Scarborough is one of those British seaside resorts which seem forever stuck in an indeterminable period of the not-too-recent past. As such, it’s an interesting meeting place for the more daringly nomadic representatives of the various UK arts bodies and sub-cultures. All there to attend a collaborative event at Sarborough’s ‘The Spa’, organized by artist Patrick Brill a.k.a. Bob and Roberta Smith and the Crescent Arts Centre, and aimed at ‘debating the future of arts and education.’
Politely referred to as faded grandeur, ‘The Spa’ is a post-Apocalypse Tracey Island multiplex perched at one end of the bay. It has the ambience of a conference centre after a ten year bender but it’s still affectingly impressive.
The three central hour long group presentations used the standard art chat format of half a dozen people seated at a table drinking water and opining on things in general. The potentially irritating delivery of laboured philosophical haikus, trips down memory lane and disconcertingly odd tangential musings still could not hide the fact that the contradictory creature the career artist is clearly much better at entertainingly performing itself than an administrator is at justifying the castrating box-ticking ‘professionalization’ of art.
Less a debate than a series of loose meanderings and interjections, with no clear binding core values, it at least had the strength of not being easily transcribed into a sound-bite for the ‘culture industries’ and of being prepared to criticize the suffocating authority of the economically useful as a simplistic fuel for future ‘arty’ fiddlings.
Unfortunately, these days even that seems like an achievement.
Things never got really heated just a tad tepid when the realpolitik of ‘creative partnerships’ attracted a less than flattering aside, much to the irritation of one of its peevish advocates.
Rather than the pallid grip of further bureaucratization, at the moment the UK ‘arts scene‘ is desperately in need of a liberal dollop of anarchic creativity (both smart and witless).
Bob and Roberta Smith’s ‘Art Party’ might suffer from migraine-inducing onion-layers of intention - whilst quite possibly still being art - but if it’s a bit muted as a full-bloodied party at least it’s an effort in foregrounding the social boxing of a post-’Relational Art’ event as a positive starting point in addressing some thorny issues.
And the fish and chips were pretty good.