Meet Alex Misick, John Hansard Gallery’s new Programming Co-ordinator

Alex Misick started as Programming Co-ordinator at John Hansard Gallery in January 2017. In this post Alex describes the projects he has been working on so far at the Gallery, plus his arts career journey to-date.  The British Art Show 8 Student Symposium: ‘Final Destination’ was something I was dropped into on arrival, having started in January with John Hansard Gallery. I had recently relocated from Glasgow to take up a six-month post as a programme coordinator; to work between both the exhibitions and public engagement strands of the programme in the build-up to JHG’s move to Studio 144.

The symposium offered an immediate insight into how both current art school students and recent graduates were engaging with the Gallery and its wider programme. It was fascinating to see what value they placed in British Art Show 8’s arrival in Southampton and their exposure to a comprehensive cross-section of some of the most interesting practises within ‘British’ contemporary art. The students offered up a series of insightful presentations and discussion on some of the show’s salient themes of technology, dislocation and materiality. This also led into debate on the wider issues relating to secondary level art education and after establishing a career after graduating.

More recently, in February, I helped to deliver the Department for Doing Nothing; John Hansard Gallery’s debut project at the newly established Tate Exchange in the Tate Modern’s recently opened extension, Switch House. The ‘Department’ was established in conjunction with the Southampton Youth Offending Service as part of a ten-year association with young-offenders, that has directly resulted in the attainment of educational qualifications, enhanced employment prospects and a drop in reoffending.

The ‘department’ was inspired by a chapter in the Mass Observation Report (Willcock, 1949) on Juvenile Delinquency and was set-up to explore the notion of ‘doing nothing’ over an intensive two day period. It involved a group of seven young people along with their mentees and various facilitators in conjunction with upwards of six-hundred visitors from the general public. The process of questioning what it actually means to ‘do nothing’ acted as a reflexive tool to challenge the labelling of at risk and vulnerable individuals ostracised from society. The project empowered them to lead on activities at the event and assume a position of responsibility.

As a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art course, that takes John Latham’s famous quote; “the context is half the work” as its quasi-ethical invocation, my formative understanding of art is based on its ability to engage its context; be it a problem, an audience, a locality etc. The Department for Doing Nothing was an exemplary illustration of this thinking; of the ability to use the process of producing art to de-construct social barriers.

All of this activity bodes well for John Hansard Gallery’s growing influence in the city as it prepares to enter into its new much larger site in the city centre. I have experienced in Glasgow how successful and sustainable a regional city can be in supporting an artistic community and the important role the cities institutions need to play in fostering this. Projects such as these inform ongoing thinking about the Gallery’s role within the regional ecology of art activity; the steps it can take to offer a platform to artists at different stages of their career and to those who don’t necessarily identity as artists or have much interest in art.

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