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Anthony Schrag
The Artist as Social Worker vs The Artist as a Social Wanker

Wed 24 May 2017

This talk is currently fully booked. Please contact Box Office if you have previously booked a ticket and are no longer able to attend. Spaces may become available on the evening.

Examining the function of (and ethics contained in) working with people, this talk by Anthony Schrag frames a theoretical basis for cultural projects happening outside of traditional art spaces and explores the dynamics that emerge when working with communities.

Participation is used as an over-arching term to describe a variety of artistic and cultural practices that ‘engage’ people, however, terms such as community engagement, social engagement, community-led, social practice, relational aesthetics and dialogic practices are often used by people in the filed interchangeably, despite meaning very very different things for different people. Within this work, too, there is a plethora of artistic and curatorial approaches and despite the vast differences in the techniques and intentions of ‘working with people’, this practice is still framed as a cohesive field. The question of how policy-makers, funding bodies, art institutions, and practitioners might therefore understand, enact and support this ‘field’ becomes vital to address.

Recent years has seen a burgeoning phase of development for the practice and it is no longer considered a fringe activity, with major attention given from governmental policy, conferences, large funding initiatives, academic journals, as well as the establishment of a number of dedicated MA courses. This activity guides a professionalisation and instrumentalisation of the practice either from government agencies who might position it as ‘social work lite’, or from activist agents who wish to implement their own utopian social engineering, or even artists arguing for a specific framework of engagement. It is therefore a crucial time to reflect on and analyse the multiple different approaches

Anthony Schrag is a practitioner and a researcher with an interest in the ethical complications that arise when ‘working with people’. This talk begins by framing a historical and theoretical basis for cultural projects happening outside of traditional art spaces (i.e., community engagement, public film projects, political theatre activisms, participation, etc.) and explores the relations of power and problematics that emerge when working within and with communities.

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