Delivery mechanisms. Interview with Paul Sullivan
Paul Sullivan is an architect, artist, curator and director of Static Gallery based in Liverpool. Over a couple of weeks we bounced some emails back and forth discussing some of the concerns of his practice and its relationship to a number of ongoing concerns on architecture, autonomy and the art fair.
Benjamin Fallon: Maybe we could start with you introducing your practice and its relationship with Static, the organisation which you are director of? I am specifically interested in your background as an architect and how this comes into play in your activities?
Paul Sullivan: My practice as an artist/architect is interwoven with my role as Director of Static Gallery.
The Static Gallery building at 9-23 Roscoe Lane, Liverpool is essentially a large-scale 6000 square foot prototype to experiment with. Together with Becky Shaw (co-director of Static 1999-2005) and John Byrne (co-director of Static 2005 – present), we have used the building to examine issues such as public/private space, trade, colonization, conflict resolution, surveillance and financial autonomy.
The fact that Static Gallery is also seen as an institution externally has also allowed Static to embed itself within and therefore to scrutinize at close quarters the structures and mechanisms of contemporary cultural production and dissemination.
Static has always developed and tested projects out in Liverpool but has also increasingly developed projects internationally or been approached and commissioned to carry out projects outside of Liverpool. Therefore Static acts as both commissioner and commissioned.
Benjamin Fallon defines the need for public structures (and times) for art. Public funding, the History of present economics, public structures, the market, art councils, welfare state, sovereignty, the balance between public and private, the relationship between art and commodity…
John Maynard Keynes
Public funding for the arts in Europe emerged at a specific historical juncture. After the horrors of WWII the public mood was towards pulling together and rebuilding. John Maynard Keynes, the economist behind the ideas underpinning this reconstruction and establishment of the welfare state, died in 1946, but his influence did not. He endorsed a mixed economy of public and private interests to be bolstered by the state during times of depression and to be stepping back during more stable periods. Keynes was an avid supporter of the arts throughout his life and latterly married a Russian émigré ballet dancer. His endorsement extended to championing of the formation of the Arts Council, which he chaired until his premature death. Initially his support for the arts was directed towards the more ‘refined’ areas of ballet and opera but as his influence spread so did the remit of the Arts Council, which began to fund the work of artists whose practices were more experimental in nature and would not easily find support through commercial mechanisms. This was, of course, not an entirely neutral process, inherently linked to the ongoing Cold War, and was, like the Welfare State, a means for capitalism to demonstrate that it could care for people alongside perpetuating a narrow idea of freedom.
5 Questions with… Konsthall323
Konsthall323 is an art centre in a car. It started in a Mazda323 and, after a period of renovation, opened again now in a Volkswagen Golf Variant. Five questions regarding institutionalization, the white cube, coffee and gasoline.
1: Konsthall 323 deals in several layers with the idea of institution. Konsthall323 is an art centre in a car. The exhibition space is necessarily non-static; the number of visitors visiting the art centre at the same time is always limited. The position of the artist is also a particular one. From the ideas behind Konsthall323, what defines an art centre? How is it in the case of Konsthall323?
Frida Krohn & Ylva Trapp: When we started Konsthall323 we had no big, white, empty room waiting to be filled by us. We had a light-blue old Mazda 323. So we decided to use the car as our Art Centre, and we realised we had a number of new advantages for this art-space; flexibility, intimacy, the ability to transport equipment and a great architecture for photos. But above all, we created the possibility for us to take charge, to define what was important in our context, we made ourselves the directors. This might be the most important definition for us; that we make all the decisions.