University Chair: Visual Communication
Application vs Invitation
A response to an invitation to make an application.
I have accepted jobs after being invited, and employed people after inviting them. I have never looked for a job, looked at a job noticeboard, advertised a job or applied in an official way for a job. I have been fortunate to rely on word of mouth recommendations, friends, colleges and connections made between like minded people.
So how do I respond to an invitation to make an application?
A counter offer…
I invite the University to apply to me.
I don’t want to appear arrogant. This reversal is not just applicable to me, but would seem more fitting for all ten of the University Chair rolls. Considering the nature and calibre of candidates the University is seeking, would it not result in a better faculty to figure out internally who the best person for each position would be? And to approach them individually with an invitation/job offer that is too good for them to turn down. In this way the University gets exactly the people they want, not second best or a person ‘fit/available’ for the role.
The usual attributes that are most desirable for teaching within Universities; responsibility, thorough understanding of subject, a clear aim and plan for the course etc. all seam a hindrance in this new position/context. I believe these roles call for the opposite; irresponsibility, the unknown, individuals who are working outside their comfort zone challenging convention and known ways of working.
Who would make the biggest impact and stir change: The teacher who feels obliged to be at the University four days a week, seven hours a day, immersed in paper work, running from meeting to meeting. Or the teacher who is truly free, who arrives when it feels right, makes lunch daily in his/her office and invites people/colleagues/friends to join, who starts a vegetable garden on the college roof, who takes daily siestas, long walks, leaves the office door permanently open, and opens his studio as an unofficial extension of the University environment?
I envisage the roll not as a job, where I try to gain the maximum for the minimum amount of time/involvement, but an extension to my current practice/life sharing everything in the new context of UAL.
So this is not a job application. It is a test, request, provocation, challenge for the University, with an understanding that it will be difficult for the University to justify as it sidesteps equal opportunities and accountability etc. I have low expectations that this reverse request will materialise. But as with many projects, challenging the brief, or interrogating the problem, is always the way to begin.
By declining the invitation to apply it does not mean that I do not want the position, on the contrary. I would love the position, but only if the University chooses me. If the University wants me to want the job, I don’t want the job. By not applying it frees me up from selling myself, justifying what I might do, making a plan based on my current idea of UAL, and conforming to a set University requirements. The building of an application and the hoops I would have to jump are the very things I would challenge if I was appointed the position. So by declining the invitation to apply I eliminate the contradiction and insincerity of acting differently to what I practice.
So as I previously wrote in my artist statement… I use my background knowledge from working as a graphic designer, I employ a rational, logical and pragmatic approach when making work. I have an ongoing interest to proposing and finding solutions to problems, often problems that cannot be formulated before they have been solved, the shaping of the question is part of the answer. I look for things to fix or improve, working like a tinkerer/inventor, I propose alternatives to existing models, preferring to find ways around doing things properly, bypassing the struggle. I make work for museums, galleries, television, cinema, design, advertising, branding, and education. I use self referentiality as an objective guide to reduce the extraneous and subjective, and strive for a conceptual logic. The idea is paramount and the material form secondary. My website is a tool where I both create works, and index and exhibit projects chronologically. I propose systems, templates, invitations and opportunities for collaboration, creating social networks where contributors shape the outcome and participate in the building of works. I build work both individually and collaboratively often leading teams on large projects. I embrace contradictions, and dilemmas. I am always interested in new ways of working and making connections with people to enable works, large and small, to materialise. I like gray areas, oxymorons and the feeling of falling backwards. My favorite colour is the purple found in a soap bubble. I like to swap and exchange things as an alternative to money. I seek alignments, paradoxes, chance circumstance, loops, impossibilities and wit encountered in everyday life. I often change my mind, go full circle, and arrive at the beginning.
It was only writing this counter proposal that I discovered why I felt reluctant and really excited with the ‘invitation to apply’. If the University offers me the position, breaking with its usual application process, this change to the appointment process sets out a commitment and shows a belief and open-mindedness to the unknown. Imagine if the role were to encouraged ‘irresponsibility’ and the Chairs were not accountable to anybody at the University. This is a radical proposal for a free role, a progressive, rule changing position in-relation/opposition to other faculty (in a friendly way). It would be the best roll in the world, to be trusted and given the responsibility to be irresponsible in the academic environment of UAL. Starting without knowing and with no expectations, the outcome/goal is the social experience not the aim for material output. This is the only type of education I would like to be involved today.
If this seams eccentric and absurd, then it might just work!