2|1|4|1: Safety in Numbers

September sees the official launch of 2|1|4|1, the latest graduate collective formed in a bid to counter the famously poor career prospects of artists. We speak to the founding members about their plans

Feature by Emma Ewan | 29 Aug 2013

A new collective have formed under the name 2|1|4|1 and they’re on a quest to banish all of those post-art school lows and woes. A cross-country initiative, they’ve got some fairly strong opinions on art education, real life in the art world and enlisting others to help you carve your own path through the jungle. The founding members recently shared the full brief on their beginnings, philosophies and plans for the future…

In May 2013 three initial members – themselves alumni of Glasgow School of Art and Gray’s School of Art – produced a manifesto and set out to find like-minded individuals to join them in their mission to alter the flow of opportunities and information in the notoriously hazy, post-graduation art world. Their manifesto – like many of their predecessors’ – states a commitment to bridging the gap between graduation and a sustainable career in the arts. Their values indicate a demand for transparency and a desire to implement a go-to support system for all fresh graduates and early-career artists.

Things will kick off with a full launch weekend on 5-8 September at Glasgow’s SWG3, where the focal point will be a members’ exhibition – set to become an annual occurrence. The newly amassed body of members is made of up Frances Lightbound, Rosie Roberts, Kirsty Macleod, Alexander Millar, Catriona Meighan, Nick Thomas, Lauren McLaughlin, Jack Farrell, Joanna Peace, Sam De Santis, Silja Strøm, Kenneth Davidson and Rachel Gallacher. They’re keeping quiet as yet about what the work will be, but it will span performance, painting, photography, sculpture and sound installation.

The Thursday night’s opening will slip into an after party at the Poetry Club, while Saturday will see a series of events including artist talks and guest speakers. GSA lecturers Craig Mulholland and Alistair Payne will be ‘in conversation’ on various aspects of the Scottish emerging art scene. The topic of debate being opportunities for early-career artists, they will be picking at the bones of what new artists need now.

With the show open all day every day for the duration of the weekend and invigilated by the members themselves, people are actively encouraged to drop in for a chat. This aligns with their ‘face-to-a-name’ ethos that challenges the way established artists can be inaccessible as ‘real people.’ In a bid to disarm the myth, you will soon find images and profiles of all the members on their website.

The website will be the centre of their activities, with members regularly venturing out and reporting back on shows they’ve seen and artists they’ve interviewed to create an ever-expanding collection of content that can be accessed by anyone online. Embracing the free movement of information offered by the internet, the main aim of the website is to encourage discourse and to join up people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to connect. They believe that each of the nation’s cities blessed with an art school are operating too disparately and it’s one of their fundamental goals to connect the Scottish art hubs in a way that isn’t happening now.

Longer-term, they want to back up their online content with activities in a physical space. Plans for the future include curatorial projects and a drop-in open studio setup that gives an insight into the realities of day-to-day work as an artist. With all activities orbiting an ethos of collaboration, communication and contribution, workshops and visits to art schools are also on the agenda. In order to broaden the reach and scope of the collective, they hope their next intake will see an influx of members from the north of Scotland.

2|1|4|1’s endeavours bring to our attention a wider picture; they raise questions about whether art schools really prepare their students for life on the other side. There’s a suggestion that art schools idealise life as ‘the artist’ and shy away from sharing advice on how to sustain an artistic practise in the early days. Right enough, it’s not often mentioned that you might have to work in a café six nights a week on minimum wage just to pay the rent on your flat, never mind your studio. And on top of that any spare time you actually do have is going to be spent hunched over a computer getting square eyes from all those applications you’re writing – so you’ll be lucky to find any time to actually make any work in that lovely studio that you can’t afford. The onslaught of council tax and other real-life commitments means you’ll do pretty much anything short of loitering on street corners to fund this art habit of yours, but the cold hard truth of it is that in year one of pursuing your art career extraordinaire, there are going to be some compromises.

If that all sounds like a bit of a nightmare then you are in luck – 2|1|4|1 are going to lay all the facts out in nice readable info-bites for your timely digestion. Good resources for new graduates do exist out there in the cyber sphere but what 2|1|4|1 are trying to drive is a more grassroots network of ‘real people’ here in Scotland. There’s one message radiating from this collective and others like it: make your own opportunities and you can’t really go wrong. If you don’t feel like there’s a platform out there for you, make one.

2|1|4|1 launch, 5-8 Sep, SWG3