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A-N Professional Development Bursary / NEW YORK

During May I shall be attending Open Engagement (OE) in New York thanks to an a-n Artist Bursary. It’s an annual artist-led conference (in its 10th year) dedicated to expanding the dialogue around, and creating a site of care for, the field of socially engaged art. The conference highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organisations working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time.

Why is the opportunity provided by the bursary crucial to your artistic and professional development?

It will place within a research-lead, conference-based, international environment the central tenets of my practice over the last 20 years. Namely an exploration into the politics of material values within socio-economic frameworks. I often question financial imperatives, environmental impacts and the disjuncture inherent within our ‘relationship’ between the two. The idea that society re- iterates dialogues about the dialogues that are perpetually represented provides a ‘test-bed’ for continued interrogation within my work. Set against these frameworks Open Engagement 2018 takes SUSTAINABILITY as its core theme; ranging from artists livelihoods and socio-economic paradigms to political, institutional and environmental urgencies. Attending the conference will offer an unprecedented access to global and local thinkers, to change-agents and artist-lead initiatives and to key-note presentations from Lucy Lippard (Feminism, dematerialization, ‘cultural amnesia as political strategy’) and Mel Chin (cross-cultural aesthetics, complexity, multi-disciplinarity). It will allow me to question how arts practice can encourage communities, as well as individuals, to critically review their existing ‘visual cognitive strategies’ whilst developing new methodological approaches ‘that dislodge discipline boundaries, override media conventions, and disrupt political interests’ (Sullivan, 2012), whilst also exploring work that shifts the focus from objects to relationships (Capra, 1996, p28). The conference will prompt me to not only question my own personal sustainability but my global framework of activity as a practitioner. It will provide a location to consider systems thinking, ecological perturbation and the disjuncture inherent between profit & value in potentially resource scarce environments.

I intend to focus on the following questions: ‘How can we ensure that an ethics of environmental symbiosis and equality amongst all peoples is not only sustained, but updated and informed by future generations?’


Open Engagement 2018 — SUSTAINABILITY will take place May 11–13, 2018 at the Queens Museum and a constellation of sites across New York City. This year’s conference will feature presenters including Lucy Lippard and Mel Chin.

Posted by: Robyn Woolston

Date: 10 April 2018

A-N Professional Development Bursary / NEW YORK