Jamboree #1: LOW PROFILE – On the origins of Jamboree (part 1)

Originally published: 5 January 2016 – https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/jamboree/post/52436121/

We’ve been around for a while and we’ve done lots of things we are proud of, but we remain, in many ways, at the fringes.

Having said that, we like being at the edges. We were drawn to living in Plymouth for its underdog qualities and for the real potential to contribute productively and sincerely to the place we lived and worked in. At the time of settling here in 2005, it is no exaggeration to say that you could count the number of contemporary visual artists based in the city on one hand. A lot has changed since then and the city is becoming an exciting place for artists to be located and for audiences to have high quality cultural experiences.

We have never been concerned about the impact living in Plymouth has, or might have, on our careers. This has been our base and like many artists based in a particular locale or city, we rarely show (or desire to show) work in the city itself. There are, however, challenges to ‘being here’.

  • it can be costly and time consuming to travel
  • the art scene is still very young and lacking a full ecology of practitioners (emerging, mid career, established etc)
  • the city does not have a large, dedicated contemporary visual art venue
  • there are very few studio spaces available for artists making non-commercially focused work (est 12 individual studio spaces for rent)
  • there are few curators and programmers operating in, and/or visiting the city

Over the years we have shown work across the regions and outside the UK, but have most recently spent the last two years making work (a participatory project ‘Picture in the Paper’ and a solo gallery installation, ‘Impromptu’) originated and based in Bath (South West). Bath, like Plymouth, suffers from a lack of critical engagement and attention from the art world and wider arts discourse. We had made two significant projects and attempted to create an audience for these works, but they remained very ‘local’ in their reach. The revelation that good work can be entirely missed when being presented out of established contexts, is in no way surprising. It is, however, still frustrating.

We are not interested in making decisions about where we live, or make and show work, based on whether (or not) it is strategically good for our career or professional profile. We’re not aiming for grand notions of success, status or recognition, but we do, of course, want our work to be seen, for our networks to reach outside of the places we operate in and for the things we do to attract the attention of people involved in the critical discourse around arts practice (artists, curators, writers, researchers, programmers etc.).­

We started to think about ways we could reconnect with a wider network of artists and arts professionals and support other artists with similar needs, issues and concerns to those that we were identifying.