a reflection on the context; an introduction to the project
by the late Tony Carter, artist, Principle of City and Guilds of London Art School and Trustee of Beaconsfield (2010-2016).
For several decades past, the precise nature and cultural status of art has become increasingly difficult to define. The serious development of its tradition as a primarily tactile/visual practice has often seemed suspended in a contemplation of its own condition; its ontological range has become almost without limit and gestures can be made in its name that issue in no aesthetic object of any kind.
The roles of both author and spectator have been examined from all angles; the question as to whether art-making is politically more acceptable for being a collective enterprise than a mode of individual expression, appears to have been a significant by-product of this soul searching – for better or worse.
In higher education, considerable government funding has been directed towards ‘art as research’ despite the fact that the identity of art per se has been made so diffuse – or perhaps for that reason?
Inadvertently, our current research culture has made fundamental the questions as to when and how art becomes research in its own right, rather than merely an adjunct to other disciplines. The long-term survival of art as a first-order language and the future development of its expressive conventions might well depend on the course of this inquiry.
As it is, the relevant discourses are largely confined within highly specialised interest groups: philosopher/critics, the art establishment, (i.e. MOMA’s worldwide and their supportive infrastructures), as well as the higher educational institutions which now depend on Government research funding.
Beaconsfield’s project is defined against a background of cultural uncertainty to the extent that the conflicting issues and interests outlined above are reflected in its working model and become part of the ‘test-bed’ for its own particular mode of research.
Managing the project
Specifically, artists exploring the ‘cutting edge’ of creative practice in visual art and associated hybrid forms are afforded the opportunity of a working residency at the centre, each for a limited period of time, during which their activity will be semi-public and will be supported, both materially and morally, by all the resources at the organisation’s disposal. An implicit aim of this curatorial nurturing is to make the excitement of innovative practice as accessible to a non-specialised audience as to the initiated.
Negotiations such as those defining the roles of the author and audience, or the competing claims concerning a work’s ‘ownership’ on the part of ‘soloist on the one hand and ‘supporting cast’ on the other are lived realities rather than affectations of theoretical obligation in a context of this kind. These will form an inextricable part of the research discourse whether in formal debate, studio discussion or casual conversation in the canteen.