the walls of their studios without actually leaving. Also, they manage to keep their habit of working together, not as a team but in different forms that influence each other by being in the same environment.

Johnatan Jones highlights how such a recurrent collectivism seems to break the rule of traditional competitive spirit, “a real assault on our basic assumptions about the nature of the nature of the artist” he continues.[9]The question is whether this idea of the artist as an individual is still valuable, or if the fact that the Prize is now only dedicated to collectives can make us rethink the status of the artist as the head of a team of people that work together for a common goal. The question remains open, although this year edition of the Prize, alongside the 2019 and 2020 ones confirm the emergence of an ever-evolving branch of art that values the collective, social engagement and change as opposed to exclusivity and elitism.

di Francesca Elia


[1] Betty Govinden, “The arts in the time of pandemic”. Empowering women for gender equity 34, issue 3 (2020), pp. 148-153, https://doi.org/10.1080/10130950.2020.1783888

[2] “Projectartworks.org”, accessed Oct 12, 2021, https://projectartworks.org/.

[3] Jonathan Jones, “Turner prize 2021: a collective effort to make art radical again”, The Guardian, Sept 26, 2021, Turner Prize 2021.

[4] Gareth Harris, “For first time Turner Prize 2021 shortlist is made up entirely of artist collectives”, The art newspaper, May 7, 2021. Prizes. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/05/07/for-first-time-turner-prize-2021-shortlist-is-made-up-entirely-of-artist-collectives.

[5] Jonathan Jones, “Turner prize 2021: a collective effort to make art radical again”.

[6] “NHS”, accessed Oct 13, 2021. https://www.nhs.uk/services/service-directory/project-art-works/N10501816.  

[7] “Projectartworks.org”, accessed Oct 12, 2021.

[8] Nato Thompson, Living as form. (Cambridge: The MIT Press,2012). 

[9] Jonathan Jones, “Turner prize 2021: a collective effort to make art radical again”.

Resources:

Govinden, B. “The arts in the time of pandemic”. Empowering women for gender equity 34, issue 3 (2020), pp. 148-153, https://doi.org/10.1080/10130950.2020.1783888

Harris, G. “For first time Turner Prize 2021 shortlist is made up entirely of artist collectives”, The art newspaper, May 7, 2021. Prizes. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/05/07/for-first-time-turner-prize-2021-shortlist-is-made-up-entirely-of-artist-collectives.

Jones, J.“Turner prize 2021: a collective effort to make art radical again”, The Guardian, Sept 26, 2021, Turner Prize.  

“NHS”, accessed Oct 13, 2021. https://www.nhs.uk/services/service-directory/project-art-works/N10501816

Poli,F., Bernardelli,F.. Mettere in scena l’arte contemporanea. Cremona, 2016.

“Projectartworks.org”, accessed Oct 12, 2021, https://projectartworks.org/.

Nato Thompson, Living as form. (Cambridge: The MIT Press,2012). 

“Britishartstudies.ac.uk”, accessed Oct 12, 2021. https://www.britishartstudies.ac.uk/issues/issue-index/issue-20/british-art-after-brexit.

Brown, M. “Five art collectives shortlisted for Turner prize”, The Guardian, May 7, 2021. Turner Prize. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/may/07/five-art-collectives-shortlisted-for-turner-prize.

“documenta-fifteen.de”, accessed Oct 13, 2021. https://documenta-fifteen.de/en/lumbung-members-artists/project-art-works/.

Mukhtar, A. “Meet project art works, the revolutionary collective transforming societal perceptions of neurodivergence”, Vogue UK, Sept 5, 2021. Art. https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/project-art-works.

Rispondi

Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo di WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Google photo

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Google. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s...

Questo sito utilizza Akismet per ridurre lo spam. Scopri come vengono elaborati i dati derivati dai commenti.