Economic Activity

Advocacy advice

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The advice in this column although designed for the arts in the US, applies equally to environment and ecology, suggesting the best tactics to influence politicians, policy-makers and public sector decision-makers.  It highlights the importance of starting the meeting by establishing:

  • the fact that you are a constituent, and that the people you represent are constituents,
  • that you are aware of the political and policy priorities,
  • the benefits that your organisation or service delivers.

The article goes on to focus on the benefits that matter to public bodies:

  • Both arts and ecologies are sources of jobs and economic activity,
  • Arts and ecologies represent resources that improve learning and school systems,
  • Cutting arts and ecologies will not solve public sector budget problems: they represent tiny fractions of overall budgets.

Finally it recommends a team approach to maximise the impact.  This enables the first person to introduce the subject, the second person presents the fact-based evidence.  The third person then contributes a human story of the transforming experience that the arts or environments can have.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

Go to EcoArtScotland

Emma Ridgway on Gustav Metzger

Gustav Metzger with Jeremy Deller: June 5 2009, UN World Environment Day, Whitechapel Gallery, London

Does the fact that an artist like Gustav Metzger, who has been creating politically agressiveaggressive works for 60 years, is so much in the spotlight at this late point in his career say anything about what we want of our artists now?

Tomorrow, RSA curator Emma Ridgway talks about the work of Gustav Metzger as part ofGustav Metzger Decades 1959 – 2009, currently at London’s Serpentine Gallery. It’s at 3pm Saturday 7 November at the Serpentine.

If you want a flavour of the talk,  Ridgway’s recent interview with Metzger about his appeals to artists over the years, is a vivid demonstration of how passionate he is about art’s need to involve itself in the political sphere:

You were an activist before you were an artist. Was there a particular moment, or was it through Bomberg, that you decided that contemporary politics was going to be a core part of your work?

Yes, my interest in politics was there from the age of around 17. That was in wartime, around 1942 – 43, when I was living in Leeds and there I almost completely converted to the idea of becoming some sort of revolutionary figure –art at that point had no place in my conception of the future. It was only in the late summer of 1944, when I felt I would move away from the ideal of becoming a political activist to becoming an artist. So moving into art was a way of moving forward without giving up the political interest; because I thought one could fuse the political ideal of social change with art. For example, the writing of Eric Gill who was both an artist and a craftsman and politically involved was a kind of inspiration to me. I could see this possibility of using the ideas of social change within art, with art and not simply through political, economic activity.

Sometimes we visit exhibitions together and discuss the work. On a number of occasions you have been disinterested in the work because it lacked any political bite or ethical aspect. Is this something you feel artists work must contain?

Yes, I think that is inescapable and the more the world changes, is changing, in the direction of more speed and more activities. And the more that happens the more necessary it is for people to stand back and, not merely in the art sphere but in every sphere of intellectual activity, to stand back and distance oneself and come up with alternative ways of dealing with reality than going along with a direction that is essentially catastrophic and consuming itself and turning itself into a numbers game. Where the technology, especially the technology of the mobile phones and this endless sound machinery that people force into their biological mechanism, seems to be unstoppable; and the more it goes on, the more we need to stand aside and distance ourselves from this rush towards destruction.

Read the complete interview.

Photograph by Benedict Johnson

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology