39-41 Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham, United Kingdom This blog is for all New Art Exchange audience members to give their opinions and reviews, and to discuss exhibitions & events. Got something to add? Email:

19 September 2011

21st Century Tension

21st Century tension
(measuring the ‘sound’ of creativity – Decibel 2011)

The street never lies… where (high) art and culture collide, engaging reality. That is the starting point for our space in Hyson Green. Hold that thought.
I’ve just spent a couple of days at the ACE conference and showcase for diversity, Decibel - a festival of diversity exploring a new approach where diversity designs cultural production in the UK so it becomes positioned at the centre of what we assume as the mainstream. 
I believe I’m fairly optimistic, so for me meeting new people and consolidating old friendships strengthens my practice, outlook, networks and therefore the future impact of the work I champion. I came away with many business cards and one who claims to cover many trades and forms from dealing with antiques, making films, being a political analyst, security guard to promoting comedy karaoke! Now that’s diversity if I ever saw it…. I mean come on!
Championing diversity today is a complex mix of societal groups and poses tricky challenges. This 5th edition of Decibel, which included a symposium and a series of showcases, well attended and delivered across Manchester’s leading venues so Contact Theatre, Royal Exchange, Royal Northern College of Music for example . I love Manchester, it’s quite a city... from Cloud 23 cocktails, great galleries, to lush penthouse apartments to leading football teams… an essence and core with ambitious pulse and confidence about it.
In terms of my Decibel re-graduation this year I consulted peers to hear their thoughts so I could further my understanding of this new 21st century approach. The younger cohorts were on the whole inspired and the older, as expected mixed with British cynicism and frustration on the whole, dissatisfied with the debates.
 Growing up I was forever inspired by older people, half way in however, I am now left more inspired by young people. A young film maker from Liverpool explained her approach to life and this in front of an experienced audience of international representatives. Her energy and enthusiasm was refreshing and her message strong and simple delivered with charisma and confidence… her life challenging and rescued by creativity. 

So can diversity in the complexity of the 21st century be delivered with such strength, simplicity and confidence? Moving diversity into the heart of arts production is ambitious and a positive step and I’ve certainly witnessed over the years many contemporary spaces representing cultures and diverse societal experiences – perhaps driven by globalisation and economic power flips as opposed to conscious volition? For art to be relevant and make an impact, connecting with the disengaged means we need to work differently. We need to produce art which has meaning, done symbiotically with diverse audiences, communities and creatives. So ‘people of the community’ design and deliver, rather than art and culture be imposed as a form of cultural imperialism. Leadership and design are key.
The ‘street never lies’ approach means (high) art colliding with reality – sometimes like a head butt. Every day is a Decibel moment here at NAE, where quality art which can be ingeniously creative is supported, generated and promoted with a narrative enriched by culturally diverse expressions aiming to connect with local communities. Also central to championing diversity is the inclusion of diverse leaders who understand the pulse of minority groups and organisations and can champion as role model portals for change.
 Will ACE’s new approach resonate purposefully with its new list of portfolio organisations? What will success look like and how will it compare with what has been delivered within the network of RFOs previously? Or will this simply become rhetoric and yet another initiative that falls flat because the same guard make the decisions or simply can’t deal with the street. Will diversity be really fully embraced or will it face the risk of exoticisms of the past. Will the ‘mainstream’ get it! I’m not convinced… however remain optimistic and there lies our 21st century tension.

Skinder Hundal

Thoughts on the talk by Tasawar Bashir

I found the Talk by Tasawar Bashir very interesting and opening up further possibilities.  In this respect, I suppose, it was 'a work in progress' - as it did not seem to be 'final' regarding a viewpoint on 'What is Muslim Art' and 'How has it, and artists, been affected  (since) by the events of 9/11'? This 'weakness' was highlighted by a searching question at the start of the discussion-session, from a young woman who pointed out that there seemed to be no apparent link between the 'visual' to illustrate the Talk, and indeed, the Talk itself, reference '9/11'.  Also the question was raised as to 'what was Islamic Art' - is there a tight definition, which clearly there is not, at least from the Presentation.
Unfortunately, I had to leave early after I myself linked/offered several images/ideas to the Subject - namely -The art of the Normans (which incorporated both Christian and Muslim Art, Architecture and artists),  The Al' Hambra' , Granada and Toledo in Spain, and the Madrassa-University (for young women)  in Samarkand (Soviet) Central Asia, founded by Tamarlaine The Great's gandfather (who was killed for this in a usurpation), and indeed the current contrnstantine The Great - and later modified by the incoming Muslim Turks, and of course, Jerusalem. All the above examples exemplify the on-going debate from earliest times regarding the question 'What is Muslim Art' and the affect it has on artists  from both Christian and Muslim backgrounds. Thus several caveats regarding the Presentation were raised both at the time and in the in the following debate, some of which I shared.

(c. A.Shaw, Nottingham, 14/09/2011)

11 September 2011

Art a solution? Thoughts from Skinder Hundal

Riot of culture(s)…
So in a ‘smash and grab’ lifestyle of disloyalty we have seen Modern Britain’s reasons for protest and rioting distorted by greed versus conformity to genuine disaffection. Hard to pin down the specifics, but isn’t that the 21st century?
Yesterday’s big debate at Birmingham Town Hall led by radio 4’s Today programme, chaired by James Naughtie, was an epic three hour session in an epic space including specialist panel members from cops to ex- gangsters to film makers and activists of old arguing and presenting their perspectives and thoughts.
Even though opinions were divided at times, the debate I felt, brought the Birmingham community together in collectively trying to understand, contemplate and look positively to the future. It also provided a space to acknowledge the defining moments that brought society together to fix up the mess and transforming leadership witnessed by the nation, demonstrated by the father whose son was brutally run down and murdered for example.
As the debate kicked off some of the old wounds bled, for example Police intimidation of Black communities, deaths in custody, and how race relations in particular cities was problematic, London and Nottingham being mentioned - however this time the Police issue was juxtaposed with support and sympathy from the public for the Police during the disturbances.  I must admit when I saw aimless rioters grabbing greedily, burning indiscriminately or the mugging of a wounded student I was with the Police too – inspite of being on the receiving end of racist policing and that recently! 
Also mentioned were the ‘under class’, the haves versus the have-nots, and how communities, families and parents were and had failed young people in a competitive world obsessed by material, weak on enlightenment, knowledge and wisdom… all simmering by material pressure, media x-factor hype exacerbated by recent scandals by our political elite committing fraud, shattering integrity and stealing from hard working tax payers giving rise to dysfunctional politics and MPs detached from the realities of the ‘hood(s)’ and a Government without vision.
So a lot of blaming of the ‘other’ but we are responsible in some way surely? The solutions voiced included ‘real people’ not the elite classes making choices and decisions (perhaps more of the Soho road media moghuls, Sangat TV style of interventions), old fashion family values retuning as well as traditional yet modernised schooling, transparent politics, cleaner Policing, stronger communities and neighbourhoods where neighbours connect, stronger values, morality and spirit, earlier interventions, less demonization and stereotyping of young people, minority communities, and the working class, alternative punishments to those dished out as a consequence of the riots especially the young vulnerable people caught up by peer pressure. These were some of the general sentiments I tuned into.
In spite of all the blame culture, there was a recognition by the audience of some of the positive work happening in the UK for example Perry Beeches school moving from rock bottom to a 100% pass rate of 5 A* to C to the Fire Services community engagement programme. There was little mention of how creativity, art and culture could play a role. Here lies a huge solution…

Skinder Hundal - Chief Executive NAE -

06 September 2011

A comment on the new exhibition "The Ens Project: First Principles"

“The new exhibition looks to be intriguing, cerebral, colonial and highly conceptual. Look forward to seeing it...”  -  Anon