Notes on My Re-Enchantment Art Residency

During my residency at Hamilton MAS, I have been rereading some books which reflect the contexts and intentions of why I am here and how to proceed as an artist afterwards. One book which feels so poignant right now is Suzie Gablik’s The Reenchantment of Art. Sadly, Gablik died earlier this year, in May 2022, at 87. She was an art critic, author and theorist who turned against all aspects of modernism. Reading it again has given me goosebumps because what Gablik has been saying is exactly what Furtherfield has advocated since its beginnings in 1996. Her book challenges and critiques the artist’s role by introducing an ecological perspective, which includes connecting with mythic and archetypal tendencies for spiritual life. 

It is disconcerting that it was originally published in 1991, and now it’s 2022. The pressure is on with 2030 as the deadline for gas emissions has to be halved to reach net zero by 2050. Only eight years away. The UK Tory government have, of course, decided to do the opposite of what needs to be done, embarking on the crazy strategy to start fracking again or extracting shale gas underground. Experts and environmental activists oppose the process because it could cause minor tremors and use lots of water to drill the Earth.[1] 

Gablik said those who remain aloof present dangerous implications. “We are all together in the same global amphitheatre. There are no longer sidelines. The psychic and social structures in which we live have become profoundly anti-ecological, unhealthy, and destructive.” (Gablik 1991)

Gablik critiques individualism in the arts and advocates art transforming its goals into a more participatory, socially interactive set of frameworks. She views individual freedom and expression as a modernist throwback, meaning freedom from the community. For Gablik, the luxury of originality as revolutionary is a diversion belonging to modernism’s hundred-year-old juggernaut. Gablik proposes that the only way to stop this unhealthy relationship is to “pull the rug from underneath itself.” (Gablik 1991) This can be done by not playing the game and refusing “to feed the culture for new shows and innovative works, renouncing both authorship and originality.” (Gablik 1991) 

My own example is reconnecting by making visual art that is not out of digital software. This may be a small step to some and may not directly equate to ecological change. But, for me, it is a personal approach that brings me back to experiencing a physical version of my creative self that I have not been in touch with for a while. This is a big shift for someone who’s used the Internet as their medium for years. Some of my peers see it as strange or a betrayal of their artistic values, and some understand where I’m coming from. The most difficult thing is if you’ve spent your life building an economy or a state of survival from being digital. It demands massive shifts mentally and emotionally and pretty difficult soul-searching. Yet, I’ve learned that taking small steps is the way out. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. 

Many artists may feel smug because they have ignored making art with technology and not explored their creative practice using the Internet and its networks. But, I can honestly say that I have met the most amazing, thoughtful and talented people who have either made art out of technology and digital networks or are media theorists. Many have been critical of technology’s direction in the last ten to fifteen years. I am one of those. During this residency, the books I’m reading as critiques of art, reference, and psychological and intellectual support were written before the Internet. This helps me jump back into a mental space where the examined values reconnect me to the essence of radicalness that can mature and exist with or without the Internet or digital screens. 

The main image at the top is a small collection of work I did from 87 to 90. Created before the Internet, although I was playing around with computers and pirate radio broadcasting at the time in Bristol. I’m not making this type of art at my residency, but something a little more abstract. But it all may change. We’ll see.


[1] Raymond Carl Gato. EXPLAINER: The 2030 Climate Change Deadline. PH Organization Inc.

[2] Suzi Gablik. The Reenchantment of Art. Thames & Hudson Ltd; New edition. 1994, P6.