joanne lee


soon all your neighbours will be artists

A review of Soon all your neighbours will be artists, a book published by Extra Special People at Eastside projects with Aid & Abet, Spike Associates and WARP, 2011. Commissioned for the November 2011 issue of a-n magazine, it also appears online.

Soon all your neighbours will be artists is a curious title for a publication whose focus is the very difficulty of sustaining a creative practice in today's economic climate. I've been wondering if it implies that the hand-to-mouth existence of many artists may soon be shared by the entire population and that everyone will need to be creative if we are to get through the difficult times ahead...

A collaboration by members of four artist-led organisations - Aid & Abet, Extra Special People, Spike Associates and Wales Artist Resource Programme - this publication is concerned with ideas of survival. At times this is the day-to-day reality of professional life - S Mark Gubb logs the 5,455 miles he traveled within 106 days in order to pursue his art-related activities - whilst at others the vision is post-apocalyptic: Heather and Ivan Morison's text Frost King presents a Ballardian tale in which residents endure life in a once gleaming high-rise now consumed by recession, fire, decay and desert.

For 2020: A Performance Time-Machine, the company random people prophesy alternately utopian or dystopian visions in which performance art goes underground or mainstream. (In one mordantly funny prognostication, "Performance art will replace fire-walking and yoga as popular self-discovery activities.") There are no such binary oppositions, however, in the discussion around Rogue Game, in which three sports (football, volleyball and basketball) are played simultaneously on the same court: here, cohabitation and negotiation operate together with fracture and interruption.

Determinedly not a manual on how artists might survive, nevertheless this publication resonates with suggestive strategies. Carwyn Evans' bilingual English/Welsh Verb List Compilation: 'Of Shit and Sunshine', for instance, gives thirty-one agriculture tasks (to combine; to cultivate; to diversify, etc.) most of which offer useful metaphors for a creative existence. And when contemplating one's straitened future finally gets too depressing, the book's dry humour is enough to raise a much-needed smile.