In March – April 2016, LUX undertook an organisational residency as part of the Tate St Ives Artists Programme. We took this invitation as an opportunity to develop a programme exploring the current context for artists’ moving image in Cornwall both in terms of audiences and artist support. Over five weeks we delivered a series of screenings, talks, workshops, courses and one-on-one sessions with a range of individual and partner organisations in Cornwall.
As a small but national organisation with limited resources, we struggle to work in a sustained way with communities beyond our current bases in London and Glasgow. We wished to use this residency to develop connections with Cornwall to think about how we might sustain a working relationship with the region in the future and by extension how we might work with other English regions and UK nations in a more effective way in the future.
This short paper outlines our observations and thoughts about artists’ moving image (and more broadly contemporary visual arts) in Cornwall and some initial ideas about how we might work with the region in the future. Please note these observations are inevitably subjective and limited by our very brief time there.
Our residency was supported by Tate St Ives, Film Hub South West & West Midlands (part of the BFI Film Audience Network) and BFI Diversity Fund, awarding funds from The National Lottery. During the residency we worked with and were generously hosted and supported by a number of organisations, including Back Lane West, Redruth; Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film (BEEF); Cinestar; CIRCLE Contemporary, Wadebridge; Cornubian Arts & Science Trust (CAST) and The Cornwall Workshop; Cornwall Film Festival; Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange, Penzance; Porthmeor Studios, St Ives; Royal Cinema, St Ives; and Visual Arts South West.
- There is potential and capacity to build on exemplar projects, such as The Cornwall Workshop and SWARM, to foster a stronger collective voice and greater sense of community within the contemporary visual arts in Cornwall
- There is potential for more sharing, exchange and dialogue across the region, as many conversations still appear to take place in an isolated and fragmented way. This is partly due to geographic distances and lack of travel infrastructure, but also because it is unclear where these meeting points might be. People sometimes feel they are competing against each other for funding rather than working together strategically
- Working together more strategically may encourage the community to share resources and knowledge more freely, engendering a more porous, generous and collaborative way of working amongst each other
- There is a need to celebrate and amplify the specific qualities of place rather than measure against perceived centres. A balance needs to be struck between connecting with ideas and people from elsewhere and placing greater value on resources and knowledge that already exist in the region. The community can generate its own conversations without articulating a discussion back to any perceived centre
- There is a need for more advocacy for the artists’ moving image sector to support, enable and provide access
- Overwhelming response to open call for submissions for the Side by Side screening event suggests desire and need for a platform for artists to show their own work
- More platforms are needed for artists to make their work visible in order to facilitate greater exchange within and beyond the region.
- While there is a strong tradition of visual arts in the region, there are dominant narratives which make it difficult for other contemporary practices to gain visibility
- There is a lack of infrastructure for visual arts career progression in the region – particularly in terms of the diversity of spaces to support artists at different career stages (for example, contemporary artist-run spaces and small-scale public spaces)
- There is a sense that infrastructure and support is not equally distributed across the South West, although Plymouth is becoming a more important centre for visual arts in the region
- There is a lack of opportunity to view work in the region
- There is an active and engaged audience for artists’ moving image work in Cornwall, but scope for this to be developed further, particularly to address the lack of public access to work in more rural and isolated areas across the region (especially in the northern and eastern parts of Cornwall)
- There is a lack of sustained access to contemporary critical discourse in the region
- There is a lack of access to equipment and workshop facilities for moving image production in the region
Possible Next Steps for LUX
Most of these ideas are subject to LUX sourcing additional funding and/or delivery with partner organisations in the region:
- Establish a LUX Critical Forum group in Cornwall. The LUX Forums are peer-led critical discussion groups that are established and co-hosted with LUX for artists working with the moving image. The Forums are intended to provide a site for critical reflection, networking and sustained connection with LUX and the network of other Forum groups in London, Bristol, Dublin, Glasgow and Dundee
- Establish a new annual artists’ moving image festival/gathering to constitute and make visible the community of practitioners in Cornwall, to see work from within/without Cornwall, and for the Cornish artists community to host artists and curators from outside of the region to forge and extend new networks
- Undertake ongoing programme of artists’ one-on-one advice sessions in Cornwall
- Collaborate with partners on sustained artists’ moving image programming in the region. Potential partners may include CAST, The Penwith Film Society, Tate St Ives, Tate St Ives Look Groups network, Cinestar and Cornwall Film Festival, amongst others
- Establish an access point to the digital LUX collection for artists and researchers, which could be framed/expanded to a research/study/support centre for artists’ moving image hosted within an institution in Cornwall
- Host writer/curator residencies within the LUX collection access point to generate public programming/discourse in dialogue with local contexts
- Employ a LUX Cornwall facilitator who would be based in Cornwall to provide a point of interface with LUX – organising public programming, professional development projects and managing LUX collection access and research facilities
- Continue to aggregate artists’ moving image events into a monthly LUX Cornwall newsletter to provides a sense of umbrella support and advocacy for artists’ moving image activity across the region
- Assist in the showcasing of artists’ moving image work produced in Cornwall beyond the region
- Map and audit moving image production facilities and skills within the region and establish a network to make these accessible, also to enable skill sharing and community support
– April 2016