MO BRADSHAW TALKS TO ART AWARDS SELECTION PANELLIST
SUZANNE VAN ROSSENBERG
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience with the Emerald Winter Pride Art Awards?
I moved from the Netherlands to London to do a PhD at Middlesex University after having worked as an artist and project manager in both cultural and human rights settings. I met Simon Tarrant when co-organising an LGBT politics module together with Kerri Jefferis and in partnership with the Winter Pride Art Awards. For this year’s Awards edition, Kerri and I organised a pre-event at the Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths.
As many people know there were 700 entries from 300 artists this year. It was up to you and your fellow panellists to narrow it down and you decided on 18 finalists, which is just crazy and seems like an impossible task! How did you go about mediating criteria with your fellow judges? And as a practicing artist how did your practice inform your decision making if at all?
All 700 entries were available online to us as panellists, and we were asked to make our top-10. It took me two days to come up with my final top-10, and for each choice I gave my reasoning. Inevitably, my own top-10 was very much informed by my more than twenty years’ experience of making and seeing art. Therefore, I was very happy to know that my own potential biases would be counter-balanced by the choices of the other panellists.
The submissions this year were a myriad of complexity, penetrative and all around just spectacular works encompassing a variety of perspective and artistic practices. If you were to look at the submissions as a sort of “litmus test” of the art world or current practices, were the any discernible trends or elements of the submissions that particularly stood out to you?
I think it is very hard to detect any patterns in the submissions. Maybe it could be done with use of quantitative research methods, but even so, it is unclear whether this ‘dataset’ of artworks is representative of anything. I personally really liked having access to an ‘unfiltered’ selection of artworks – the artworks not having been pre-selected for me by curators, art critics, scholars, or educators. I saw the huge diversity among art practices – a diversity that may be indicative of contemporary arts in general. It reminded me that the artworks visible to us, whether through mainstream or counter-cultural means, are always accompanied by the invisibility of a greater number of artworks.
This year’s Emerald Winter Pride Art Awards went Beyond the Binaries…encouraging artists to think of art as a tool for activism and the promotion of social equality; viewing the world and its inhabitants exist as a vast spectrum and to celebrate this palette. In your opinion, why is this years prompt so timely?
Maybe it has become more widely understood that, for the empowerment, emancipation and rights of intersectionally positioned minorities, identity politics is an absolute necessity, but, simultaneously, the constant categorisation may stand in the way of all-inclusive ways of working. There’s no easy solution to this ‘paradox’ in activism, policy-making and advocacy. Art may be one of the few tools equipped to communicate nuance, uncertainty, and multiplicity. In that sense, this year’s Emerald Winter Pride Art Awards’ theme can be considered timely, and perhaps, therefore, resonated with a lot of artists.
You’ve recently completed your PhD at the University of Middlesex, researching the use of the transdisciplinary for social change and its intersection with research, practice and activism. Do you have any advice for artists, curators, researchers or anyone else who wish to navigate this complicated intersection?
Seek useful and meaningful collaboration with people working outside the arts. The solution to social equality, within and beyond the arts, does not lie in one field, and it is important to learn from researchers, practitioners and activists active in other fields.
What are your upcoming projects?
I have recently started as an LGBT policy advisor at the British Government Equalities Office, working on national policy and legislation. This new role is currently taking most of my attention!