Curatorial development in Scotland

Thoughts from Value & Evaluation workshop @ DCA

Thursday’s workshop at DCA is the third Framework I have attended. This time, rather than occupying the role of participant, I was employed by Kirsteen to work with her as a reader. She supplied some texts which I then summarised and we discussed together prior to the workshop.

The questions which we decided to lead the discussions with were roughly as follows:

1) Value – How does ideology affect ones perception of value? For example, how might we consider value in non-fiscal forms? What are the connotations of / concepts of value in your recent practice?

2) Evaluation – Considering the problematics of evaluation. How has evaluation affected your work? What are your experiences of evaluative processes, and what conflicts have arisen from this?

My own answers stemmed from my experience as a recent graduate (2007 & 2011), my arts administration experience (2006 – 2010) and postgraduate art theory education (2010 – continuing…).

Answering the value question, I decided to discuss the concept of value from a “Tesco Value” perspective. Due to the marginalization of small scale and public arts institutions, this kind of squeezed value is often seen as an innate ‘good’. Thus, the provision of free labour at entry level for a long period of time as a ‘voluntary’ worker or ‘intern’ is normalised and even expected. The young worker provides ‘good value’ in that they work for free, but their work is often seen as something of no value precisely because it is free labour. Does free work have any value at all in this case?

My answer to the evaluation question was not discussed on the day as we entered a looser discussion in the second half of the day. I wrote about self evaluation in application-making, since at the moment I have been proposing projects to open calls at galleries, and applying to PhD programmes. When in the process of applying or proposing, there is a strong feeling that you must rank yourself competitively against your peers. You must pre-empt the evaluation of a board or committee by guessing their criteria and expectations. Being the same but different, or the same but better is often a particular expectation in art and academia.

In regards to the discussion, I was particularly interested to hear Gavin Wade talk about forming an association with The Lombard Method and Grand Union,  two smaller artist run spaces in Birmingham. This format of providing certain forms of perceived ‘value’ to funders, also allows for solidarity and resource sharing between institutions. It seems to be a means to continuing practice which may not otherwise be supported in the current economic climate.

Overall I felt that we had a diverse selection of responses to Value and Evaluation, a much broader set of viewpoints and experience than those I had come across in the reading. This was due to the variety of backgrounds, age, and experience around the table, from young curators who are not associated with any institutions, to committee members of artist-run spaces, those who work in public art organisations, and those with academic affiliation.

We also talked about the idea of evaluative response being provided in a local/personal vernacular and I feel that perhaps the respective arts councils would benefit from accepting this differing array of viewpoints in their consideration of the arts ‘ecology’ as it stands today.

Emma Balkind
Art Worker and recent graduate of MA Contemporary Art Theory at Edinburgh College of Art