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Creative connections – a new collaborative project at OII, Ruskin and DACS

Published on
10 Nov 2015
Written by
Laura Molloy


I’m Laura and I’m a painter, illustrator and researcher.  Living an interdisciplinary life, I’m very comfortable working across, between and with more than one discipline or profession at a time, in order to discover and apply knowledge across and between domains.  My new project here at the University of Oxford is part of that attitude.  I’m delighted to be working with the Oxford Internet Institute and the Ruskin School of Art – both at the University of Oxford – and DACS, a London-based not-for-profit visual artists’ rights management organisation. With their support I’m starting a new project examining visual artists’ workflows.

What’s the project going to do?

I want to understand the part played by digital objects (basically, digital files or resources that work in a cohesive way for the user / viewer – although there are more technical definitions available) in the workflows of UK-based artists.

Previous work I’ve done in the live arts sector uncovered some interesting themes: live artists in my research sample routinely created, sought and shared digital objects in their workflows, and attached artistic and economic value to those resources. Loss of or damage to those objects, then, would have a significant impact on those artists.  At the same time, I found that awareness and skill for the sustainable management of those digital objects was very low in the people I interviewed, and this suggested that their highly-valued digital objects may be at risk of loss or damage.  It’s important to investigate these issues in other creative sectors including the visual arts.

Why is this important?  

Understanding the value and role of digital objects in visual art workflows is important for a few reasons:

  1. If we care about art, we need to be concerned that many artists are unable to earn enough to live on. This means that many artists are not able to sustain their practice. Artists leaving practice means less artistic practice, i.e. less art being made.
  2. If we don’t care about art, we may at least be concerned that as the creative industries (as defined by UK government) bring in added value to the economy and provide substantial number of jobs.  Artists leaving practice means less economic benefit from this sector for the UK economy.

So we can see that artists staying in practice is potentially good for everyone.  What can we do to try and support sustainable practice for artists?  We can work with artists to understand their workflows, and from that to understand what resources they currently have and how these are being used. Resources include money, time, energy, equipment and materials.  Many resources, I anticipate, will be digital objects which artists spend time and at least in some cases money to search for, create and share as part of their practice.  A sound knowledge base about the role and value of digital objects in the workflows of contemporary artists can inform policy-makers and training providers and may support their production of guidance and policy for artists.  This means that when artists are exposed to training and policy they get the best advice possible for the sustainable management of their digital resources. This in turn may help them to get the most artistic and economic value from their digital objects and by doing so help them sustain their practice.

What’s next?

In coming posts I will explore the ideas in more detail and specify some of the data sources on which I’m drawing to make these statements.  I’ll also discuss how I propose to approach the project.  In the meantime, please do let me know if any aspect of this project may be of interest to you. I can be contacted by email at laura.molloy AT or you can follow me on Twitter @LM_HATII.

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