Nicky Bird

Artist as Listening Post (2011)

Artist as Listening Post

“My practice has usually involved a combination of new and ‘found’ photography, working closely with people who have particular relationships with specific archives and places I have become increasingly aware of the role that listening plays during the art process. The experience of an artist listening is not as straightforward as it might seems. In fact, it is full of ambiguities. The phrase ‘listening post’ – with its defensive, even military connotations – implies the gathering of information by surreptitious means. As the dictionary will tell you, this act summons up notions of secrecy, and operation by stealth, or other improper means. The artist’s agenda or motivation for being at the listening post may seem innocuous enough: being motivated by nothing more than the creation of works of art, which eventually go into the public domain, added to the CV and so on.

I will use experiences drawn from two projects, Beneath the Surface/Hidden Place (2007-2009) and Unsorted Donations (2010). These help articulate two positions of the artist as stranger: one by self-appointment (the self-initiated project), while the other by invitation (the artist residency). While both projects reflect my on-going concerns with the theme of hidden history, my discussion of these positions aims to help tease out wider ethical questions raised by artistic use of narratives, stories, and anecdotes of collaborators told informally during the art process.”


For the full essay
Artist as Listening Post
Developed from a conference paper for Transmission: Hospitality July, 2010