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So for this panel we’ve been asked to try and predict what new forms of art might emerge in the next decade and where they will take place.

But I’ve really got to be honest right at the start and say I definitely, definitely have no idea.

But then, I don’t think I’d want it any other way. I wouldn’t want to try and predict what’s coming next because fundamentally I’d never want art to be that predictable. I wouldn’t want things to slide in and out of fashion like heels or shoulder pads or French windows.  I wouldn’t want art to inevitably follow advancements in technology, in the internet, in iphone applications, in video games and social networking sites. I don’t want art to evolve elegantly, sensibly, with neat, traceable legacies. I don’t want to be able to walk smugly back in here in a decade’s time and say ‘I told you so’.

Instead, I want to be amazed.
I want to be shocked.
I want to be confused.
I want art to be messy.
I want it to be unpredictable.
I want it to be all over the place.
I want some group of people who’ve been working away in obscurity for the last ten years to finally make it.
I want the National Theatre to go bankrupt and be squatted by people who really don’t know what their doing.
I want all the GPS satellites to fall gently out of orbit, ushering in a renaissance in old fashioned mapmaking.
I want someone to invent something as good as the internet.
I want us to be shaken roughly into acknowledgement of our own crushing decadence.
I want all the artists to sit down on our new seafront just outside Peterborough and wonder what the fuck we’re going to do about all of this.
From out of nowhere I want someone to discover something completely new.
I want someone to rediscover something really old.
I want ideas to be borrowed, pillaged, repurposed, re-imagined.

So what about where they will take place:

A theatre?
A gallery.
A warehouse.
A factory.
A dusty church hall in Edinburgh.
Second Life.
On a train between London and Birmingham.
Or an aeroplane over the Atlantic.
On a boat in international waters.
In a flooded village hall.
In the rented corridors of royal palaces.
In the abandoned skyscrapers of the docklands.
Illegally, in prison cells.
Wrestling rings.
Peep show booths.
In your own home.
Or in a movement in a window
Or in an unseen touch, lingering on the back of your hand.
Or in a phone call.
Or in the way someone asks you to look at someone.
Or what they whisper to you as you walk along.
Or what they simply ask you to imagine.

Who knows? All these places and more maybe.

The less we try and predict the better. The more exciting the spaces will be and the more exciting the art will be.

Spaces are never empty, despite what Peter Brook says. They are never a blank canvas. They are always already full. Full of conventions and prohibitions. Choked with history. Noisy with politics. Give an artist into a space and you are giving them a way of working, a way of being. Often I feel people should try harder to let the artist decide where they go, rather than encouraging them to use the spaces we keep designing without really asking them.

Let’s stop building new theatres and new galleries. We need less cathedrals and more homes. Let’s just wait and see what’s needed. Let’s think harder about how we can make use of what we’ve got – how that can be shaped to the needs of the artist.

So that’s what the work will be and where it will take place sorted out pretty quickly, leaving me enough time to talk a bit about what I think is missing from that question – not the what or the where but the how.

How will this new art be made?

How can you make a new form of art, a really new form of art, when so many of the institutions that are there to support it limit themselves through narrow categorisations and proscriptive paths of development?

Specialisms quickly become suffocating. Institutions rightly celebrate their area of expertise but in doing so they also ring fence it, inhibiting people from experimenting with new ways of working. Where do you go if you fall between the cracks? Where do you go if you know what you want to do but you can’t find anywhere to do it? In theatre for example where do you go if you need space for developing and showing your work, but it doesn’t fit a script or a scratch night?

Where to find the elusive combination of creative freedom with vital constructive support?

I genuinely believe answer may increasingly be that artists find it in each other, forging new artist-led communities and organisations.

Look for example at Residence in Bristol. A community of artists working somewhere between theatre and live art, sharing space and resources. Encouraging each other and collectively engendering new opportunities for creating and presenting their work. Out of this miniature ecosystem is coming some of the most exciting performance work to be seen anywhere in the country. Companies like Action Hero and Tinned Fingers, creating work that is distinctive, thoughtful, daring and utterly original.

Or look at Showflat. A group of artists based in London supporting each other to work outside of the constraints of the gallery system by using their own flats to curate a year-long series of exhibitions, events and happenings.

Or the SHUNT Lounge – a theatre come gallery come bar come club come music venue come chaotic subterranean universe where the performance collective SHUNT managed to create one of the most dynamic spaces anywhere in the country for artists to experiment with new ideas. A space unlike any other, constantly re-imagining itself each week as a new member of the company became its lead curator.

I hope to see more and more of these artist-led collective projects. A brilliant network of artist-led communities emerging across the length and breadth of the country.

I hope to see a giddily diverse range of artists working together, making new spaces for themselves determined only by their fascinations and desires. Artists supporting each other to make new work, encouraging each other. New forms emerging unexpectedly from shared space and shared ideas.

And once these artists have established themselves, once they have built that space and forged those new forms, I hope to hear them speaking in unison to champion these new ways of making the new things that are being made.

Thank you very much.


  1. Brilliant Andy.

    I think the only thing I think I’d want to have added if I was writing this, is that there’s no reason these collaborations just have to be what we conventionally term ‘artists’, as well. If our definition of art is fluid – so should the term ‘artist’ be. There are so many exciting new tools being made by tech startups who just want to see their tech used in interesting new ways, (HP labs do some sterling work for example) I’d love to see more people making work that explores the way we live between real and virtual. Likewise a lot of pervasive-style work has the audience as kind of associate artists…. maybe semantics isn’t important. But that’s my 2 pence on it.

    Thanks for putting it up for people who couldn’t get to the RSA conference.

  2. There’s two definite articles about artists:

    1) They’re over-ambitious.
    2) They’re usually horrendously poor.

    Whilst I completely agree with your ideas of reforming and revamping the art scene, it’s unlikely to happen. Shunt was a brilliantly random place for artists to hang out and be creative. But, it (keeps) closing because they can’t afford to keep it alive.

    There’s no easy way for artists to do the things they love because society demands they suffer for their art. And, I doubt that’s ever going to change.

    We need to find very cheap ways for artists to do what they want and that isn’t easy.

  3. Oh yes, me too. Except perhaps for the bit about the NT being taken over by squatters who dont know what they’re doing. I think there’s been too many clueless squatters running the Public Arts *scene* these past ten years, give or take. I think that maybe it’s time for genuine skill and experience to resurface, for visionaries and creators to move back in having fled to jobs in teaching/ training and admin and for the squatters (enthusiastic ex-graduates who mean well but delight too much in re-inventing the wheel and are overly patronising at conferences) to get out from behind their desks and go taste the real world. Artists meanwhile are still dreaming, the NTW has been launched on beaches, mountain tops and roof-tops and there is every chance that change has already begun.

  4. @Juliet Brain
    I have to say I really dislike the kind of work NT produces (or at least has done whilst I’ve known it) so much money, so little *scope*, still the same old stories/ways of telling. The problem is the people in there think they know what art is/does/should be, and the thing is, (IMO) that no one does.

    @Sweena I don’t believe that this kind of breathless manifesto calls for amateurism to replace artistic professionals. This is a statement about art, not funding it (which is a different, more rational conversation). I think big bold statements need to be made. I think art does need money to grow it, but I don’t believe art should be measured against the money that it cultivates. Why do you believe society demands artists’ suffer for their art?

  5. If Andy’s piece does anything to push forward non-institutionalised, amateur, spontaneous forms of art then I am totally behind it. Whilst I recognise that a great many people professionally involved in promoting art have their hearts completely in the right place, my gut feeling is that once you start to become one of those artbores who moan incessantly about short-term contracts, the way the arts aren’t supported properly in this country, shortage of funding, things are better in Switzerland/Finland/country x, it implies that you’re actually losing sight of what art is about and are reduced to fiddling with the fine detail of the allocation of State resources. Such people position themselves publicly as disadvantaged, while behind the scenes scrabbling around to get themselves higher in the social and financial hierarchies that the institutionalised art world replicates as much as other spheres of life.

    Last year some people loosely associated with the Glasgow School of Art put on the first Festival of DIY Culture. Your budget: up to 20 pounds. Almost everything was free to get into. We performed in a disused hairdressers’ salon which had been squatted and abandoned and taken over with a few bare bulbs and equipment we bought from home. It was fabulous, and quite inspiring, and reminded me of a blindingly obvious fact that you almost forget sometimes: you don’t need money, a degree, a website, or to be “emergent”, “early-” or “mid-career” (the deadening, co-opting language of bureaucratised economics), to do anything worthwhile.

    So yes…fine detail apart (I would always jump at a chance to see the classics at the NT), I hope this is indicative of a trend that art will take in the next decade.

  6. Howdy.

    Hannah – I agree completely. Some of the best art is made by people who don’t consider themselves artists. I think quite possibly my favourite piece of live performance of the 20th century was the Apollo Programme – thrilling yet poetic, epic in scale yet with moments of tenderness and loneliness, full of fear and hope, uniting the entire world in a moment of unsurpassed beauty.

    Last year I ended up in a very serious conversation with my friend James from Action Hero in which we suggested that there should be no such thing as artists – only artistic projects with no suggestion as to who they should belong to or who is and isn’t allowed to make them.

    Sweeny – I think you’re wrong on a few things there. There’s no such thing as being over ambitious. What is too much ambition when it comes to making art?

    And who demands artists have to be poor? As far as I can see people want to support artists, their enjoyment of something is not lessened if they find out an artist wasn’t starving in some imagined garret when they made it. They want to see people rewarded for making good things in the hope that they can therefore go on making good things for a while longer.

    Also SHUNT doesn’t keep closing because they don’t have enough money. The reason it is shut at the moment is because of the council’s attitude to licensing the space. And it’s only temporary – either the space will reopen or they will relocate somewhere else.

    Juliet – I’m incredibly excited by the NTW project and I think that it only goes to highlight the things that our ‘National’ theatre is failing to do, primarily down to the enough albatross it wears around its neck by being so tied to a specific building. We need a National Theatre that’s lighter on its feet, more flexible, not so chained to its auditoriums and the narrow way of working that they dictate.

    I hope that I’m not one of the ‘overly patronising’ graduates you see at all these conferences. I try not to be.

    Looby – the DIY project sounds fantastic. I will look it up and see what its all about.

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