NEPN Symposium, 18 May 2012

Socially -Engaged Practices Today @ Mining Institute, Newcastle upon Tyne


Michelle Sank, Untitled from the series The Submerged, 2011


Speakers include:  Pauline Hadaway; Bas Vroege; Michelle Sank; Anthony Luvera; Craig Ames; Ben Jones.

Dan Graham: ‘All artists are alike. They dream of doing something that’s more social, more collaborative and more real than art’. ( )

Is it possible for photographers to realise such dreams? What are the issues facing socially engaged practitioners today? Such questions seem particularly apt in our highly contested social sphere, marked in the UK by Conservative politics and seemingly intractable financial crisis coupled with savage cuts in public spending. Echoes of the 1980s are all too pervasive, with talk of (yet another) ‘lost generation’, rumour of renewed conflict in the South Atlantic, queues at petrol pumps and disarray among political parties of all persuasions. Much of this is played out across new social media contexts, where the networked photographic and video image has a seemingly new currency.

How might photographers today respond to these and other challenges? Our symposium seeks to explore some of the photographic and artistic strategies developed by current practitioners in varied contexts of social engagement, collaboration and participation.  These strategies will be explored in a series of presentations and dialogues, involving artists, curators and audiences. Among other questions, we will consider the extent to which the ‘social turn’ is paralleled in other visual and artistic practices.  What criteria should we employ to judge the effectiveness and success of socially engaged practices? How do we balance process, participation and shared ownership, alongside more conventional notions of authorship, photographic concept and creativity?  In short, the aesthetic dimensions of socially engaged practice will be a focus of our discussion and presentations, whether confrontational and disturbing or daring to explore strategies of visual pleasure and play.

Socially engaged projects have traditionally had a weak profile within the commercial photographic and art worlds. We will also consider the extent to which this may be shifting, with the renewed emphasis on experimental socially- engaged projects in the public realm on the part of commissioners and festival curators.

Join us for a day of photographic debate, provocation and networking.

Registration is now open. Just £15 or £7.50 for students/unwaged including lunch and refreshments.  More information is available in the Events section.

Portfolio Review Day, 19 May 2012.  Information on reviewers and process is available here

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