Simon Ford Foldworks screenprint

Simon Ford

I have always been interested in big questions and art has helped me to ask these sorts of questions. What big questions? You may ask. One question I often struggle with is “What is art?” to which I haven't come up with any consistent answers. What mollifies my frustration in having any answers is what art can do in practice.

The unique status of art viz. the aesthetic is its unique combination of the sensorial (we feel it’s presence) and the intellectual (it get’s us to think and imagine). In the tensions resulting from this relationship, art, unlike any other discourse creates endless representational possibilities. Art is necessary in creating new ways of looking, thinking and experiencing, it is also a necessity in what it can exclude, negate or invalidate. This is art’s powerhouse, its raison d’être, its “make it new” capacity.

This brings me to further big questions. I have been thinking, as an artist and teacher, what might art exclude and how? This is something I have considered with my students with energy, argument and debate over the years. 

Two examples of what art is not and what it might challenge is the prevailing sedating clichés of mass entertainment or the ubiquitous “common-sense” rationalisms of economics. Art invites any of us to participate proactively in making, producing and reproducing new possibilities, possibilities through and beyond tired conventions, codes and common sense logics foisted on us via dictums like “the real world” and / or “there is no alternative”. It can get us to the place of asking big questions. Thus, I, like many others believe art is inherently political and, in this respect, readily equipped in its various manifestations to ask big questions of social matters-at-hand.

I’ve tried to do this as an artist, lecturer and activist. Through exhibition work, community arts collaborations, writing and teaching, art has allowed me to make a contribution to societies debates and to individuals wrestling with small and big questions.

I’m working toward a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. I’ve worked at teaching undergraduate and postgraduate photography, fine art and graphic design in UK universities and colleges, after a period of working in community arts and gallery education. Before this, from the age of 16 to 23, I worked as a coal-miner in South Wales.


Image: The Law of Length / St. Katherine's Dock, London, silkscreen on found image from the exhibition All at Sea: The Liminal Essence of Immigration, 2017, Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, Savannah, Georgia, USA.