“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.” Camille Pissarro
“The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal.” Joseph Campbell
I need your help with something.
You may have seen my work as Social Artist in Residence at the University of London’s Centre for Creative Collaboration (C4CC). The definition of social art that I work with is “The process of skilfully bringing people together in such a way as to create a sense of beauty and attraction in those that see or participate in it”. My time at the centre has meant that the team hit several of their first year targets in a few months and I have encouraged a culture of conversation and online presence there. I’m just about to complete my first six months there and the University has just agreed a further six months extension.
I’m now looking for a simultaneous and complementary residency with another partner for least for the next six months (and possibly longer with the right organisation). I’m hoping that you can help me find such a partner organisation.
Why might you benefit from having me as a social artist in residence?
I believe that many organisations need more of their people behaving as social artists to create beautiful situations in their working lives and to allow creativity to blossom wherever it is needed. I see people obstructed and cut off from the people they need to be connected to. I see silos where people in another department or function are seen as too different to bother working with. I see industries decaying and ultimately falling apart with people knowing deep down that the old ways aren’t working for them, but unclear on how to find a new beginning. I see people inside organisations starved of inspiration and opportunities to reflect on and appreciate what they already know that can lead them out of where they are stuck.
As a manager and as a consultant myself I’ve tried to introduce new processes and tools to deal with this problem. I rarely saw the radical change and creative inspiration that was needed. I believe that real, lasting change happens in the gaps in-between the formal processes of an organisation. I’m offering myself as a social artist in residence to help fill those gaps with interesting and useful stuff that helps ease some of these difficulties.
If this all sounds like hand-wavey nonsense to you, then thank you for reading this far, it’s probably not for you. But if any of this resonates with your experience of work, then perhaps we can do something together.
How do I work?
I work with individuals and groups to encourage them to take their own first steps in social art. By definition, I don’t work in isolation, but t also won’t impose myself on anyone who doesn’t want to be included. I also rarely tell someone exactly what to do, preferring to let them discover it themselves. My work usually revolves around conversation, giving people the chance to engage in different kinds of talking and to recognise that they have the answers already but that the answer is sometimes just buried deep. I can’t guarantee you specific outcomes, but I am certain that you will be able to dscern a positive effect afterwards. This is art, not consulting, so I don’t have a structured methodology or a toolkit that you can scrutinise beforehand, however I can arrange conversations with people who’ve worked with me in this way if that helps.
What is it then that I actually do?
I will usually spend at least one day per week on your premises or directly working with your people. I spend some time at first just observing what is, how the organisation really works, what stories people tell about it, where people feel blocked and hopeless, where people feel hopeful and passionate. I may write about it and make connections with other things I’m currently working on. Soon, I will start doing. I will experiment. I will get people together to talk about something and I use different forms of conversation to help people see what they might do differently. I’ll also bring other parts of my practice in – perhaps inviting other artists or collaborators from C4CC to take part in conversations and sometimes, I’ll just sit around and make stuff – draw or write something – I go with the flow of what is needed. I also document as I go along – preferably on a public blog to help people see how things are coming along.
Perhaps you like the idea but a commitment to a six-month residency isn’t for you? There are other ways that I can help.
You might like to get involved in a one-off social art field trip project such as Tuttle2Texas by sponsoring some element of it. I can also facilitate creative conversations to generate ideas, inspiration and potential collaborations. Or maybe you’d like me to run a workshop or two on how your people can use some of these techniques to develop their own capability to engage in creative conversation through social media. I’m also available for a limited number of one-to-one mentoring/coaching relationships. Let me know if you’re interested.