Our First Creative Brief: What Are We Looking For?

Since we posted our first general call for works, we have started receiving some questions from artists and creatives in various countries about what sort of creative work we’re looking for. We’ll soon be posting some supporting information to inspire you, as well as providing more information on how your work might be featured or, if you agree, shared with media partners or campaigners, and optional reading lists and weblinks to help you enquire more deeply, if you wish, into the evidence and expert thinking on alternatives that fuels part of the Swarm’s mission. In the meantime, here are just a few more thoughts to get you going.

Firstly, a few lines on why we choose this first brief, about system change and inspiring more beautiful stories of collective and individual success/progress. There is overwhelming evidence that humanity is living beyond the means of our planet, and that we urgently need to debate systemic solutions to what are undeniably systemic problems. We need to stop pretending as if the climate crisis, species extinction, rising rates of human depression and inequality, loss of community and the ongoing trend of meaninglessness in the contemporary arts were unrelated problems. The reality is that these are all symptoms of a number of systemic drivers and deeper root causes.

The GOOD NEWS is that the research also reveals that whenever you have been told “but there’s no alternative” to the current system, you were either being told a lie, or were misinformed by someone suffering from the crisis of imagination.  The reality is that an increasing number of think tanks and experts are outlining guiding principles for new ways to redefine progress and prosperity, and how economies could be organised to promote well being and sustainability – key themes for the Next System. Whatever form that takes, – it must in our view entail a more meaningful and beautiful story of progress than the one that is currently imposed upon us. It must be a sustainable economy working within CO2 and other ecological limits, and one that puts well-being, happiness and compassion at its heart, instead of the destructive story of endless consumption growth. What does such a world look and feel like?  In a day in a life in the post-growth economy, or amidst ones thoughts, dreams or fears, what must change and what will remain?

As a growing creative community and new movement of artists and culture makers from diverse backgrounds, we won’t be getting stuck in the minute details of related theorems or policy asks.  However, we want our artistic work to be informed, and to, collectively, help make a real impact on broader social movements. So what we will do is point to broad common and guiding themes coming out of the policy literature that resonate with the Swarm, and which can be seen to represent a common thrust of thinking among an increasing number of leading think tanks, NGOs and experts in Europe, the US and beyond, those working in the Beyond GDP/Next System/Well-being space.

Enter the MAGIC SPARK OF ART and the CRUCIAL ROLE OF THE ARTIST. The work of economists experts or climate change campaigners is unlikely to speak sufficiently to the heart, or capture the imagination of the mainstream fast enough unless we unleash the skills and imaginations of creatives, dreamers and cultural influencers to assist. And this must be done at scale.

That’s why, as part of our first project we’ve set you a very exciting task: to help imagine into being the more beautiful world, to help translate and inspire the next system into existence. Our first call for works is quite broad, exploratory – we want to open up creative possibilities at this point.  Overtime this could become many things, – the Swarm is a partly self-organising structure, and the world is certainly in need of creative renewal (dare we even suggest a new great art movement?) in the contemporary arts.

As in ecology, the Swarm can be destructive and creative. We invite creatives to take on one or both functions – reveal and destroy the invisible threads that hold the lies of the status quo together, and create visions of why or how things can be better.

And what about the art/design/film/song? What look or aesthetics are we looking for? The answer is that all art forms are welcome in the Swarm, and we set no limits on aesthetics, style or size/length provided it addresses the brief. We’re already talking with graffiti street artists, print makers, film makers and writers. So long as your work CONVEYS A MESSAGE CLEARLY – responds to or translates one or more of our 10 actions for artists to consider, in ways with the potential to move, inspire, or provoke others, then your work (no matter how large or small) will be valuable to the Swarm and (where artists agree separately) to our partners who work for change. (More on that, and our new partnerships for artistic activism leading up to Paris, COP21 this December, soon.)

We’re particularly interested in work that speaks for itself and is accessible to people who have little or no background in contemporary art. And in work that is fascinating, inspiring, magnetic, curious, emotive or provocative. But really, there is no limit beyond your imagination. Where ever you are in the world, get in touch any time to chat about what you’re thinking about and how you might get involved with or be featured in the Swarm this year.

We’re excited to see what you create in response to Swarm briefs – it might be your most important work.

By David Holyoake.

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