British Council Creative Economy

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25 September 2014

Blurring the Lines: channelling punk and DIY culture

Watershed producer Victoria Tillotson describes the spirit of the Blurring the Lines exhibition

(c) Beto Figueiroa/TragoBoaNoticia

'Aquatic Pathways' a waterway project by H.D. Mabuse, Tine Bech, Germana Uchôa, Isabelle Croissant and David Haylock

'I want to share a little about the curatorial decisions that were made and why the people within Blurring the Lines were selected. There are millions of people around the world who do wonderful things, so why these people? We set out to create a show that would be inspiring. Taking the people and projects championed by the British Council as a starting point, we wanted to share stories and showcase ideas, offer insights and inspirations, suggestions and commentary. We purposefully sought out those with a passion for collaboration, technology and creative thinking. Those who are truly driving change in ways none of us could have anticipated. 

Take H.D. Mabuse. Based in Recife in North East Brazil, his ideas span art, design and music, and a sense of activism features in every part of his work. He is utterly generous and extremely talented. He was exactly the kind of person we were looking for, and he had a great story to tell. I was also struck when speaking with him, that there was a single moment in his life that continues to define the person he is, and the way he works today. This moment was stumbling across the Sex Pistols in 1984, “It led me to the politics of punk, the possibilities of DIY culture and the notion that we can make change to our world if we work positively, in constant dialogue with others.” It seemed to myself and co-curator Ian Danby, that H.D. Mabuse encapsulates just how important blurring the lines of culture, politics and approach is to changing our global landscape.

James Bridle on the other hand doesn’t really believe in moments, he believes in frameworks and processes, “It's often very hard to figure out what a work is about until some time after it is completed: you come to understand what you're doing by doing it, and it makes sense in context when viewed with hindsight. This is as true of my practice as it is of individual works, a composite of experiences and activities that make sense in time.” This comment resonated with us; it highlighted a couple of things that all of the people featured have in common: to learn by doing, trying things out, seeing what works and building on that; and an ability to not only look at things in one moment, but to look forwards and back, above, below and through. It is only by putting ideas on the line, and being open to seeing things from different perspectives, that change can really be made. 

Each person featured in Blurring the Lines brings something unique. They harness the power of invention and imagination to makes things happen, disrupt the norm, connect people and communities, and empower them while they’re at it. Through presentation of this selection, our aim is to inspire those who visit. We hope it will encourage people to look at the world around them with fresh eyes and see new possibilities. And perhaps, like H.D. Mabuse’s discovery of the Sex Pistols, this may become a defining moment for others too. The inspiration they need to get out there, and participate in making our world a better place – a place where the lines are blurred, the edges are stood on, and change is a reality.'

Victoria Tillotson is a Producer at Watershed where she manages collaborative residencies and International exchange programmes such as Recife: The Playable City. Her projects enable creation and exploration of ideas at the intersection of art, design and technology. She is based at Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed’s city-centre research lab that brings together a network of over 150 artists, technologists, scientists and academics to explore the future of mobile and wireless media. She is a Board member at Ffotogallery the national agency for development of photography in Wales, and National Advisor to Arts Council Wales.