The Writing on the Wall

By Sam Jones
I'm drawn by Adrian's entry below ('Pushing On...') and in focusing on that, I don't want at all to distract from the points made in other entries, or to introduce new things that confuse. 

Several entries have talked about definitions, 'What's in' and so forth. I think that's one of the real values of the idea of expressive life itself: its capacity to connect seemingly different activities, strands of policy and - for want of a better phrase - what people actually get up to.

A couple of years ago, I did some work at Demos on conservation, making the point that conservation is about caring for the material world, and hence the physical manifestations of things and objects that symbolise concepts like identity and community.  We produced a short video to accompany the pamphlet.  It features professional conservators talking about their work. Alongside this, we asked a graffiti artist to talk about his art (expression).  As we interviewed him, he began to talk with sadness about how the history of his peers (his heritage) gets whitewashed and painted over.  I accept, graffiti can be controversial - I don't want to make an argument about its pros and cons here. The point is that the graffiti artist was talking about heritage in exactly the same way as the conservators we interviewed for the film. Here, we had two worlds coming together around the values of expression.

What really appeals to me about the idea of 'expressive life' is the constructive challenge that it poses to professional self-conception - what actually is a cultural form and why are we showing it, collecting them, selling them, listening to them and so on.  In particular, it helps make links that might not otherwise be apparent.  My fear was that some of the conservators with whom I was working would look at the video with horror. They didn't.  Instead, many said that they looked at graffiti anew.

So, when Adrian asks 'Where do we go from here? Who are the agents who will press this cause?', my answer is that thinking about expressive life is a means by which seemingly disparate groups can find common ground.  To take this wider, it would be great to hear other bloggers and readers comment the role of cultural organisations and professionals in encouraging public debate about expressive life (by that I mean beyond policy) and what implications the idea has for education. 

January 27, 2010 12:38 PM | |


This Conversation Are the terms "Art" and "Culture" tough enough to frame a public policy carve-out for the 21st century? Are the old familiar words, weighted with multiple meanings and unhelpful preconceptions, simply no longer useful in analysis or advocacy? In his book, Arts, Inc., Bill Ivey advances "Expressive Life" as a new, expanded policy arena - a frame sufficiently robust to stand proudly beside "Work Life," "Family Life," "Education," and "The Environment." Is Ivey on the right track, or more

Our Bloggers

Adrian Ellis; Alan Brown; Andras Szanto; Andrew Taylor; Bau Graves; Douglas McLennan; Ellen Lovell; Bill Ivey, William James; James Early; Jim Smith; Lewis Hyde; Marian Godfrey; Martha Bayles; Nihar Patel; Russell Taylor; Sam Jones; Steven Tepper


Contact us Click here to send us an email... more

Archives: 61 entries and counting


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
State of the Art
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
The Unanswered Question
Joe Horowitz on music

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary