On the Politics of Festival Design

by Ali Louwagie, Production Assistant

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A couple of years ago the layout of The Works Art & Design Festival changed in order to separate the art market vendors from exhibiting feature artists, raising the question of where the line lies, if it exists at all, between the two.  Oddly enough, it was my landlord who first asked me this one evening as he was fixing a pipe that had burst in the basement. Amidst sodden towels and dripping ceiling tiles, I found that I could only explain my own opinion of why a line should be drawn.

As an artist I often receive feedback based on marketability; whether a viewer approves or disapproves of my work is oftentimes communicated by a remark of “I would buy that” or “That would never sell”.   There is an expectation that art is a product to be bought and sold, perpetuating a perceived value in the demand of consumers.  Highlighting exhibits like Matthew Walker’s Device for the Emancipation of Landscape and Sara French’s Buying and Selling encourages the public to interact with work that challenges these expectations.

My general impression is that the former layout of the square seems to have been popular among the attending public, with Churchill Square resembling something more of a market place in comparison to the current layout.  I recognize the appeal of wandering about and perusing stalls; however, I am of the opinion that one’s experience with artwork should be greater than a simple appraisal of commodity. This is where the line was drawn, where the value lies in seeing and experiencing the work instead of  “I would buy that”.