Stacking DNA
Stacking DNA

Grizedale Arts is a broad and dispersed network of activity which connects concentrated points of socio-cultural change. The purpose of this is ultimately to make art and artists useful and stop standing around at the edges smoking roll ups and talking about defining/describing space. In order to help its own community in the Lake District it is necessary to relate this and interact it with the current global conditions, and to see rural places such as its own, as part of a contemporary complex that is shaping the way we all live and work: i.e. getting some perspective. By connecting places like Coniston and Nanling it is possible to inject ideas and influence things in a way that benefits both situations. It makes the world more complex, more interesting, more related, happier. Diversity is generally a good thing and healthy for the ecological system, not just the tree hugging ‘natural’ system but also the social one. I don’t subscribe to the view that all artists by default should love the environment because they are Guardian readers, but I do subscribe to the view that to make creativity effective it’s got to operate as part of a system. It should make things work better, even through disruption, artists working as citizens, not just art people, to feel obliged to take part and help this process.

Back home the regeneration authorities can so only see in front of their own nose/wallet/retirement date. They can only talk in terms of direct economic outputs, how many jobs are you creating? How many bed nights? They basically do not have any imagination, these mid range businessmen, it’s generally not in the blood and you can see it here too when they want to bulldoze the old houses and make it all just like everywhere else in rural China. These places like Nanling and Coniston and Egremont are complex and untypical, they need a bespoke approach to make them work well and nuanced understanding that evolves over time, it’s not a quick fix and shouldn’t be. Like any relationship it needs work and commitment. There are two ways to make a garden, one to buy in a load of plants and dump them in the ground in a day, or two to develop it slowly, feeding and getting to know the soil before you plant and talking to other gardeners about the best ways to control slugs and get the biggest marrows. I’ve seen enough of the world to see that the longest changes have the best effect. (Look what happened to the Liverpool Garden Festival Site)

China is now the prime economic, cultural, political power in this century. My geography teacher Di Jones told me it was going to be thus in 1985 and it stuck in my mind as something that was certain. In 1908 you could probably be forgiven to saying that America’s rise to power was nothing to do with us, and we don’t want to get in involved, but it’s all too close now. I look at my children and think it will be highly likely that at least one of them will be working in China before I go.

The title of this project is a reference to the British pastime of Happy Slapping, the après-Burgess crime of beating someone up and snapping it on a mobile phone which is, in turn, a nod to the debate between friendship models and antagonism in cultural theory. Moving on from this polarised debate about how art and artists should behave surely lies in a more nuanced and complicated engagement with the world that is allowed provokes but also contribute constructive things. This is just how it is in communities and human relationships and so the Grizedale programme is not built upon a set of interventions but a set of real relationships built and maintained over time, through different yet comparable communities, of the art world, village, farming or any kind.

Happy Stacking is built around the slow build of relationships and culture, networked to comparators and relatives, that has the most lasting impact. This idea includes the squabbles and fall outs, going with what who/you know and taking a chance encounter, low-fi, hi-fi and med-fi.

The project is not necessarily radical but is certainly part of a prevailing condition that is looking to alternative models of production and distribution, which includes people like Nicolas Bourriaud, who is currently formulating his next art school bestseller in the Altermodern and projects like the forthcoming 3rd Guangzhou Triennial saying Farewell to the Postcolonial.

Phase 1 of Happy Stacking has been completed, the relationships have been established and some ideas exchanged. The next phase is to network these relationships, to build on the ideas and maintain the friendships to maximise what use they might be across the system.


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