Under the pressure of an increasingly strict brief, have artists today transformed themselves into service providers? In an experience-driven economy, what is making art for? Is there a nascent fear that cultural production is just the merchandising of relations? These are the questions being asked by Jack Brindley and Lucas Clayton, together known as BC System, who temporarily adopted the role of public art providers for the city of Bristol over the past two months.
Over an eight-week period, the artists published proposals for artworks that challenged thinking about where public art belongs, who it is for and what value it can have. Provocative, witty, irreverent and sometimes defeatist, BC System undertook to realise as many of these works as possible: offering Bristol residents the chance to be tattooed with the word ‘Forever’, preparing sushi as an afterwork treat for tired studio-holders, and working without wage at a commercial art fair in exchange for publicity.
At the heart of these proposals, which are documented below, is the politics of labour-exchange. What role does the artist play in implementing alternative economies? How can public funds be subverted to resource subcultural activities? By operating at the edges dominant culture, BC System invest in an art that strategically resists a culture of commodified individualism.
“We are a London-based operation that offers a comprehensive range of services that respond with timely and considered actions. YOU supply the structure and we provide the production solution”
– BC System: Public Work Solutions
NEW WORKS FOREVER*
*A proposal to design and gift a series of tattoos of the word ‘forever’. The ‘Forever Portfolio’ will be given to a tattoo parlour of our choosing, and the cost of the tattoo will be covered by BC System. Tattoos can either be booked via the BC System phone number or be chosen unawares at the parlour by a member of the public. We will supply a budget and pay the tattoo artist. Each work is authored as an original piece of BC System work. This process continues until the budget has run out.
LOCAL MONUMENTAL PHYSICAL DUMB!*
*A proposal to collaborate with local sound-systems to produce public monuments. The sculptures would consist of three different arrangements of speaker cabinets around the city, Without being plugged in the speakers would stand mute and voiceless.
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY (HOTEL ACTION)*
*A proposal to host a pirate radio station from a hotel room in the city centre. Using our budget for the production of a public work we would create a poster campaign of a phone number. When called, members of the public could make an appointment with us and visit the hotel room. We would invite them to collaborate with us to make content for the radio station.
*A proposal to clad a location with panels coating in a highly corrosive ink made by BC System. We would then invite the local council to clean the panels using their graffiti removal service. After the performative act the panels would then be kept as monochrome paintings.
48 HOUR CAB ACTION*
*A proposal to use the entire budget for producing a public artwork to pay Dad’s Cabs (a local taxi company) to provide a free cab service until the budget runs out.
THE MODERN PAINTERS STAND AT FRIEZE ART FAIR 2013. A NEW WORK BY BC SYSTEM*
*We were invited by Modern Painters to produce a full page spread for their magazine. In payment for this we would give our time to work for them at the Frieze Art Fair. We proposed to use the page in the magazine to advertise us working for them as a performance. The job we would do for them at the fair would be an artwork in itself. Modern Painters declined this proposal, electing instead to simply employ us and use the page to simply advertise our work.
+44 (0) 7971 182 209*
*A proposal to use a mobile phone to facilitate a conversation about public art. As a point of contact between our work and the public, we would employ a spokes person from the commissioning body to answer the phone on our behalf for the duration of the work. Shifting the dynamic of labour, they would become the mouthpiece for the work and therefore responsible for making the actions public.
IS THIS WORKING FOR YOU?*
*We propose to keep the entire budget for commissioning a public artwork as a fee. In exchange for this we would take up a voluntary position in the council paying ourselves a minimum wage until the budget ran out.
After many proposals to produce a public work are commissioners were still not persuaded by our ideas. Instead we proposed to do ‘nothing’ and to explain the commission as a research residency.
WILL PAY PREMIUM (DEEP OFFER)*
*We propose to work with people who collect and sell scrap metal, particularly the homeless. As a way to source materials we will offer to buy their scrap at a premium rate on the condition that they help us make a public work with said material.
*We propose to remove one of these panels over the duration of this campaign and have it installed at Art Sheffield. This panel will operate as a painting within a curated exhibition about social capital.
*Employing a phrase used in economics, ‘Vertical Integration’, (which describes a style of management control whereby large portions of a supply chain are united by a common owner or corporation). We propose to produce a framework of steel panels that would be used as a platform or stage. Positioned in the city centre they would create a space for events to take place. Any acts occurring in this area would be authored as a BC System work. A public sculpture that co-opts members of the public making them synonymous with the work.
10 SECOND RESIDENCE*
*We propose to invite artists to produce a sound work which will be presented on our voicemail. Using the BC System work phone as a platform to present these new commissions, we will not be able to use our phone for the duration of the project. Upon calling the number (+44 (0) 7971 182 209) you will be able to hear the work and leave a message. Each sound work from the selected artists will be active on the BC System phone for one week only.
*A proposal to use a publically funded gallery as storage space for local market traders. At the end of each trading day, market stands will be packed up and stored in the galleries for the duration of a month long exhibition. The exhibition will be open during the day, when nothing will be visible, save for the remaining items not used by the store holders that day, and during the evening, when all the material will be returned to the space. We will author each of the formations and installations in the space as a BC System work.
*We propose to set up an advice centre dealing with people’s problems. People are invited to come and talk through any concerns they might have. We will offer an art based service, where we consider the problem at hand and deliver a possible solution, using our combined art knowledge. There must be no other solution offered other than an art based one.
RENT YOUR FACE*
*A proposal to make a series of portraits using a local passport photography service. BC System will supply a finite amount of money to a local passport photography service. Members of the public can use this service for as long as there is money left in the budget. BC System will retain one photograph from each set of four produced, to be incorporated into an exhibition at a later date.
RENT BOYS* *A proposal to use a publicly funded commission to pay for our studio rent. In return for this we will offer up our studio space to be used by anyone in anyway they see fit.
YOUR ASS IS GRASS*
*A proposal to present the components of public furniture used to discourage vagrancy, extended use or public gatherings, as a ready made artwork in a gallery setting.
BC System were selected to undertake this project for New Situationists: a new programme of commissions from Situations encouraging emerging artists to experiment and test out ideas in the public realm and to encourage thinking on where public art belongs, when and where it might take place. The proposal was chosen from over 50 applications by previous New Contemporaries artists since 2010 to produce a work to coincide with the opening of the 2013 exhibition.