In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Shape Arts’ flagship art award, the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, we've created the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary at Ten publication, featuring essays and texts by Nicholas Serota, Jenni Lomax, Manick Govinda, Noëmi Lakmaier, Simon Raven and Tony Heaton OBE, discussing and exploring the significance and legacy of the award.

The publication accompanies our latest exhibition In Out There, taking place at Attenborough Arts Centre until 17 June and showing work by Adam Reynolds alongside newly commissioned work by 2018 ARMB recipient Terence Birch, as well as work by Sarah CarpenterNicola Lane and Catherine Cleary, who were all shortlisted for this year's award. The publication is available for purchase from Shape directly or at Attenborough Arts Centre; an extract - former ARMB recipient Simon Raven in conversation with Manick Govinda, Programme Director of SPACE - can be read below.

Manick Govinda – You work with performance, with objects, and make installations. How does that process work? Is it something that is in your headspace initially, or are the sources of inspiration spontaneous? Is it conceptualised and then created?

Simon Raven – The starting point is usually a language game for me. I enjoy playing with the language of things and imagining them differently, occasionally following through to making something. That process will usually reveal that the game is more complex and more self-reflexive, in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. That’s my process really.

MG – As we know London is getting more expensive for artists to have a dedicated studio, and the dilemma of that is very sad and unfortunate. The organisation I’m moving onto, SPACE, was set up in 1968 by Bridget Riley, Peter Sedgley and Peter Townsend. At that time, in a sort of prescient way they thought that they wanted to develop an infrastructure for artists to have affordable workspaces in London. I don’t know how artists at that time would have thought London would be fifty years in the future. As we know now, it’s become a sort of glass cathedral.

SR – I think people are moving into a digital space. I think an enormous amount of cultural activity is occurring in a space that is not necessarily visible in the day to day and I find that fascinating.

MG – True. I think digital and virtual spaces are becoming the place where there is freedom but also where you can still engage with people.

SR – And Adam Reynolds specifically - I think of his sculptural performance practice and the kind of space that evokes; a freedom, a sort of artistic freedom, but a material one. And that’s what is good about the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary - it’s an opportunity to make the unthinkable, something that could take place that wouldn’t otherwise. That is interesting for me conceptually…To consider what is unthinkable in terms of how you might approach space.

MG – Tell us more about the residency that was attached to Camden Arts Centre, which is a beautiful gallery. You had a studio in a lovely Victorian building.

SR – The artist studio space there is very generous, it’s right in the centre of the gallery. A lot of institutions say ‘it’s central to our organisation’ to do residencies but at Camden Arts Centre it really is central to it. There is not much of a dividing line between their different programmes of activity, including artist residencies. Camden Art Centre’s approach enabled and shaped the way I work.

It was the summer so the artist’s studio was a really warm space. I started really thinking about space, thinking about airflow, opening the window, opening the doors to create an airflow through the gallery. That became a seedbed for thinking about how I might position myself in the gallery, and open up my practice. My approach became very much about having the doors open so people could walk in and have this environment which was open; I was interacting with the people who were there. When the residency started there was a Bruce Lacey retrospective in the main galleries that Jeremy Deller had put together. It was fantastic to be able to respond to that. The conversations I was having with people who had just been to that exhibition - they were of a certain mind-set which was really enlivened. Bruce Lacey had a sort of effect on people which was a really generous one to work next to.

MG – So the context of Camden Arts Centre and having Bruce Lacey’s exhibition running simultaneously inspired and fired off some interesting starting points for you? What I find fascinating when one is in a gallery space during a residency, as opposed to a rural space on a retreat residency – context always inspires what goes on. When you applied did you have a fixed idea of what you wanted to do or was it more open ended?

SL – Well, I applied with a specific idea that was from a funny Slavoj Žižek observation that a lot of people used to go to see a psychiatrist because they felt they were repressed. It followed a certain Freudian logic, whereas nowadays people go to see psychiatrists because they don’t feel they are enjoying themselves enough. They feel like they aren’t unrepressed enough. It’s a sort of negation of a negation. So the job of a psychiatrist now is not to try to help people to be relieved from their repressed nature, but to be relieved from the pressure to pursue their desires: it’s to say – ‘it’s ok not to desire, it’s ok to be boring’ basically. I thought that was a really funny and unusual observation to put in a gallery. My application was to set up a space where that was the invitation to the public; that you didn’t have to enjoy this work. Some people really responded to that. The initial idea was to set up a very flat waiting room for some boring bureaucratic procedural, and do a performance which was structured around boredom - but I thought probably doing that performance would be boring so I thought ‘OK – its ok to be boring, but I’m not going to be’ whilst still discussing that idea. The invitation to be boring was my route into not being boring in some respect, and I found that really useful.

The nice thing about not having precisely done what I said I was going to do is that it’s still there to be imagined, and I think some things work really well remaining as a concept.

A man in jeans and a white shirt with a rubber horse

Image: Part of Simon Raven's residency at Camden Arts Centre

MG – I think what’s wonderful about the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary is that it’s a bit of a luxury - for the equivalent space you’re talking about [a cost of] thousands of pounds. It’s amazing that you were afforded that space.

SR – I think the sense of luxury is where the energy to be in the studio every hour that was available to me came from. That is just one way of approaching it though – the value of the residency is not economic. Art’s value to the political is that it exceeds the boundaries of politics. I think that’s really important with Disability Arts – obviously there is a social ontology and it’s very important that representation for and by disabled people is supported and nurtured, but then also - art is not bounded by politics. Its main use value, its main concern, is not to be limited. I guess Unlimited and other projects really push that. It’s not identity politics writ large - it is art; it’s something that, through conjecture, pushes the bounds of things, in a way that identity politics actually tends to reproduce. Binaries are unhelpful. They can entrench positions, whereas I think art is one of the few things that tend to cross borders, boundaries. Imagination really is the key to thinking differently. That’s the focus of my PhD, how these two different approaches to disability - the social one and the imaginative - how that affects art, and the interplay between those positions. 

MG – The dilemma that art finds itself in is that a studio may no longer be a private space. I think more and more residencies call for constant engagement and transparency - having to bare open all your research process, which can be constraining at the same time - because the arts needs to have a social value of some kind. 

SR – Well, you are asked to do contradictory things. On the one hand you are asked to be social, ‘accessible’, but then also to fulfil a need to represent art at its most cutting edge - and those two things are not always compatible bedfellows. Partly there is an argument to say that art shouldn’t really be anything but good art, and really if you pursue that to its end then I think that the different worldview or the different perspective that disabled artists might bring would be essential to that project anyway.

It’s noticeable that many cities don’t have any provision to retain the artists who have been to their art schools. It’s very easy to set up a decent studio block, one in which you might be able to set down roots – that’s why the residency system is fantastic, in that you might be able to develop work in a context and in a place that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. But then I think that also needs to be countered by studio provision that you can rely on, that’s affordable and that supports and nurtures artists. It should be considered apart from an economic model – not because artist studios aren’t going to contribute to the economy, but because they contribute to the culture of the city.

MG – I’m completely with you. I think the pricing out of affordable workspaces for artists in London is going to create what’s happened in New York – it just becomes a showroom, and artists no longer become part of the community or part of the neighbourhood.  On one level I think it’s so important to be an everyday citizen in your community and area, but then to not be able to have a space to make your work? I go to work from 10 to 6 and artists cannot find a studio space to go off and withdraw in the privacy of that headspace and physical space.

SR – I think you just have to move. There is such a contrast between London and the rest of the country in terms of affordability. For me, moving to Nottingham, I was able to teach half of the week, afford a studio, afford to live fairly well and be able to travel to London and have the flexibility in my work to do residencies like the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary.

Artists are adaptive and the main adaptation has been to this digital economy - this digital space that we are all occupying more and more - and I think one of the problems is that the public sphere is disappearing gradually or becoming privatised under our feet, under the rubric of regeneration. We all know that process. It’s quite refreshing to not be part of it.

MG – Next year celebrates the 50 year anniversary of the Situationists, and how they worked with public space as being a site of subversion and creativity - the interventions and those subtle disorientations.

 SR – I had good chats with Aaron Williamson who was very influenced by an exhibition about the Situationists a couple of years ago. His position is that the barriers between art and life, particularly in performance practice, is something that is constantly worth considering. He was saying it would be particularly original to discuss Disability Arts practice alongside the Situationists – this melding of art and life, and an overlay of those things.

To return to Adam Reynolds’ practice, it is arguable that his collage of art and life provides an interesting frame of reference for the activity of a residency. For me, taking part in the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary significantly changed my life for three months: I temporarily moved cities, studio/working environment and peer group. The residency became the fulfilment of a (perhaps slightly naff) fantasy of living in London with a huge studio and institutional support, and I think that the work I made was influenced by that - particularly a performance installation called 'Iceberg Lounge' for a Frieze VIP event. I transformed the studio into a version of Mr Freeze's lair from the 1960's Batman TV series, including a large sculptural 'iceberg'. I was motivated by contrasting the booming luxury end of the contemporary art market - considered as a slightly villainous enterprise – with the impending climate catastrophe. I figured that an ultimate climate change ice sculpture might just be a hunk of an actual iceberg melting away as the centrepiece of a VIP drinks event. It was great fun and really bad taste!

In Out There takes place at Attenborough Arts Centre until 17 June. Please find full information on the exhibition at

The Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary at Ten publication is available for purchase from Shape for £5 + £2 P&P - please email [email protected] or call 020 7424 7330 if you would like a copy. You can read a further extract, by Arts Council England Chair Nicholas Serota, here.

Image: Simon Raven's ARMB studio at Camden Arts Centre