James Hutchinson’s practice involves both curatorial and artistic strategies to explore the processes of art production and its support structures. He has recently set up The Salford Restoration Office with his collaborator Lesley Young to commission and produce ‘seemingly anomalous art projects’ in the context of North West England. Taking the existing art infrastructure of Greater Manchester as their working environment, the aim of this agency is to stimulate other artists, curators and institutions in the area to think critically about the ways in which art is produced.
Through this new venture, Hutchinson and Young are mapping the area from a cultural policy point of view and then working in the gaps in between by collaborating with other institutions and individuals. This work will manifest itself in varying ways, from exhibitions to education programmes aimed at artists and others working in the cultural sector. Some of their initial activities this year, for example, include taking 20 students from art colleges in the area to Documenta 12 in Kassel; setting up a mentoring scheme with international artists and local students; supporting a residency programme and a collaboration with Castlefield Gallery and Belfast-based artist Dan Shipsides. For this latter project, The Salford Restoration Office and Shipsides are working with local climbers and watercolorists to create an installation that incorporates a large-scale bamboo climbing structure and an exhibition of contemporary and historical watercolours. In another attempt to invigorate the people of Salford to take action and engage in their area, the Office are working with the collective FREEE (Jordan&Hewitt and Beech) to produce 220,000 badges (the same amount as there are inhabitants of Salford) printed with the slogan I WILL NOT ACCEPT “THE WAY THINGS ARE”. The plan is to distribute these badges to every household in Salford.
Hutchinson and Young recently had the opportunity to develop the ideas for their Office during a research residency at NIFCA in Helsinki (2006) where they investigated shifts in Nordic cultural policy and the closure of NIFCA. It was also for this project that James invited the artist and architect Can Altay to Manchester, through Visiting Arts’ Artist to Artist International Scheme adding another dimension to their cultural mapping exercise.
James’s curatorial work includes the project, ‘Social Work’ at Cornerhouse, Manchester (2006) for which he outsourced the curating of the ‘common spaces’ of Cornerhouse to four Manchester based collectives who work as both artists and curators. The group ‘Assembly’, for example, made and displayed drawings of cinema posters illustrating fictional films in the foyer of the Cornerhouse cinema and the collective ‘Apartment’ placed calling cards in the Cornerhouse’s public telephone advertising a service for one of the artist’s to come and help out in any way. While Hutchinson was exhibitions organiser at the Cornerhouse, he also worked with the International 3 (an art space in Manchester) to curate ‘A ten point plan for a better Cornerhouse’. For this exhibition, The International 3 invited ten artists and academics to come up with suggestions for an improved Cornerhouse, as Martin Vincent, co-Director of The International 3 points out: ‘We apply this formula to Cornerhouse not in the hope of resolving the countless contradictions of a cherished cultural institution, but in the knowledge that what we need is not answers, but maybe some new questions.’ The resulting ideas offer both practical suggestions for re-working the interior spaces and ideas for the film programme to allegories on the lawless future of the institution and revenge for packaging culture for public consumption. Together they present a series of concise provocations in a cultural setting.
Hutchinson’s interest in networks, structures and the apparent professionalism of art also manifests itself in the act of drawing, writing and telling stories. His second-rate copies of seminal art works in western modernism entitled ‘Karaoke paintings’ (2003), for example, or his pencil copy of Glen Brown’s ‘The Day the World Turned Auerbach’ are humorous comments on an obsession with mastering art. They also reveal a more troubling critique of where this leaves the artist in their never-ending progression into professionalism and the concern that this day will never come. Hutchinson writes stories about these occasions of repetition and perseverance that emerge from his acts of drawing. For example, Hutchinson found a picture of Ian Curtis in an old book about Joy Division that the book’s previous owner had drawn a grid over as if in preparation for copying it for a school project. Hutchinson drew a copy of the photo on squared paper, replicating this act of original copying (‘Found Grid No.1 Ian Curtis’, 2005).
Hutchinson’s actions expose the artist’s selection of a subject to copy, draw and write about or paint. Be it the cover of the journal Third Text; a painting by Glen Brown or a photo of Ian Curtis, it is the belief that by associating with these things the artist will eventually become a success, or at least more professional. This idea of association is played out by Hutchinson through the act of copying which could be seen to replace any understanding of the subjects copied and admired. The process of wanting to be seen to be professional is perhaps linked to Hutchinson’s obsession with systems of administration of art, which require a certain amount of professionalism from artists in terms of communication, accounting and management, for example. It is understandable then that the focus of the critique through Hutchinson and Young’s Salford Restoration Project is on those bureaucratic structures that threaten to slowly replace the act of artistic production itself.
James was born in Southport in 1976. He studied Fine Art at Leeds Metropolitan University from 1997 to 2000.
James is currently Co-Director of The Salford Restoration Office, a parasitic curatorial and educational programming agency; and a Member of the Editorial Board at The Internationaler, an art magazine published in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. In the past, he has been a Local Director of floating ip, an artist run space in Manchester; and was Co-founder of The School of Installation. In 2006, James was a researcher in residence at NIFCA, Helsinki.
CURATED EXHIBITIONS AND PROJECTS
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2006 – Curator, ‘Anne Charnock & Chris Clarke’, Cornerhouse, Manchester.
• 2005/06 – Curator, ‘Social Work’, Cornerhouse, Manchester.
• 2005 – Organiser with Lesley Young and The International 3, ‘A Ten Point Plan To A Better Cornerhouse’, Cornerhouse, Manchester.
• 2004 – Curator with Rachel Goodyear, ‘Thermo04: Tripping Over a Varicoloured Tangle of Wires´, The Lowry Centre, Salford.
• 2004 – Curator with Rachel Goodyear, ´Thermo04: Editions´, The Lowry Centre, Salford.
• 2003 – Curator with Rachel Goodyear, ´Thermo03´, The Lowry Centre, Salford.
• 2003 – Coordinator with Rachel Goodyear, ‘Sh01’, multiple venues, Salford, .
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2007 – Commission for North Manchester General Hospital, Manchester.
• 2003 - ´Karaoke Paintings´, Castlefield Gallery Project Space, Manchester.
• 2002 - ´Free Artworks´, The Bassoon Club, Manchester.
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2005 - ´Drawing 200´, The Drawing Room, London.
• 2005 - ´Post Notes´, ICA, London; Midway Contemporary Arts, Minnesota.
• 2003 - ´Saturnalia´, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh.
• 2003 - ´Eve of Destruction´, The International 3, Manchester.
• 2003 - ´Evening News´, Artranspennine 2003.
• 2003 - ´Art Sans Frontieres´, Saint-Ouen, France.
• 2003 - ´Priceless´, Withy Grove, Manchester.
• 2002 - ´Hasta La Vista´, The Mission, London.
• 2002 - ´Walking Distance´, Idea Building, Salford.
• 2002 - ´Less is a bore, Humans Need More´, The Mission, London.
• 2001 - ´New Contemporaries 2001´, Camden Arts Centre, London; Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland.
• 2001 - ´The Second Builders Arms Biennale´, The International 3, Manchester.
• 2001 - ´V.U.B´, Islington Mill, Salford.
• 2000 - ´Bloodstream´, Islington Mill, Salford.
• James was a finalist for the ´Crosby Homes Manchester Art Prize´ in 2003 (judged by Henry Meyric Hughes) and in 2004 (judged by Claire Doherty)
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(12 January 04 - 20 June 07)