What does it mean to be an artist? Questioning the AA.

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What does it mean to be an artist? Questioning the AA.

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:35 am

Below is a list of emails that have been sent through the art academy mailing list. We think they are a good topic for debate as they've made us think quite a bit. We'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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Laura's initial email

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:35 am

hey y'all

after a long time thinking about it i've decided i'm gonna hand my notice in at art academy for the time being
i'm so far behind on the rent i'm finding it a big expense
i'm having to work to get the money
and cos i'm working i'm just not having time to make much use of the space and of the art academy
i think some time off to reflect on what i've been doing and what i want to do would do me and my art work a lot of good
i'll come in soon and settle up til the end of january
i'd still love to keep meeting up with everyone and talk about work we've been making and hopefully work on future projects together
think i'm gonna concentrate on making work and doing the band for a bit
keep me posted
good luck with london
thanks for everything!

lots of love from laura xx

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Mory's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:36 am

Hi Laura

Its a pity that your leaving. I think that the group will miss your energy, spirit and enthusiasm.

Thank you for taking the time to consider and to think seriously about your place within the Art Academy. I think that the new year is a time where we naturally tend to reassess our priorities and think about how we are spending our time and if we are using it in the best possible way.

I think that we should all spend some time thinking as Laura has done about the Art Academy and maybe what we are doing in more general terms. There are a couple of questions that I have been thinking over during the Xmas break..

Do I really want to be artist? To answer this requires knowing what it means to be an artist. I think since we started the Art Academy we have tried to understand this better by working alongside professional artists where its possible and asking them as many questions as we can. People like Kerry and Rachel Goodyear. To take those two as an example, from what I can gather, they think about their work almost 100% of the time. Everything is of potential for them in the thinking, making and doing of their artwork. From the time they left University, they both scraped by in part time jobs so that they would have at least 3 to 4 days per week to devote to being artists, working in a studio, developing ideas but mostly without any deadlines or anything definite to work to and probably without anyone to work with. I think that this is probably one of the hardest things you could do but if I am serious about wanting to be an artist and not just talking about it or flirting with the idea, then this is probably what it takes.

Am I really interested in art? I wondered if Terry Smith had asked us to draw up a wish list of visiting musicians or poets, would the majority of us have been able to reel off 5 names straight away? I know that I am certainly struggling with coming up with 5 artist names. I noticed that the only person who was able to produce the names of 5 visiting artists straight away was Gaz. I think that Gaz loves art, he thinks about it all the time, goes to as many exhibitions as he can, is always reading about art and artists and probably lives his whole life by it. I don't mean to say that this is how it should be but I wonder how many of us are that interested in art?

Recently someone from the mill who knows quite a bit about what we have been doing and was interested in joining us at one time described the Art Academy as 'a social group with a vague underlying sense of purpose'. She said this half jokingly and said that she would love to be in a group like that, where you could be doing a few things, going a few places with the illusion that you were doing something useful with your time but without having to really think about it or commit to it in any depth or ask yourself any serious questions. I laughed at the time but I think that there is a truth here. I think that before we even think about the Art Academy we need to decide whether we want to commit to being an artist???, the next question then is what is the best way to do that. Maybe its the Art Academy, maybe is something else but we need to be all sure about this.

I think that if we aren't already doing so then we all need to spend some time thinking about what we want from this group and whether we want to be artists or not. If you can't commit the time to thinking about that or even to reading this email, then thats completely fine but I think that you are probably in the wrong group.

I am going to Ireland tomorrow till the 11th. I am going to spend some more time thinking about all of this stuff. How about we have a meeting some evening on the week beginning Monday 12th if it suits everyone? I wont have access to email till the 11th so please arrange a meeting amongst yourselves, let me know when it is. Maria, if its possible, could you bring a breakdown of what everyone has paid and what anyone owes so far? and we'll take it from there.

See you then folks!

Morry

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Maria's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:36 am

Hello Mory and everyone,

I think I can answer some of the questions that Mory is asking.
Basically I'm part of the art academy because I want to learn more
about art. Whether I want to become a professional artist is a
strange question. Does that mean do I want to make money from my art
work? I won't say no to money so long as I'm confortable with the way
I'm making it. Would I be willing to give up my day job well we'll
see I suppose. I'd rather be making art than designing mobile phones
for a living definitly however I don't think I'm comfortable enough
with the art work that I'm making yet. When I am I might consider it
if I see a good opportunity ahead of me. At the moment I need to know
more about art and since I dont' consider myself a full time student
it might take me longer than usual. But I'm in no rush. Should I be
in a rush?

If you asked me when I first was learning about non chart topping
music to name 5 bands or musicians that I liked I would have
struggled. I knew some musicians but I didn't know what I liked
because I hadn't found out what I liked. I think it's the same for me
and art at the moment. I'm still looking into what is out there. I
think about art a lot. I'm always reading an art book these days.
I've registered for a course at the cornerhouse, I'm putting my tv
station online in the next couple of days and I'm constantly thinking
about where I would go next. I feel I have developed quite a bit in
the past year even if it's slower than what I would have had been able
to spend 100% of my time on it.

Is the art academy right for me? So far it has been. I have learned a
lot more about art from going to Transmission to knowing about what
books to read to knowing who to ask questions. I've also learned that
there is more than one way to be an artist and I'm starting to find
out which type of artist I want to be. It's introduced me to
blackdogs and the realist two collectives that have come to admire a
lot. It does feel a shame that Laura's left. She's definitly an
artist I learned a great deal from and admired a lot. It will be
strange to be at art academy without her.

Right that's it for now. Nicky, Tom would you like to organize the
next meeting? I'm available any evening from 4 onwards.

see you soon!!

Maria

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Lowri's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:37 am

happy new year!

this sounds like a very interesting time for art academy, lots to think about.

how about a general meeting inviting people from past and present art academy in to talk and listen, as well as anyone had has helped or observed from outside art academy?

the questions that Morry has posed would make a juicy debate. And maybe one that we could all prepare for and bring in our findings to.

i'd be really up for coming along

loads of love,

lowri xx

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Laura's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:41 am

Hi Morry, Maria and Everyone,



Thank you for taking the time to think about and write these letters. They are both very interesting and have set me thinking all weekend.



After a year and half working at the art academy, for the most part pretty intensely, Morry's questions are something that I have spent much time discussing and thinking over.



18 months ago I wouldn't have been able to give you my definition of an artist. I knew what I thought. I knew as I still do that I love making and encountering art. But to put it into words was as difficult as beginning to tell someone what I did as an artist, I didn't know where to begin, and I was massively intimidated by the idea of explaining something that I didn't fully understand myself and that I knew had no set answer.



I am grateful to you all that I feel I do know what it means to be an artist now and I am as sure as ever that I want to be one.



To me, being an artist, and what we define as an 'artist,' is unique to us all, I'm sure every one of us would define it differently.



So this is my definition. Where it may once have scared me that it wasn't set in stone what an artist is, I have come to realise that perhaps this is one of the very reasons that I think being an artist is brilliant. Like I have learned as a musician, the ever changing definitions of what an artist is or does means that you can do whatever you want to do, whatever you find easy, whatever you find hard, whatever excites you, whatever you wake up in your sleep and scribble it down, whatever you love. Painting, sculpture, drawing, talking, tape recording, making a shrine in your garden, taking kids into the woods to get them interested in the environment, making anything. Thereís no right or wrong answer, just your answer that suits you.



I think that confusion can occur when defining an artist as there is also the profession of making a living out of your art. It seems that the term artist is often used referring solely to professional artists. While this is a dream for many people, it is a reality for very few. I wouldnít want to put anyone off being an artist because they couldnít make a living out of it. I would love to live in a society where anyone could enjoy drawing or painting without worrying if they were good enough, or anyone could enjoy the real pleasure of singing without the embarrassment that they might not have the x factor.



I know that I am an artist. I donít think that how often I think about art, how many artists I would have on my wish list (Mike Nelson, Antoni Tapies, Gregor Schneider, David Bradbury (badart.com), Sophie Calle, Cy Twombly and my Grandad if youíre asking!) or how often I visit galleries is important to my definition of what an artist is. I have learned through experience that galleries or books arenít of much significance in why I love art or am an artist.



Using Gaz, Kerry and Rachael, or indeed any of the artists that we know as models of how our group should function as artists seems limiting. Gaz, Kerry and Rachael are all brilliant artists but they are all following their own routes of being professional artists. While it is great to take inspiration and guidance from them it is another to think that theirs is a definitive model.



As a musician and artist and person I have learned that not everyone will always understand what I am doing or why Iím doing it. I have never thought of the art academy 'a social group with a vague underlying sense of purpose' but it wouldnít bother me that someone else would. Perhaps Morry you mean that you are not worried about what the person thinks, but rather that you think the same? I know that itís not a view shared by us all.



If you believe yourself in what you are doing then in my experience even if you donít get anyone else to understand, nevermind everyone, it seems that it is still worthwhile to continue. However, at the art academy we have quite easily persuaded a lot of people to our way of thinking that this is a very valuable and exciting project.



The idea that we should face two years of serious hardships, go religiously to galleries, think about art all the time, read books about art is very formulaic and to me uninspiring and that in my mind is not how great art is produced. I liked the idea of the art academy that was against the traditional institution as a model for producing successful artists who enjoy making art.



What we should do to produce a group of successful artists is unwritten. I suggest let it evolve, enjoy it, make it work for you, and have patience. Looking back now I have learnt so so much and I definitely havenít given up on the idea of a free art school, just that this model isnít right for me just now. I plan to go on learning through my life, as Maria says whatís the rush.



It will be very interesting to read your answers to your questions Morry. Perhaps a reflective period would be helpful for you too. It seems that you are at a place where you need to think about what you want. To me that doesnít say that the whole group is in the same position, or is in the wrong group if they arenít. Though it will be very interesting to hear all of your responses.



See you all soon Ė Morryís not back from Ireland until the 12th for the meeting



Love Laura xx

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Amy's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:41 am

Dearest Art Academy,



These emails surely have got me thinking.



When I first joined the art academy I walked into a boltic cold club space with a handful of people huddled around mix matched chairs and tables who were making, drawing, talking, and drinking fine cups of English tea. I was excited ....this was DIY at it's finest to me.



I have been in art academy for just under a year now and the term 'artist' has until recently sat very uncomfortable with me, when asked why? I often couldn't answer and felt frustrated and bemused.



Before art academy when I heard the term 'artist' I would often think of the YBA's 'in club' and think of Tracey Emin or Damien Hirst back then I thought this IS what an 'Artist' IS. Now after just under a year of learning and attending art academy my definition of an artist is so much more free, colorful, and exciting.



When my uncle finished college he managed to receive a grant to go to Leicester University and study fine art (this was a great achievement for my family and still is). My uncle has painted all his life he is also a musician. When walking around his terest house the rooms are covered in canvas's to me his house is an open gallery. When you walk through the spare room to get to the bathroom you could easily fall over the mass of guitar pedals, 4 tracks and instruments. Until recently My Mum has often felt frustrated by her brother as she thought of him as 'an excellent artist' but could not contemplate the idea that he did not want to exhibit and make a living out of his work. In her eyes he had the opportunity to go to university and has not used it to his potential he had not strove to be a 'professional' artist, but in his eyes he does not NEED the 'art world' to validate, approve, give him money for him to feel happy and successful with his art.... he just is. Until recently he worked in a nondescript warehouse moving boxes around. Over the last year My Mum has seen more of my uncle and her view has completely changed, she now see's him as man who has managed to surround himself in what he loves - art and music and she has much admiration for his body of work.



To me David Johnson is a great artist. Does it upset me he is not a 'professional artist' ... NO does it upset me that society views great artists by if they are recognised by the 'art world' YES.... does it upset me that in society there is a constant pressure to 'be something'... YES. If someone makes art and considers there self an artist the only way society wont question their authenticity as an artist, is if they are exhibiting and making a living off being an artist and not having to work in lets say ...in a warehouse....YES this to upsets me.



To me now the term 'artist' is not mythical, elitist and out of my reach, it is not about being exhibited in the Tate, Saatchi, Guggenheim or even international 3. In reflection, would I call myself an artist? The answer is yes I believe I am an artist whether this me putting on a club night with a gay pig fronting the night, to playing raw blues angsty grrrl style music on the guitar or making a video about my Mum's guilt over leaving my Dad, to me I am creating ideas, making, and most of all doing .... This might not be condensed into one medium that I go into a studio and think about for 12 hours, I might not produce masses of work everyday but to me ... this is being a living artist one who is not constrained by a studio, for me I get inspiration from meeting people, talking, observing life...living life.



I recently watched a truly inspirational film called 'DIY or DIE' I would really value and appreciate it if you could all try and watch this film, every time I am lost, question, confused, uncertain about myself, my artwork, my music, my ideas, my direction as an artist - I am going to watch this film. It has completely restored my faith in what I do.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDE5vvs1WxY&feature=related



There are 8 parts to this film, I also have the DVD if people would prefer to watch it not on youtube.


Would I like to be a 'professional artist'? I definitely think I do not strive to be a 'professional artist' at this stage in my life; do I want to carry on making art? ALWAYS, if someone offered to put one of my drawings/films in an exhibition would I say yes ...of course... if it was right for me. Will I in the future enter some of my work for a DIY exhibition? Most probably...will I try and produce more books like 'drawings for berlin' and try and put them in independently run comic shops...yes why not? But to me being a successful artist is not necessarily being a 'professional artist'. Also I believe that if you don't strive to be a 'professional artist' and are a member of the art academy this is ok too, as art academy to me is a group that has come together with the aim of educating themselves about art.





I have been thinking about comment that was made by the anonymous person at the mill 'a social group with a vague underlying sense of purpose'. Personally I never attended the art academy as a social event or saw it as a social group even though some of my dearest friends have been in the group. I joined the group to learn more about art and looking back this has been achieved but also this comment has made me think about the group in general. I believe that a group who are spending long periods of time together producing something creative, daring, sharing ideas, having debates, making, talking about art are/ or should be inspired by each other and most probably a understanding or even a friendship would develop and this is also great positive aspect to art academy that should be celebrated. For me art academy has a significant purpose but also has to be an enjoyable experience.



I think these questions that we have all posed or answered have been a great way of communicating with each other and have created a passionate debate which without being overly nostalgic reminds me of the discussions that were taking place when I first joined Art academy.



So thank you to everyone who has replied and if anyone wants to continue this interesting debate please keep it going.



I will miss Lauraís input within the group as I feel she has taught me so much and always had something interesting to contribute.



Rest in peace Laura Wink


I will look forward to the next meeting.


Amy P x

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Mike Cullen's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:42 am

Hi Guys
Thurs 15th Jan 5PM at Big Hands is great for me , I,ve just got one question I haven't got my train ticket yet & I was wondering if we're staying in London overnight where are we staying? I should have the video finished by next thursday as Gaz said he would re-record the sound track as it stopped to abruptly as the image went on for longer than I expected when turned into slow motion. As for the top five artists I think you should only put forward an artist or artists who really excites you at the moment (& who is still alive!) I've got one name to put in, Pippilotti Rist but because she lives in New York it would be highly unlikely she'd come & see us if i added any more artists I'd just be filling in the numbers.
mike c

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Andrew's email

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:43 am

Hi everyone,

sorry i haven't been in touch for a while. Hope you all had a nice christmas period. I'm afraid I won't be able to afford to continue to pay for the studio space and I think with the work I have been doing lately a studio space isn't really necessary. I'm sorry I haven't been able to get the previous rent to you and i'll get the money to you to pay until the end of January as soon as possible. I know my involvement has been limited of late due to other commitments, but I would like to be part of the art academy and so be involved as much as possible outside of using the studio space (i.e. attending meetings/discussions, getting involved in projects), if this is possible.

Are you having a meeting this week? I should be able to get to the mill tomorrow or friday. Also, is it still possible for me to be involved in the london trip? I can arrange my own accomodation and the megabus is pretty cheap.

thanks
Andrew

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Tom Keeler's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:43 am

Hello All,

I've been interested reading everyones responses, here are my reflections on the past year in the Art Academy.

I have come to realise that even if i don't know what it is to be an artist, its not what I thought it was when i joined the Art Academy. Because i have no formal art training, my views on what i thought it was to be an artist were probably quite traditional. I would almost certainly have defined a successful artist as being someone who made a living from art. Through being in the Academy, I now have a very different understanding and that success is just what the artist wants to get out of art.


I tried to write down what I want out of art. I narrowed it down to two things; I want to learn new things (information, techniques and experiences etc) and more importantly, I want to make beautiful things (drawings, photographs, films, buildings etc). I like the thinking and doing of art, I now spend more time in the 'Art' section of the library than I probably should, and if money was no object and I never had to work again I hope I would still make art.


I think my appreciation of art has shifted too. I have never been comfortable with galleries, sometimes i like the spaces more than the art, and rarely leave feeling overwhelmed or even satisfied. I have realised what I like about art is its relationship with the person who made it. I found the film Amy showed when Tony Trehy visited, more memorable and beautiful than anything I saw in the Baltic or Tate Modern this year. (i don't want Amy getting all above herself!) I just liked it so much more.


As a member of the Art Academy, I feel the work I can produce has more focus than before. This is because through talking about my work and the work of others in the group, I have a greater confidence in what I do, which I can see in the work. I feel then that I have gained from the Art Academy, but there is also a responsibility to contribute to the group. I know I have also got so much out of meeting people from outside the academy who are passionate about art. I find Helmut so inspiring and insightful even though I've never heard him talk about his own work.


I hope this continues and I learn more and make more things which im happy with this year. I don't really want to be an artist in the traditional sense, like I don't really want to be an architect. The idea of being these things is always more romantic than the reality. But if I can learn more and make more and (though im still not entirely comfortable with the word) in my terms, that makes me an artist.


I hope that all kind of makes sense. It'd be really good if someone could forward all these e-mails to Louie and see if his time away from the Academy has given him a different perspective on all this. I too think we will miss Lauras contribution to the group, she will be sadly missed.


See you all soon. Thurs 15th 5pm Big hands....


Tom


Last edited by Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:30 am; edited 1 time in total

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Tom Fitzpatrick's reply

Post  Admin on Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:30 am

Dear all,
I hope you have all had an excellent Xmas and nice new year.
Sorry it's taken so long for me to get off my arse and do something, I keep thinking of something to add and then the debate moves on, Arhg!

I've been keeping up to date with the discussion sparked by Morry's set of questions, and it's been hard to find the language to articulate answers. I know I can get embarrassed talking about my work and my art, as it can sound ridiculous. At times it can feel like trying to explain belief in god to an atheist, trying to describe something that the other person just can't see. In the group there does seem to be that level of shared acceptance that there is something called art which we all do (or try to do).

Do I really want to be an artist? I mean, I think I do. I know there is no "one size fits all" approach to being an artist. Morry discussed the example of two visiting artist as people who scraped by doing odd jobs to spend as much time as humanly possible in the studio making work, working without deadlines.

Whilst at university I came across many different models of finding the time and space to do one's own art. Some Artist's taught art at institutions or otherwise, others wrote, and had an academic career outside of art, or a commercial career writing for magazines, others took up many public arts commissions, which meant they spent most of their time travelling all across the country. Some fund their art through curating and would probably considered curators first, if what they devoted most of their time to was taken as a guide. Arguably one of the most successful living artists, Jeff Koons, vacuous air-head he may be, began his career as a New York stockbroker, before becoming an artist. It is a dilemma facing almost all artists, how to deal with the real world and the world you want to create.
I don't know if I want to necessarily want to suffer in a garret, but at the same time, I know being comfortable is seen as the antithesis of being an artist, and It's hard to escape from that clichť in my head.

I've been kind of worried that instead of being an artist, I might actually be someone who just likes Art. I know I enjoy going to galleries, and talking about art. As I've been doing a job for the first time in my life, and had something approaching a disposable income, I've been thinking about going to different places to look at art, places like New York, Paris, Bilbao etc, but would this merely a holiday where i am doing what I enjoy, or would it be a serious research trip, seeing what other artists are producing?

What does it mean to be an artist? I like to think of the term in the same way someone might refer to themselves as a communist or Buddhist, in that he or she is someone who applies a belief system to the way they live their lives. i think Amy P's thought's on being an artist are similar to my own. It's a method which is "free, colourful and exciting " free of dogmatic approaches, and an approach which actively encourages one to rip up and spit on it's history and dogma, in which the history and conventions are laid out like a salad bar for one to have a food fight with. Being an artist is not someone who is handy with a brush, in the same way a dentist is handy with teeth. You can do anything, it's not possible to do it wrong.

One phrase that was bandied around at the end of my third year was "you have to be your own institution", and in a way it was with this in echoing around my head that I wanted to be a part of what you guys all started. Amy's thoughts on her own institutionalism are inspiring, but I do disagree with her on some level. I think there is a difference between someone who does things purely for their own pleasure, and some who want what they produce to go out into the real world. I know I am asked if I still have the various pieces I've made over the years, and I don't, as once something like a piece of work dies, there's no point storing its corpse around the place.

I'm rambling now, and I don't actually think I've said anything even remotely coherent, so, sorry : /

Tom F
xx

P.S. my five artists are...
Simon Patterson
John Baldessari
Bruce Nauman
ilya Kabavov
Ryan Gander

P.P.S. Is anyone else getting loads of German spam?

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Morry comes back from Ireland.

Post  Admin on Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:33 am

Hi everyone

Itís exciting and inspiring to hear how passionate some of us are about art and our artwork. It would be great if everyone who hasnít had a chance to respond yet does, even if itís only a few lines.

Do I want to be an artist? Yes, I do. I could not say that I always wanted to be an artist because I knew little about art before meeting Bill and other people at the mill, roughly 4 years ago. Before that, I used to make music. Listening to that music now, I can see how in some ways I approached it more as an artist would than a musician (in that the idea of what it could sound like was more interesting to me the sound itself) Anyway, I donít think its important to demonstrate a heritage or prior understanding of something in order to have a go.

I have worked in lots of casual jobs, everything from cleaning, working in hospitals through agencies like APEX to what Mike now does, working as security at football matches and big concerts. My last job was a homelessness advisor for Salford council. I quit this in order to give myself the time I figured I would need to try my hand at being an artist. I am now living off some savings, some cash-in hand here and there and spending as little money as possible. I am no good for the economy.

There has been a lot of talk about the word Ďprofessionalí when referring to an artist. What does professional mean? It says in the dictionary, Ďsomebody who is engaged in an occupation as a paid job rather than as a hobbyí and also Ďsomebody whose occupation requires extensive education or specialised trainingí and thirdly, Ďsomebody who shows a high degree of skill or competenceí.

Iím not sure if any of these are true in this case. Itís a fact that most artists who would call themselves Ďprofessionalsí supplement or in most cases make up their entire earnings from teaching and other part time jobs. Kerry and Rachel are the only two artists I know in Manchester who make their whole living from their work. But we would not say, for instance that, Helmut is not a professional because he works at Salford University and derives his income from teaching there? He is invited regularly to show his work all over the world. I think that being a professional is not related to the money you earn or where you earn it from. It has more to do with the commitment you make and keep with your work over a long period of time, where it is your number one priority, the thing you put before all else. Of course it would be brilliant to hear what Helmut would say about this.

I think for my part I am influenced by the people I meet in my life. 4 years ago my reference points for an artist, too, were Tracy Emin, Damien Hirst, the YBAís or someone who is already dead like Picasso. Having met people like Kerry, Helmut, Rachel, Ingo, Gaz, Abraham Cruzvillegas etc, Iíve begun to form a wider understanding of what the word artist can mean. I look at what they have done in their lives and careers so far and from that I can see a number of possible ways to approach the being of an artist. If I had not met these people, my perception of what an artist is would be very different.

I am not suggesting for a second that we should now go and pick one of these people and model our entire careers on them. But it would be naÔve to think that the people you encounter and the ways in which you see them go about their work do not filter into your consciousness when you are thinking about you and your work. I donít see a problem with this. I think itís great if we can meet as many different people as possible.

Am I interested in art?

It is a question I ask myself all the time. Like Tom, I too feel little engagement with much of the work I see in galleries. However, I donít think that I go to galleries that often at all, if I did do more, perhaps I would have a greater understanding of the breadth of artwork that is out there.
The art that I find most exciting and interesting is the art that I find when I am walking the streets or out and about amongst people in social situations. The 25 years old miners strike posters on Greengate and the graffiti that was on Ordsall lane are examples of this. It can also be as simple as something that someone says or does. Art when you least expect it. Some people wouldnít call it art, I suppose. The first line of a book called ĎThe Story of Artí that a lot of people read when they are first getting into art says, ĎThere really is no such thing as art. There are only artists.í I took it to mean that art in its widest sense is really just about people and the relationships between them. If it is this, then Iím interested in it.

I have found it to be very interesting to read other peoples descriptions of what an artist is to them. Laura described very beautifully about how an artist to her is something that is unique to us all, someone who follows their own path taking in a wide range of ideas and ways of making art. Amy talked about DIY (I would love to see the DVD too Amy) and gave as an example her Uncle who makes art for himself because he loves and enjoys doing that.

What you are both describing sounds to me, perfect already; Making art for the love of making art. I wonder though, in order to do this, do you need an art academy? To me, it sounds like something you can go straight ahead and do and that is the beauty of it.

My understanding of why someone would join the Art Academy (or any other place of learning) is that they want/need critical feedback on the work that they are producing. I know that I am interested in communicating something to other people in my art and this is the skill that I want to learn.

Like everyone else, I also do a lot of different things. To give an example, one of these is the music festival that I organise, Sounds from the Other City. While this is part of my work and something I enjoy and take pride in, I donít consider it to be a part of my artwork. I donít bring it to the art academy to ask you all what you think of it, to critique it as an artwork. This doesnít mean that it is in any way inferior to my artwork, it is just different from it. My understanding of an Academy (any place of learning) is that you are there because you want to learn something or to become better at doing something. You want to move from point A (where you are now) to point B (your decision). You have an idea about the area of the work that you do that you want to learn about, to improve on, what it is that you want to be challenged on.

A few people have mentioned that they would like to learn more about art. I think that there is a difference in learning about art and learning how to be an artist. While learning how to be an artist, it is likely that you would learn a lot about art. The same is not true of the reverse though. My understanding of the Art Academy is that we are learning how to be artists? There is something about this in every document we have written.

Also, there has also been a lot of talk about the Ďart worldí. But, who or what is the art world? All of the artists we have worked with this past 18 months (Kerry Morrison, Helmut Lemke, Transmission Gallery, West Germany, Ingo Gerken, Littoral Merzbarn, Terry Smith) are part of the art world. By working with these artists, are we too not part of the art world? Is not everyone who loves art and goes to galleries or wherever it is to see it part of the art world? When we set up the art academy, it was our aim to de-mistify artists and the art world, what it is they do, how they go about it. I think that we have learned a lot about this so far.

I think it would be great to carry on discussing some of these thoughts that we have brought up. To me, this is a great part of what Art Academy can be about.

Cheers!

Morry

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Maria replies from work

Post  Admin on Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:33 am

Hi Morry,

Thanks for sending this email in. It was great reading it here at
work. What I find interesting is that by answering your questions
you've sparked up even more questions. I wish to try and answer them
and perhaps ask some of my own.

First off I would like to question what you mean by an artist. While
I've tried to answer this question myself I've found that it's a topic
of great debate. In the dictionary "A person who creates art" is one
definition. The artist, his/her role and position within the artwork
I feel should be something that is always questioned. That's the
great thing about it.

Next I want to ask can we learn to be artists? I guess to answer this
question we need to answer the first question. In my opinion I'm not
sure we can. You can teach people how to draw, or teach them art
criticism and studio practice but I really don't think you can teach
someone how to be an artist especially since the idea of an artist is
constantly changing.

You asked do we need an art academy to learn how to make art for the
love of making art. My question is does the reason for making art
really matter? What other reasons are there for people to make art?
Why is it that when you make art for the love of it you don't need to
learn anything but for any other reason you do?

I think I've asked more questions than I've answered and the best
thing is that this is not the end of the debate.

Maria

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Laura continues the debate

Post  Admin on Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:32 pm

I think I'm more excited about Art Academy than I have been in a long time from reading all these letters and realising that a lot of the members of the group share the same values and aims. These emails are a great way to communicate.



In response to Morryís letter, when I used the term professional in my email I meant someone that makes money out of it. Be it every day, once a week, once a year. They get paid for the artwork that they do - even if itís only your part time profession and youíre a car park steward for the rest of the year. I was trying to make to point that you can want to be an artist, want to learn to be an artist, want to learn about art, without wanting to make money out of it. Not that thereís anything wrong with doing it as a job, whatever suits you.



Morry, you say in response to me and Amy ďWhat you are both describing sounds to me, perfect already; Making art for the love of making art. I wonder though, in order to do this, do you need an art academy?Ē This is the bit that has got me thinking the most. To me art and making art isnít perfect, it poses a lot of questions, doubts, backward steps and hills to climb, but it is brilliant. Iím sure that if I continued coming to the Art Academy I would continue learning Ė just now a week after handing my notice in I am learning so much from these emails!



I think you can be an artist and love making art and by my definition still want to go on learning. Like you could be a professional artist and still want to do an MA or PHD, even a BA. You could learn about how to make better art (art you prefer, others prefer, whatever your criteria is), how to make applications to the arts council, learn the views of others, how to collaborate with others, how to put on exhibitions, how to write a cv, how to paint with oil paints, how to make a sculpture of someoneís head, how to better communicate with others and so on. Iím even interested in learning how my definition of an artist could change and Iím definitely interested in learning things that I donít even know what they are yet. Itís not that you need an Art Academy, like you donít need a degree or GCSEís, or to learn how to bake a cake, you could still live a very happy and fulfilled life without any of these things but that doesnít mean that you wouldnít want to learn them - to me learning is a real privilege. Of course you could go straight ahead and be an artist without studying a course in art, that works great for some people, others want to learn and doing a course works best for them.



You say ďMy understanding of the Art Academy is that we are learning how to be artists? There is something about this in every document we have written.Ē I agree, as I always have that this is the main reason for the academy. Itís an interesting point to raise and I am interested to know why you have mentioned it. Would this mean that you couldn't be there until you have decided whether or not you want to be an artist? If you are doing some paintings that you love with the open mind that you may want to be an artist or you may in six months decide to go back to being a hairdresser Ė how can you know? Learning to be an artist will surely bring us all to question whether we want to be an artist. I agree that if you have decided that you donít want to be an artist then you probably wouldnít be interested in coming to the Art Academy anyway, but if you are still making up you mind, I think you should enjoy this process and that the Art Academy can function to support it.



I agree with Morry and Andrew that being an Artist and being a member of the Art Academy requires commitment. I know you can be committed to something without working on it every day. You could even be committed to being an Artist or being in the Art Academy without working on it for a long period of time. You may think about it, you may believe in it. I donít think it has to be your number one priority. Imagine you have kids or youíre ill. It doesnít mean you are any less committed being an artist. I think the only way that we can measure commitment is on a personal level. I know how much my art means to me, how much I think about it and how much I hope it will be a big part of my future, how much I work on it. I think that is something that each of us should ask ourselves and Iím sure being committed will have its own rewards.



For me the studio was good, Iíve made two brilliant pieces of work there, but I donít feel like it is working anymore. £35 is a lot more money to me than I had realised and I also think having the studio carries a lot of problems. I donít know how we decide who is in the group and who is out. Realising that I canít afford the rent has made me realise that the ďFreeĒ Art School is no longer accessible to anyone on the dole or a low income. It was partly the brilliant, practical, political, idea of a completely free art school that made me so dedicated to the art academy in the first place.



Itís interesting that the people who havenít responded to this discussion yet are those who have joined since we already had the studio space. I wonder if by paying to be in the art academy it seems that it is a service rather than an group of learning artists in which we all have the same responsibility in keeping it going, keeping it exciting and keeping it worthwhile. Perhaps we could make a handbook of our ideas and ideals for new members?



I never feel inspired to work in the studio, like many of the Art Academy members I think my work is inspired by being out and about in life. When I agreed that we should sign up for a studio, even pushed for it, it was because we all agreed that it would be beneficial to have a space where we could work alongside each other and that hasnít happened. Perhaps it would be a good idea to find different spaces and work there for say a month, then have a couple of months off to just have our weekly meeting, then find another free space and work there for a week, 12 weeks, whatever. In the Summer perhaps we could even do the 6 week Summer School again on the 5th floor where anyone who is committed to coming in for 2 or 3 days per week is invited. This to me would be exciting. Not that the studio hasnít been good, but I think itís time for another change. It is also possible that if there was a small group that wanted to rent a studio they could do that between them but I donít think it should be a criteria to whether you can be in the group Ė feel free to disagree!



Morry you say that you want to learn the skill of communicating something to other people in your art. It has set me thinking about something that Patricia Bickers said when me and Lowri went to see her talk at the Cornerhouse and has stuck with me ever since. I hope you can see why I think it might be useful for you to think about this.



It went something like this... Artists either work from an idea, something that they knowingly want to communicate or some artists work from a gut feeling, an instinct about what they want to do. Neither is right or wrong Ė which ever works for you. Either way, the gut feeling and the more practical idea meet somewhere in the middle and the piece of art is born.



Does that make sense?



I think it would be a good exercise for everyone to try making work from each different side and looking at the different outcome it makes. Until the last year I think I worked from the ideas and thinking side, trying to communicate a certain idea. Now I think Iíve learned that I am someone who prefers to work from the gut instinct side (for the time being!). The ideas and thinking are still there but they are not the driving force behind why I want to make a piece of art. The finished outcome still communicates with the viewer, for me more effectively, but in quite a different way.



Anyway keep the debate going!



Laura xx

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Laura: my Answers to Maria's questions

Post  Admin on Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:33 pm

'A person who creates art' is a good definition! it seems that sometimes simple answers can say the most.
While it's interesting to think deeper into the question, and keep prodding the definition, I'm going to keep in mind that this simple answer is also true.
If you further your definition please send it on.

I think we can learn to be artists.
Perhaps I feel like if you did a Maths course, you could do all the things you need to do to learn Maths: study, revise, practice etc
But you still might fail the exams
Of course if you really wanted to get there it would mean that you had to sit the course again until you got the hang of it (commitment!)
I think by doing the things we do at the Art Academy (discussion, criticism, practical work, and so on) you can learn to be an Artist
But since that is different for everyone we will all naturally need to swot up on different aspects of the course. If that makes sense.

What do you think?

Laura xx

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Maria's reply

Post  Admin on Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:33 pm

I like the simple definition as well Laura. It seems to describe it well.

The point I was trying to make was that we should always keep an open
mind. That's what i liked about the art academy when we first
started. It was so open minded that it accepted my proposal to create
a piece of work that would offend everyone (ruined it for me) but
taught me a good lesson is art which is that almost anything goes.

in terms of learning to be an artist. i think i already am one.
Since I've made some art in my lifetime so using the simple definition
that makes me an artist. i think learning can help me understand art
and make me more confident if i need to talk about it but i don't
think it will make me an artist.

am i deluded?

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Re: What does it mean to be an artist? Questioning the AA.

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