new links to things that I think about a lot lately, technospheres, nature and flow

So many things have inspired my work, it’s difficult to find the space for them all!

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.” raises some good questions about nature and technology in a non-judgemental way. I like that, no preaching.

This website will radically shift your notion of nature. Our image of nature as static, balanced and harmonic is naive and up for reconsideration. Where technology and nature are traditionally seen as opposed, they now appear to merge or even trade places.

On the nextnature app I found the film Pimp my Planet by Studio Smack. A true inspiration! I find it very powerful – some find it scary, some depressing, but I find it thought provoking. Do we really believe that humans are all powerful? If the planet is badly damaged by us, are we the right people to fix it? Are the countries shifting politically, or maybe physically, as they did when the tectonic plates slipped around? Or during the Ice Age? Are we so detached from the place we live in, that it is no more than a virtual concept? Have we forgotten what it feels like to put our hands in soil, in the ocean, or gaze at the clouds? And importantly, can art in unusual places help us to re-consider the thing we call nature and think of these things in a different way?

Can nature still bring about a state of flow?

And then there’s Technobiophilia by Sue Thomas.

The New Natural Symposium
SemiconductorProf. Sue Thomas and Squidsoup
Saturday 25th May 10.30am-5pm
SVA, 4 John St, Stroud GL5 2HA
Installation Friday 24th-Sunday 26th May 11am-4pm Goods Shed, Stroud GL5 3AP

Modern technology and the natural world are often seen in opposition, the former perceived as either destroying or at least disconnecting us from the latter. So what of a new relationship, a new approach towards the natural world that reconnects us in ways only possible through the use of technology? The New Natural will bring together three people whose work explores different aspects of this question. A day of presentations at 4 John Street, a film installation in the Brunel Goods Shed, interwoven with good food and finishing with an open discussion led by Rob la Frenais of The Arts Catalyst.

The New Natural is presented by Heart of Wonder in collaboration with SVA, and supported by Alias.

Tickets £12 including lunch and refreshments £20 for weekend inclusive of evening events. Booking is essential as places are limited 01453 751440 or email


In response to the need, Flow now offers support for artists with their online presence

So many people say they struggle with creating an online presence, I thought I’d do something about it. So as part of my Flow Advice, I’m open to enquiries about setting up a blog and linking with social media.

Through the mentoring I do, is evident that one of the difficulties for many artists is how to create an online presence. Read marketing books and they will encourage you to use banners and sell sell sell. Techies will suggest expensive Flash sites, animations and costly gadgetry. Whilst they are great, they are not necessarily what artists need. Artists need something that reflects them and their work, that tells their story. They need help setting up something that is free (or at least cheap) and that they can maintain themselves in the future.

Having a website linked with social media is important. A website without the add-ons is like shouting into a void. It’s like  a printer with no cartridges, or pen with no ink – you have no way of getting the word out there.

For some this is a daunting prospect – setting up a blog and how to link it with social media can be the last thing on your to do list, constantly dropping to the bottom. I can help – I’ve always had a penchant for technology and used to make art with and about it. I now commission art that explores it. Enjoying writing helps – but I understand not everybody does – so exploring other ways of working can be a creative process, even enjoyable!

And this may sound a little odd, until you do it, but sorting out in your mind what you need on your website can help you sort out your practice and priorities. If you want to discuss how, contact me and we can arrange to have a chat about it.

one year ago I blogged about an idea to create something – Flow is the something

On 4th April 2012 I blogged the following:

Very interesting post by Michael Echols of RSA.

The old corporate cliché that ‘our people are our greatest asset’ is based on a fundamental truth. Michael Echols FRSA argues that the way we evaluate economic success and the impact of investment in people needs to reflect this.

In a knowledge-driven economy, organisations depend on the intelligence, talents, skills and expertise of their employees to create value.

The problem is that our macroeconomic theories, standard accounting protocols, evaluation tools and decision-making structures do not allow us to properly recognise, value and invest in these seemingly intangible, yet vital, assets.

The benefits of social networks are now recognised more as having value, people are important, communications are vital – especially when working with multiple partners. I am not sure whether these strengths can be simulated or learnt on a course – they are slow to acquire – like good friends in life are. I’m researching setting up an agency that will act as a conduit for networks and communications – a system that provides a two-directional flow. And delivers arts projects. Exchange – not leading from the front – mutuality, not power – partnership and joint-thinking, not competition.

As Echols states:

But the challenge is to make such intangible value more tangible, and therefore suitable for investment-based approaches to human capital development. This will require specific, executable actions that policy makers and executive decision-makers can take to create value for individuals, organisations and nations.

I’ve always liked a challenge and delivering executable actions.



TODAY’S RESPONSE: Is it really only a year?

partnership V collaboration in the arts – how different/similar are they?

Yesterday I was privileged to share the day with a roomful of arts professionals from the South West UK region to discuss leadership in the visual arts, supported by VASW.

The day was fast-moving and stimulating, covering a huge amount of ground in a short time, yet allowing time for deep discussion and exploration. I’m not going to report on what happened in the room because it is a safe space for people to engage. But I will share part of my personal enquiry about what partnership and collaboration might look like.

For me, the conversation about the difference between partnership working and collaboration was intriguing. They are essentially very similar in intention but different by nature.

I did this diagram to help me:

pship diagram

(translation for my scribbly writing is collaboration; partnership – led & partnership – and managed by committee)

In collaboration all are equal but no-one leads, it’s probably like a cooperative. My drawing is pretty stable, but it could equally be very wobbly, having no one person representing the collective voice and keeping things tight. However, it has the potential to balance.

Partnership – led means we’re all in this together, but for clarity and maintenance of a shared vision, one person leads on the partnership. This could result either in a strong balance, or create tension. Important that the person leading has been appointed by the partners but is also gifted autonomy to make informed decisions to enable forward movement.

Partnership – managed by committee has the ethos of the collaboration, but is weakened by its constant efforts to allow a voice to everyone involved, with no lead. So loose threads are left to dangle, with no-one there to gather them up and hold the collaboration together, as in the 2nd model. In these situations it is often that ‘he/she who speaks the loudest’ makes the biggest impact on what happens.

Online definitions given are:


  1. The state of being a partner or partners.
  2. An association of two or more people as partners.


  1. The action of working with someone to produce or create something.
  2. Something produced or created in this way.

So the first relates to ‘being’ whereas the second with ‘produce/create’ This aligns with the feeling in the room that arts managers refer to partnership, whilst artists are more inclined towards the term collaboration.

However, partners can collaborate, can’t they?

The drawing represents my-thoughts-in-action and is open to change. Any suggestions?

How many of us working in the arts encourage artists to play and explore, whilst we beaver away at our computers…

… filling in funding applications, writing marketing and managing budgets? What about OUR creativity? After all, many of us do what we do having practiced as artists ourselves. Yes, we choose to do what we do, but the artist inside will always be there, nestling and niggling away, taking every opportunity to express itself.

Me, I draw a little, sing a little and take photos. And write.

Mostly I write copy for other peoples art, or proposals, or strategies, policies, business plans. But I also write because I enjoy writing. Maybe I feel allowed to ‘play’ with writing because it is not my day job. I bake strangely shaped birthday cakes, because it amuses me and others.

Today I allowed the artist inside to raise its head above the parapet, encouraged by my sister who constantly points out that I work in the visual arts yet my Flow website, until today, held no images. I tried to wriggle out, saying that if I put images of artwork up, then potential clients may think that is what I do, which thwarts expectation. You know the scene – give a presentation with pictures and someone says ‘I want one of those please’. And as I am an advocate of research-led practice, that’s not wise!

Every picture tells a story, so they say.

So that is what I have done – I’ve added pictures that can tell a story that is relevant to Flow Contemporary Arts. They are not there to make the site look pretty, but to underpin the concepts I work with. I hope.

You’ll find some of the home page, with the story at the bottom, and some here with the narrative at the top. I’d love to hear what you think about this issue. It has been an ongoing battle in my head (alongside many others)

Here’s just one as a taster……

body flow
body flow

& one of a cake to make you smile!

joels cake collage

‘Intercourse’ event (love that title!) – “I’m not sitting at the front” last weekend. It was in the Elbow Room in Cardiff.

I really enjoyed the ‘Intercourse’ event (love that title!) – “I’m not sitting at the front” last weekend. It made me think – a lot.

The focus was participatory visual arts practice and involved great talks by Gill Nicol and Sophie Hope, interspersed with actions created by artists, which, as a member of the audience, I participated in.

I sat at the front.

There was quite a lot of writing going on, writing stories, writing lists, writing postits. And stickers. Stickers were distributed to categorize us, as a means of creating roles that, if one wished, could be subverted. But few did so. We listened quite a lot too. Sometimes I felt I was being instructed and directed, I complied rather than participated. On reflection, I find myself wondering about where the participatory element was.

By my very presence, was it assumed that I would passively do as I was told?

Was the purpose to antagonize?

Or stimulate a response?

Were we expected to intervene?

There were instructions, but in many ways we were all passive and politely conformed to the traditions we are familiar with – that of speaker and listener. The rules were unstated, because we already knew them, the context provided them.

Emma read lists

Paul made lists

I made lists

My lists were in response to their lists

This is a list

When I contemplated writing this, I was going to share my lists with you. But I decided not to. The Flow Contemporary arts logo implies bi-directional movement – exchange, reciprocity, true partnership working. That is important to me. I make no call to action. I seek dialogue, resolution and harmony, not antagonism. Might this be an age thing?

photo of Emma Gee, by me……during our silent walk through Cardiff


Flow likes a challenge, but what does Flow do? who do we work with? where do we do it?

I realised that whilst I’ve been busy having meetings, making plans and thinking forward, I haven’t really shared on my website what I actually DO. Typical, one gets busy doing and forgets to spread the word. And what is my ‘normal’ may not be yours! So here goes, in a nutshell, this is what I/Flow does:

Flow specialises in producing visual arts projects in partnership with major stakeholders, presenting new art in unusual places. Think artworks on beaches, exhibitions in Coastwatch buildings, films in historic stone barns on coastpaths, soundworks emanating from industrial cranes (having a conversation!), performance artists concealed under bridges, casts of quarry walls in forests – anything is possible outside the constraints of the gallery walls.

We work with acoustic specialists, geologists, archaeologists, zoologists, foresters and librarians – opening up visual art to new audiences and innovative ways of perceiving the world around us.

Flow has two key areas of delivery – FCA Projects initiates and delivers scattered-site visual art projects in non-gallery locations with partners, and FCA Advice supports others to do so – either by mentoring artists at ground-level, or by guiding organisations in the processes necessary to develop sound partnerships. Everything Flow does is about collaboration and dialogue and research is at the core of what we do.

We specialise in working with both art and non-art partners to achieve this and can provide a bespoke team to respond to particular requirements of any project. We also have experience of touring, working with strategic partners to tour both existing and newly commissioned contemporary visual artworks. For example, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England, we’re presently in consultation with the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and the Canal & River Trust about a touring programme, which will begin with a  period of action research.

We’re always on the lookout for new partners – current conversations include talking with an ethnozoologist; digital locative media producers; land-management organisations, Community Libraries and a writer whose subject area is technobiophilia. We love a challenge!

Artist crowd sourcing to pay for her show at venice bienniale. Fab work for sale!

I don’t normally promote the work of an artist on here, but Elpida’s work is so beautiful and unusual I want to gain your attention. Elpida is being resourceful by selling limited edition prints to help her finance new work for Venice.

And they are stunning. I confess I bought one immediately!

Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva is offering an unique opportunity to purchase limited edition prints of archival quality. All proceeds will go towards developing her project, Silentio Pathologia, for the Republic of Macedonia Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. All prints will be signed and editioned by her…..

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