Monday, November 5, 2007

Why do artists want to publish?

Well, most artists don’t. They may like to have someone interview them and write about them. But most creative think that art speaks for itself!

“If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Edward Hopper (American Painter. 1882-1967)

But some artists also work as art teachers, and some even teach in universities. These ones have got to publish in the same ways as their colleagues in science, engineering and even humanities need to do.

Manuel Alvarado calls this “the dead hand of the pressures of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).” For those who do not know what RAE means, I can explain. The British Government in its wisdom decided that the part of a university’s budget allocated for research should be distributed through a periodic assessment of the quality of research produced by UK university departments. It seems that measuring the volume and quality of research output via publications is the easiest way of doing this. University based artists and others in practice-based work have found themselves challenged to back up their creative artefacts with written material that contextualises them in their academic context.

Of course, there are other mediums where one’s ideas can be communicated to an audience:

• a website, blog, DVD
• a video diary, television programme, movie
• a radio series
• a song
• a painting, a photograph
• an installation, exhibition
• an ad series
• a peaceful demonstration
• an act of terrorism
• a bombing raid

But writing has won the day! In some way I am glad about this because I like words as a cultural currency.

• is cheaper than staging a play
• can preserve the creative work
• offers reflection on Practice
• helps build a creative heritage

Of course, there are drawbacks when we use writing as the main currency. For example, documentation establishes a standard version, there is less freedom for improvisation, and there may be fewer variations!

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