This set of film resources are designed to complement the repository of practical information and tools for artists working in social practice contexts.
Each film consists of an interview with one of six artists currently leading in the field in Ireland; Marie Brett, George Higgs, Mike McLoughlin, Deirdre O’Mahony, Seoidín O’Sullivan and Kate Wilson. The artists provide insight into the nuts and bolts of this type of artistic practice through examples from their own portfolios. Topics covered range from relationship-building, sourcing funding, and self advocacy to risk assessment, representation issues, evaluation methods and more.
The film resources, filmed and edited by Róisín Loughrey, are an outcome of an online professional development webinar series hosted by Leitrim County and Cork City Arts Offices in 2020-2021.
GEORGE HIGGS - Ideas and Expectations
George Higgs discusses how interest in a specific experience can motivate initial connections that might develop into a long-term creative exchange. His description of a decade-long engagement with various groups within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community presents a case study in social engagement. It is one that inspired a body of work that became the subject of his PhD in 2018, shaping his practice as it evolved. George speaks candidly about working through ideas with community groups and managing expectations around the artist’s role. His insight touches on challenging preconceptions, both an artist’s and those they work with. He outlines the importance of communicating interests clearly, establishing important boundaries and setting realistic expectations. Throughout, he shares reflections on finding a balance between ambition.
MICHAEL McLOUGHLIN - Representation and Remuneration
Michael McLoughlin highlights respect for autonomy that is integral to working closely with groups drawing on his experience producing Ideal Homes (2001) and Cumann (2016). His delves into ethical issues regarding consent, representation, intellectual property, recognition and remuneration. He describes the value of being open to what might emerge, and allowing time to do so, when artistic interests are found to be at odds with the social priorities of participants. Micheal also talks about placemaking in relation to his approach to his artistic practice in socially engaged contexts.
DEIRDRE O'MAHONY - Authorship and Reflection
Deirdre O’Mahony reflects critically and frankly on power dynamics in socially engaged projects using X-Po as a case study. She describes the process through which she activated this particular space and engaged different publics, enabling the development of a model of shared ownership and self-organising. She speaks candidly about communication in reference to acknowledgement. In her analysis, she outlines the value of reflective approaches in artist practice and the inherent challenges in group-based work.
SEOIDÍN O’SULLIVAN - Sustainment and Support
Seoidín describes how a course in Development Studies and involvement in activist discourse ever since have informed her art and the methods of her practice through the framing of a critical ecological land practice. She offers advice on how to develop projects and source support to do so whilst maintaining the integrity of the projects drawing on her own experience through projects like ‘Hard/Graft’ and ‘PLOTS’. Seoidín critiques ‘sustainability’ and counters the issues it represents with the concept of sustainment. She highlights the importance of care, both collective care and self-care, in social practice for the benefit of practitioners, participants and the work itself. Peer support is key to this type of practice.
KATE WILSON - Collaboration and Evaluation
Kate Wilson provides an insight into what motivates her transdisciplinary approach. She describes how she engages collaborators in non-representational, co-creation processes that defy conventional value systems in order to discover individual authenticity. She examines the value of reflective process as an integral element in artistic practice, especially within socially engaged projects. She outlines the importance of integrated evaluation methods that are open ended and aligned to the creative process which can assist in the fulfillment of a projects’ potential. Kate also touches on mentorship and other methods of supporting the artistic process including simply asking for support and delegating.
MARIE BRETT - Curiosity and Understanding
Marie Brett outlines her approach to ambitious projects through careful planning and project management, navigating sensitivities, assessing risks and finding new creative opportunities along the way. Lead by a question or ‘unfinished business’, she takes time to research and develop work over extended periods, engaging communities in ways reflective of their different circumstances. This approach is reflected in the works from her portfolio that she presents as examples ‘Yes But Do you Care?’ 2020-2021 and ‘Torpedo’ 2017.
Marie provides a rare and invaluable insight into the practicalities of delivering art works of extraordinary quality and deep meaningfulness for the communities, collaborators and audiences she engages.