Monday, 29 June 2015

Street craft Here’s a real delight – a new book by Riika Kuittinen on street craft as a global art movement. It covers guerrilla gardening, yarnbombing, light graffiti, street sculpture and so on. Packed with uplifting inventiveness – like this example from the work of Mark Jenkins - it sends a very clear message about creativity in the public realm and the resilience of a democratic approach to art. ‘Street craft is interwoven with the unexpected, offering a prism through which the everyday environment can be perceived differently.’ These artworks are usually un-commissioned, seldom legal, ‘donated’ to the public on the streets, generally removed without trace once they have been documented for display on the world wide web. They are often playful, sometimes challenging, occasionally provocative. They offer what Kuittinen calls an ‘intimacy of experience’ while reflecting the ordinary universal context of the street. Of course, the book is not riddled with examples of bad street craft, and yet such examples doubtless exist. But the ephemerality is the defense here: if we come across mediocrity on a local pavement, we’re not likely to be stuck with it – unlike so much municipally-funded public art. So is this is an art movement (Kuittinen describes it as a 'fluid genre') that can resist the assimilators? Needless to say, wealthy people and trendy commercial enterprises want to own some of it (we think of Banksy’s stencils appearing at auction), completely missing the point. Am I being over-optimistic to suppose that street craft at its best will remain just out-of-reach of global capitalism and the high art industry?
Local Level is 10 years old I set up Local Level in July 2005 and in some ways it’s surprising to find that we're still going in spite of the recession – indeed we've won three new contracts in the past couple of weeks, in addition to several ongoing, so business could be described as healthy. (But I can still justifiably describe it as an unintentionally non-profit organisation). Looking back, I’m struck by three things: The diversity of the work we’ve covered without (I sincerely hope) losing sight for a moment of our values and principles - empowerment, equalities, inclusion, collaboration, and shared learning. Their meaning has been reinforced and refined by so many of the inspiring people we’ve worked with. The lack of improvement in the processes of public sector procurement – still a focus for a lot of poor information-sharing, grotesquely exaggerated bureaucratic caution, and questionable (sometimes downright lamentable) project briefs. The importance of having worked with a range of consortia, associates and other companies, from solo operators to large consultancies. Apart from helping to ensure work this has served to share knowledge and experience, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. There ought to be an award for best client over this ten year period, but I find it impossible to decide from this list. Perhaps rashly I'll narrow it down to seven, and if there were a cake, they could share it: The British Council – thank you Sarah Metcalfe Caloundra City Libraries, Queensland - thank you Louise Bauer and Gail Robinson Fontys University, Eindhoven – thank you Jan Steyaert Shipley College and Shipley Streets Ahead – thank you Margaret Robson and Jonathan Hayes Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham – thank you Angus McCabe Watford Council for Voluntary Services – thank you Bob Jones WoodGreen Community Services, Toronto – thank you Diane Dyson. I don't think we should read too much into the fact that three of these are overseas clients, but it's curious. There are fewer candidates for the 'Worst Client' award. These will not be revealed just yet. Finally I want to thank the various good folk who have been ready to call themselves Local Level associates and with whom I have worked on projects over the years: Martin Dudley (pretty much from day one, thanks for the support mate), Bev Carter, Cathy Herman, John Vincent, Rebecca Linley, Hugh Flouch, Sarah Chapman, Linda Constable, Alison Gilchrist, and Jackie Black. I do not include the many inspiring colleagues with whom I have worked under some other aegis, who are rather too numerous to mention, but my thanks go to them all. My sincere apologies if I have left anyone of this list, let me know and I can remedy it. (I ought also to offer sincere apologies to anyone who is on the list and doesn’t want to be: ditto!) Here's to another ten years, if I'm spared.

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