The Bettakultcha event at Hebden Bridge on June 25th will see the inception of Art Furnace.

What is Art Furnace?
Art Furnace is the name for conceptual artworks given as Bettakultcha presentations (20 slides, 15 seconds each, no sales pitches). If art is anything that an artist says it is then it follows that an artist is whoever calls themselves an artist.
Bettakultcha calls itself a curator of ideas therefore we invite submissions from conceptual artists (remember you only have to call yourself an artist to be an artist) to perform their works at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club. Assistants of artists can of course, perform the work instead should the artist be unavailable.
You don’t have to be anything at all to just attend the event and enjoy the exhibition as a member of the audience.

How does it work?
Here is an example. I have the idea of creating an installation in a gallery. Instead of attempting to realise the installation by raising funds, negotiating with galleries, drinking with the ‘right’ people etc, I simply put together a Bettakultcha presentation using 20 slides which describes the installation and the desired response I am trying to elicit from the visitors. The presentation of the idea will be deemed to be the artwork which, on completion, will have a creative commons licence so that anyone can take the idea and do whatever they want with it so long as they give a credit to the original artist. This makes exposure for an artist easy and cheap—no Arts Council needed.

Because we can. Because we make stuff up as we go along. Because the art market is another product of consumerist society and has no relevance to the people outside of that market. Because we like to cause trouble.

So what?
We’re not sure … we’re starting a furnace and we’re going to forge something by destroying some other things.  If people find these new artefacts interesting then we’ll produce some more, if the furnace becomes starved of oxygen then at least we’ll have warmed our hands and excited our brains for a short while. And we’ll have created a furnace.

Tickets for the event and where to email your intention to present can be found here:

Bettakultcha in Schools Pilot

After many people advising us that Bettakultcha would work well in schools we had the good fortune to have David Price OBE present at a couple of our events. David is a mover and shaker in the educational field and we chatted about the possibility of staging an event in a school. David gave us the contact details of Mark Moorhouse at the Matthew Moss school in Rochdale asserting that if any school was going to be bold enough to try the experiment, this would be it.

Such was Mark’s interest in Bettakultcha that he presented at the Leeds Town Hall event in January. The experience convinced him that the concept would work in schools.

After a couple of meetings, a date of May 8th 2013 was set to stage the event and we were recently invited into the school to finalise details.

At this meeting I was fully expecting Mark to give us a date when we could present the idea to the learners but to my surprise he said the briefing session was going to occur immediately after our meeting. This was ‘random slide challenge’ time for me as I’m old school when it comes to conveying a new idea to a group of people and I like to be prepared with slides, stories and props. We had absolutely nothing prepared in advance although I had my trusty cup and spoon with me.

We had sixteen learners who had expressed an interest in being involved after Mark had told them about the concept. They were of mixed everything – ability, backgrounds, cultures. Mark introduced Richard and myself and away we went. It quickly became apparent to me that just talking to them as a group – however sincere we might be -  wasn’t making much of an impression; these were young learners presumably used to video games and instant messaging. I got the cup and spoon ready for a demonstration.

Using the same patter as I normally use at a regular Bettakultcha event (it was only afterwards that I realised I should have checked if everyone was familiar with what the word ‘metaphor’ meant) I demonstrated the physics of gravity. Immediately, I sensed that interest had picked up and we even had a volunteer come forward and try the ‘trick’ for herself. Fortunately, it worked perfectly.

Lesson one learnt: use as many props/visual aids as possible wherever possible.

More explanations and descriptions followed and Richard started to list on a whiteboard some of the subjects that the learners were ‘interested’ in presenting. As the list grew, a quote I had come across years ago came to mind – “Tell me how you’ll measure me, and I’ll tell you how I’m going to behave.” The list seemed to echo this sentiment exactly.

One boy had put ‘charity’ as his subject. In the one-to-one sessions that followed I observed Mark talk to the boy. “Does charity make you feel excited whenever you think about it? Do you get up in the morning and think ‘Great, another day where I can do charity’?” “No.” The boy replied. “Then why do you want to present about it..?” asked Mark.

The learners weren’t getting it. More work was needed to destroy the perception of ‘worthy subjects’ that the learners imagined is what we were after.

After another twenty minutes or so of informal discussions amongst themselves and with us individually, it appeared some of the learners were starting to suspect that they really weren’t involved in some new, clever educational initiative, and that maybe they could cover what they were genuinely interested in without being measured by any results.

At the end of the session, the three of us felt that progress had been made and that the seeds of creativity had been planted. We await the germination with keen interest.

Favour exchange

Image by sinisterbluebox from flickr creative commons

Times are hard for some and are likely to get harder still in the coming months. I know this because I’m self employed.

Recently I wanted the services of an animator for a little project I’m working on but knew that I couldn’t afford to pay someone the commercial rate for their services. Then I thought maybe there is a self employed animator out there who could do with some extra work but also needed some illustrations for a project they were working on … You can see where this is going can’t you ? (By the way, if you aren’t following this yet, I can do illustrations.)

Then it hit me! If there was some kind of ‘favour exchange’ where people could go to swap their skills, then bigger projects could get kick started with very little funding needed. All we needed was some kind of database, a method of keeping track of who had done what with a feedback mechanism and maybe some kind of voucher system to use as currency.

Any scheme though would have to be fully thought out before it started so that contributors could be confident that it would take off and continue into the future. To do this requires the talents of someone other than me and Richard (as talented as we are!) as we don’t possess the necessary skills or experience.

At this stage, we’re looking to set up a meeting of interested parties to discuss the feasibility (of course it’s possible!) of such a scheme, the willingness of the steering group to put the time in and possible pitfalls to avoid. It might also be worth looking at grant funding for the initial push.

The suggested meeting date is January 21st (this is purely to get the ball rolling, the date can be changed to suit most people who want to contribute) at 8 pm on Google Hangout (if people prefer meeting in person, please suggest a venue).

Who’s coming?

Addendum: It would appear that others have had a similar idea and have already put something into practice. Thanks to those people who pointed me to this;

Bettakultcha Presenter Badges – when will you get one?

Here at Bettakultcha we are aware of the creative effort involved in putting a presentation together. We’re aware of this because we have seen the standard of the presentations improve dramatically with each event. In recognition of this we would like to give each presenter a token of our thanks for their contribution.

In the past we have given mugs and wooden spoons and dubious greeting cards. We’re pleased to announce our new gift for each Bettakultcha presenter from now on will be – the Bettakultcha enamel badge!

Wear it with bold immodesty! You’ve put in the effort so tell the world about it. You will also be able to recognise your fellow presenters when you see them outside of the Bettakultcha environment.

Remember, only Bettakultcha presenters get one, so start thinking of your topic for the next Bettakultcha event.

Email Bettakultcha now to volunteer

Don’t just sit there coveting a Bettakultcha badge, email and volunteer to talk. It’s painless, honest.

By the way, the badges are 15mm square in size, not like, MASSIVE as the picture suggests.

International BettaKultcha

We’ve had several requests from people in far flung places asking if they can somehow give a presentation via technology during a live event. We decided against this as we feel a live event should be just that – real people in a room together.

However, the whole ethos of BettaKultcha is to be inclusive and diverse so we decided to develop the International BettaKultcha format using the technology that is available to us, namely Google+.

The idea is that we put on a regular BettaKultcha show and promote it in the same way as a live event but the venue is a Hangout on Google+. Ivor will host the event as usual and introduce the speakers in turn (a maximum of 8 speakers are allowed in the Hangout). Although there can only be a maximum of 9 people in total in the Hangout at any one time, anyone will be able to view the presentations live on YouTube from a link that we will supply.

Each presenter need’s a laptop with a decent wifi connection and a Google+ account.

So if you were one of the presenters in the Hangout, you would wait for your turn and commence your presentation at the prompt. The presentation would follow the rules of BettaKultcha and you would need to use 20 slides each lasting 15 seconds each. As the event would be live you would be unable to go back if you forgot what you were going to say etc.

The live-stream would be recorded and subsequently put out on various web-sites  so that those who were unable to catch the live-stream can view the show at a later date.

What we like about this idea is that we can have a group of presenters from different cities/villages around Britain/Europe (the world?) who could possibly give an insight into different cultures (although the presentation can be about anything so long as they follow the BettaKultcha golden rule: NO SALES PITCHES!). The default language would have to be English at this stage.

We think many BettaKultcha followers would find such a show fascinating and we can envisage the audience becoming very large very quickly for such an event. It is also our ambition to put live events on in places like Berlin, so if we have a couple of Berliners presenting in the Hangout and their friends pick up on it, it shouldn’t be too long before a large enough group of people in Berlin could sustain a real event in the city.

We are currently looking for presenters from anywhere in the world so if you are interested in this project please contact us and we’ll be in touch.

The date for the first ever event is Tuesday November 20th 2012 at 20.00 hrs GMT.

Please spread the word!

Confirmed Hangout presenters (subject to change):

Nick Taylor (@ikostar) New Zealand
Álvaro Andoin (@filmatu) Spain
Jon Beech (@_jonb) England
David Price OBE
(@davidpriceobe) England
Mic Wright (@brokenbottleboy) Ireland


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