We know what we like and we like what we know

Trish Scott, 3rd year CCW PhD student, and Dan Scott, 3rd year LCC PhD student with CriSAP, have just reached the end of an Ideas Test funded collaboration entitled We know what we like and we like what we know, an experimental public art project working with individual households to explore the dynamics of art production and reception in domestic space.

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Bringing together their research interests on dialogical encounters and the archive (Trish) and artistic listening strategies (Dan) the project involved setting up a situation in which three households in Swale, Kent selected and co-commissioned a contemporary artist to make a bespoke work for their home. Participating households were Tracy & Chris Smith, Rowan & Luke Atkins and Judy van Laar. Participating artists, selected by housholders from an open call, were Alicja Rogalska, Alastair Levy and Rosalie Schweiker. The production process was underpinned by constant discussion and negotiation, with artists responding to residents own interests and ideas on art. In bringing artists, and (non) audiences together in this way Scott and Scott used a dialogical approach to explore ideas around art and taste, mediated via the making of particular works.

As well as unearthing opinions and building understanding between artists and specific audiences, the project tested an alternative model of artistic production and validation. Whereas in much contemporary art audiences are consumers of artistic output, in We know what we like and we like what we know audiences were simultanesouly the project’s commissioners and curators. Furthemore, in shifting the locus of work from the gallery to the home, and working with participants who had expressed dis-interest in and/or alienation from contemporary art, the project challenged the conventional channels of art production and reception offering a unique critique of the mainstream art world from the perspective of those outside it.

We know what we like and we like what we know builds on works such as Colin Painter’s Close Encounters of the Art Kind (2002), Walker & Bromwich’s The Art Lending Library (2012) and Contemporary Art Society North’s Art in the home (2013). However, rather than being about existing artworks and/or existing art audiences the project involved the creation of new work for the home as “directed” by homeowners themselves. Whilst contemporary art has long been present in the home of wealthy collectors this project tested an alternative model of commissioning, predicated on very different economic principles to those usually at work in the art market, generating encounters unlikely to otherwise occur.

As well as the three artworks produced, the process was documented by Scott and Scott resulting in a publication launched during the Whitstable Biennale in June 2014, and three audio documents most recently broadcast by BRFM Community Radio in Sheppey in August 2014.

Trish Scott said: “Dan and I live in Swale, Kent, which supposedly has one of the lowest rates of involvement in the arts countrywide. Part of our motivation in undertaking this project was to get under the rhetoric (often expressed in terms of numbers and categories) characterising discourse on engagement in the arts and the widening participation agenda. We wanted to see what the impact of setting up a direct interface between artists and (non) audiences would be, and what this would reveal about residents’ interests in art and artists’ ability to adapt their work to meet specific requirements, thereby exploring the issue of “engagement” both qualitatively and through practice. We were interested in how works could be “listened” into existence and how the conversations occuring could be documented, in their full complexity, for a secondary audience. We weren’t trying to do away with the notion of “audience” as some collaborative art forms do, but experiment with creating audience-led work. The project operates at different levels and for different audiences, and we’re hoping to develop it further in the future, testing out this model in other contexts.”

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Trish went on to say, “This is the latest in a number of projects I’ve been working on which entail setting up particular situational encounters and conversations as material for artwork. My PhD examines the intersection of events, documents and archives with a particular focus on the tension between the “archive” and the “repertoire” (Diana Taylor) and how performative processes “remain” over time and are encountered by secondary audiences.”

Full details of the project and its outcomes can be found on the We know what we like (and we like what we know) website.

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