Uncertainty, ambiguity and inconclusiveness: on becoming a social art practitioner in a small island community

Professor Roxane Permar is a visual artist whose practice is embedded in Shetland, which she first visited in 1985 and where she has worked and lived permanently for over twenty years. In Roxane's inaugural professorial lecture she will consider the role Shetland plays in her work, how her practice has become locally grounded yet simultaneously involved in a network of cultural relationships that connect many places and people, from Shetland to communities across the UK and around the world. She will trace some of the practices, places and identities which she inhabits as artist, academic, feminist, islander, and traveler, and which shape the social dimensions of her practice.

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Recount. Collaboration with Susan Timmins for Cold War Projects. Detail of installation process in Walls, Shetland, one of three site-specific installations. Photo credit: Cold War Projects
Image caption: The Croft Cosy Project, Shetland. Roxane Permar and Wilma Johnson. C-type photograph.

Permar’s practice is ‘situated’, where the context and location provide meaning and relevance for the work. She sees her artwork as an ‘art of place’[1], a term coined by the American writer Jeff Kelley in the early 1990s. The notion of ‘place’ in her practice relates to the French Caribbean writer and philosopher Édouard Glissant’s archipelagic way of thinking where he proposes that we enter the world from a place, and we carry this place with us, placing the local as the precondition for interacting with the world at large.

In this talk Permar will consider a selection of socially engaged art projects from this perspective. Early projects ground her practice in Shetland and provided the impetus for expanded connections between projects where people and places in different parts of the world become linked, for example, between Shetland and Russia, or Iceland, Europe or North America.

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