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Blog - Aidan Moesby

What’s in a label? A question of funding.

‘Rage' in the form of the periodic table taken from periodic table of emotions

Rage. Taken from Sagacity – The Periodic table of Emotions by Aidan Moesby

I’m shooting from the hip on this one. I’m angry, frustrated, pi**ed off.

I have just had another rejection, that makes 11 on the bounce without being shortlisted or interviewed. I know it’s a numbers game and something just has to turn up soon. Also the funding situation is such that more and more people are going for the same smaller pots of funding, commission and residencies. That’s austerity. That’s living in a country where we don’t fundamentally value the arts, or the artists. This isn’t about this or the fact that most arts funding goes on buildings and administrators and artists get the crumbs.

In my latest rejection it was because i was deemed to be ‘established’.

Where  else do we have this notion of established and emerging? Who decides what you are and where you sit. What does it even mean?

In my mind I am caught somewhere in the hinterland, always in the hinterland.

I am an artist without another job. In some ways i am fortunate. But I am hardly one of the power 100. I am not one of the 1% of sustainable established artists – i am firmly part of the 99% which props them up.

The fact that i read the criteria and  thought i fitted that criteria and then spent a whole unpaid day putting a proposal in for it to be rejected because I am too ‘established’. Another unpaid day – as so many artists spend to put in proposals and expressions of interest.

I haven’t had a major solo exhibition. I have shown in a couple of group shows this year with 2 works in one and 1 in another. I am not represented by a gallery. I don’t have a major national or international presence. I haven’t had national coverage for my work. I don’t have a ‘profile’ in the arts world  let alone a foot in the door of mainstream institutional art world. Last year I earned less than £8,000 – like many artists – and depend on working tax credits, like many artists do.

So does this sound like being an established artist?

The spurious nebulous terms and classifications that don’t seem to exist in other professions need unpacking, clarifying or simply left behind.

Surely this is another issue that needs unpacking within a curated conversation.

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Richard Downes
2 years ago

I am thankful to be thought of as emerging. It puts me in with a chance. Else wise the established would have it all stitched up forever. The question when I stop emerging is already beginning to bug me though. The other questions are emerging from what, emerging to what. I feel that age has given me a chance to emerge. I don’t see much going round for emerging older artists…… diversity seems to focus on very few areas so, what chance the emerging older disabled artist.

Aidan Moesby
Aidan Moesby
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Downes

Hi Richard – I guess part of what i am saying is about consistency. I too have benefitted from ‘emerging’ but i don’t think emergence is linear – more on a spectrum or continuum. You may have several residencies under your belt but no exhibitions – the art world is many formed – commissions, group shows, solo, small organisations, major institutions etc. There is no real consistent pathway. And at what point are you emerged – is it when you can support yourself, sell loads at auction……? Are there any post emergent pre mid career or post mid career pre… Read more »

Janie Moore
2 years ago

Totally agree, it’s ludicrous. And to illustrate the arbitrariness – I applied for an emerging artist opportunity recently that went to someone I happened to know. I asked if I could read her proposal. It wasn’t dissimilar to mine. This artist has had residencies abroad, teaches part time at a uni, is a published author with a phd, and is to my mind, pretty well established. Yet those credentials were considered emerging by the gallery offering the opportunity. I came away from that experience totally deflated, feeling like I’m not even on the bottom rung of the ladder to becoming… Read more »

2 years ago

Fair enough the criteria of emerging can be a grey area. Yes, “emerging” shouldn’t be based on age, qualifications etc, and this label will very much be dependent upon what funding you are applying for e.g. within disability art field or mainstream. But to be quite frank Aidan, you are perhaps one of the most established disabled artist in the UK. Yes you can rebel against that label, say that you haven’t had a major solo exhibition or national coverage, earned less than £8K – but as you point out that is same for most artists disabled or not. Of… Read more »

Aidan Moesby
Aidan Moesby
2 years ago
Reply to  Catherine

Hi Catherine ( its strange not knowing who i am replying to) i acknowledge my relative privilege. What i was getting at was the changing or moving goal posts. But also the labels. There is a difference between being established in the Disability Arts world and the mainstream arts world. And who gets to decide where/what you are and only it seems in the arts. I’m an emerging bus driver, or porter or….. It’s true i get to do some interesting work with interesting people. I guess some of what i was getting at too is where is the transition… Read more »

2 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Moesby

There are no established disabled artist in the UK within the visual arts – or certainly none who have achieved any degree of success through association with disability arts. The visual arts sector has continued to push visual artists out of the picture. Even Unlimited has only ever achieved exhibitions for visual artists within community arts settings. For example showcases within the Southbank Centre have consistently been relegated to the Spirit Level

2 years ago

‘Emerging’ is very much an arts industry label – as is ‘mid-career’ or ‘established’. However although the Arts Council use the term across the Arts, it means very different things dependent on artform. For someone in the performing arts ’emerging’ means you’ve got a few credits behind your name and you might have done a bit part on TV. But within the visual arts by far the majority of ‘established’ artists are by definition, dead. It almost seems a prerequisite. If you ask the general public who is there favourite visual artist the chances are that 90 percent of gallery-goers… Read more »

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