British Council Creative Economy

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22 September 2014

Behind the Scenes of Blurring the Lines Co-Curator, Ian Danby

Ian Danby is a curator and has recently worked with Arnolfini, Watershed and Circumstance. Here he shares his experience of putting together our debut exhibition.

(c) Babitha George/UnBox

"Surrounded by biographies and a jug of coffee, Victoria Tillotson, my co-curator at Watershed and I, started the task of developing the Blurring the Lines exhibition. We had in mind a collection of sixteen people who represent new fundamental changes in working practice, technology trends and social and political impact from around the world. We wanted to find stories that would run straight to the heart of how society is changing. We also wanted to uncover how the curiosity and generosity of people can lead to new global networks, collaborations and ideas. It was vital to create a mix of cultures, countries and disciplines, if the exhibition was to be as authentic and rich as it deserves: luckily the Creative Economy team at the British Council had a huge number of extraordinarily talented people we could draw upon. I spoke to Babitha George, Co-founder of Unbox / Quicksand in India who is “focusing on new ideas from practitioners that are pushing the boundaries of their own practice”. She explained further, “I was curious about who else was out there… Were there people I could work with? Do projects with? Become friends with?”

Elena Fortes from Ambulante, a hugely successful documentary film festival in Mexico, told me about how they are disrupting the cultural norm by staging screenings in unusual and provoking locations, such as showing a film about immigration near the wall of the border. She told us that ““Many of the films we show have a political perspective perhaps challenging the politics of the country or the drug cartels and their grip on society.  We believe that though film we can challenge peoples perspectives and engage people in an informed debate.” 

(c) Ambulante

We wanted the Blurring the Lines exhibition to be playful and engaging, clear and distinctive. The 16 individuals highlighted chose an object that represented their practice to be displayed - from Playmobil security check points, synthesizers, to notebooks and GPS devices. We commissioned the fantastic illustrator Ella Britton to tease out some of the themes and ideas emerging from the stories and her work is woven through the exhibition, encouraging visitors to look really closely to find it. Stand and Stare have created a brilliant video jukebox and you can listen to secrets using Dan Williams’ digital cans on strings. The elements of sound, film, interactivity and working prototypes are included to showcase and bring the stories to life making the exhibition feel as engaging and innovative as the people and their stories. We can't wait for the public to arrive and start exploring."

Ian's previous roles have included Head of Arts Programmes at The Public in West Bromwich, Head of Visual Arts for Arts Council England West Midlands and Business Manager for the Princes’ Trust.