“I’m driven by building bridges between different types of communities” – Artangel’s Michael Morris talks about what he’s on the look out for at The Pixel Market Finance Forum
Continuing our series of interviews with panelists at this year’s Pixel Market Finance Forum (Oct 8), we speak to Michael Morris, co-director of London-based arts production company Artangel.
Words by Melanie Goodfellow.
Artangel co-directors Michael Morris and James Lingwood have been producing ground-breaking art projects – including Rachel Whiteread’s House, Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave and Roger Hiorn’s Seizure — since 1991.
“Audiences are very different now. They’re active participants rather than passive spectators,” says Morris. “You can try to second guess the audience but until a project’s in the public domain, you never quite know how people will react to it or experience it.”
Recent productions include Paul Pfeiffer’s online work Jerusalem, a reworking of footage of the 1966 World Cup final between England and Germany; Saskia Olde Wolber’s Yes, these Eyes are the Windows, exploring people’s fascination with a house in Brixton where artist Vincent van Gogh lived briefly from 1873 to 1874, and José Damasceno’s Plot, set in the different spaces of Holborn Library in central London, which opens at the beginning of October.
“All our work is produced in relationship to particular places. These aren’t necessarily physical spaces – they can also be virtual or remote,” says Morris. “Our projects tend not to surface in designated cultural institutions, such as museums, galleries, concert halls or cinemas. We try to animate places which are not usually the breeding ground of arts and cultural events”.
Morris stresses that Artangel, which is partly financed by the Arts Council England and private donors, is not a funding body.
“We’re a production company, not a funding or a grant-giving organisation. We make projects happen from the ground up. We rarely enter evolved projects initiated elsewhere. We produce everything we do and proactively raise the money to do it. From our own resources we can kick-start the process but each project needs to go out and raise additional funds to cover itself,’ he says.
Many of Artangel’s projects end up playing out over several platforms.
“The average turnaround time for a project, from first discussion to launch, is about three years so we always seek to explore each commission’s full potential,” he says. “It’s rare we produce a work that has a single form. We also try to give each project a different kind of afterlife once it’s materialised in its primary location.”
Yes, these Eyes are the Windows inspired At the Crossroads with Vincent, for example, a downloadable audio walk re-imagining the emotional landscape – both internal and external – of van Gogh’s London. Mental health and arts charity CoolTan Arts and artist R.M Sanchez–Camus collaborated on the project. This in turn is being developed into an interactive, GPS–linked App due to go live in 2015.
Artangel identifies projects in a variety of ways, working with both emerging and established artists.
“We don’t begin with a budget. We don’t start off with a site. And more often we commence with a conversation rather than a fixed idea,” he reveals. “If it’s a well-known artist, we’ll encourage them to attempt something that wouldn’t necessarily come easily. The project should represent a pivotal moment or new chapter in their trajectory.”
Since January 2013, Artangel has also held an annual Open call. Artists selected through the 2013 and 2014 rounds comprise filmmaker Ben Rivers, sculptor and writer Katrina Palmer, writer Maria Fusco and theatre director Adrian Jackson, who is working on a joint project with experimental filmmaker and social activist Andrea Zimmerman.
“We say to artists living and working in the UK, if you have a great idea, come and share it with us, regardless of the form. It’s a different way of identifying a really interesting artist and a compelling idea. Once that project has been identified we take it under our wing in the usual way,” says Morris.
“This year we emphasised that we were open to cross-media proposals taking place in digital realms as well as physical ones,” he adds. “We’re very keen to identify great projects for digital platforms but so far they seem rather elusive.”
Morris has been a regular guest at the Power to the Pixel’s London forum in recent years.
“I’m interested in new ideas and new ways of telling stories and I’m also aware that the community around Power to the Pixel is a different one from that around Artangel. I’m driven by building bridges between different types of communities. Also, I’m just curious.”
You can share your new idea with Michael and more experts at The Pixel Market Finance Forum by purchasing a ticket. Ticket holders will also receive an invite to our exclusive networking drinks with over 400 delegates and guests. For more details and to buy your ticket, head here.