l a n a j e l i n e k
strategies & tactics
It's Allan Kaprow who distinguishes between strategies and tactics. Acknowledging that at different times and in different situations, I have power and at others I do not, I own both strategies and tactics.
Let's say the difference between the two is that sometimes we must bite the hands that feeds us - if it is true the job of an artist is to speak truth to power - and other times we work in the interstices of institutions to make change happen.
working in the interstices
Tate Modern 2004-5
I worked at Tate Modern in the Education and Interpretation department before it opened in 2000 and I left to research a PhD in both art history and fine art practice about what happened during its first few years. My research was on, 'Art as a Democratic Act: the interplay of content and context, London 2000-2006'.
It was funded by AHRC and by a department studentship from Oxford Brookes University.
Inter-Gallery Educators Course
The course ran twice on two consecutive years and was designed to exhaust the excuses as to why no black (or non-white) artists or educators were being employed by Tate Modern at the time by the Education Department. The reason none of the people I knew who did the job were being employed was because 'they didn't have the skills or experience'. The course was designed to address both.
An 8 week course in best-practice pedagogy ended in placements across a range of London museums and galleries, including Tate Modern, British Library, South London Gallery, Horniman Museum, Whitechapel Gallery and Hayward Gallery. To this day, the majority of black people employed at any of these places was the result of this course.
It's not always racism that prevents people who look or sound different from the employer from being employed, but a kind of narcissism and laziness on the employer's behalf. The narcissism is the kind where it is assumed that only someone who sounds or looks like me is trustworthy and intelligent. It is laziness because it's difficult to employ people and often, in places like museums and galleries, people are employed who are already known: those who are doing internships or voluntary work.
The most successful sons and daughters of the Intergallery Educators Course include:
Sepake Angiama who went onto Documenta and Manifesta,
Jean Campbell who went onto the British Library for many years and led on education on the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and the celebrations of the bicentenary of the Parliamentary Abolition of the Slave Trade in 2007 with the Maritime Museum, Greenwich,
Mark Miller at curatorial position in education at Tate Gallery,
and Paul Goodwin at Tate Britain and who is now Professor at University of the Arts.
For many years and before she migrated to the US, Eden Solomon was the only black woman in the Education Department of Tate Modern and at the Horniman Museum, and the project brought Temi Odumosu in contact with the variety of institutional curators as the evaluator of the course. She went on to do a PhD at Cambridge University and to work and curate in Denmark and Sweden, as well as elsewhere.
These talented people may have been employed anyway, but we just don't know.
A critical reflection of Tate Modern in these terms is published in Third Text winter 2000/01
and an article about the Intergallery Educators Course in engage: the journal of visual art and gallery education 19 special issue Diversity
speaking truth to power - naming it - when it counts and not just when it's easy
Invited in 2009 to speak about markets and art for the Sold Out conference at Tate Modern, which aimed at critiquing the Pop Life exhibition, subtitled, Art in a Material World, I couldn't proceed with my talk until I expressed my disgust at the exhibition. I hadn't seen the exhibition until the day before the conference, but it was readily apparent that, if you were a woman, you had to be naked to be part of it.
The exhibition blurb:
‘Good business is the best art,’ Andy Warhol once provocatively claimed. Tate Modern's hit autumn exhibition Pop Life examines how artists since the 1980s have cultivated their public persona as a product, and conjured a dazzling mix of media, commerce and glamour to build their own 'brands'. Beginning with the grandfather of Pop, Andy Warhol, the show includes Jeff Koons's infamous Made in Heaven series and his stainless steel Rabbit sculpture, an iconic array of golden spot and butterfly paintings from Damien Hirst's record-breaking 2008 auction, and a reconstruction of Keith Haring's Pop Shop in New York. Also included will be works by Richard Prince, Martin Kippenberger, and the notorious YBAs, and a new commission by Takashi Murakami.
Nearly every male artist used images of naked women and literally every woman artist was a naked woman.
I could not proceed with my probably quite predictable critique of the art market without first mentioning this to the audience of a couple of thousand. One of the curators of the exhibition was most upset with me and asking for details of my experience: not to learn, but to placate.
biting the hand
In 2011 at the ‘Ethics of Encounter’ workshop, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, I withdrew my labour in protest at the appalling abuse of time perpetrated by the workshop chair and all the invited white men. At a workshop about ethics, the white men and only the white men in the room chose to take up much more time than was allotted. Everyone else kept to time. We ran seriously over time because of how much the white men took and because the chair did nothing to maintain an equitable distribution of time. Mine was the penultimate contribution of the day. Because it was so late I decided to withdraw my labour and to explain why.
Some of the white men who had previously liked me and my work, having invited me to give talks previously, decided this behaviour rendered me persona non grata and avoid me to this day.
For Live Art Development Agency's DIY 11, an invitation was sent out appealing for feminist work. I decided to apply even though it's not the kind of thing I usually do. To my complete amazement, I was successful and it was Patrick Fox of Create in Dublin, Ireland, who was keen. Apparently no one else would touch the proposal called, You want me to do it your way? I was told it was too feminist and too intellectual to touch. Every other feminist live art project required women to be naked or sexual. And I don't have a problem with this in itself. In my 20s I too did my own naked artworks. It's a stage many of us seem to need to go through, and some, like Cosi Fanny Tutti, go somewhere important with it. My project with Caroline Gausden and Siobh�n Clancy invited women artists to share feminist strategies and to create something together at the end. At the feedback performance day, I shared what I had been told about being too feminist. This caused outrage. To accuse LADA of near-censorship of feminism was not to have entered into the spirit of gregarious hagiography that the event demanded.
J o u r n a l P u b l i c a t i o n s
*as long as UK is part of European Union and protected by EU copyright law, these articles will be available to download on academia.edu
Depending on negotiations with EU, all articles may only be available here so that I retain copyright.
| 'A Response to the Issues Raised in
the Special Edition of Ethnos',
Ethnos Special Edition on Ethics, Routledge, 2015
'Introduction and Reply to Responses to This is Not Art'
Journal of Visual Art Practice, Routledge, 2014
an experiment in Levinasian ethics’,
Living Beings, Bloomsbury, 2013
Museums: an artist’s response— Tall Stories: Cannibal Forks (2010)
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge’
Journal of Museum Ethnography, No25, Oxford, 2012
Journal of Visual Culture, Vol 11 No1, Sage, 2012
|‘Art, Activism, Recuperation’
Art, Activism & Recuperation, Concept Store series 3, Spring, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, 2010
|‘Evaluating the Other : assessing and
appreciating practices outside our experience’
In Theory? Encounters with theory in practice-based PhD research in art and design,
De Montfort University, Loughborough University, Loughborough, 2007
|‘Actions Speak Louder than Words: an
Inter-Gallery Education Course’
engage:the international journal of visual art and gallery education, Vol 19, 2006
|‘Working within and
against Tate Modernism’
Third Text, No 57 Winter, 2001/2
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