The Bureau for the Validation of Art
The Bureau performs a Validation process for artist Hilary Powell at Hoe Street Central Bank in Walthamstow, London, for Art Licks 2018.
A Visit by the Officials from the Bureau for the Validation of Art is a performance artwork presented by The Women's Art Activation System that investigates who holds the power to create validation and acceptance.
The Women’s Art Activation System (WAAS) is an artist collective from Stroud, Glos, UK. It was formed in December 2016 with the aim of supporting, exploring and promoting women’s art and has produced a series of work in this realm.
We invite you to join the Officials on their journey to one of the biggest art fairs in the world, Frieze New York, to provoke conversation around who gets to decide what is 'valid' art and what isn’t. Check out our great rewards and be part of the team who holds the art world to account.
The Vital Importance of Validation
Validation is something that concerns many artists, from within and outside the established ‘art world’ and particularly affects socially engaged artists whose work is more difficult to commodify and monetise. It is also an issue for women in general, particularly those who like ourselves have become mothers and are changed in professional status as a result.
What is validation? It's getting feedback from others that what you do and what you say matters. You are heard. You are seen. Your accomplishments and acknowledged and your efforts are appreciated. The opposite of validation is non-recognition and your efforts do not matter and cannot be valued.
We experience validation in many ways throughout our lives, including the receiving of certificates (birth certificates, degree certificates, employment records, death certificates) and other paperwork that allows us to proceed from one status into another.
The Bureau for the Validation of Art provokes a conversation around who gets to decide what is valid and what isn’t, the importance of validation processes, and the socio-psychological importance of bureaucratic and other forms of ritual in defining who we are, and what we are and are not able (or believe we are able) to do.
Why the Bureau Seeks to Visit Frieze New York
New York City is one of the financial mega-centres of the world, and Frieze epitomises the contemporary art world’s most commercial side. At Frieze New York, large sums of money exchange hands with art often being valued for its ability to sell. Any art that is shown at the fair by the various participating galleries, is endorsed by the Frieze brand and is automatically validated as 'good' and 'collectable' and thus can attract significant value.
As female artists and mothers of young children living in a small town in Gloucestershire, UK we are on the periphery of these worlds, both geographically and socially.
With your help, we aim to send the Bureau officials into the centre of the context that the performance questions, Frieze New York, and ask who are the people making the decisions and how much does their subjective opinion influence the validation and ultimate value of the artworks and therefore the artist themselves?
Performance art and social practice art is often presented outside of the gallery system as it is more difficult to give it commercial value - often no saleable objects are produced as a result of the artwork. This poses a complex question around how we value 'work' in a system that requires commodification and often does not recognise the value of labour - including that of child-rearing, care, and socially engaged art practice.
How can we make a living and gain recognition for our practice, and how can we carve a pathway for others to follow?
As Officials from the Bureau for the Validation of Art we are using a humorous and recognisable vehicle to provoke and explore these questions.
What does the Bureau want to do at Frieze New York?
The Bureau offers artists and galleries the opportunity to submit their work for Validation. The Bureau may also make unannounced inspections and audit work on show, either at Frieze or as we did in London, at fringe and peripheral locations.
Using a preset series of questionnaires aimed at The Artist, and An Audience, along with the Officials’ own assessment, and using abundant quantities of paperwork, the Officials will make a decision on whether proposed work is Valid as Art.
The Officials validate validated work with a VALIDATED stamp, and a docket is presented to the artist or gallery recording the process and outcome.
We have some great rewards for everyone who backs this project. From Activator badges to full day validations, there is something for everyone.
With your support we can create a downloadable, printable guide with prompts, questions, and instructions for Activating your art. Get activated!
POSE YOUR QUESTION
Got a question for An Artist, A Work or An Audience? The Bureau will pose your question as part of a Validation process in New York.
Need permission for something? The WAAS Permission Slip can act as a validation ritual to enable you to access the activity you are blocked about.
As the Officials, we have found that wearing a lanyard communicates to others an immediate sense of authority. We are spoken to differently and approached as if we are likely to have answers and inside knowledge.
You can activate the same effect with your own BFTVOA lanyard. Send us your headshot and we will create a lanyard. Access all areas.
Activate yourself or a friend with an hour or so one-to-one support from the WAAS. Between us we have extensive experience, networks and a coaching qualification to draw upon to give you space and activation to reflect and move your practice on.
ART PRINT ✓
Our Official Photographer will take a stunning shot in New York and we will send you a top quality A3 print in a protective box.
The Bureau will attend your venue, gallery or other location to ensure work on show is really Art. This is a unique opportunity to engage audiences, artists and curators in an exploration of validation processes. The artists can also offer a talk or panel discussion to maximise the value of the performance.
Please contact the Bureau to discuss your requirements.
What will happen when the Officials return to Britain?
With your help we would work with a photographer and videographer to document the Officials trip to Frieze New York.
Our aim is to spread the word and get as much publicity for our performance both before, during and after our trip via press, art blogs and reviews. Following their investigations at Frieze New York, the Officials from the Bureau would produce an Official Report.
This report and documentation from the trip would be permanently accessible via our own artist websites and social media and shared extensively amongst our networks and of course, with our supporters. With a stretch target we could host a workshop and presentation about the work and the themes it explores.
What Is The Funding For?
Your contribution covers the costs to fund us to travel and stay in New York: accommodation & food, materials and expenses. We have budgeted for a lower artist fee than the recommended day rate as suggested in the AN guidelines for artist fees, to be able to deliver the project within budget.
Funds will also cover payment of a photographer who will document the Officials visit to New York.
We also want to offset our carbon emissions, and we will set a stretch target to cover an extra day in New York that we will use to visit an art festival on the fringe of Frieze to offer Validations to fellow artists who consider themselves or are considered to be on the periphery of the commercial art world. A stretch target would also allow us to cover the hidden childcare costs of leaving our roles in parenting for a few days in order to activate art.
Finally, we would be covering insurance, contingency (in light of economic uncertainty we need to be sure we can cover costs), and platform fees within this budget. We would be covering the costs of the rewards within the budget.
We know that there are plenty of artists (and mothers and others) out there, who understand the importance of validation in different contexts and who know how hard it can be to challenge the gatekeepers and overcome invisible and visible barriers. We want to invite you to be part of this process and widen the awareness of what we do. When we have you as part of our team, it will be that much harder for the Art World to close its doors to us and our work!
This project is part of a Kickstarter initiative supporting social practice artists in the UK. Discover other projects supported from our collaboration with Social Art Network: https://www.kickstarter.com/social-art-network
Risks and challenges
The risks to this project are geopolitical as well as personal. Any travel project carries a risk of being called off due to illness, family crisis, or unexpected political upheaval so we are taking out insurance to mitigate some of this. If we were for some reason unable to go to NYC, we could reimagine the project at Frieze London in October 2020 as an alternative.
There is also a risk that we are ejected from Frieze events but this we would see as part of the art and something to incorporate into the project and talk about, rather than be disappointed by non-validation!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter