Powell, Anna and Swindells, Steve (2014) “I say aesthetics = human being”. In: CONTEMP ART 14, 24th - 26th April 2014, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul, Turkey.

“I say aesthetics = human being”
Joseph Beuys, 1973.

While serving a life sentence for murder in a Scottish jail, the artist Jimmy Boyle viewed photographs of Joseph Beuys’ performance with a coyote, entitled “I like America and America Likes Me” (1974), in which the artist had locked himself in a cage with a coyote for a week. Boyle, confined in prison, recognised that Beuys’ work attempted to harness a group consciousness, and to balance this with individual freedom, as a way of attempting to resolve or emancipate people from social ills. Gert Biesta, in “Good Education in an Age of Measurement: Ethics, Politics, Democracy” (2010) asked the question, “what is good education?” Biesta is concerned with the interrelationships between learning, identity and agency in people’s lives, and how cultural citizenship and education should respond to the complexities of contemporary societies.
With these sentiments in mind, in 2011 we commenced a formal partnership with Huddersfield Art Gallery, UK, to curate a programme of exhibitions – entitled ROTOR – featuring the work of our colleagues at the University of Huddersfield. We asked the question how contemporary art practice might impact upon the locale, and what we should be looking for in order to better understand this impact and its value.
Artists, curators and universities are now considering what it means to be ‘engaged’. As the concept of engagement grows, so the possibilities expand for embedding public engagement into the curation of contemporary art. ROTOR explores the role of contemporary art in contributing to cultural leadership within a town locale, and the complexities of capturing and measuring impact within the visual arts. Questions reside upon whether all gazes are invited, encouraged and equalised through the interpretation and mediation of ‘the exhibition’. As cultural policy becomes an ever increasing component of economic and physical regeneration of towns and cities across the UK, we ask what will be the cultural legacy of exhibition programmes such as ROTOR?
As the main educators of cultural sector professionals, universities employ many of the UK’s leading contemporary artists; they lead the most innovative and creative research programmes; and they are becoming increasingly significant deliverers of cultural experiences to the public. In a period of austerity which is particularly felt within the arts, there is now a clear need for the university sector to further its contribution to civic society.
This paper introduces ROTOR as a case study to explore the realm of cultural leadership and curation of contemporary art, in its contribution to the cultural legacies of the moment.

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