Artists Remake the World
The Author

The Author : Juliette Desorgues

Biography

Juliette Desorgues is an independent curator and writer based in France and the UK. Recent projects include, amongst others, the exhibitions ‘This future is unthinkable. Yet here we are, thinking it’, Damien & the Love Guru, Brussels, 2019; ‘Hypersea’, artmonte-carlo, 2018, and the exhibition and publication ‘Helen Johnson: Warm Ties’, Artspace, Sydney and ICA, London, 2018. She previously worked as Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and held curatorial positions at the Barbican Art Gallery, London and Generali Foundation, Vienna. She studied Art History at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Vienna and University College London.

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Context & Biographies :

This interview was conducted by Juliette Desorgues, independent curator and writer, formerly Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, with British artists Peter Dunn and Loraine Leeson. The discussion focuses on the collaborative activist work carried out by the two artists between 1977 and 1980, the Bethnal Green Hospital Campaign (1977-1978) and the East London Health Project (1978-1980). Through various platforms and media, including discussions, posters, films and exhibitions, the duo of artists sought to shed light on some major problems in public health at the time: hospital closures due to budget cuts and issues such as mental health, abortion, contraception and women’s rights.

Peter Dunn is Director of ART.e @ the art of change which he founded in 2001 as a new departure in the relationship between Art, Regeneration, Technologies and environment (hence the name ART.e) and as a legacy organisation of The Art of Change, Docklands Community Poster Project, and East London Health Project which he co-founded with Loraine Leeson. He has public artworks in: Portsmouth, Stevenage, Gravesend, Bournemouth, Oxford and London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Camden & Islington, Hackney, Southwark, Lewisham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Havering. See www.arte-ofchange.com . He has written articles for publications in this country and abroad on themes related to art, constituencies, interventions and collaborations; more recently in relation to digital media and the Network Society. Most recent being: Intentions and Interventions (book chapter 8) NUTOPIA a critical view of future cities, ed. Malcolm Miles & Jennie Savage (Plymouth University Press Degen) ISBN978-1-84102-264-2. p100-115. He has lectured widely, including ‘Distinguished Visiting Professor’ at University of California, Davis, and the Cranbrook Academy in Detroit. He was Course Director of the M.A. in Art and Media Practice and Director of Studies (PhD) at University of Westminster between 2004-11. He has recently founded artSerpent, based in La Serpent, near Limoux in France.

Dr. Loraine Leeson is a visual artist who works with communities with the aim of bringing local knowledge into the public domain to feed into social change. Early projects include the Docklands Community Poster Project of the1980s, VOLCO, a planet in cyberspace constructed by over a thousand children in four countries, and The Young Person’s Guide to East London created by four hundred teenagers. These projects attracted a Media Trust Inspiring Voices award and Olympic Inspire Mark, while her public artwork The Catch involving three hundred young people became a London 2012 Landmark. More recently Loraine has involved communities in addressing environmental concerns. Active Energy, an ongoing initiative with older people focused on renewable energy, received the 2016 RegenSW Arts and Green Energy award, while Jal! an interdisciplinary project in India in 2018 addressed issues of water shortage in desert regions. Loraine’s achievements have been celebrated through a retrospective exhibition that toured Berlin, London, Toronto and Dublin 2005-08, and in 2017 her 1970s photomontage work with artist Peter Dunn in support of health campaigns was exhibited at ICA London. The same year saw publication of her book Art:Process:Change, which offers an insider’s view into how socially situated arts projects operate. Loraine also runs an MA in Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University and directs the arts charity cSPACE.

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Investigation by Juliette Desorgues
04 July 2019

Art as Activism, interview with Peter Dunn and Loraine Leeson by Juliette Desorgues.

Investigation by Juliette Desorgues

In the mid-1970s, the UK’s public health system experienced major budget cuts, initially introduced by the Labour government of James Callaghan (1974-1979) and subsequently reinforced by Margaret Thatcher (1979-90). These cuts led to the closure of several small hospitals across the country and resulted in considerably impaired health services. The Bethnal Green Hospital Campaign (1977-78) and East London Health Project (1978-1980) sought to oppose these problems using a process of collaboration and engagement with the local community and councils in East London. The conversation helps understand the artists’ general practices, the processes of collaboration and engagement at the centre of their work, and highlights their current relevance, at a time when the threat to the public health sector looms larger today than ever before in the UK as in many other countries.

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