'The Doors of the Administration Building' - Gavin Wade's opening address for our 3rd national summit

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2008 © Liam Gillick, The Doors Of The Administration Building Will Remain Open 2008 photo by Stuart Whipp

A week and a bit has passed since 3rd National Summit take place at City Hall, London.

A range of speakers presented throughout the day and in some cases used supporting material, which can now be found in the web pages we have created for the four debate areas: Measuring Value, Alternative Economies, Conceptualising Engagement and Visual arts and the Education Agenda. Film content from the Summit will be uploaded this week.

We also had an opening address from Gavin Wade, Director of Eastside Projects. His speech is included below:

The world is understood through myths. All meaning comes to us as stories. We can take control of these stories to create our own meaning and form new myths. Fragments of stories and half-remembered truths form constantly re-written histories and articulate new and possible futures.

The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths.

  • Truth No. 1 – There is no establishment and no alternative
  • Truth No. 2 – Political art is over

Gavin Wade – What do we mean 'political art'? To be implicated in and be an active part of the political machine?

Andy Field – Politics is by definition 'of the people'. It should no more be defined by the political machine, than love is by Valentines day.

Gavin Wade – Should art, then, be defined by the art machine?

Is this what we mean by establishment? The art machine?

Art Buchwald – "If you attack the establishment long enough & hard enough, they will make you a member of it."

Groucho Marx – “Art is the politics of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

(Take a drink)

The Curator – Two political artists walk into a bar in Havana...

They leave with a fully worked up plan for a school for political art.

Motto – We don't believe in universalism.

Rationale – See problems. Make useful art. Solve problems.

Is the inevitable outcome of political art that the artist has to become a government minister?!

Gavin Wade – Two weeks ago in Stockholm I heard the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera talking about her 1998-2009 work Behaviour Art School. It was so successful that the Cuban government wanted to get involved. They wanted to absorb the school into the establishment. Tania closed the school.

Breaking News:

Closing down Institute of Economic Affairs could save the UK £3.8bn over the next 5 years through halting the damage caused by IEA’s misleading ‘cultural advice’.

Glasgow life.

Where the rich live longer.


Gavin Wade – If the proportions are wrong, the lighting bad, the conditions are difficult, make wrong, bad, difficult art.

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt – We should never use culture to mask inequality.

The minister said "The function of contemporary art today is problematic."

"So is the function of living," whispered the locksmith.

The sex shop assistant muttered "The true artist produces the most prestigious commodity."

David Blandy – I'd do that. If I could afford assistants!

The artist-curator – Get them to make a series of paintings to end the recession!

Simon Bloor – Or a series of recessions to end painting?!

Andy Field – Here's my thing. There's a Ken Friedman event score that, in its entirety, is this:

Imagine a life

Live it

Art for me exists in the space somewhere between those two instructions. It is made from the friction between our dreams and our lived reality. I believe that art is at its most radical and its most vital not when it is discussing politics or supposedly taboo subjects, but when it is creating contexts in which we can start to renegotiate the terms by which we live. When it is a space in which we can both imagine a life and start to live it.

The problem as far as I see it, is that art as we understand it in our late-capitalist corner of Western society has become so strangled by capitalism that at present even the most radical subject matter really does nothing other than rehearse familiar hierarchies and modes of production and consumption. In short we don't need to 'push at the door of issues no one else is talking about' because frankly in the internet age there are no issues that no one else is talking about. What we need is an art that provides people with the space to devise new strategies for engaging with and renegotiating those issues; tools for everyday resistance, a new kind of social space that offers hope for how we might live better. In the Tate or the National you can dream all you like about another life, but there's no space in which to start living it.

(Take a drink)

The Bartender – Jean-Luc Godard said ‘The problem is not to make political films, but to make films politically.’

The curator – So then the question really is – how do we make art organisations politically?           


2008 © Liam Gillick, The Whatnots Of The Administration Building Will Remain Open 2008 Photo by Stuart WhippsGavin Wade & Dave Beech (phone conversation) –

Are you the establishment or are you the alternative?  Who’s agenda is this? Are you a witch or a monk, that’s all that question is. What are you, a modern artist? Even ‘contemporary art’ is by the by these days. This is just an old fashioned opposition. It’s a trick.

A trick.

Can those mediating contemporary art, work with artists to powerfully engage with live political and social issues of the day - globalisation, poverty, religious extremism?

This question is just a way to align art with managerial positions, within a managerial vision of society. Who’s agenda is this? This trap of what and how art should be useful and for what purposes is the agenda of government corporations. How to reverse globalization? Well it’s too late, but even if it is, that is a problem we want the government to deal with.

You may want to put art in the mix because it’s so bloody useful, and it helps the world by revealing mystic truths but what if all the artists in the world have their own agenda, and what if all the art organisations are run by artists and they all have one agenda too – to make art.  That’s our agenda – to make art. Now if the government thinks art is so bloody special, and I’m not going to disagree with them, then they can put their money where their mouth is and support the production of art on our own self motivated, self organized, willful terms.

Liam Gillick – Las Puertas del edificio de administracion han quedado abiertas…

The doors of the administration building will remain open…

Gavin Wade – You know what Liam? When you made that work on the front of Eastside Projects in 2008 to announce the opening of a new gallery in Birmingham, I interpreted it as an antagonistic announcement of power and authority. We, Eastside Projects, are here to administer this city. Prepare for a new way of organizing, a new way of thinking, a new way of art. But now after that phone conversation with Dave about whose agenda are we working within, I’ve realized it means something else. Dave said that you’re work is radical because it deals with administration. That your use of aesthetics reveals the trap of managerial structures. What at surface value is artistically conservative sets up a revolutionary statement. The administration building’s doors are open not as a question of shifting who makes choices but as a simple statement – let’s stop manipulating each other.

Let’s stop manipulating each other.

Andy Field – What I'm interested in then is not the subject of the work that audiences are presented with, but the way in which they are presented with that work - to create a popular understanding of the value and purpose of art that is closer to that which I have just articulated than the pervasive consumer-led relationship that people generally assume to be the limit of their engagement with art. I want more people to believe that art is simply the name we give to a certain way of changing the world in which we all live.

This is of course not a new idea - artists have been talking about the notion of art as a process for the last hundred years. But I believe that in an internet age which basically makes explicit De Certeau's belief that consumption might be a revolutionary form of production, there is a real opportunity to renegotiate the terms by which the wider public understand art. And that is what I want to try and do.

Yangjiang Group





Mark Titchner – Here’s my Mini rant.......Given the complete failure of art to influence any kind of government policy change (two recent examples.... Save the Arts & Artists for the NHS) I would say that this seriously over estimates the importance of the Arts as an influence across the whole spectrum of life.  What kind of audience is it that has in fact developed? Is it an audience that seriously believes that art can produce social change rather than one that simply finds the 'political' a subject that can pallatably be abstracted to nothing through art.  Yes we are too comfortable. The Occupy demonstration at St Pauls was a far more engaging, challenging and arresting engagement than anything presented by the arts. Boom.

Gavin Wade – The true artist helps the world but maybe not in the way you asked for.

Art is not a tool designed to give you what you want.  This is the fundamental value of art, artists and arts organisations - they don’t give you what you asked for. Arts use to society is that it doesn’t give you what you think you wanted. And this is why a society that doesn’t support art or tries to limit the ways in which art can be produced is always so suspicious.

Art has a tough time because it is so bloody good at being art. Everyone with a bit of sense tries to co-opt the language of making art. It’s attractive to everyone. Art fits everywhere and anywhere.  It can happen anytime, any place, any how.

Now, when Andy Warhol said “good business is the best art” he didn’t mean for business to destroy art, I’m sure of that. But he knew that art and creativity in general would be the most valuable thing in the future for business and that one day business would try and make art bend to its will. There is no reason why art shouldn’t work for business, everything else does. “SO let’s put art only in terms of business, only agendas of economics and make the world work better.”


They’re wrong.

More people in the UK go to museums and art galleries than vote!

The ‘problem’ that half the population don’t engage with art is not a problem for the artworld per se. Instead, it reveals the problems of society.  That’s all.

The magic trick has been to make it look like it’s a cultural issue. The artworld can too easily be a deflection, a slight of hand.

Instead we have to use the politics that are brought up by this ‘problem’.

Mark McGowan – What is it about the working class?  Why are they so witless? So Stupid? So foolish?  How do they allow themselves to be tricked, to be conned so easily by the powers that be?

I think I know why.

It’s not because they’re stupid and witless and foolish.  The majority of them are trying so hard to survive, struggling so hard to fucking survive, they ain’t got time for all that politics shit. They ain’t got fuckin time for it.

Gavin Wade – Is this, then, our message – PEOPLE – make time for this politics shit.  Make time for this art shit.

(take a drink)

An artist walks into a bar and asks for ten shots of the establishments finest single malt scotch. The bartender sets them up, 10 in a row. The artist takes the first shot and pours it on the floor. He then plucks the last one from the row and does the same. The bartender says, "Oh, I see.  You’re one of these

anti-establishment types." And the artist replies, "No, I love the establishment, but the first shot always tastes like shit, and the last one always makes me sick!"


May 2012

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2012 © Cheryl Jones, Nathaniel Pitt, Matt Westbrook, Honk! If you ŒHeart‚ Contemporary Art 2012 photo by Stuart Whipps.

Many thanks to Andy Field, Dave Beech, Mark Titchner.

Also thanks to Bruce Nauman, Art Buchwald, Groucho Marx, Tania Brugeura, Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Lucie Fontaine, David Blandy, Simon Bloor, Ken Friedman, Jean-Luc Godard, Liam Gillick, Mark McGowan, Yangjiang Group, Andy Warhol, FREEE.

Gavin Wade is Director of Eastside Projects, Birmingham, an artist-curator and Publisher of Strategic Questions. In 2010 he received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund Award for exceptional cultural entrepreneurs.