A guest post from Dave Moutrey, Director and CEO of Cornerhouse, Manchester.
How should a contemporary arts organisation work with audiences, artists and curators in this early part of the 21st Century at a time when;
- the boundaries between consumer and producer are becoming increasingly blurred, in a world of infinite communication possibilities,
- where people are increasingly collaborating to create and innovate,
- where many artists are working with the grain of these changes,
- where new business models are developing with these approaches and embedded within them.
This is a question that Cornerhouse is investigating over the next few years because it is our view that as a contemporary arts centre, Cornerhouse cannot sit outside of such dynamic changes but must embrace and work with them. Our view is that we need to transform the organisation into a place that brings together artists and audiences to exchange ideas and help make sense of the world through ‘open’ systems, innovation and business models. In short ‘We-think’.
Taking an open approach to developing a programme for a contemporary arts centre we believe is untried. Cornerhouse is changing to an approach which involves significant dialogue between the curator, artists and audiences. Can high quality exhibitions, film seasons and cross art form events be created using wikis? How does this affect curatorial practice? What does this do to existing business models? What does a Web 2.0 arts centre look like? Is it all just ‘emperor’s new clothes’. We will find out.
We have embarked on a research programme to understand more about what we mean by ‘open’. Charles Leadbeater was commissioned to write a think piece on ‘open’ and the contemporary arts which we now want to use as a provocation for further thinking, writing and debate. His excellence thought provoking essay, The Art of With, is an important starting point for the next part of the debate. In particular we are interested in understanding more about the challenges and opportunities we face in developing new practice rooted in this thinking.
This is only the beginning. We need to take our programme to a new place, which is a really scary part as if we are being open, it is hard to say exactly what it will look like. Where we end up on a scale that has ‘curated’ at one end and ‘democratic’ at the other will have a major impact on how we shape our programme and the nature of the dialogue with audiences and artists. How do we preserve our brand as we go move in the direction of we think?
Given our commitment to developing an open approach it would be perverse if this happened behind closed doors with a few industry ‘experts’ and ‘consultants’ so we are not doing that. We are asking for views and opinions from anyone who wants to engage with the ideas and we will share them with people who are interested in being part of the conversation. We already know that other arts organisations are interested in what we are trying to do. We hope our audiences will also be interested to engage with the debate. Please engage and share with The Art of With.