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Sanctum Sunday. Photo: Max McClure

Rachael Baskeyfield reflects on her year at Situations as Digital Reporter

09 August 2016

A year ago I started in my role at Situations joining with an interest in socially engaged art practice and a fascination with online culture. Straight from graduation and making the move to a new city I was excited, if not a little daunted, to begin in my new role.

Since then, two major new public art projects, three new websites, over 2,000 tweets and countless cups of tea later – I have learnt a huge amount, from some of the most unexpected sources. I’ve had a year of incredible experiences, exciting challenges, many obstacles and lots of creative decision making. I now come to its end having worked with possibly the most ambitious and hardworking group of people this side of the sun. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some great friends and mentors and now call one of the most fantastic cities in the world home.

From the offset Situations have given me a real part to play, a seat at the table in creative discussions, I’ve been given the time and tools and have been trusted to grow and shape the organisation’s online presence. From crafting and curating the digital storytelling of  Theaster Gates’ first ever UK project to unlocking some 10,000 stories within Katie Paterson’s Hollow, each has presented itself with a unique set of conditions to respond to and amplify. Without any kind of venue, box-office or fixed-location traditional approaches could only go so far when communicating with audiences in the public realm. As an often repeated phrase we continually seek the unexpected. I quickly learnt to throw away the rulebook, if there ever was one.

Thinking about digital in relation to the public realm, and how we can use it to enhance, enrich and extend art experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to test new initiatives. I’ve played with Periscope at 3am in a bombed-out church in November and have worked with photographers to capture a 360 degree experience. With great advice and guidance I have begun to build a supportive and engaged online community with Situations.  As the cultural experience meshes ever more with digital activity it feels ever more important to address this online space with equal care and consideration as perhaps physical space.

From a festival across two cities, or a permanent sculptural installation, to a continuous 552-hour performance and an international programme of workshops, blogs and publications; content and contexts for Situations projects continually shift and change. Responding directly to the ever-changing world we live in, the team move swiftly and adapt sensitively. Learning to move at such speed, whilst evaluating the work I do has at times has been a tricky task. Nevertheless I’ve found myself returning to the same questions time and time again; how can I better talk to, listen to and engage with audiences? How am I opening up space for other voices, perspectives and viewpoints? And ultimately how is what I’m doing activating ideas and inspiring action?

Aimed specifically at those who would otherwise be unable to work unpaid positions in the arts, the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursary programme has funded my role, alongside a wider programme of training and networking events as well as vital mentorship from Zak Mensah, Head of Transformation at Bristol Culture. Over the course of the year I have come to be connected to an ambitious network of young people; from fundraising for Ballet to producing Live Art, their experiences and skills stretch across the sector.

We’ve shared in each other’s success, in our learning, and as well as in our failures. We’ve considered what it means to work in the arts, how to progress professionally and personally, how to affect change, to have your voice heard and to help others make that journey. I feel hugely privileged to have benefited from these opportunities, and hope wholeheartedly that the scheme may continue to open doors, windows and escape-hatches for young people working in the arts.

The year has changed things for me, bringing about a real shift in the way I see myself within the world. I now look to a hugely talented, and inspiring network of peers placed across the UK, all who forge their own path within the arts, supporting artists, thinkers and practitioners to make incredible things happen. I have a wealth of experiences and a hugely supportive network of peers in the team at Situations. The possibilities for collaboration are exciting, we’re ready to make next steps in to 2016. Where society seems increasingly divided, and where the arts continue to be under-funded and under-valued, it feels more important now than to continue in supporting each other to make brave choices and leaps in to the unknown.