Sunday, 16 December 2012 the spirit of the season

Last week, I shared some of my reflections on my time in Australia, not least my occasional observations of the abuse of displaced indigenous people. This week I received a round-robin. Not the usual festive cheer, but an invitation to submit a 'virtual' paper to  the Arch of Arts in Health conference in Israel. The agenda has been set and they are soliciting contributions which might get printed up in the conference papers, if they like it and you pay the conference registration fee up front! Anyway, I notice it’s supported by the good old Society for the Arts in Healthcare now rebranded you might remember, as the pioneering Global Alliance for Arts and Health, and I guess this is one of its new incarnation's first forays into arts/health foreign policy. Like I say, the agenda's been set - so I don't think you've an opportunity to present in real time around any of their themes, which includes one dear to my heart - Using the Arts to Address Stress and Trauma in the Community.

The whole area of community stress and trauma is an interesting one to me and the setting of the sunny seaside town of Haifa, with its rich cultural history, is one in which it would be intriguing to expanded on some of the themes I’ve been developing with colleagues in the field over the last few years. I’d like to think that I’ve already incrementally explored some of the ideas that I could have developed. This year in Great Expectations in Fremantle, I touched on globalisation and singular world views (even in arts/health: surprise!), calling for an exploration of diverse practice, especially from the rich examples of non-English speaking countries. I’d explored the idea of the arts being more than some soporific prescription for subduing disquiet in A Brightly Coloured Bell-Jar, and through the ongoing manifesto work, we’ve all been discussing inequalities and how the arts, creativity and cultural engagement might just give the most marginalized people a voice beyond their day-to-day existence.

But harking back even further, in Port Macquarie in 2009 I gave a paper which explored health inequalities alongside cultural inequalities. Isn’t it obvious that the two sit side by side? In this paper I discussed the snobbery of art critics, particularly Brian Sewell’s reflections on the graffiti artist Banksy and his sell-out exhibition in Bristol that year. He remarked, "The two words 'graffiti' and 'art' should never be put together...the public doesn't know good from bad... It doesn't matter if they [the public] like it. It will result in a proliferation of entirely random decoration.” Oh how wrong - how very wrong. Art emerges from the heart and guts of a community - just look at the compelling Tarzan and Arab (see below) - I wonder if they’ve submitted an abstract?

Inequalities span all aspects of life and are perpetuated by those in positions of authority. I also quoted an excellent dialogue between a design critic Nathan Edelson and web designer and co-founder of the website Electronic Intifada, Nigel Parry. The conversation discusses making the segregation wall that divides the West Bank, more aesthetically pleasing. I’m sure you’re all familiar with this wall, which stands at three times the height of the Berlin wall, will eventually run for 700 kilometers and which the “international Court of Justice in 2004 has ruled as illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.” You can read this article here, and not least, about the remarkable intervention of Banksy that has elevated street art to an entirely new level and inspired a new generation of artists like Shamsia Hassani. 

Above all, its been interesting to talk with people about notions of health beyond the individual and tentatively looking to how our arts/health agenda is expanding and evolving beyond morbidity and towards healthy communities. So what might healthy communities look like? Well, not all identical, I’d suggest. What I consider a healthy community from my white, western mindset might be very different to someone in another country where access to water or a roof over your head, might be of a more pressing concern. In fact, in East Jerusalem, the two are poignantly conflated in the black water towers on the roof-tops of the Palestinian suburbs, where it's necessary to store water in this way, just in case the powers-that-be decide to cut off the water supply in the Arab areas. An artist like Taysir Batniji subverting the signature water towers of Bernd and Hilla Becher, captures something of this in his forensic study of the military watchtowers that observe the inhabitants of the West Bank.

So, just what might my abstract have looked like for this conference? Mmmm - good question. 350 words max and around the theme of using the arts to address stress and trauma in the community. Well, there are lots of interesting ideas on the notion of ‘using’ the arts. Is that in the totalitarian sense? Then there are very different ideas of what constitutes a community. Could it be the people of a district or country considered collectively in the context of social values and responsibilities?  Are the arts a simple distraction in the face of pain and discomfort? The sticky plaster during a painful procedure? 

Or could it be that in ‘addressing’ stress and trauma, we might explore new and creative methodologies in delivering stress and trauma? Remember the bulldozing of Rachel Whiteread’s House (1993) demolished by the Tower Hamlets, London Borough Council on 11 January 1994 to the anger and disappointment of local residents? The bulldozing. Anyone remember poor Rachel Corrie? 

And aren’t there sound artists developing wild and wonderful technologies, exploring the assault potential of noise? A performer like Marco Fusinato bombarding visitors to an exhibition with a light and noise attack, reminding us that city councils in the UK can adapt this approach into ‘acoustic weapons’, emitting high frequency noises that only poor little ‘hoodies’ can hear. It apparently makes them stop congregating in packs and move on. 

This emerging technology has been used in the cells of Guantanamo Bay and on the streets of Israel too. If only this 21st century Milgram Experiment could be used on larger communities of people. After all, we’re all in this together - a mutual sense of morality eh? Grind them down, displace them, marginalize them, push them to the invisible borders of civil society - then silence them when they scream - bang them up, or worse. Still, if you’re in a refugee camp under that Christmas star this winter, the wall can become your canvas.

But I mustn’t confuse things. The arts are all about passive consumption; soporific joy; global happiness and the blind acceptance of a well-oiled market trend. The very idea that art gives voice to frustration, anger and dissent just isn’t a part of the arts and health field. Or is it?

Here is a short film I began as a contribution to the conference, but for some reason - my heart just wasn’t in it.

It seems crude to go into the jobs, funding and prospecting section of the blog straight away, so here is Bill Callahan and America.

Hidden Histories: Artist Commission at Tatton Park
Deadline: December 31, 2012
Tatton Park would like to invite two artists to create site-specific artworks or performances in response to the rich history of life at Tatton. The research project will give scope and material for two arts based projects to interpret the findings in imaginative ways which can be shared with visitors, either through art works or performances, film or other media. Each of the two placements attracts a fee capped at £2,500 in return for two separate, fully researched and designed proposals, to be delivered by 31st March 2013. If you have any questions please contact Caroline Eadsforth on 01625 378063 or Caroline Schofield on 01625 374408. 

Public Art Commission, Sefton Council
Deadline: January 4, 2013
Public Art Commission, Sefton Council, Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership, Heritage Lottery Fund
Commission fee: £4,000
Sefton MBC’s Coast & Countryside Service seeks an experienced artist to develop and deliver public art within an ecologically varied and sensitive area of Crosby Coastal Park of north Merseyside. The site is a thriving wetland habitat to birds, insects and wildlife and is a recreational and educational resource for local communities. Within the available fee, the artist will be required to undertake a number of community engagement and consultation workshops in addition to the design, fabrication and siting of a number of art features sympathetic to the nature of the site. The scope and number of workshops and art features will be agreed in consultation between the artist and commissioner for delivery within the available budget. The artist will be required to work to a mutually agreed action plan and timeline to deliver community workshops. The resulting feedback from these workshops will help influence the form of the public artworks which may be a bespoke sculpture, installation or park furniture to complement the site. The ambition for the commission is in two phases:
Phase One: Within the £4,000 fee, the artist will engage local community groups through workshops prior to the delivery of an agreed public art feature. This fee is inclusive of all artist fees and costs. Phase Two: The Commissioner will work in partnership with the artist to identify additional funding streams to extend the project and further promote art in the park. All applicants should send an expression of interest letter, including a recent CV containing images of previous work and a suggestion of what may be delivered within the fee of £4K by Friday 4th January 2013. A shortlist of applicants will be selected for interview. To apply or to request for further information, a site plan or full commission brief contact - Jayne Foat: address: Sefton Coast & Countryside Service, Ainsdale Discovery Centre, The Promenade, Ainsdale, Southport PR8 2QB.

In THIS Moment: Evaluation
Cheshire Dance is inviting proposals for the evaluation and measurement of an exciting dance and older people project.  A fee of £5k inc VAT is available for this role.  Contract runs Feb 2013 to Sept 2014. Cheshire Dance has successfully secured funding from the Baring Foundation to run ‘In THIS Moment’ in collaboration with Wearpurple Arts at Age UK Cheshire. The Baring Foundations ‘Arts and Older People’ grants programme, is focusing on ’Creative Homes in Creative Communities’, supporting work to link residential care settings to their local communities through the arts. Applicants must have experience of working in the fields of Arts and Health and Older people in their role as an evaluator.  For further information please request the brief from Cheshire Dance Deadline for proposals 5pm on 4 January 2013

The Sylvia Waddilove Foundation (UK)
The Sylvia Waddilove Foundation provides grants to charities for education projects (organic farming, animal husbandry, veterinary science, animal welfare and animal surgery)  the visual and performing arts; the preservation of buildings of architectural or historical significance; the accommodation of those in need; the skills based training of young people; medical research and disability. Grants of up to £25,000 are available to registered charities. The Foundation favours supporting small charities that will carry out the project themselves (except in the case of medical research), who rely on volunteers and who can demonstrate a successful history of projects.

The next funding round will open on the 10th December 2012 and will close on the 4th January 2013.Read more at: 

Music Grants for Older People (England & Wales)
The registered charity, Concertina makes grants to charitable bodies which provide musical entertainment and related activities for the elderly. The charity is particular keen to support smaller organisations which might otherwise find it difficult to gain funding. Since its inception in 2004, it has made grants to a wide range of charitable organisations nationwide in England and Wales. These include funds to many care homes for the elderly to provide musical entertainment for their residents. The next deadline for applications is the 30th April 2013. Read more at:

Idlewild Trust (UK)
The Idlewild Trust has announced that the next closing date for applications to its grant making programme is the 22nd February 2013.  The Idlewild Trust is a grant making trust that supports registered charities concerned with the encouragement of the performing and fine arts and crafts, the advancement of education within the arts and the preservation for the benefit of the public of lands, buildings and other objects of beauty or historic interest in the United Kingdom.  During the last financial year to 31 December, 2010, the Trust received 373 applications and awarded 65 grants totalling £129,305. Read more at:

...thank you as ever for reading this blog...C.P.                            

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