we know what we like & we like what we know
We know what we like and we like what we know We know what we like and we like what we know is an experimental public art project working with individual artists and households to explore the dynamics of art production and reception in domestic space. Piloted in Kent between January and March 2014 and funded by Ideas Test, the project involved three households in Swale selecting and co-commissioning an artist to make a bespoke piece of work for their homes. The artists chosen by the households (from an open call to which more than 80 artists applied) were Alicja Rogalska, Alastair Levy and Rosalie Schweiker. The households were located in Minster (Tracy & Chris Smith), Lower Halstow (Rowan & Luke Atkins) and Faversham (Judy van Laar) and participants had varying prior experiences of contemporary art. Our aim in instigating the project was to facilitate a shift in artistaudience understanding by working in a discursive and intimate way with particular individuals rather than a nondescript mass public. By setting three conversations in motion we wanted to test the impact of a direct artist-audience interface on the production and reception of artwork. For many viewing contemporary artwork in a gallery is an alienating experience and this is often compounded by the production of artworks being very separate from their reception. Artists frequently make work with an assumed audience in mind but rarely get to find out what audiences really think of their work. Engagement sometimes becomes a matter of numbers rather than meaningful interaction. Moreover, contemporary artists and artwork can become the subject of critiques from disapproving sections of the public that are often based on stereotypes rather than informed opinion.
We know what we like and we like what we know is concerned with challenging these positions and overturning the usual dynamics of production and reception through bringing artists and potential audiences together to create new work underpinned by dialogue, exchange and negotiation. The project is predicated on householders simultaneously occupying the roles of commissioner, curator and audience. Through setting up a series of conversations each centred around the making of a work, we wanted to provide an opportunity for audiences to engage with contemporary art in new ways and for artists to better understand their audiences. We know what we like and we like what we know stems from our interest in site specific art practice, and the issue of “engagement” within contemporary art discourse. The project builds on work 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 focusing on the novelty of situating existing contemporary art in domestic space or working solely with existing art audiences, the project focuses on the creation of new work for the home as “directed” by homeowners themselves. Whilst contemporary art has long been present in the homes of wealthy collectors, We know what we like and we like what we know tests out an alternative model of commissioning, predicated on very different economic principles to those usually at work in the art market, generating encounters that couldn’t otherwise occur. In setting up the project and its parameters we didn’t know what would get produced, or how: Would artists and householders find it easy to agree a way forward? Would artists feel inspired or compromised working so closely with a known audience? Would householders like the work? What discussions would be triggered by the process? And what would the lasting impact be for both parties? 2
Our roles in this project have been as designers, facilitators, documenters and listeners. The interviews which follow are not intended to be authoritative or exhaustive but instead provide an introduction to whatâ€™s occurred and a prompt for further discussion. Trish and Dan Scott Lead artists We know what we like and we like what we know May 2014
Tracy & Chris Smith and Alicja Rogalska Tracy and Chris Smith, from Minster selected artist Alicja Rogalska to work with. Tracy and Chris found out about the project via the local newspaper, and wrote to us saying, “We love our road, location and our home. We are near the beach and have lovely views of the estuary and having a bespoke piece of work in our house will complete everything.” They decided on Alicja because she seemed so versatile and they felt she could probably turn her hand to anything. Although Tracy and Chris have four children they wanted the project to reflect their identity as a couple, and wanted to use the project to spend a bit of time focusing on themselves. They expressed certain parameters in terms of the work’s content, durability and portability which led to Alicja creating a piece for their hallway which they could customise further.
Trish: What drew you to this project?
Alicja: I was attracted by making work for a specific family because as an artist you mostly make work for an imagined audience. I’ve been trying to escape the idea of a universal art by creating works or projects that have very specific audiences in mind. But normally commissions like these are for an art gallery or institution. Even if they happen outside of that context they are not really for the people you make the artwork with. This project is different and I like its generosity. It’s exciting but also scary. Chris: It was scary for us too. I would never have thought that anyone would entertain doing something like this for us. We chose you but you could have walked in and gone “I can’t work with this family!” Trish: What was your experience of working together?
Chris: Things just seemed to gel. Before you knew it we were sitting here talking about art, life and this, that and the other. It was like talking to someone we’d known for a long time and it felt really comfortable. If we’d seen you in an art gallery we would never have approached you. But at the end of the day, you’re a person like everyone else. We’re all the same. It’s just that somewhere along the line someone’s given us labels. But, as we’ve found here, if you get beyond labels you find a friend. Alicja: I come from a family of non-artists (people that are not professionally doing art) and I think most artists do. It’s not such a long time ago that I didn’t have much experience of art. So as an artist you’re not that different. You develop a different way of thinking and doing, a language of sorts, but that doesn’t make you an alien. But there are these stereotypes and they happen in every profession. Actually I don’t think the barrier was that strong in our case, it was more the not knowing. Chris: This has certainly got people talking. I’ve got a couple of friends at work who’ve said, “That Chris. He’s so posh. First he moves to Minster and now he’s got his own artist!” And there’s the banter that goes on with all of that. And to me that’s a good thing. You’ll always get some people who think that artists are people 6
who can’t be bothered to go to work so this gets people thinking differently. Trish: What was your process?
Tracy: You brought loads of books round and we sat and went through the books and talked about things we liked and didn’t like, and why we didn’t like them. And then we played with words that we wanted the work to be: colours, materials…
Alicja: ...And what you wanted the artwork to do. What you wanted it to make you feel and think about. So both abstract aspects and formal aspects. I then spent a long time looking at the words and my notes from our meetings and thinking about how these could be combined into one piece. At the start we also discussed an idea of spreading some gossip or of me taking care of the kids and you going away for a weekend, as a performance. Chris: Yes, we were going to book ourselves into a fully exclusive hotel in London and live it up for the weekend while you looked after the kids, on your budget! But really we wanted something that would last. Something that we could leave to the children.
Alicja: It was the most frightening thing when you said you wanted the piece to outlive you. A lot of my work is made out of cheap materials, or it’s video, performance or something situational. Sometimes I make objects but I never think about how they’ll last. And suddenly I’ve had to think about longevity. We had these profound conversations about mortality and the end of time. Going on the train and looking at the landscape and seeing it go past then made me think about blurriness, and how memory works, and I started playing with your photos. The little hints you gave me started to grow….
When I made the image I realised it reminded me of layers of earth, and then I remembered I’d seen a stone that looked just like that, and I thought why not have the two together to represent human time and geological time. So my fear of creating something lasting became part of the actual content of the work. 8
Trish: So what is the work?
Alicja: The artwork is the print and the crystal slice and the fact that they’re floating and lit somehow. I wanted you to be able to decide the display. You were talking about re-decorating and painting the walls, and creating bespoke lighting, so that made me think I should make something that could be put up but that could be customised. Chris: I like that. I don’t like things being forced on me and you’ve given us flexibility. We don’t know what that wall will look like yet. I like metal and stuff like that and my daughter’s doing welding, so she might make a different frame. Alicja: That would be my material of preference. So we agree! Trish: And how do you feel about the artwork?
Tracy: When you first showed us the work on your computer we thought, “Oh yes. Nice coloured lines.” We didn’t have a clue. But then when you said it was our wedding photo we looked closer and now I can see us in it. It quite blew us away. Chris: Originally we said we wanted a work about us two, but we also didn’t want it about us two. Basically we didn’t want a picture of us put on the wall. And that’s what you’ve done. You’ve got us but not us. So good on you. Trish: What was your experience of art before this project?
Tracy: We went to galleries when we were at school. But here on Sheppey there isn’t anything really. We went to Margate when the Turner gallery opened up. Chris: To be honest I couldn’t get anything out of it. I don’t think we understood the work inside it. There were three or four pictures in this massive building and we just walked out and went, “What was that?” That downed our expectations of what art was like. Trish: What will you take away from being part of this project?
Alicja: It’s made me realise I could do more projects like this and even work with my own family. 10
Tracy: For us it’s changed our view of art. Before this we thought art was just paintings on a wall. So when we read about the project in the paper, and put our names forward, we thought someone would come along and paint a picture of the house. Now we’ve met you we realise that that there are so many different options.
Chris: Also art is everywhere. That’s another thing. You look at things in a different light all of a sudden. I’d like to say I’m going to go and do art but I’m not artistic in that sense. But I’d like to be a lot more involved along the line. So now when we’re in an area where there’s an art gallery, we’ll take the time to wander in and will feel more comfortable approaching people. Tracy: Also we won’t just go to B&Q and pick the first painting we see that everyone’s got. We’ll look further afield. We’ll look beyond what we’re programmed into buying, doing and thinking.
Rowan & Luke Atkins and Alastair Levy Rowan and Luke Atkins selected artist Alastair Levy to work with. Rowan and Luke had just bought their first home in the village of Lower Halstow. With the exception of a seascape in the dining room and some paintings by their two year old son their walls were completely bare and they described it as being a totally blank canvas. They werenâ€™t interested in having a work made about themselves but liked Alastairâ€™s style and the materials he worked with and wanted to explore the different ideas he had in development. They ended up choosing three wall based pieces which Alastair installed in different areas of the house that from a certain vantage point could all be seen together.
Dan: Why did you want to get involved in this project?
Alastair: A lot of the work I make is bound up with domestic/ industrial materials so the opportunity to make work for a household was really interesting. I have sold work to collectors and collections but you never see what happens to the work as everything’s done via a third party. You can’t visualise where the work ends up, and you don’t work with the collector, so normally the situation is very different. I really liked the fact that this would be a dialogue. Luke: For us this seemed like a great chance to have something different. I never could have imagined working with an artist or how you’d go about doing it. Unless you have a lot of money! I mean where do you go to find an artist? It’s not like you can open the Yellow Pages or something? Dan: What were your thoughts at the start of the project?
Luke: We knew what we really didn’t want to do. We weren’t interested in any kind of performance or us being the focus point. And we didn’t want anything too bold. We wanted something subtle. Something we could live with. And something physical that we could see at all times. Rowan: And something safe that a toddler couldn’t rip up. Dan: How did the process unfold?
Luke: You brought down your portfolio, and we spotted some bits out of that. The premise originally was to use more stuff that was in our home. But we’d just moved and had nothing. We had some remnants of stuff that didn’t mean anything to us that had been left by the previous tenants. But we didn’t really want to work with any of those thing. You’d also done extensive research on the area including on the football guy…. Alastair: Derek Hales. He was the most famous export of Lower Halstow. I bought a programme for his testimonial match on eBay. My initial thoughts around that were to engineer some kind of situation where all of us met with him.
Luke: That could have been good if either of us were half bothered about football but we had no interest at all. We don’t have a sports link. The power adapter for the iMac was more of a link for us.
Alastair: That was at the first meeting where I had an image of a component for an iMac computer. It was on eBay. It’s part of a project where I’m asking eBay sellers for high-res images of their sale items. Dan: And how did things develop?
Alastair: Originally we were talking about having an assemblage of things in this corner. Then we were having a Skype chat and I couldn’t get these things to sit together so I suggested that we worked with them as individual objects and you were happy with that. Dan: Can you talk us through the final work?
Alastair: This piece is called “Phil” and that is the name of the 16
painter/decorator who gave me the dust sheet. It’s accumulated different colours and paints – so black, blue, white, but also footprints and dirt. So it’s quite grimy in a way. If you didn’t know what it was you might think it was an abstract painting. And this is a cushion cover from a rubbish dump in Gdansk. It’s been around in my studio for months. I’ve been experimenting with ways of bringing it in to groupings of objects and you guys just liked it.
Rowan: I really, really like that one. I thought it would go really well with the canvas. To have a block colour next to it. And the size difference I thought would work. I thought if we could have each of the elements in a space where from one point in the room we could see all three pieces, that could work quite well with the different sizes, colours, and objects. Luke: I like that they’re all completely different.
Rowan: They’re all completely different but they work well together.
Alastair: My one worry at the beginning was that it would be difficult to come to a place where we were all happy. But I think we’ve done that reasonably successfully.
Rowan: We tried to keep an open mind about things. I was really interested in the process it would take to create something. I’d hoped that it would be collaborative and that we would bounce ideas off each other, but then I don’t really know anything about art so I wasn’t sure how much I could input. But it’s been great. Dan: Can you say a little more about your previous experience of art? Luke: Art has not been our background at all. I had no real concept of art and felt like a real novice. Musically I’ve done stuff and that’s what I understand. Rowan: I’ve always been interested in art. But between us going to an art gallery or going to a gig, we’ve always gone to gigs.
Luke: And in terms of the house we’ve always just gone and bought (to sound really crass with it) the generic thing from Homebase or the mass line stuff which probably 50 million people have all got in their homes. And when we thought about buying a house and going
and doing all that again, we just thought why? And that’s why we hadn’t rushed into anything. Dan: Did you have any preconceptions of art and artists before the project started? Luke: I did have a preconception about artists. I thought it was “I’ll do it my way” and (from TV and media) perhaps a snootiness and closed off approach. I can say that’s not my view now. So you’ve changed that.
Alastair: I often read the comments section after articles and reviews in the Guardian and I’m always amazed by the bitterness that so many people have for contemporary art and artists. People think artists are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes and fool people or con people. There’s a lot of suspicion around art with the general public. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be, but you guys have been really open. Rowan: Well you’re a normal guy Alastair. You’re not any different to us. You haven’t pushed anything overly hard and you’ve taken what we wanted onboard. Dan: Have you gained anything from this experience?
Luke: Now we’ve got some things up it does make me feel like something’s missing. I didn’t expect to feel like that. I personally (and you’ll be shocked at this) would now like to go and see more contemporary art because I never have done. My experience has been the National Gallery but nothing really contemporary. I’d be open to trying some different things…. But maybe that just comes with being older!
Judy van Laar and Rosalie Schweiker Judy van Laar, from Faversham, selected artist Rosalie Schweiker to work with. Judy lives in a studio flat and didn’t have space for anything big but was really interested in the process of working with an artist and seeing where the journey led. Judy was drawn to Rosalie’s approach and her humour and anticipated that whatever else happened they’d “have a giggle”. Neither Judy or Rosalie were interested in making an object and ended up working collaboratively on a process which involved Judy having a clear-out, followed by a bootfair. They used the money generated to commission another artist to make a further work so establishing The Judy Collection, a project that will continue indefinitely with each participating artist fundraising for the next work in the collection.
Dan: Can you talk us through what you’ve been doing today at Faversham market?
Judy: We gathered lots of things that I’d had in my loft and around my flat that I no longer needed or wanted and today we’ve been raising money by selling these things (as you would in a normal boot fair) but with an extra little twist: There was a sign on our stall saying, “your purchase today will fund a new art collection”. Rosalie: We’ve been selling since half-seven this morning. We’ve made £94.04 (including one donation) and with the money made today we’re starting The Judy Collection. Dan: How did people respond?
Rosalie: People seemed to react as if it it was a completely normal thing to do: if you want to start an art collection you sell your old stuff! Dan: What happens now?
Rosalie: I’m going to draw up a shortlist of artists and do a little report on them and analyse them and see which ones are worth investing in. We’ll then commission another artist to make a work to add to the collection. Judy: Rosalie is my new broker….
Rosalie: …And Judy is now a collector. And £94.04 is our budget.
Rosalie: Each future artist will have to do something which generates money to continue the collection. Dan: What’s your thinking behind this approach?
Rosalie: I really wanted to come up with a structure that would generate more art rather than it being a finished thing. I also wanted to address the question of who funds art. We talked a lot about this. It was very funny because a local artist came by today and we explained the project to her, and she suddenly started treating Judy like a proper collector and gave her her card, as in, “here’s my card in case you want to commission me with the money you make.” 22
Judy: We might have to make up a whole new persona for me. I serve this lady on a regular basis in Boots, and she’s never seen me in this light before. Now I’ll have to say “I’m just volunteering at Boots to keep my feet on the ground!” Dan: How did you reach this point?
Rosalie: We were emailing quite a lot in the beginning. I didn’t know what Judy liked so we had a conversation about this. You might have wanted me to make a portrait, which would have been a terrible idea as I can’t paint. And then we got on to talking about Martha Rosler and car boot sales, and the stories that you have with objects, and the framing of art at home, and objects at home, and what distinguishes art objects from other objects in the home.
Judy: And who decides what’s what? Whether something I choose to collect is art or not. Rosalie: And you were sure that you didn’t want me to make anything for your flat as you said it was already full. We went back and forth and I figured Judy would be good at selling stuff because of working at Boots. She can talk to anyone and make everyone feel so welcome. And I thought it would be nice if the process was really collaborative. So doing a car boot seemed like a really good idea. Rosalie: And then just a couple of days ago there was the idea to make this the start of a collection.
Judy: That was the final twist. And that completed the circle. It’s something that can keep going and going. Dan: What drew you to this project in the first place?
Rosalie: I was drawn to this project because it was a unique opportunity to make work for just one person, something you can’t usually do. Normally you’re either making work for yourself or a big anonymous public that you don’t really know. That’s the thing I thought was really unusual and interesting. Rather than art being accessed via an institution or gallery this is about artists mediating their work themselves. I thought if this works it will be really nice.
Judy: For me it was a fantastic opportunity to do something different. 24
Dan: And what have you got out of the project?
Rosalie: It’s been such an enjoyable process and has definitely given me more joy in my everyday work as an artist. So often when you’re commissioned, curators don’t actually talk to you and can’t be arsed to discuss what they like. I really enjoyed that all the way we were carrying this together. It felt like, “this is what it could be like”. This has really reinforced the type of art I want to do. Judy: For me the journey has been so interesting. It’s made the art world less of a capital “A” and more of a small “a”. As I like it. Since studying art, quite a while ago now, I’d lost all faith in what art could be like and how it blended in with everyday life for most people. I became completely disillusioned with the whole way people perceived art, the way it was being made. I used to make stuff in college but I didn’t believe in what I was doing, and I thought, “if I don’t believe it any more and it needs 10 minutes worth of explanation how can I expect anyone else to have any kind of emotional response to my work?”
Dan: So what’s different about this project?
Judy: With this it has just been instant joy. Every email I’ve received from Rosalie has made me laugh so much and it’s been ages since I’ve had such a buzz about doing something new. Rosalie: We’re both interested in the small “a”s in art. And in having a good time. Art doesn’t have to be flashy. There are so many ways to access art, and this project is nice because it works on so many different levels. If all the processes were like this it would be much more enjoyable to be an artist.
Also, the name of this project is We know what we like and we like what we know, and we found out that we like what we don’t know and we know what we don’t like. So it was the opposite. That was the nice thing about working with you. You didn’t know what you were getting into and you fully embraced that.
ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES Alicja Rogalska is an artist based in London and Warsaw. Her practice is interdisciplinary and encompasses both research and production with a focus on social structures and the political subtext of the everyday. She mostly works in context and often collaborates with others. Upcoming and recent exhibitions and projects include: Critical Junctures, Kochi-Muziris Biennale (Kochi, 2014); A Museum of Immortality, Ashkal Alwan (Beirut, 2014); IMS, Flat Time House (London, 2013); Melancholy In Progress, Hong-Gah Museum (Taipei, 2012); Jour de Fête, The Private Space Gallery (Barcelona, 2011); To Look is to Labour, Laden Für Nichts (Leipzig, 2010); No Soul For Sale, Tate Modern (London, 2010)
Alastair Levy lives and works in London. His practice incorporates a range of processes and activities centred on the impulse to salvage and archive within the context of the everyday. Recent shows include Journal of (Dis)Satisfactions, Galerie Ferdinanda Baumanna, Prague, Czech Republic (2014); The Following Guidelines Should Assist You, Benrimon Contemporary, New York, USA [solo] (2013); Dienstag Abend, Gdanska Galeria Miejska, Gdansk, Poland (2013); Ephemeral Self - Finite Projections, Galerie NTK, Prague, Czech Republic (2013); Mostra Collettiva Estiva, http://bubblebyte.org (2012) and Circa 1960, Guest Projects, London, UK (2012). Rosalie Schweiker is an artist living in South London. She mostly works in self-organised and self-funded contexts, for example at the moment she is running a SEX SHOP as a distribution network for social products. Rosalie collaborates regularly with the artist Maria Guggenbichler; one of their recent projects was FUNNY WOMEN ART, a holiday for female artists funded by the Munich Arts Council. Rosalie also occasionally writes about art, e.g. for Control magazine and teaches at art colleges in the UK and abroad.
Trish Scott and Dan Scott are freelance artist/organisers based in Faversham who have been collaborating since 2007. Trish’s background is in site specific art production and she has also co-ordinated a number of projects, including The Future Is Social with artist Sonia Boyce. Dan works with sound, listening and performance and he is also an Associate Lecturer at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Dan and Trish both studied Social Anthropology, and are currently engaged in practice-based PhDs at the University of the Arts, London. They have carried out projects and exhibited internationally including at Tate Modern, The Serpentine Gallery and Centre de Cultura Contemporània Barcelona. 28
This publication has been printed to coincide with the project We know what we like and we like what we know By Trish and Dan Scott http://www.trishscott.org/arthome With Artists: Alastair Levy: http://www.alastairlevy.net Alicja Rogalska: http://alicjarogalska.co.uk Rosalie Schweiker: http://www.rosalieschweiker.info And Swale residents: Rowan & Luke Atkins Tracy & Chris Smith Judy van Laar Publication designed by Trish and Dan Scott Printed in London by PMS Limited Photography (c) Trish and Dan Scott, except images p.11 & p.29 (c) Alicja Rogalska Funded by:
A document about the 2014 project by Trish and Dan Scott, We know what we like and we like what we know.
Published on Jul 4, 2014
A document about the 2014 project by Trish and Dan Scott, We know what we like and we like what we know.