Salon 02
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On Space

30 June 2016

The following page contains a transcript of the Salon, a selection of the images of the Salon, and a range of responses by the audience to the question "Do Artists Need Space?

Graham Ellard

In 1970 John Baldessari was invited to teach, what’s sometimes called now, the infamous Post Studio Art Class at CalArts, and it’s a reference often made to a kind of definition of a certain sort of contemporary practice, which apparently is a rationale for artists not having space. As Baldessari himself kind of conceded, in 1970 he was a fully fledged conceptual artist and didn’t want it to get out that he had a studio. He did have a studio, and he accumulated three and a half further studios over the course of his career. Whilst teaching the Post Studio Art Class, as is mentioned in a relatively recent interview with him “The Post Studio Art Course was actually all about the studio, not about leaving the studio. So the question was not the necessity of the studio but the definition of the studio and the kinds of practices it made possible.
But we ask the question do artists need space? Well to take the question literally I would immediately answer ‘yes’. More interesting perhaps, is how do we define what that space is? And two. Why are we asking the question? The question is being asked particularly by policy makers, because space in a city like London is becoming increasingly scarce. Models of studio provision prior to this point have become superseded. The redundant commercial space isn't being made any longer. Its life span from conversion into studios and then into luxury apartments is a life cycle that has become incredibly accelerated. So, the basis for affordable artists’ space in London has been profound and transformed. As it becomes scarcer, then the question becomes is it necessary anyway? One, perhaps it is a luxury, because of its scarcity, or perhaps more insidiously, the question can be given a kind of gloss of critical intelligence. Surely a definitive contemporary artist doesn’t require a physical space, we work virtually now, we are trans-geographic, we are migrant. That may well be the case for some, but if studios weren't needed by artists, then those thousands of artists in London who are making financial sacrifices so as to afford one would simply move out if they weren’t necessary. Some artists obviously don't need studios and for them that is an ideal. But to suppose that the means by which, or the way in which certain kinds of art can be made becomes the basis to define the ways in which all art must be made, is a very dangerous situation to find ourselves moving closer to.

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Pallas Citroen

As a sculptor and installation artist I’m naturally interested in how spaces can be transformed into atmospheres. Experiential places that I create, transcend and separate from the world. A predominant theme within my work is about seduction within the visual space. I’m preoccupied with surfaces and facades. The idea of escapism and transportation from the everyday inspires me but there is also here an element of personal revelation, a memory, a desire, and an impulse.
Whilst studying sculpture at Central St Martins, my tutor Bruce Gernard gave me “The Politics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard. This was to have a definitive impact on my work and my thoughts about sculpture and installation, and has given me a deeper understanding of the impulses of which I speak above. Those of you that have read this book will know that he speaks of space, or spaces, as places evoking atmospheres and how such spaces allow moments of revery. It’s possible to truly think or daydream, and within that daydream to be transported. He speaks of our first house as being the embodiment of dreams, where each of its nooks and corners is a resting place for daydreaming. He says our first house furnished the first framework for an interminable dream, one that poetry alone through the creation of a poetic work could succeed in achieving completely. But, he says ultimately the great function of poetry is to give us back this situation of our dream. I personally think that if I substitute the word art for poetry I arrive at the same conclusion. Whilst memories have no beginnings or endings I can start my story around the age of 7.
We lived in a typical rambling victorian terrace in South London full of dark corridors and tall chilly rooms. There was no central heating but there was a cold centred cellar and cosy dining room in constant chaotic use. It was full of stuff, a radio, newspapers, birthday cards on the mantelpiece, the cats, Whiskey and Brandy, a huge angry dog my uncle bought back from the pub, paints, pens, paper, all things to do at the table, general family stuff. We spent time in this room eating, living and talking. There are other important spaces in this house, but for me as a child it was this room, my bedroom and the bottle green sitting room that hold my memories. My mother had a thing for bottle green, it was considered modern, and everything in this room was dark green. It was hard to navigate at night, just one huge white vase to steady ones cause to the sofa and the spindle leg TV, this was never turned on unless to watch the news or the eurovision song contest. These were the grown up spaces in the house but my space was the garden. Immensely long and wide there were roses, dahlias, and daisies, asparagus, peas, rhubarb and gooseberries. It backed onto the other gardens full of the same stuff, the children's paradise and this is where we played.
At the bottom of the garden there is an orchard of apple trees, a giant green shed. This was my uncle John’s shed. He was an artist, a very fine sculptor. He had a hearse painted red for trucking around giant bits of metal and wood, and would make fun of me for being embarrassed to be seen in it. We were all arty but he was the best. My mother begged him to make a bust of me, as now I was 7 she said I had a proper face. He did this unwillingly and make me sit for ages on a metal stool whilst he sculpted away. It was very boring for both of us but I can recall everything about that shed. The dust, the smell of plaster and clay, the instruments of torture, or so it seemed. The bust was nearing completion and just a bit of work to do on the ears left. There was a crack of stone against the glass. We both turned to look at the same time. My best friends, the boys next door, wanted me to play. I looked at John with imploring eyes. He said “You can go if you really want to, but watch this”. He stood up and grabbed an axe from the wall and brought it crashing down onto my face, the bust, smashing it into pieces. I ran out, my Mum cried for weeks, she never got the bust.
When John left a year later, I got the shed and this was my very first studio. I'm a studio-based artist and I make stuff in a studio like a cave person. I drag stuff from outside back to my lair, from pound shops or skips or woodyards and it sits there, gathering dust, until one day it becomes very necessary indeed. This is my space for dreaming and reverie. Full of things I gather for one reason or another. Subconscious and yet conscious part of the process, the gathering, the making, the discussion with other artists in adjoining studios. Without the space, my space, I couldn’t make my work.
Like many others I felt a sense of loss when the old St Martins in Charing Cross Road closed its doors. It had become part of our lives. Perhaps this is why I started the Bomb Factory Art Foundation, in a blackened disused former munitions factory in Archway. When I first saw it I fell in love, I knew I wanted to have a part of it, to reside there, to make work there. It had its own very special atmosphere, a place where dreams are made and so I started it. Of course now the blackened world has gone but in its place is a vaulted white gallery and studios full of artists there. There is creativity, discussion, collaboration and singularity. It is a space where art is made and where ideas and creativity are expanded. It is now where I, and many others feel is a necessary space. The space for our dreaming and for our action.
Without the space, my space
Without the space, my space;
Withoutthespace,myspace;
I couldnt make my work.
I couldnt make my work.;
Icouldntmakemywork.;
What underpins this question
What underpins this question;
Whatunderpinsthisquestion;
is a notion of pragmatism
is a notion of pragmatism;
isanotionofpragmatism;
and a degree of playfulness.
and a degree of playfulness.;
andadegreeofplayfulness.;

Harold Offeh

I wanted to approach the question from really an idea of my present situation which is that I dont have what you would define as an official studio. I have, in the past have had a studio, a live/work space, as part of a situation that lasted over 5 years.
How do we define space? What is space? What does that mean? I was really thinking about this idea of space in relation to artists as being a site of production. But actually, its possible to think of the actual space as being slightly irrelevant if the production and processes are at the heart, then what becomes really important is the artist. The artist’s body, the artists existence. And within that the notion that then the production can exist within whichever or whatever space.
I think its important to think about the kind of context and situation we exist in now, in London, 2016, post-Brexit. The commodification of space in this city has put constraints in positions. One of the things I think I am really interested in as an artist is this notion of resourcefulness, the idea that artists perpetually, continually respond to situations, contexts, in resourceful ways, find means and obviously for some artists that means finding spaces if they need space for the production of work. For other artists defining other spaces, the virtual space, the domestic space, inhabiting various other spaces.
I think for me, more than now the issue with space has become politicised. Quite often when I’m working in one of my other roles, I teach at Leeds Beckett university and more recently at Goldsmiths, and I find myself coming back to Guy Debord and the situationist strategies. Thinking about space and territory, public space and private space, ownership of these places and these sites. But I think at the heart of it is this notion of artists’ agency, what artists need and require to produce and present. And for me, what underpins this question is a notion of pragmatism and a degree of playfulness. This notion of resourcefulness and pragmatism I think kind of frames this question.

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Do Artists Need Space?

Anna Colin

My answer to your question is — Maybe I’ll ask what do we mean by space? And what do I mean by space ? 
Perhaps I wanted to start with Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ when she famously states that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. In this case space is equated to access, access to finances, access to develop creativity, and on a metaphorical level access to visibility in a literary world that is dominated by men, or was, or still is.
Open School East’s main concern is access. Access to artistic development opportunities, access to knowledge and the acquisition of skills, access to the realisation of one's skills, and to the development of one’s confidence, access to the voicing of those ideas, access to the meeting of people from different backgrounds, access to the meeting of differences. 
We founded Open School East in 2013. We founded it in response to spiraling tuition fees and student debt, the unaffordability of studio space in the capital and the diminution of local civic space for cultural and social provision. Open School East is a space for artistic learning that is collaborative, experimental, self-reflective. It brings together two programmes that reinforce each other. We have a study programme, studio based and study based. It is free and non accredited. It is open by application to people with and without formal qualifications. We also have the public programme which is partly organised by the associated artists. Forums, artist discussions, lectures, skills-based workshops, long term participatory projects with neighbours and non-artists and artists and the associates. But also, in the public programme we make the space available to groups that don’t have the space to meet to work, to congregate, to learn. 
We’ve had a group of local citizens who are over the age of 55, who are socially isolated who meet every Tuesday in our space. We have about four to five groups who use the space on a very regular basis. We have very different groups who meet and cohabit in different ways. 
Space has always been at the centre of our discussions and continues to be. We have two complementary elements, two spaces that don’t necessarily relate to each other. We have private and public spaces. In the first year, the studio spaces were underused and we had a lot of debates. I remember arguing against the use of the studio for storage. It was very controversial and I have revised my position since. 
Some people need a desk, just a desk and the internet. Some people also want a window. Some people want a space they can make dusty and noisy work. Other people who want a quiet space, some people just want to store their materials. It was an interesting set of conversations and when we recruited the new cohort of artists we were mindful that we wanted more people using the space because we realised how beneficial the conversations that happen within the space were. This is the general feedback we get from the associated artists every year, that the tuition, the mentorship, is crucial, but what is really important is the moments outside of the conventional frameworks of learning, where they have a cup of tea, hang out in the studio on a Monday night. This peer to peer exchange is the most crucial aspect of their time at Open School East. 
Space in our case equates perhaps to more exchange than production and the forming of relations; social, professional and otherwise, with people from very different backgrounds. We are very careful when we select the associate artists, people with different levels of experience, backgrounds, skills and areas of interest so they really get to collaborate and help each other naturally without us as co-directors and tutors and mentors having a role in the development of these relations. And then we have this broader, common space, which is really where diverse voices come together, collective creativity, thinking, happens informally, democratically, in respect of each other’s opinions and very different trajectories. Judging from the very wide use of that space, the number of people who come from the first time, and those who come back, there are many people who say we like what you do, could we use this space for something, could we make an event? It has been successful, but it’s not about success, it’s not from that perspective I am talking from. For me what it has shown is that it is an urgent space, not just a bonus for Hackney, it’s actually a space that formalises a lot of practices and collaborations and a way of, cohabiting and thinking together. And also thinking politically and socially how art and infrastructures can help beyond an individual art practice, so there would be a lot more things to say, but, I’ll stop here.
Space in our case
Space in our case;
Spaceinourcase;
equates perhaps to more exchange
equates perhaps to more exchange;
equatesperhapstomoreexchange;
than production and the forming of relationships
than production and the forming of relationships;
thanproductionandtheformingofrelationships;