This is an interview between myself and Chris Fremantle which discusses my research and role within the art school. Conducted in May 2011 by phone.
Chris Fremantle: The first question is: what is the relationship between your practice and your role in the art school?
Iain Irving: Originally I was employed as a design tutor in product design, but I had never really professionally designed anything. This was twelve years ago and before that I had worked on exhibitions and in galleries in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. Once you get into the art school, you can then start to manipulate, change and adapt your role. Actually you can sort of make a role for yourself because I could see my experience, primarily, of exhibition making and the practicalities of actually doing it and thinking about the ideas could be useful… I saw there was strong need within the art school.
I suppose, once I was here, I was able to see that my role as somebody who has knowledge of exhibition making, curating, those sorts of skills and connections and, through that, the means of communicating with students as well. I can continue doing exhibition making as a practice through research, but also to start to integrate it within the students’ learning and the projects – not just in the MA, but also with undergraduates.
As a curator I’m able to deal with lots of subjects all at the same time. I found myself teaching across design, fine art, contextual studies, and digital media and even in computing. The practice of curating hits on all those sorts of areas.
I’ve been able to contextualise students’ practice within curating and museums or galleries or exhibition projects and spaces, particularly supporting fine art students who needed to know how to get somebody to see their work and how to sustain their practice.
I suppose, within Gray’s, there is recognition of the need to promote professional practice. I was sometimes wheeled in at the end of the year to give them a bit of pro pep talk. But this should be integrated right from the start. I’d say “But this is part of the creative industries, part of social enterprise: visual art is part of this bigger thing”. We’ve made a lot of progress on that: it’s come to the fore and things have opened up a lot. The new Contemporary Art Practice framework really takes it on board.
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