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Recent debates in the cultural industries have exposed the exploitative and unequal ways in which value – both fiscal and reputational – is distributed between workers and producers. Despite widespread recognition of the problem, nothing is done. Why is this? How can we design a more equitable system?
This talk is part of a new series of BxNU Institute talks inviting people to help us revisit questions of value in culture and propose both concrete, political and philosophical ideas for change. Speakers are Margaretta Jolly, Alan Lynn, Abigail Webster, Matty Pye and Elle Docx. Introduced and chaired by Martyn Hudson and Andrea Phillips.
Margaretta Jolly is Professor of Cultural Studies in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities, University of Sussex and directs the University's Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research. She is author ofSisterhood and After: An Oral History of the UK Women’s Liberation Movement(OUP, 2019), based on the archive she helped create in partnership with Polly Russell at the British Library 2010-14. She is also Principal Investigator for theConnected Histories of the BBC projectfollowing founder-director David Hendy, and forThe Business of Women’s Words: Purpose and Profit in Feminist Publishing. She is Director for Research and Knowledge Exchange supporting work in cultural and creative industries with a focus on social, heritage and ethical enterprise.
Martyn Hudson is Assistant Professor in Art and Design History at Northumbria University and the author of 10 books on visual and cultural theory and history. His most recent book is 'Social Ghosts and the Dead of World History: Ghost Theory' (Routledge 2023) and he edits the Visual Modernities series at Routledge. He works with a wide range of creative partnerships and leads, with Professor Donna Chambers, the MA programme in Creative Industries at Northumbria.
Andrea Phillips: I am currently Baltic Professor and Director of the BxNU Institute which organises the partnership between Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and Northumbria University. Previous to this, I have held Chairs at Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg, and Goldsmiths, University of London. I am an arts organiser, writer and teacher. My practice in these roles focusses on the possibility of reorganising arts education and cultural institutions through mechanisms and politics of financial, social and aesthetic dissensus and redistribution. Over the past decade I have been theorising the idea of devaluation as an anti-value paradigm within contemporary art and its spheres.
Elle Docx is an Audience Development Practitioner specialising in orchestral music, opera and ballet. She is also co-author of the forthcoming book Sensorial Modernities (Routledge 2023). Elle is a third year part-time PhD student at Northumbria University interested in how ideas from Enlightenment philosophy can be applied to improve current cultural policy.
Alan Lynn: My BxNU PhD research project, ‘Cultural Management's continuing adherence to failing modes of operation: speculations on a new game’, is powered by the sense of impasse, one might say circularity, that can be felt in nearly every strand of life today.
Distilled down from my fluid interpretation of the world, this can be exemplified by the following questions: Is the vortex and conflation of modernity and capitalism an opportunity for world making or an impenetrable barrier? If what is observed through the interpretive paradigm—conscious intention for example— is so circular that it folds back on itself, hence failing its own test, what permissions does this give to borrow from a positivist view?
Matty Pye works with cultural organisations, cultural leaders and the cultural workforce working with museums and galleries including the V & A, Tate, Royal Museums Greenwich, National Portrait Gallery and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. She has also worked on international projects with emerging and developing cultural sectors including the Gulf, Russia, China and wider Europe in conjunction with the British Council and museums and galleries across the UK. She curates and organises exhibitions, displays, public programmes and live events which bring together artists, makers and educators with communities. Matty is a PhD candidate with the University of Northumbria and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, researching Organisation, Leadership and Discourses of Democracy in Visual Arts Organisations. She trained as an artist in the UK and the Netherlands.
Abigail Webster is a researcher and organiser based in Edinburgh. She is in the second year of doctoral study at the BxNU Institute, Northumbria University, where her research examines the ways that contemporary art organisations in Scotland in receipt of state subsidy are shaped through administrative infrastructures, which effect the production and circulation of social and economic value, and frame cultural processes and outputs through logics of ‘excellence’ and ‘accountability’.
Beyond her studies, Abigail’s recent curatorial and scholarly interests have included labour as both a thematic in modern and contemporary art and as a component of the political economy of cultural production; the co-optation of activist histories and language in contemporary art, and the construction of audience members as ‘allies’ in emancipatory social struggle; and aesthetic and political resistance to the ‘afterlives of slavery’. She has coordinated projects for organisations including LUX Scotland, Scotland+Venice, Edinburgh Art Festival, and Embassy Gallery.