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

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Feb 11 13:52:57 CET 2010


Hi Simon & all,

The other thing worth of note here is that the article was published on 
Mute. Which of course, is a perceptive tactic in its own right.

JJ Charlesworth's article is excellently executed. And it skillfully 
manages to take us through various processes, stages and periods of 
governance regarding the ICA, during Eshen's reign. So, in regard to 
journalists, I think we may have to be careful in tarring them all with 
the same brush. Just like we need to be careful of tarring all academics 
with the same brush. Charlesworth has done us all a very positive favour 
here in declaring a big problem which needs immediate discourse and 
perhaps, action in some way - not sure what yet.

The other thing is that, even if Eshen does try to appropriate media 
art's more tactical approaches, I doubt whether he will be able to agree 
with its less top-down processes of collaboration. Much of it quite 
naturally comes from a grass roots desire to create alternative contexts 
on their own terms. Whether it be part of the art or not. I would 
imagine his version would be at best superficial, and less ground 
breaking - but then, perhaps this is what plays in the hands of creative 
industry and social networking corporation desires. Although, judging by 
Charlesworth's article, it seems as though his reliance on high profile 
celebrity and creative industry reliance has left him burnt, as well as 
those poor people who are now losing their jobs at the ICA.

Rewinding slightly back to the notion of Eshen suddenly appropriating 
media art strategies or tactics to further his own status, career or 
future. It would be radical or at least, much more interesting if others 
were to take over the ICA in order to re-invent it, rather than have him 
continue as its captain. He reminds me of Herman Melville's, stubborn 
Captain Ahab, blindly chasing Moby Dick whilst everyone else suffers the 
consequences of his decisions and actions. He does need to go, it needs 
a more authentic and real 'vision' to get it back into the contemporary 
world, being critical is also about knowing when it's no longer worth 
flogging a dead horse. And perhaps, ICA is not the dead horse - if we 
think back to its history, but rather those who rule it right now, they 
are killing its brilliant history.

I sometimes wonder if ourselves ran the ICA what it that look like - we 
would include so many others, such as a rotating curators, collective 
decision making - a consensus board, as well as being connected to the 
communities that we are already part of and have been for years, that we 
could offer so much more than it is now - the artists are the source.

The current representatives of our art culture are so lacking in edge or 
recognition of what it is really going on, I know that dreaming such a 
silly thing is stupid, but we can carry on building our own contexts on 
our own mutual terms anyway...

marc


 > The irony is that if Eshun does appropriate such tactics from groups 
that have been active in new media he will be doing so shortly after he 
closed down the department (media and live art) within the ICA that had 
the remit to deal with such work. That is a tragi-irony for all involved 
and a dramatic example of exploitative hypocrisy on his behalf.
 >
 > Best
 >
 > Simon
 >
 >
 > Simon Biggs
 >
 > s.biggs@ eca .ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk  Skype: simonbiggsuk  
http://www.littlepig.org.uk/
 > 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: marc garrett <marc.garrett at furtherfield.org>
 > Reply-To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity 
<netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
 > Date: Thu, 11 Feb 2010 10:57:05 +0000
 > To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity 
<netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
 > Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] Crisis at the ICA: Ekow Eshun¹s 
Experiment in Deinstitutionalisation
 >
 > 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 
'radicalism'. The power positions remain in place but the interface 
changes, just another brand to sell... marc 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. Best Simon Simon 
Biggs s.biggs@ eca .ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk  Skype: simonbiggsuk   
http://www.littlepig.org.uk/ 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. ja http://vispo.com 
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 >
 > Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, 
number SC009201
 >
 >
 >
 >
 > _______________________________________________
 > NetBehaviour mailing list
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