The disempowering model of consumer and consumption has been consolidated in the twentieth century with an addiction to consumption continuing now through new ‘platforms’ in digital technologies. This dominant model was not an accidental, inevitable or natural configuration of art, artist, non-artist, society, purpose and value, but a construct that functioned strategically on behalf of ideological vested interests. The model has certainly been challenged and critically undermined but it hasn’t gone away. Our challenge, now, is not to attempt reform of the model directly but to sidestep it. The challenge is not to change it but to change our attitude towards it and invent in relation to it.
In light of this situation, Upper Space works with a broad range of groups and networks to commission non-commercial projects that critically engage with social, environmental and spacial justice issues that affect various communities in our locality but that translate to wider, national issues. We have worked alongside local young homeless people to challenge the changes made by the government to the Supporting People fund and we have worked alongside artists from across the world that challenge the pervasiveness of advertising and the values materialism promotes, endorses and normalises.
Our projects are activist in nature and they are centred on a collaborative approach that utilises the arts as a vehicle to imagine and achieve social change. We believe that via situated art practices and public realm interventions, art retains the energy of agency within lived experience and, in that space, can reconnect art’s ethical responsibilities to its aesthetic responsibilities. We believe that the only space where there is scope to generate an answer, another view, in order to sustain another ideology against consumerism and the disempowerment that that model represents is in the art / cultural space.
Art / Culture can still create opportunities for people to transform themselves from passive consumers into active participants, in effect into active citizens. We hope to create discursive projects and spaces within the public sphere, to aid self-constitution as a public whose opinions bear on the organisation of society.