Change The World Or Go Home

We speak to curator Craig Barnes about questioning the future impact of art with the help of both established and emerging artists

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We’re all aware of how the government cuts earlier this year have served to squeeze the arts into small box potentially damaging the impact of the industry for some time to come. There is no thought whatsoever that the art community is lacking ingenuity, quality or even support, however, with galleries being forced to close and vital funding having been withdrawn, there are voices questioning the future impact of exhibitions and artworks that perhaps they may not be as far reaching as they once were.

Change The World Or Go Home is the forthcoming expo that addresses this exact issue. Making noise on whether art still has the capability to have an impact upon people despite becoming relatively constrained and urging the continuance of art to grab society’s attention. We find out more from the curator Craig Barnes who tells us how it is as relevant as ever question the current position of art.

Dazed Digital: 'Change the World Or Go Home' showcases established contemporary artists alongside exciting up and coming ones. By using this combination for a group show and having such a subjective expo concept, what are you attempting to achieve?
Craig Barnes: I guess talk about not whether it’s any good or not, but more about what it could or couldn't achieve from this point onwards and how. In some part it stems from the myriad discussions of late about the role of the arts today, prompted by the recent Arts Council funding cuts. Rather than gather around a nice David Shrigley cartoon moaning about it, we thought we'd make a (hopefully) marginally abrasive show around the subject. Established artists such as Jeremy Deller and Mark McGowan in their own ways understand the unique force art has held within the social spectrum historically.

Whether you've been making work for years or are just starting to find your voice, it’s important for there to be a dialogue by work sitting alongside each other, hence the inclusion of YouTube based videos in the show. And whether one’s outlook is pessimistic or optimistic (or both) it seemed apt as a new art space in a region lacking much art that doesn't involve nice watercolours (etc) to be acknowledging the elephant in the room.

DD: Do you think it is more relevant than ever to try to assess the impact of art within the spiralling out of control world; For instance especially in Britain, where turmoil seems to be around every corner?
Craig Barnes:
I don’t think it’s more relevant, I think it's as relevant as ever, but I feel somehow it's been allowed to become irrelevant.

DD: Would you agree that it is risky for audiences to leave questioning the influence of contemporary art or will the exhibition serve to cement an opinion about its importance in their heads?
Craig Barnes:
Risky? What's the point otherwise? As an artist myself I believe it’s important to flag up issues, be assertive and make visible things that aren't. At least make a noise.

DD: What mediums can people expect to see?
Craig Barnes:
YouTube and watercolours. And other stuff inbetween.

DD: Are their any standout pieces that encapsulate in the show?
Craig Barnes:
I'm excited to see brand new work by recent Slade graduate Kitty Clark in the flesh as well as the oldest work in the show - Jeremy Deller's 1998 I love joyriding photograph - which as a younger man beguiled me no end. 

DD: Why was the Down Stairs Gallery at Great Brampton House deemed an appropriate venue?
Craig Barnes:
The car parking facilities are excellent? Unfortunately we don't offer tea or coffee which seems to be quite a key factor in whether people go to see a show or not so I might just work that in somehow before the show opens on Saturday 10th September. In all seriousness, we are in a fortunate position to be able to mount this show without a huge amount of commercial concerns. That's a fairly unique situation to be in. It would be a shame not to make the most of it. 

DD: As curator, what can be done to continue this awareness of arts’ significance in society – Do you think this is a subject more artists and curators will approach in the future?
Craig Barnes:
Identify artists making a noise. Acknowledge work that takes place outside of a gallery space. Find interesting ways to represent it and represent it within the gallery space. Intersperse it with some shows of nice paintings so people can breathe. Do I think this is a subject more artists and curators will approach in the future? ...Yes and maybe/no.

'Change The World Or Go Home' will be held at the Down Stairs in Herefordshire from September 10 - December 30, 2011

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