7

As the CPP projects are essentially about geographically re-siting cultural projects away from the ‘centres’ and into these different locations, I want to briefly reflect on the concept of ‘location’ and how this can be problematic when considering the difference between sites of ‘cultural production’ and  sites of ‘cultural management’. The Institution commissioned twelve projects, all within communities in the North of England. My specific project was to be based in a small suburb near a large Northern city. This suburb is a socio-economically complex area, with its fair share of social problems including drugs-and-alcohol addiction, an extensive amount of petty crime and – most notably –racial segregation. The nearby city itself has a much higher than average BME/migrant population, but the remitted area for the project is almost entirely white. While traditionally staunchly Labour voting, the past 30 year have seen a rise of far-right support, including English Defence League (EDL) and British Nationalist Party (BNP). Poverty is also a major issue within the suburb.(16)

The Institution, however, did not have an office or a location within that community. Their offices were an hour away, in another city. They were, in other words, not on-site, neither physically nor ideologically. Nor did they have any preexisting relationships with this town. The location of my project, I later discovered, had been chosen because The Institution had made a general call-out in 2015, asking any local community wishing to host an artist-in-residence to get in touch. A person from that suburb was apparently the only one who replied and expressed an interest. She was employed by the local Community Volunteer Service (CVS), and felt the project would be an excellent contribution to the community. The Institution and the CVS met and agreed, and it was suggested the artist (me) be based in the local Community Centre, and use that as working site. It was explained to me when I started the project that this was a win-win situation: the Community Centre could host the artist, thus ‘activating’ the site with art, and The Institution felt this ideologically backed up the concepts behind the CPP policies. In this regard, however, The Institution – having no prior relationship with the site, nor a location from which to develop relationships – could be argued to have outsourced the project to the Community Centre.

 

16 – I would normally provide references to back up these claims, but fear they would thereby easily identify the city, and thus my project, and then The Institution. You will just have to trust me.

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