[NetBehaviour] Crisis at the ICA: Ekow Eshun¹s Experiment in Deinstitutionalisation

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Feb 11 11:57:05 CET 2010

Hi Simon,

I agree with what you are saying here. As usual, the artists are pushed 
aside like 'economical fodder' for the patriarch, in this case by a 
ego-centric, journalist who is onto a good thing through, exploiting 
sensational contexts whilst promoting his own position/status. The other 
dodgey thing here is that Eshun, is actually quite high up within the 
Arts Council himself, making decisions as a high-profile board member. 
This surely has an influence on the outcome regarding how much support 
they get from the Arts Council...

Another aspect of the article I found curious was Eshen's idea of 
exploring new territories which may relate to our own way of working, 
some of the processes he has proposed seem to be influenced by media art 
culture's own strategies in survival, as well as similar to festival 
behaviours - I fear that all it means is that he will steal many of the 
contemporary/imaginative ideas as part of a strategy to put himself and 
perhaps like Nicolas Bourriaud's top-down related solution for moving 
forward. Thus, exploiting the ideas of smaller groups like ourselves to 
promote those who are already considered safe or viable items for 
profile rather than content or 'real' change. So, supporting a 
modernist, capitalist and neo-liberalism agenda in the guise of supposed 

The power positions remain in place but the interface changes, just 
another brand to sell...


The main point of the article is that Eshun has sought to agrandise 
himself and his position as a pundit in the media at the expense of the 
ICA and the artists that support it and who are in turn meant to be 
supported by it. This is what happens when journalists take over 
cultural organisations. A bit like bankers taking over industries. The 
new BBC arts blogger Will Gompertz was recently the focus of some 
alarmed discussion as it became clear BBC Online has appointed a 
journalist and marketing person as their key arts commentator. It could 
be assumed that the UK arts scene is being taken over by such people. 
The ICA was the original “artists’ run” space in the UK but has somehow, 
over the past 60 years, transformed into a Hela cell. Perhaps it needs a 
little chemotherapy – but I don’t think Eshun is part of the cure. For 
him the art is irrelevant.



Simon Biggs

s.biggs@ eca .ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk  Skype: simonbiggsuk  
Research Professor   edinburgh college of art   http://www. eca .ac.uk/
C reative I nterdisciplinary R esearch into C o L laborative E 
nvironments  http://www. eca .ac.uk/circle/
E lectronic L iterature as a M odel of C reativity and I nnovation in P 
ractice  http://www.elmcip.net/

From: Jim Andrews <jim at vispo.com>
Reply-To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity 
<netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 2010 16:26:06 -0800
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity 
<netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] Crisis at the ICA: Ekow Eshun’s Experiment 
in Deinstitutionalisation

i'm only very remotely interested in what's going on at the ica, but the
article was interesting in its picture of the relation of art and artists to
the ica and, by extension, many other institutions of art.

in the picture charlesworth draws, the art itself is irrelevant compared
with the buzz, and the buzz not even about the art as the moment in which
the art is situated.


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