A £45k art prize in Bethnal Green imaginations

A COURSE in “unique problem-solving and creative-thinking techniques” sounds like one of those events run by California-inspired waffle gurus to which managements sometimes subject selected staff. The only way to survive one is to hope that your employer has arranged it over a couple of days in a comfortable hotel in a lively town such as Dublin.

But not Bethnal Green. That, however, is where artist Marcus Coates is running a course with that very aim.

He has been announced as winner of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Create Art Award.coates2

His School of the Imagination will last a week, teaching participants how to use “their imagination as a practical problem-solving tool for themselves and more significantly for their communities”.

Obviously you have to ignore the sheer fatuity of such an instruction, because Coates seems addicted to such language, adding as he does that he will guide a group of individuals “through some of the unconscious reasoning techniques and methods he has developed as a practising artist”.

Coates obviously makes this work because he has an impressive international CV that includes exhibitions at Tate Britain and the Serpentine Gallery in London and the Sydney Biennale.

Ah, yes, the flow chart
Ah, yes, there had to be a flow chart

Apparently, he has been working in Bethnal Green (the former town hall, now a 5-star hotel, is pictured above) since May 2013 and will continue until July, meeting local groups and leaders to learn about their relationship with their local environment and the ways they identify and resolve localised problems. He has already chosen the participants for his school.

A venue has not been found but once it is the project will culminate in the making of a film which will be premiered in Bethnal Green and at the Barbican.

The Create Art Award was conceived “to bind together the disparate cultural communities in East London in the years leading to the Olympic Games” and was considered so successful it has been continued. The award is now worth £45,000.

Hamish Scott

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