School of the Arts, English and Drama

Staff research

The Politicized Practice Research Group and the Anarchism Research Group are joining forces with a broader range of Loughborough researchers to convene a series of events on Critical Citizenship, Activism and Art.

The events, under the banner of the Communication, Culture and Citizenship Research Challenge, will exhibit and reflect on the use of diverse forms of art to question prevailing political, economic and cultural orthodoxies.

In our shrinking world, where communication media remain dominated by entrenched interests and surveillance, critical citizens are developing creative tactics and performances to provoke debate in the public sphere.

This series will be a space to showcase and critically discuss art activists’ efforts to give a voice to the excluded, promote inclusive alternatives, and enrich global culture and citizenship. This series builds on local multidisciplinary strengths and specialisms, and aims to contribute to the University’s strategic ambitions to enhance the global community’s social, cultural and economic wellbeing, to put forward solutions to contemporary global challenges, and to impact national and international citizenship practices.

Unbribable Life II. Politics of the Art School

4 March 2016, The Space

On the occasion of the visit of the creators of a Worker’s University in an occupied factory in Tuzla, this event brings together researchers and participants from art schools, radical art and worker movements in the UK and Yugoslavia.

Student Art Centres in Yugoslavia were important meeting points between artists and broader social and political issues and hosted left critique of the official culture in Yugoslavia and joined the neo-Marxist, post ‘68 critique of culture, including that of the emerging ‘red bourgeoisie’. Central to this was the linking of artists’ struggles to those of other workers.  What politics of solidarity were shared by artist and art student movements and their counter-parts in art school activism and occupations in the UK? And, how do current artists and art students and work in solidarity with other worker groups to fight the neoliberalisation of the arts and broader society today?

The event will be formatted around keywords, inviting past and present participants from the UK and Yugoslav contexts to discuss strategies and futures for their work in and across both contexts.

Chaired by Margareta Kern and Janna Graham.

Unbribable Life I. Art and Activism in Former Yugoslavia and the UK

Join Workers from the Occupied Factory and Worker’s University in Tuzla in conversation with Nottingham’s Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation!

In 2015 workers at the DITA Factory in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, occupied and took control of a factory inactive due to bankruptcy and corruption. Drawing from the force of the plenums (public encounters for resisting state corruption held in Tuzla’s national gallery) workers have the factory up and running and are joined by activists, artists and researchers in founding a Worker’s University within the factory walls. How do the ideals of self-managed socialism find themselves in recent movements which contest the global webs of debt, corruption and neo-liberalisation on a global scale? How do these relate to histories of worker struggle in the Midlands and how they are being reconfigured, particularly when they are increasingly reliant on the so-called ‘knowledge economy’?

All are welcome to this event to discuss new forms of direct democracy, like the Citizen’s Plenum that emerged out of protests in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014, in relation to worker movements there and in the UK and Nottingham’s own relationship to questions of Worker Control.

The event will be hosted by Tuzla activist Damir Arsenijević and Artist Margareta Kern with contributions from DITA worker occupiers, ally Vanessa Vasić-Janeković and local activists Tom Unterrainer and Tony Simpson from the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.

Hosted by: Margareta Kern and Damir Arsenijević

Critical Citizenship 4: DIY and Anarchist publishing

Wednesday 6th May 2015 at 5pm Radar, LU Artscentre, Edward Barnsley

Richard Cubesville and Stevphen Shukaitis will be sharing their experiences of, motivations for, and perspectives on DIY and Anarchist Publishing. Both these presenters are actively engaged in forms of publishing that differ markedly from the industry norm – but they differ from one another too. This presentation and discussion of their approaches will illuminate the political significance of alternative publishing, against the backdrop of a rapidly changing publishing world. There will also be a mini-exhibit of zines before and after the session.

Richard Cubesville is a journalist, and is the force behind One Way Ticket To Cubesville zine, a vehemently DIY slice of anarcho-absurdism in existence since 1987.

Stevphen Shukaitis is an academic at the University of Essex and is the coordinator of Minor Compositions publishing project, which bills itself as a series of interventions and provocations drawing from autonomous politics, avant-garde aesthetics, and the revolutions of everyday life.

Critical Citizenship 3: W.A.G.E, intern labor rights and precarious workers brigade

Wednesday 29th April 2015 at 6.30pm The Space, Nottingham Contemporary

By looking at arts advocacy groups, this event will discuss knowledge and strategies around campaigning and awareness-raising against exploitation and labour conditions in the cultural sector. Speakers from W.A.G.E. (NY, US), Intern Labor Rights (NY, US) and Precarious Workers Brigade (LONDON, UK) will present recent work and discuss local conditions of their practice. Although the arts and cultural sector in the US differs from that in the UK, there are similarities in these groups’ approach. Questions of aesthetics and modes of artistic and political intervention are secondary: these groups focus on social organization and activist methodologies. By offering modes of address that reshape our understandings of labour, W.A.G.E, Intern Labor Rights and Precarious Workers Brigade unpack and elucidate the conceptual barriers and possibilities of making and presenting art. With this in mind, this talk will continue the discussion with regards to art and its relation to activism.

Founded in 2008, Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) is a New York-based activist group whose advocacy is currently focused on regulating the payment of artist fees by nonprofit art institutions and establishing a sustainable model for best practices between artists and the institutions that contract their labor. www.wageforwork.com/about/2/mission

Intern Labor Rights aims to raise awareness of the exploitation of unpaid laborers. We have experienced firsthand the detrimental effects of a practice whereby workers contribute to their employers’ success but receive no wages in compensation. www.internlaborrights.com

Precarious Workers Brigade is a UK-based group of precarious workers in culture and education. We call out in solidarity with all those struggling to make a living in this climate of instability and enforced austerity. Join us to learn, create and struggle together!http://precariousworkersbrigade.tumblr.com/

Critical Citizenship 2: Art not oil - Liberate Tate

Wednesday 11th February 2015 - 6.30pm at The Space at Nottingham Contemporary

Art Not Oil Liberate Tate will present documentation from their five years of performance-interventions, alongside a discussion of their methodology and how cultural institutions play an important role in the normalisation of the environmental and human rights abuses of oil companies.

Liberate Tate is an art collective exploring the role of creative intervention in social change. The group aims to "free art from oil" with a primary focus on the art museum Tate ending its corporate sponsorship with BP. Liberate Tate has become internationally renowned for artworks about the relationship of public cultural institutions with oil companies. The collective was founded during a Tate workshop in January 2010 on art and activism. When Tate curators tried to censor the workshop from making interventions against Tate sponsors, even though none had been planned, the participants decided to continue their work together and set up Liberate Tate. Their performances have included a 64 square meter interpretation of Malevich’s Black Square in the Tate Turbine Hall, the installation of a 16 m wind turbine blade in Tate Modern, and pouring oil over a naked male curled up on the floor of the Duveen Gallery in Tate Britain on the anniversary of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Liberate Tate will present documentation from their five years of performance-interventions, alongside a discussion of their methodology and how cultural institutions play an important role in the normalisation of the environmental and human rights abuses of oil companies.

Critical Citizenship 1: Building an archive-from-below The Interference Archive

Wednesday 12th November 2014 - 5pm - RADAR Artscentre

Jen Hoyer, Josh MacPhee, and Greg Mihalko will discuss their experiences in building an "archive-from-below." Being all volunteer run and largely self-funded, Interference Archive is a unique institution, which is neither credentialized academic research center or professional political space. Drawing on knowledge and skills developed across the fields of library science, political activism, and contemporary art production, we work to popularize both archives and politics on a community level, as well as activate our histories as tools to open up new possibilities for the future.

Into Action: The Politics of Play and Participation

Friday 20 May at 10am-4pm

This one-day event at Primary is inspired by the radical political roots of Action Space - a collective of artists, performers, dancers and musicians working in the community, set up in 1968 in London by Mary and Ken Turner. In common with other collective groups committed to the idea of art as a tool of cultural democracy and social change, Action Space took art onto the streets, blending art and play through the use of environmental inflatable structures. Over the last couple of decades, participative art projects have become commonplace but has art lost its capacity to be radical? In particular, this one-day event asks: How can ‘play’ be political? How can participative projects generate agency? What is the potential for community projects to be radical today? Among the speakers will be Dr Gillian WhiteleyAntoinette Burchill, Zoë Petersen, and Sarah Green. For more information and tickets please visit the Primary website here.