Last year Red Bridge Arts was awarded funding from Creative Scotland to develop and support the company base so that we could support more artists, engage more audiences and fully realise the potential of the body of high quality work made.
We were keen to document this development period in a meaningful way. Taking our inspiration from a People’s Palace project in the 1970s – where Alasdair Gray was engaged as the ‘City Recorder’ to document the story of the city (http://www.culture24.org.uk/art/art367154), our approach has been to engage an artist as ‘artist recorder / documenter’. Rosie Gibson joined the team in this role at the end of last year and has been engaging with and reflecting on the company, the artists and projects in a variety of ways.
Triggered by a query posed by a colleague (‘I’d like to understand your model’) , I’ve been chatting with Rosie about what makes Red Bridge tick: Is it a model? Is it a practice? Is it happenstance – the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Rosie’s experience, her visual arts background and her reflections have been hugely valuable. Below she shares her thoughts on one of our early conversations.
Alice McGrath, Creative Director, Red Bridge Arts
A Question Posed – What is the Red Bridge Model?
by Rosie Gibson, Artist Documenter
Rather than try and answer this question we might use it as an opportunity to problematise the use of the word ‘model’ in the context of an arts organisation. A model is ‘a thing used to follow or imitate’. The problem is that each organisation’s functioning is as unique as the work it produces. How could it be otherwise?
Of course we can and should learn and be inspired by other arts organisations, as artists are inspired by the work of other artists and artworks.
What is a more useful way of thinking and talking about the organisational process of making new work and getting it to audiences? As an artist can I use some tools from visual art? A mantra of Glasgow School of Art Environmental Art Department is ‘the context is half the work’. This is a working principle developed by The Artist Placement Group in the 70’s.
A definition of context is: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood. from french: to weave together
For a simple example from visual art, consider drawing a chair…a chair is a chair is a chair. Or is it? Walk around it. It changes from every angle – the spaces between the legs, the angles, the proportions. Look at it over time. It changes in different light. Move it. It changes in different spaces. Changing the context changes the work, and brings different meanings and feelings to it.
And another example from the field of environmental land art is the partnership of Christo and Jeanne-Claude of the wrapping of the Reichstag fame. For many years Jeanne-Claude’s role in the partnership was completely unacknowledged in the public realm. Yet she was an equal creative partner in creating the conditions for the work to materialise. The partnership has now been completely reassessed and they are now referred to as a ‘conceptual duo’.
So rather than a question of models, a more useful enquiry would be in the realm of contexts and ecology.
What is the Red Bridge context and ecology which encourage work to thrive and artists to prosper?
Then the vista which opens up is an ecology of ideas, strategy, conversations, relationships, resources, time, space, partnerships and collaboration, connections, networks, flexibility, fluidity, responsiveness, holistic management, creative leadership and the right people in the right place at right time.
So then we might ponder, within this ecology, how Red Bridge creates the conditions for ideas to lead, work to thrive and artists to prosper?
Image: bridge&tunnel by Rosie Gibson. Made in response to children’s play fascinations and obsessions. corrugated card and pva 2004