Theme: TVSS as a curatorial/commissioning model
Host(s): Karen Guthrie (Artist/curator TVSS) Zoe Walker (TVSS artist)
Guests: Malcolm Dickson (Streetlevel Photoworks, Glasgow), Claire Smith (Shipley Art Gallery), Alessandro Vincentelli (Northern Arts)

KG and ZW initiated a discussion on how artist-centred TVSS was, particularly regarding inclusive decision-making throughout vis a vis fundraising (eg rejecting corporate sponsorship), education / marketing as well as the overall priority consistently shown to realising the selected artists’ ambitions. KG stated that whilst this came at a cost to the TVSS management team as it made some decisions very difficult, it was a core aspect of what TVSS aimed to do and the feedback from artists affirmed the value of always keeping them in the picture.
ZW cited examples of other projects she had been in where this had also happened and others where she had felt kept in the dark by curators to a negative degree.

AV responded by outlining his training as a curator both academically and in galleries where he was encouraged to ‘protect’ artists from what didn’t concern them - eg fundraising, and this was many curators belief - to keep artists focused on ‘creativity’. As artists themselves KG & NP didn’t feel this hallowed reverence for artists (!) and treated the artists as they would want to be treated - ie. to be fully informed on what decisons werre being made which would impact on them and how.
The disussion on the artist ‘challenging’ the gallery to facilitate ever more outlandish plans followed (see BALTIC!), with a brief detour into discussing artistic ego and how curators do or could respond to this!

MD outlined his own beginnings as a curator/faciliator had originated in his practice, but that this (like many curators) had been sidelined in a bid to become more involved with others’ careers and not to appear self-promoting. He also highlighted that (maybe unlike England?) public funded Scottish galleries were invariably run by practicing artists. Everyone had a short moan about funding and bureacracy.
CS mentioned that the curator can feel like a cog in a large, slow institution and can feel as if they have limited power, so its sometimes best to be candid with an artists working with you, as regards these limitations etc.

AV cited many interesting projects which could be seen as precedents for TVSS regionally, nationally and internationally - to name a few VANE (Newcastle), the 4 cities project, and the Liverpool Biennale, also discussing TVSS as a site-specific work rather than an exclusively ‘new media’ project.
KG mentioned Art Transpennine.

The group also discussed normal models of artist-led practice being the big group show, maybe in a warehouse or similar space. The group dicussed how territorial these often were, small work being dwarfed by big as artists try to demarcate their area - TVSS gave the same ‘size’ of ‘window’ for projects big or small via the webcast, meaning the sense of unity in the project existed despite the diversity of types of work. Perhaps the media (ie Streaming) enabled this but it also helped that the autonomy of the artists was powerful and united.

Producing / exhibiting work regionally was raised - the difficulty of presenting new ideas / art forms to audiences outside cities - but also the openness of these communities often, and how this was harnessed by TVSS’ accessible marketing (stickers etc) and by its integral education / access projects by artists like Jessica and Zoe & Neil. It was acknowledged that ease of funding regionally played a part in TVSS being able to realise its aims to produce a project which viewers anywhere could feel part of. There were problems with many regional access venues but this could be said for urban ones too.
AV mentioned Artangel’s Bethan Huws’ commission using Latvian (?) singers on the Northumberland coast, but that it ‘bussed’ in its London audience and perhaps (unlike TVSS) didn’t care too much about building a local audience. It was acknowledged that the established koudos of Artangel was enviable as it drew committed audiences as well as artists to it, and vis a vis talking about becoming (or resisiting becoming) an ‘institution’ it was agreed that certain power can only come from a long-established cultural identity or brand - but that TVSS was independent and didn’t want to annex itself to an existing one.

ZW in conversation with Sarah Cook at dinner talked about organisational aesthetics and ethics connected to the
said aesthetic. ie should a project have a particular overall look developed with a curator or project leader in consultation with the artists involved in the project. How should we decide on this look or image and can this have a negative as well as positive effect.

They also discussed the possibility for projects that did not end on the day that a project became public but rather started then like Chris Helsons ‘The Act’ - How do we create a process or structure to support that way of working?

Also discussed was their best / worst curatorial experiences well rather Sarah asked Zoe her’s- we won,t put these in to writing and name names but we came to the conclusion that an inclusive approach was probably a better curatorial model along the lines of TVSS where the artist involved is made aware of why and how certain curatorial decisions are being made (funding neccessity eg) . In short we were comparing the protective traditional curator role to ‘shield’ the artist fromall the things that ‘don,t need to know’ verses the curator having to take on perhaps more creative role and admit that they are in fact a kind of artist too - which is better / worst hmmm? ZW thought it all just comes down to having good communication skills at the end of the day, making things cleardiscussing all the right issues.

Talking about a more traditional project model ZW & SC flagged up that often having worked for a long time on a project you have handed over
responsibility entirely to someone else to market your project. Often in ZW’s experience this doesn’t happen and you are left wondering who was meant to be promoting the work. This is something that was an integral part of SSTV from the start and has resulted in making the project high profile, and all the artists had a say in how it was marketed.

Karen Guthrie & Zoe Walker - August 2002