[ISEA2014] Paper: Alexia Mellor & Anthony Schrag – Locating the artist: A DIY‑waniya


The concept of ‘location’ is a central concern to socially‑engaged practitioners. Breaking from a focus specifically on the physical and social geography of participatory projects, artists and researchers Alexia Mellor and Anthony Schrag suggest the need to examine ‘locating the artist’ in regards to cultural policy‑making, the institution, and ultimately as facilitator of dialogue and change within the physical and online communities in which they work. Our research takes as a starting point the Artist Placement Group and their pioneering projects of the 1960s and 1970s that located artists directly into governmental institutions and businesses, and looks at the social, digital and political contexts of socially‑engaged practices today: How are artists working within these settings? What do these institutions demand in return? How does locating creative thinking from within structures create space for transformation to a general public? And, in a digital age, how can artists explore the tensions between the specific and the global locale?

In addition to a scholarly paper that would explore these ideas, we propose creating an intervention into public space where the ideas could be further explored by an accompanying group and where we could discuss and challenge the ideas raised in our research. Using the format of the ‘Diwaniya’ (originally a Kuwaiti place of gathering and discussion, with roots in Bedouin culture), we propose a DIY‑waniya: a bespoke, portable tent structure that can taken into various public spaces in Dubai, designed to engage ISEA participants and the Dubai community in conversation in discussions about location, as well as to propose models of instigating social engagement. In addition, we plan on online version of the DIY‑waniya to open the dialogue to another audience unable to attend the conference that can also create global discussion around notions of art and location.

  • Alexia Mellor is an international, interdisciplinary artist with roots in the UK and USA. Mellor uses humour and performative strategies to investigate issues of security, displacement and identity in an increasingly mediated landscape. She transposes familiar institutions into unfamiliar contexts to initiate direct participation in deconstructing social norms, consumer culture and notions of place. She recently relocated to Newcastle (UK) to pursue a PhD at Newcastle University after having co‑taught an art‑science course in Saudi Arabia and serving as Artist‑in‑Residence in Pontypool, South Wales where she investigated practice‑led research models and regeneration.
  • Anthony Schrag was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in the Middle East, the UK and Canada. Originally, he obtained a degree in Creative Writing in Canada, where his first poetry book was published, but forwent the solitary writer’s life for an interdisciplinary artist’s fare and completed his MFA in Glasgow in 2005.

Full text (PDF) p. 276-281