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Teleology and the Turner Prize or: Utility, the New Conservatism

What is contemporary art for? In the 2011 Q-Art London publication ’11 course leaders 20 questions’ – an insightful set of interviews with educators on the past, present and future of UK fine art pedagogy – John Timberlake (programme leader for Middlesex University’s BA course) provided an answer. ‘In the face of our predominantly utilitarian culture, I think art, at its best, is radically useless’ he said, ‘the radical quality of art is that it has no use in a culture dominated by profit, loss and use value’. Art as radically useless; surely that’s an expansive definition allowing for a democratic, progressive and less prescriptive field? Not so for the 2015 Turner Prize judges. For them utility was king.

Although no panel criteria for assessing an ‘outstanding contribution to contemporary art’ was published, an odd institutional mission statement cum manifesto was released by one judge: director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Alistair Hudson. In ‘What is Art For’, a series of four online videos that feel like an extended, blue-sky sales pitch, Hudson talks through his conception of the ‘useful museum’, an institution whose categorical imperative is ‘to demonstrate what the real use of art is in society’. And what is the ‘real use of art’? According to Hudson it is to enact some vaguely determined social good, capable of bursting the image of art as a ‘separate bubble’. This bubble keeps art esoterically distant from the everyday lives of everyday people, and it all happened because of…wait for it…Romanticism. It is, Hudson says:

‘Like when you go in a gallery, when you go to a public participatory work or whatever it is, whatever kind of art output you experience. What is that? What’s it for? Why are you doing that?’

The useful museum filled with useful art will answer these questions before they’re posed. It will, like a huge, tool filled, multi-floor hardware shop, present you with an array of objects whose sole purpose is to perform some utilitarian function. This would all be fine as the inconsequential, ill-informed and slightly bizarre musings of a museum director selling audiences short to increase ‘footfall’ and ‘broaden audience reach’. But Hudson’s ‘out-of-the-box’ philosophy - a view apparently shared by fellow judges - has had a direct bearing on the result of this year’s Turner Prize. It was a decision that saw non-artists instrumentalised to introduce and legitemise the ‘useful’ ideology. It was a decision that could have seriously detrimental ramifications for British contemporary art.

Assemble, this year’s winners, are a group of architects (not an artist collective) who were approached and employed by Granby Four Streets, a local grassroots organisation set up to develop and manage homes and other assets important to their immediate community, known as a Community Land Trust or CLT. Since 2011 the Granby Four Streets CLT has been locked in protracted negotiations with their local council. They have been trying to wrest private redevelopment plans for their area away from the commercial sector’s grip, and have over the past four years raised finances in order to carry out renovations themselves. You can read all about their work here. It’s an inspiring story of multicultural community activism and organisation that has its roots in the 1981 riots in the Liverpool area of Toxteth (provoked by police brutality and institutional racism), and the aftermath of willful housing stock neglect by the local council. Granby Four Streets are the lucky ones. People in other locations in the Toxteth area have been displaced, and left psychologically and emotionally scarred by long battles to stay in their homes and among their communities.

What happened in Toxteth is happening all over the UK. Families are being evicted, communities torn apart, and private developers erecting expensive new build properties on the rubble of sold off social housing stock – a process captured in artist Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s heart-rending film ‘Estate a Reverie’. In other words, there is a housing crisis in the UK. It’s a programme of social cleansing dressed up as ‘gentrification’, enacted and facilitated by government policies (both Labour and Conservative) that are designed to satisfy the profit driven bottom lines of property developers and the local councils selling their assets to them. This is the social context Assemble are being cast as engaging in. In fact, it is the social context that Assemble have been silent about, or rather unable to articulate, which may have something to do with that fact that they are not artists.

Although the reduction of technical-skills-based-learning in UK art education has led commentators to speculate on the deproffesionalisation of art, it is undoubtedly the case that rigorous conceptual training, in which the development of critical faculties is encouraged and challenged through discussion, group critique, lecture and written assessment, has taken its place. This has developed in response to a field that, since the 1960s, grew uncomfortable with its co-option by powerful governmental, financial, or ideological forces; a field that increasingly produced art that problematized and drew critical attention to its modes of display and exchange, not to mention the culture, society and politics that made that display and exchange possible.

In other words, contemporary art is a critically engaged field that, for the most part, produces critically engaged actors who are uncomfortable with state power and its various methods of citizen subjection - this is nowhere more prevalent, diligently observed or else thoroughly critiqued than in socially engaged practice. Because Assemble are not and do not claim to come from this discipline, because they are not critically engaged, and because they are a firm of architects employed to creatively fulfill a design brief, however open, theirs is an acritical almost completely depoliticised response to a highly politicised social situation. Their submission for the Turner Prize exhibition at Tramway Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, was effectively a showroom for the display of bespoke, domestic product design, with no reference to the political or social situation that led to their employment by the Granby CLT. And, at the point of receiving the award, when they had an opportunity to raise awareness of the situation in Toxteth on a national stage, they were unable to articulate a meaningful response. ‘We did consider that’ they’ve said in a recent Guardian newspaper interview ‘but what can you say in only 60 seconds that doesn’t sound gloating, or too pithy to understand.’

To see an inspired, cross-disciplinary response to the housing crisis in the UK take a look at the brilliantly ambitious and expansive landmark exhibition Real Estates staged by Fugitive Images, a group comprised of Zimmerman, artist Lasse Johaanssen and architectural theorist David Roberts. Or even consider the work of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) a collective of urban designers, engineers, planners, building industry consultants, academics, photographers, web designers, writers and housing activists, set up to respond to London’s housing crisis. Instead of looking to these instances of actual socially engaged practice, or even awarding the Turner Prize to the Granby Four Streets CLT and not their employees, the Turner judges have seemingly made a hollow, tokenistic gesture of pseudo-radical intent, instrumentalising a depoliticised architectural collective in order to drive home a point about ‘useful art’.

The fact is Hudson’s ‘useful’ model, and the judges privileging of utility over criticality, is a boon to the current Conservative government. Because at a time in the year when the British public, or at least British mainstream media attention is most focused on contemporary art, the field (that is a critically engaged discipline that challenges normative ideologies and creates contexts for challenges to state power) has effectively stuck two fingers up at itself. In the current national climate where public subsidy for the arts is being ruthlessly cut, where higher education for arts and the humanities is being turned into a business, and where artists and institutions are under pressure to make the economic case for art, it will undoubtedly send damaging ripples through the art world. How difficult will it be to make the case for projects, exhibitions and initiatives that resist quantification, challenge state power and provoke more questions than they do provide answers, now that policy makers will be able to point to the Turner Prize and cite contemporary art’s disenchantment with its own open ended nature?

This isn’t about the series of ‘but is it art’ straw men set up around this year’s award, it isn’t even about Assemble, who seem a chilled bunch who make nice looking products and constructions. It’s about the new conservatism of utility, and how the rhetoric of use values has been deployed to close down the same expansive, inclusive and progressive nature of contemporary art that enabled an architecture group to be nominated for the Turner Prize in the first place. But what do you think?

Were Assemble instrumentalised as part of an institutional endgame strategy?

Was it all part of Hudson’s plan to launch and legitimize the ‘useful museum’ model, whilst simultaneously inaugurating his age of ‘museum 3.0’, via a nationally recognised platform?

Should the Granby Four Streets CLT have won the Turner prize?

Is radical uselessness better than utility?

Should we ‘not care’ because the Turner Prize is just an award and it has no bearing on contemporary art, or is that a naïve position?

Is 60 seconds long enough to say something with some political weight to it?

Should more museums adopt a ‘3.0’ mentality?


The difference here being that the Assemble group were trained for a purpose and commissioned to fulfil a brief and to deliver a specific skills-set in order to address social deprivation. The concern should not be the co-option of the Turner Prize as a platform to advocate such an artistic position but to shed light on the increasingly political polarization that is being played out by a ‘left’ which is having trouble re-identifying itself post New Labour, and a ‘right’ who is hell-bent on exercising the laws of neo liberal economics, social cleansing and entrenching class distinction. If art is a verb and therefore something that is ‘being done’ then it could be argued that in this context it’s a loaded reading of the ‘artist’ as service provider. Here, a utilitarian service is being provided on a collective level and therefore is seen as an unwitting, or cynical development (choose which one) of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ and subsequently viewed as compliant to the government vision. Along with the institution that Hudson leads (MIMA), the political is the inescapable context in which the artist functions, and I’d bet my only copy of William Morris’s Useful Work v Useless Toil that the agenda, such that it is, lies more in directly challenging the social and economic deprivation that exists rather than aesthetics, for better or worse, it’s what the ‘artist’ does here that matters, not what they make. If Romanticism is the period when art took its ironic turn, then it would appear that Assemble’s nomination was not enough in itself to highlight such concerns. In this respect, if capitalism, as we have come to understand in its late form has become the alpha and omega that underpins most if not all human relations in western society, then the decision to award the prize makes this realisation all the more stark. Perhaps it has got more to do with what’s ‘being done’ ; the prize money going to a worthwhile cause than to an artist who may make social comment in other no less effective ways but less directly.


Your description of Assemble is quite biased, they are a collective and some of them are artist, we collaborated with them at an architectural festival in Spain and you seem to not know what Assemble is about at all.

What are you saying? that the criticality of the discourses of the rest of the nominated artist is real and that of Assemble is not?
Well maybe one thing is true, that in UK the socially engaged artist, are not so much part of the clique that your art world is.
Actually seeing who got nominated this year in contrast, is very telling of how deeply endogamic the whole thing is.

It was surprising that Assemble was there indeed!

So maybe you are right at the same time, yes, and lets say that the initiatives as VISIBLE, or CREATIVE TIME ( with its kind of artist that are supported and promoted by them) have influenced some heads like that of the Jury Hudson with his useful museum years after the works and theories by Cuban artist Tania Brugera and her Museo de Arte Util ) seem to have arrived here in the Island and that all in a hurry, when they wanted to catch up and as they are so isolated in the Island of Made in UK, and have not idea of any interesting projects going in that direction , have ended up having to recur to a whatever that sounded a bell, and that was Assemble?
It could well be !!

You also seem to forget, that for the last few years, architecture, design and the public emancipation via the performative, have become more and more relevant in artist practice. And that Assemble are not the only ones who have mixed in their group between various kinds of practitioners to create something that yes, can be called Art.


Assemble assemblestudio.co.uk
Assemble are a young, critically acclaimed practice of artists, designers and architects based in London with a strong track record of developing successful public spaces in difficult urban situations. Our work is committed to uncovering the extraordinary opportunities and potential pleasures that exist on the fringes of everyday life and the built environment.
Varied backgrounds contribute to a holistic approach, from brief development, design, organising events and hands-on construction. We are committed to addressing the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which spaces are made, and champion a working practice that actively involves the public as both participant and accomplice in the ongoing realisation of our work.
eme3 2013

wow this text is useful! thank you Hito

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@ tuesday29

The piece does not question the validity of socially-engaged practice within the UK, but the instrumentalisation of what is clearly an architectural practice as a problem solving ‘salve’ for social purpose which is a key ingredient of an incumbent right-wing government. Its this subtext which affects the perception of what the visual arts ‘does’ and what it’s ‘for’.

This might be ‘useful’ to add to the debate. At Teesside University, on Tuesday 06th October, 2015 we staged a boxing match/debate between Alistair Hudson (Director of Mima) and Pavel Büchler (international artist) with the title, Art: Useful or Useless? Certainly, there were some heavy blows exchanged and some blood left on the canvas. Professor Simon Morris, Leeds Beckett University. You can watch the bout here: https://vimeo.com/148607435

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At least this award has got people reacting other than in the ‘is it art?’ mode. But this overblown piece simply rehearses the tired ‘them and us’ mentality. Over there is the wicked ‘state power’ and its ‘predominantly utilitarian culture’. Over here are the ‘radically useless’, the ‘democratic and progressive’ artists. Over there is the ‘conservative tendency’ unable to ‘articulate’ social conflict, with its ‘hollow, tokenistic gesture of pseudo-radical intent’. Over here is politicalised, critical, radical (useless?) non-gesture……… and so on. This is not to argue for a ‘third way’, but something different from such worn-out dichotomous thinking. Why couldn’t Andrea Zimmerman’s documentary ‘Estate a Reverie’ win such an award for contemporary art– something radical, poignant and useful?

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We shouldn’t gloss over such a normative definition of art - “contemporary art is a critically engaged field that, for the most part, produces critically engaged actors who are uncomfortable with state power and its various methods of citizen subjection.” While it may be true that this is the conception of art that activists and academics have tried to universalize in graduate schools, it mistakes a narrow band of art making for the entirety of “Art.”

We also shouldn’t fall to easily into a notion of instrumentalism that is as loaded as the one presented here. That is, “utility” has a very different meaning among American pragmatist philosophers. As Scott Stroud elaborates:

"If one sees that it is possible to conceive of intrinsic value as immediate value experienced in the situation, then one need not be forced to argue with essentialist presuppositions. The immediate value of art is tied to what it is experienced as, and what one can call its instrumental value can be the same experience considered in light of it conditions and consequences as connected to other states of affairs.

Such an account of value has the obvious advantage of not setting intrinsic and instrumental value as opposing, mutually exclusive qualities that attach to the object in a noncontextual fashion. The object can have both depending on how one orients oneself toward it."

Further, why would we choose criticality at all if it (as a point of view on the world) did not have utility? Is the argument that art for art’s sake has been replaced by criticality for criticality’s sake? If not, why then would a particular philosophical point of view (criticality) being adopted for “practical” reasons be acceptable but art (that isn’t art?) with “practical” ambition not be acceptable? The commentary begs this question.

I find your narrative of opposition between utility and uselessness is misplaced and misguiding since if you were really to consider an art practice “uncomfortable with state power and its various methods of citizen subjection” you would have to contextualise it in a capitalist culture which has the ability to absorb, recycle and transform all types of cultural production; meaning there is no ways of escaping utility (i.e. art as an investment vehicle, art as propaganda, art as estate led regen, etc.)

In my opinion this article misses the point that this project engages critically in the production of the built environment and in the relationship of the public with it. The fact that our current social context urges “citizens” to restore to collaborative modes shows a wider problem endemic in our contemporary urbanity. It is nevertheless true that it also fosters entrepreneurial, market-led logics of interaction (law, economic, management) that so readily neo liberal policies aim to implement, and that you accuse this project of not doing. In pointing this though, you miss the point again an even criticise a praisable effort to avoid a decrease in the quality of the life of a “community” by claiming and harnessing social energy against a backdrop of financial, market based agenda, which does effectively undermine this idea you posit of the criticality of the art project.

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Art’s role in the gentrification of cities around the world has been fully exposed and thoroughly analyzed. But perhaps when it comes to resisting or reversing gentrification, both supporters and detractors of this piece overstate how useful art, artists, and architects can be? The economic and political conditions that lead to gentrification are brought about (quite deliberately) by two main entities: governments (municipal, state/regional, and national), and the property developers that directly pay or otherwise support them. Once these entities bring about the pre-conditions for gentrification (a long and complex process), it’s just a matter of young professionals, “hipsters,” and certain other demographics (including the art industry) playing along, e.g., moving into the neighborhood. But by then, gentrification is a foregone conclusion. In the art world there’s a lot of hand-wringing about gentrification, but little understanding of the economic and political conditions that give rise to it. The moment to intervene in this process is long before the vacant storefronts go for rent in the formerly “seedy” neighborhood.


As others have said, being radically useless doesn’t prevent co-option. Clement Greenberg thought abstract art could stand outside of the world, and be judged purely on its formalist or aesthetic qualities, retreating from the political turbulence of the times. But in fact the CIA sponsored abstract art in the 1950s as part of the cultural cold war (see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html) - emptying something of meaning (or use value) doesn’t make it immune to political/economic powers merely filling in the meaning – in this case that America stood for creativity and freedom of expression, whether or not the artists involved actually supported the Governments agenda.

Alistair Hudson seems to be proposing a kind of Beuysian ‘everyone is an artist’ direction where artists act as initiators for public works. The problem with this is that unless museums and artists are clear on their intentions and values, a lack of criticality and understanding of their position in a historical frame could easily lead to co-option by the current ruling powers, ie. The Conservative government/neo-liberal agendas.

What seems more pertinent to ask is, ‘is it possible to make critical work without being co-opted?’ How can this be done? I teach architecture, and I could imagine a student bringing me an image of Assemble’s work, perhaps even copying their aesthetic, without much interest in or knowledge of the social and political context they were operating within. More and more young architecture practices are encroaching into the territory of art-making, whether its sculpture, public art, socially-engaged practice etc. (I made that transfer myself 15 years ago) – and in fact responding to briefs aimed at artists, who outside of the gallery context often work to brief/commission.

Jane Rendell writes about the possibility of a ‘critical spatial practice’ that would seem to be what Fugitive Images and ASH try to do, and Assemble may or may not. This type of practice provokes, asks questions, and critically engages with the terms of engagement of the project, be that a brief or another’s agenda. (See: Rendell, Critical Spatial Practice, 2009 http://www.janerendell.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/critical-spatial-practice.pdf)

If the boundaries of where practice happens and who is doing it are being blurred (even to the extent of who wins prizes), there needs to be a radical shift in education - architects need to as critically engaged as artists and education itself could seek to be more cross-disciplinary, recognising and politicising the connections between art, architecture and the museum.

It’s a valid point, but it could be said the issue of gentrification is a by-product in this scenario, capital will always follow creativity and recuperate its effects, this is simply more visible now because there is more capital imbalance since the financial crash as Picketty has shown. I think the main issue is an inability to separate art-production form the artworld. What the piece clearly addresses is a frustration with a scenario which has effectively co-opted an architectural practice almost like a found object, then conferring status upon it by deeming it ‘art’. For sure, it’s better than than the opposite where a certain former Turner Prize winner now designs ‘artworks’ for exclusive residents at a £1000 per night…in light of this, if nothing else, it makes the job of the art-critics and funding bodies that much easier in future. What’s it doing? How useful is it? Job done.


We were not thinking that the piece questioned the validity of socially engaged practice, because we also know the other works quoted etc etc and its clear that the practice in it self is not looked down at.

Its just that is a bit worrying the sentencing of Assemble to just be Architects that don’t belong, when actually some of the collective are artist. It puzzles us and makes us believe, that the writer needs to narrow down what Assemble is as a collective, in order to get through what he is trying to say, which he may be quite right to put in question.
Its just that seems unfair to edit a bit what is it that Assemble is, and quoting them as anachronisms.

In contrast, what we say is, that Assemble’s practice is trans disciplinary and they can be given a prize or been nominated, specially, not because of conservative neoliberal pulling of strings, but because the trend its been going on for a wile, so that there are a series of precedents ( maybe better than Assemble) but that never the less clearly have generated such collaborations ( between artist, architects and designers) and because in any case conservative or liberal, we are under the Neoliberal claws since long ago.

That most of Assembles projects are “urban interventions” and that their “situations” affect the locality on the site they work, either making a Cinema, or a Pop Up Park or a Public Space to do Workshops etc etc. Demonstrate that they have a critical intention as normally architects only care of making the site but don’t activate it or curate it.

I was lucky enough to be invited by the Granby 4 streets community to watch a live screening of the Turner Prize Award at the Small Cinema in Liverpool on Monday 6th December. Two things struck me immediately. First was the energy, vibrancy and excitement at the Cinema. The talk, pre-prize announcement was of ‘our’ project, of collaboration and co-production of the project. There was really no sense of them an/or us, of a community being used by artists for cultural gain or capital in a separate and distant venue. Nor was there any sense present of the real and familiar division between the ‘art’ world and the ‘real world’. This really was unusual. After all of my years working in the arts I can truly say I have never experienced such a sense of shared experience through art. When Assemble were announced as winners, the celebration was incredible - more like being at a festival, or winning a football match, than being at an art event. The second thing that struck me, and which has continued in some lines of discussion since, is a sense that Assemble winning this prize is somehow beyond the pale - that, in a world where anything can be art (and, let’s face it, this has been a worthwhile defence of the incredible contribution that contemporary art can make to culture, politics and society for many decades) this project was somehow not. As if, by merely questioning some of the rules that usually get identified as being the founding principles of critical inquiry in contemporary art (authorship, objecthood, market, audience participation etc.), on terms that don’t somehow covertly propagate the organizing principles of that art world (the sovereignty of the author artist, the co-dependency of artwork and art market, the ultimately necessary division between artist/artwork and audience), that Assemble’s work could somehow not count as art and, therefore, should be condemned to the conservative dustbin of neoliberal complicity. Really? Is the only thing left for the true conservatives of the art world, those who hide behind the elitist garb of false radicality, to accuse anybody else who refuses oligarch funded onamism of conservatism?

Let’s put this into some context - as far as I know, Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust grew out of the tradition of left wing radicalism epitomised by Liverpool in the 80s (of which, I admit, I too am a product). More specifically, the Granby 4 Streets Community itself is a hard won legacy of the infamous ‘Toxteth Riots’, which took place in 1981. After the riots the government closed off roads, effectively ghettoising Toxteth, and gave money to Liverpool for a Garden Festival, the Albert Dock renovation (where Tate moved its first outpost of course). In doing so, Thatcher’s government effectively modelled Europe’s (and probably one of the world’s) first attempt to re-develop a failing post-industrial economy solely through service industry/tourism and leisure. This strategy, as we all know, has long since evolved into a neobliberal framework of global economic infrastructure - one within which the contemporary art market has thrived.

My point is simply this, art in and for itself (whatever that might or may be) can offer no automatic alterity to the structures of neoliberalism. What counts is how art, like any of the possible remaining means of self and community based opposition, is or can be used in a world which controls through the attempted occupation of everything, everywhere, now. There are no longer any formulae or frameworks which can guarantee opposition - we have to work, continually and together, to find ways and means of imaging both new futures and present solutions.

If this is so, and it seems to me pretty obvious that it is (however unpalatable this may be, and however far away simple solutions may now seem) it also strikes me that holding on to the comfort blanket of an over-simplistic bifurcation between useful and useless art - where the latter is somehow ethical, autonomous, pure anti-capital - is now naive and untenable. As far as I understand it, the idea of a ‘useful art’ is to refocus on how art is used, or the uses that art can be put to, as a political and oppositional imperative. If this is so, then ‘useful art’ does not somehow denote an overly simplistic faith in neoconservative forms of instrumentalized utilitarianism. On the contrary, the most utilitarian art for neoliberalism today would surely be those object/commodities which drive a spectacular ‘visitor’ led economy of blockbuster drudgery. To call this kind of art useless, and to attempt to dress it up in the garb of radical alterity is, in effect, to complicity exercise the worst kind of neoliberal ideology - and here I take ideology in the old fashioned Marxist sense of the word - as a wilful misrepresentation of the truth in the interest of a dominant class.


Has the Tate, like the Labour PLP, unwittingly had its Corbyn moment? Part of the problem with so-called “critically engaged” art is that it hides behind the euphemism “critical” in order to emphasise its roots in academia rather than as part of activism led from below. Perhaps that is part of the concern here. After all, in a system where artists, educators and curators are increasingly directed by the imperatives of the market, the protection and promotion of art as a distinct discipline is greater than ever. Access to art from below is under threat with cuts to grants and zero hour contracts for staff but for a wealthy minority the art establishment is more lucrative than ever.

In this context the Tate, part of the establishment and increasingly motivated by a market driven agenda, has chosen a collective of artists and architects working with a local community to represent innovation and excellence in art. Whether or not this group deserve such an accolade is not the point. What is more relevant is that anyone researching Granby Four Streets will discover that it did not originate out of the art establishment but as part of a grass roots movement. This has implications for the rapidly dwindling pot of funds available to artists who have invested significantly in education and the status that this might confer. But it also opens up options for those artists who are willing to engage with political activism outside of the art institutions.

If art ever had a function then this has been to aggrandise the wealthy in various ways and provide them with an investment. But at various points in its existence, since the development of capitalism, art has challenged the status quo. Especially during periods of heightened political struggle. Whether this has been to question the common sense ideas of the aesthetic, defend the interests of the oppressed or challenge the agenda of the oppressors, this has never happened in isolation and has always been part of wider struggles from below.

Art, in isolation, is the last place we should seek a political analysis of society, let alone a strategy for overcoming oppression in any shape or form because this is precisely the elitist dead end that movements such as the Proletcult and the Situationists found themselves in. Yet “criticality” in the contemporary context has increasingly come to mean the importance of artist led interventions. Artists are great at expanding our imagination but often hopeless at showing us how society might change for the better. When we are encouraged to uphold the status quo then we hope that artists are busy exposing the absurdity of such conservative certitude. This is what generally distinguishes architecture, advertising and other “creatives” from art but it does not necessarily confer, among artists, particular insights into political activism or social change.

To be fair, many artists understand this dilemma and are actively involved in radical activism as part of grass roots movements. But academia has increasingly become remote from these movements, is often suspicious of them and is increasingly unwilling to relinquish its special position and defer to the movements it believes it has inspired theoretically. This top down understanding of the dynamics of political engagement makes Assemble’s involvement with Granby Four Streets appear as mere utilitarian intervention rather than as grass roots activism in response to gentrification. God help them and us if, in future, we wait for academic approval from above before deciding our political strategy or how we create art.

Perhaps the best response to the Tate’s decision is to take advantage of any tokenistic acknowledgement on their part and reinforce the unity of artist and community that has existed historically despite the neoliberal agenda of promoting divisive special interest groups through commodification.


Its Time to get this clear, and start to really really “really” be honest here !
Thanks JohnByrne


Thanks for this raybrazier

But one issue within this new world of ‘Museum 3.0’ with all of these artists working for the social good inside it and being useful at all times, in these conditions the ‘director of operations’ or to use the cod digital terms employed above ‘the software developer’ - the person who programmes the museum’s algorithms and sets the rules is the person who becomes the ‘artist’. So in this case the artist is Hudson or in Grizedale Arts for example ‘Sutherland’ and the artists are purely the various algorithms and bits of code that they employ to make their brand of software function well for their requirements and to ‘make the users happy’ but all the focus here moves from the artist to this developer ‘curveloper’ or whatever.


In the neo-liberal project capturing the stories and heritage of working class neighbourhoods provides the foundations for a brand development process. The brand equity created is then used by captial to attract affluent consumers and additional investors. This brand equity - given for free by those working class communities in the form of culture and experience, developed over decades and sometimes centuries - is repackaged by creative agencies and revalued in the tens of millions and sometimes hundreds or millions of pounds by capital. A tiny fraction of this new value is returned to those from whom it was skillfully wrestled, often through employment in the service industry. The real value is instead passed on to affluent consumers and investors who both reap the benefits of the brand equity and supplant those original inhabitants with their own.

Until this issue is addressed the work of ‘creatives’ embedded with within these communities will always be instumentalised by capital. Whether the Granby 4 Street community have managed to circumvent this (retaining control of the newly created value and returning it to the original inhabitants or a poor underclass) remains to be seen.
:arrow_forward: Show quoted text

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Totally right, and great you highlight this issue. Looking further in to A H trajectory, we actually find him meeting with Tania Bruguera at the Van Abben. She is the maker and thinker of Arte Útil, first as an online/movile platform, and soon later, already instrumentalised by another big curator as Charles Esche by inviting her Virtual Archive to Become Form and a Museum at Van Abbe’s site.

Charles Esche as Ready Made Performance Artist becoming Tania Bruguera.

Its there with Esche and with Grizedale, that Hudson meets her and sort of has the epiphany to “transport” her methodologies to MIMA = the site he Directs/ Curates.

Interesting too was hearing him recently, insisting in to how he was willing to get rid of any “authorial” element about the Museum of Useful Art, where he intends to admit its just loosely inspired/initiated by Tania Brugera’s project.

Its in fact a very specific issue that has emerged here, that we can read in between the lines of the discussion, which is the one about the instrumentalisation of the artist.

To define them as algorithms is quite spotted on !!! and a very telling way of describing our contemporary issue around a power structure between signifiers. Specially the ones that has made of artist and their works, very “useful” algorithms.