DAD presents at Authenticity Symposium


We were invited to present at a Symposium organised by Dr Jane Lovell called “Reimagining Authenticity in the Age of Post-Truth” held on 19 June 2018 at Canterbury Christ Church University.

It was a fascinating group of presentations from very different perspectives.

We showed our 2 minute film about DAD made for us by Dominic de Vere and then continued :

Clare and I started Dover Arts Development in 2006
DAD has no employees, decisions are made by the two of us with a conversation.
We have developed a DAD voice, a hybrid of the input from us both. We view things differently and have a mutual respect for the perspective of the other. We decided for this presentation on Authenticity that we would NOT use the hybrid voice but write down individually our thoughts without seeing what the other had written and present them one after the other:

It is perhaps in the overlaps and differences that the authentic DAD voice can be found, a voice that speaks from a drilling down into what each of us is trying to say, trying to find the right words for.

I find the concept of authenticity difficult and wonder what it is in relation to the self and in relation to experience. Authenticity is something of a moving target: just when you think you’ve found it, it seems to disappear.

It is a quest for an authenticity of being in Art as in Life that drives my own arts practice of which Dover Arts Development is a part. I have never been able or wanted to separate art from my life. As a young child in the South of France I saw artists living with their art within the local community in an engaged and, what seemed to me as a child, an authentic way, free from many of the restrictions of convention. A state of truth or authenticity I have come to realize is not fixed or ultimate but ever changing and is for each of us a homemade one. What I find fascinating in this homemadeness is – where is home? And yet when I experience that state of  ‘home’ I know it, only to lose it again if I think about it.

People always assumed that what my mother cooked was authentic Chinese food just because she is Chinese! Her guests sometimes lost interest if she tried to explain the meal was a creative combination of influences and something she had put together herself. Through this essentialising lens authenticity becomes fixed and unchanging and suggests to me the dangerous potential for authentic to be elided with ideas of the “unadulterated” or unspoilt and from there back to an imagined purity existing in a mythic past.

In Dover Arts Development we seek to engage with the community through our art projects and interventions in an emotionally responsible way providing a safe space for people to develop. The Dover community is a wide demographic that includes other artists, those in local government, those that live in Dover for the countryside that surrounds it and those that now commute to the city since the arrival of the high speed train. There are the former employees of the big industries that till the beginning of this century were still operating in Dover and a few who still work at what is now an increasingly mechanised port and a large part of the population are without work.

With each project we work in a lateral person to person way attracting different groupings across the community for each project. At the same time we hold the bar high in the art that we develop through our projects. It is the Art that enables the authentic voice to break through.

I am finding it hard to tease out the nuances of true, real, authentic, sincere, genuine…where do intent and context fit with how we understand authenticity? The authenticity of an artwork is so often bound up with the intent and therefore the identity of its maker and then complicated by value judgements. Is an image altered with post-production applications like photoshop inauthentic if the artist or photographer considers the fix to produce a final image that better matches his/her intent? And why the value judgement that using photoshop makes the image fake, when as we know what we see in a photography is framed in any case? Photography’s indexation to the real just never seems to go away.

I am interested in the inter-connectedness of things, thoughts and encounters. I have developed a performative process that positions my body as an agency of a particular kind of knowing taking painting and Dover Arts Development that I view as a performative work and as such and integral part of my artistic practice, into the territory of an event.

It has taken the form of balancing in the moment, still in the centre, and acting from an intuitive voice that seems to locate itself somewhere within my body and thought and is often accompanied by a ringing tone.

So if authenticity is a moving target, especially as regards the expression of personal authenticity, then in terms of work, practice, performance of the self, identity, it is a process which is constantly responsive to context and always elusive.

You will have seen a piece of work from each of us on the screen during this presentation. It would be interesting to know if you can tell whose is whose.